This is a photo diary of my costuming "travels"; where I've learned and struggled to make historical costumes for myself. They're not always pretty, but always fun. most of the time. And I want to share with others what I learn along the way. **You can find me on Facebook, or have my posts delivered to your email by signing up at the lower part of the right column.**

About Me

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HI, my name is Val. I'm a member of Costumer's Guild West in Los Angeles, Dean Emeritus of 2018 Costume College; member & Past President of the San Diego Costume Guild, member of Orange County Costume Guild, a representative of the San Diego History Center, & an honorary member of SITU (Someplace in Time, Unlimited) in Seattle. I make my own historical costumes but don't sell any unless I get tired of one.The eras I've made so far are 1770 up to 1918. My favorite is the 1880s bustle.


Sunday, October 4, 2015


About 6 months ago my hairdresser, who knows about my costuming and some of the fashion shows I’ve done, asked if I’d be interested in putting on a show for her church’s annual fund raiser tea in Bonita. It would be another small one, 10-12 people for a half hour, which is the size I like to do. So I told her I’d love to.
Since this was a new location I knew I could use the same narrative I’ve used before, “Fashions through Time: 1810-1910”, and just update it with new dress descriptions. I spent the next couple months looking at dresses some of my friends had made or were wearing, and contacted them and asked if they’d like to join me. I filled most of the spots but still had two left and I waited until after the last fashion show at the Gaslight Gathering convention to “shop” there. I ended up seeing one gorgeous 1890s dress one of my models was wearing and asked her to wear that instead of her 1914 dress. So my hunt changed to different time periods to fill the now vacant ones. I held off committing myself to any decade since I have quite a few of my own to choose from, and once most of the others are filled, I can put myself in.

I visited the church hall where the fashion show and tea would be held about a month before the date. It was huge. I found out this is a major annual fund raiser for them, and outside the building there was going to be a craft sale, and after our show, ballet dancers would be performing on stage too. And there’s a pianist playing during the tea. Classy!

I took lots of photos of the area, so I could share with my models to be familiar with it, and did a diagram so I could work out our floor plan later. The “stage” is very plain but large, with just a large crucifix on the center wall. So I needed to think of what to add to the ambiance. I settled on using two dress forms again like my first show where we could display some underpinnings.

Finally got my line-up filled in, with Nancy again as my narrator and as a model, although I really wanted to fit a mourning/black dress in there. During my presentations I include some history on the fashions, one of them being that black dresses were not always mourning. But since I had to fill in the 1900-1910 myself, I wore my 1905 Pink Stripe Floral with S-bend corset to explain why those didn’t bend the ladies over. My narrative from the show tells about the changing styles of each decade and then a dress description to illustrate them. So there you have my “historical fashion show”.



 The day before the show I returned to the church to put up the display clothing and got to watch the ladies of the church decorating each table in individual themes. All 200 of the tickets for the tea had sold. I think this is the largest show audience I’ve done, although I’ve done two in one day with a larger attendance combined.

We all arrived early to have a lunch served to us in our dressing room and then took our time getting dressed, and waited for a bit. I was still trying to decide whether to have the ladies walk out and step up on the stage or walk up the side ramp and come up onto the center. In the end, coming out center stage proved a better choice. So here we are getting ready. The first two photos are mine taken with my cell phone (AGAIN forgot my camera) and the others by Gina.

I brought two of my antique parasols to be used in the show, and April was able to use the small 1850s cream one with her dress, and I carried my lace covered one.

Photos backstage by Gina.

I was almost the last one getting dressed as I was running back and forth making sure the microphone was found and placed on stage, finding and letting the church coordinator know we were there so our lunch could be brought back (chicken salad on croissants & potato or macaroni salad). I hadn’t worn my 1905 dress and S-bend corset for about two years and I had to have help getting laced in and everything buttoned up. This is one outfit I absolutely can’t get into myself, and strangely enough, it was also the easiest dress I've ever made. I also couldn’t find my hat at home I wear with it, and was really worried it had been lost after last wearing it in the Port Townsend fashion show. So I wore another straw hat I had. Good news though- the hat showed up later that day but too late to wear. That’s another tale.
So it was about time to go on. We lined up outside the door where we would walk out one at a time and go up on stage. Then Russell, our narrator Nancy’s husband, who is our gentleman escort/butler, suggested he walk each of us out to the stage, which I agreed would give us a nice look of elegance. This also proved to be a great idea because he was able to take some photos of us using Gina’s camera while we were up there.
And the show was on. As each model finished, they stepped to the back of the stage. Again, photos here were provided by Gina.
Both Birda and Jody looked like sapphire and emerald jewels in their Regency dresses as they began the show but sadly we have no photos them onstage yet. Gina really brought in the Fall colors with her 1830s dress. April countered that in her Spring time 1850s dress, and displayed the antique parasol I loaned her. Nancy was again showing off her 1860s undies and we heard the audience laughing. Cindy was recovering from a bad cold but soldiered on and looked lovely in her pink & grey plaid 1870s. This was Chanel’s first time in a fashion show, wearing her pink & cream bustle gown, and apparently she hammed it up as the audience was laughing again. Jo’s 1892 avocado green evening dress added an elegance to the show, and got a lot of close looks later when we walked around the tables. I ended the show in my pink floral stripe, and demonstrated how the S-bend corset and underpinnings gave me the fluff of a pigeon breast and rump. I heard a few oohs when I part-way opened up my silk lined lace parasol. The silk is shattering so I hope to have that replaced someday.

When we finished, we all stepped forward to the front of the stage for a group view. (I hope some of the many photographers I saw will share any of their photos with us.) Then we stepped off the stage and walked among the tables for the audience to have a closer look. I had a lot of them asking how the dresses were kept clean, especially with the hems that dragged behind us. And yes, I did get my skirt stomped on at one point, and the “ripping” I thought I heard was actually the snaps popping open on my back placket. I stood there frozen until it was confirmed no rips. Whew! 
If I get any group photos sent to me from onstage, I'll update my blog with them. 



  1. Dear Valerie,
    Your group was such a lovely addition to our tea. The dresses were amazing and beautiful. I heard so many ooh's from the crowd of ladies and was so very fitting for our tea. Thank you for spending the time with us and sharing your talent and beautiful gowns.
    I appreciated the gowns more than you know. We sew the prayer quilts at church
    and know how much love goes into each one. It is nothing compared to your masterpieces. What a lovely gift you each have.
    Thank you for taking the time to spend with us on Saturday. It was a joy to have you and the Costume Guild.
    God Bless You All for giving the ladies such a wonderful history lesson and show.

    Corpus Christi Prayer Quilt Ministry and Crafters.
    Carole Hamilton

    I so enjoyed your blog and the pictures. I get to relive it and show the pictures to my family. It was a rather busy day. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, and THANK YOU AGAIN. Hope to see you again another time.

    1. Thank you Carole for letting us know the audience enjoyed the show.

  2. Although everyone looks lovely, I am in love with Cindy's pink plaid ensemble. Probably because it's pink and plaid. ;-) Thank you for sharing the pictures!


I would love to hear if this was any help to you. Pretty please!