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.


Monday, May 16, 2016


Yesterday was the second picnic I’ve attended in as many weeks. This one was the one I set up, A Picnic in Tissot’s Garden, that was rescheduled from last November when it was rained out.  My theme was to be Summer whites or pastels, with a wide time period of 1800-1920 and inspired by the artist James Tissot. I created an album of his paintings plus many photos to give everyone ideas of what they could make.

The dresses this day were predominately bustle-era, as was Tissot’s paintings, and there were so many frilly, frothy ones, I came away inspired to make more sheer fabric dresses like these. Everyone looked beautiful sitting around on the bright green grassy area next to the Botanical Gardens, and stopped many people dead in their tracks when they saw us. 

I managed to get in a couple photos myself wearing my 1870s Tissot white cotton voile dress with green Swiss dots that I made from Ageless Patterns #1462 jacket pattern. It was so easy and comfortable. It's just a loose jacket that you belt around you. 

I remembered this time to attach my stay-belt inside the bodice, which I’d forgotten last time, and have forgotten on other bodices in the past. It’s an inside belt made of ribbon or twill that’s attached at the inside back seams and comes around to the front to hook closed. It holds the bodice tighter to your body and also helps prevent your front closures from being pulled or coming undone. Unless you’re digging inside your bodice looking for something you just tucked inside it to get it quickly out of the way for a photo. *guilty*.
So here’s a trick I figured out to remind me from now on not to forget to hook it: I'm keeping the front ends safety-pinned to the front while storing it to remind me next time, and also helps find them when I put it on. 
I took this photo of the lovely Helen’s 1910 pastel dress, and immediately thought of my recent blog of how to make these bodices using modern pattern jackets.
And now I want to run home and make one. Again. 

                                               HCA "BUSTLE PICNIC"
The previous weekend, May 7, was the annual Bustle Picnic in Craig Regional Park, Fullerton, CA, with the HCA (Historical Citizen’s Association). Since I hadn’t been able to wear my Tissot dress for our earlier cancelled Tissot’s Picnic last November due to rain, I decided I would wear it for this too. And guess what? One hour into the picnic it started raining. But it was still a beautiful day, with green grass next to a lake. Because of our continuing drought, anytime I see green grass I get all excited. But it also makes for gorgeous contrasts to our dresses. 

Everyone brings their china and glassware to this one, and we set up fine dining. It all adds to the atmosphere. We don’t draw as big a crowd as in the larger parks but as you can see, we still draw a lot of on-lookers. 

Our guests of honor, Jennifer & Jeff, showed up and we later had a baby shower for them.
It started to sprinkle so we rushed to start taking photos of each other, and when we finally did our full group shot, it REALLY began to rain, and we had to rush away to continue the party nearby at a friend’s home. But still a wonderful day.

I had to get a couple shots of Tracey’s beautiful hat, with all its ribbons & flowers in back, and feathers.

Thank you to Karin for this lovely photo of us.


  1. Had a lovely time at the picnic in Balboa Park. We were surrounded by tourists and photographers all afternoon. The HCA picnic looks beautiful! Everyone was lovely, but I LOVE the solid pink bustle gown!

  2. You all looked magnificent, definitely worthy of a Tissot painting. I am in awe of the sewing skills, charmed by your outfits and I imagine that the people who were lucky enough to see you were equally delighted. Your picnics look rather good too.

  3. I always enjoy your blog though I rarely comment...just beautiful women and beautiful clothing.


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