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.


Thursday, April 26, 2018

2018 Fashion Show at Port Townsend (WA) Victorian Heritage Festival

I made my annual trek up to Washington state in March to visit my mom, and also to attend the Victorian Heritage Festival in Port Townsend. I’ve been in the fashion show there for the past seven years, and this was my second year actually running it. There was new management last year at the same time I took over, so I was able to change the show up a bit. I pulled in friends from the local costumes guilds: the Puget Sound Historical Costume Guild, SITU-Somewhere in Time, Unlimited, the Washington Regency Society, and R.U.C.A.S.-Renton United Cowboy Action Shooters.
One of the biggest changes I did was create themes for their fashion show, instead of just having a bunch of dresses come out and describe them, as they had in the past. I am lucky to also have more men in our group, which appeals to the gentlemen who attend the show. In years past, many of the “events” focused on the Civil War. But surprisingly, besides some men in uniform, I saw very little of women’s 1860s clothing being worn. Then it became more 1880s through 1900-looking dresses but not much in underpinning support, and of course, Steampunk has mixed into it. But they have a separate festival for that. I know after talking to a few people on the street that our costumes we wear as we visited the shops has gotten a lot of people excited and asking us more about them. 

I really like our new location, inside the American Legion Hall, but since most of the presentations for the festival are done there now it has gotten a bit crowded, and they have to move the displays to the side for our show. Last year I decided instead of using the stage for our show, which is small and pretty high in elevation, that we would walk down the middle of the room, with the audience sitting around us. They were able to see us up close and for a much longer period of time. We’ve been told the fashion show is the highlight of the Festival, and that makes me happy.

It used to include two other buildings where the talks and presentations were held, and the demonstrations and displays were inside the Hall. But due to financial cutbacks, it’s now in the one building. This isn’t a street fair, primarily due to the inclement weather experienced in March, but rather a series of historical presentations, which include tours of the Victorian seaport town. For example, this year’s presentations were Architectural History of Port Townsend (which appeals to the locals but was very interesting to the rest of us); and Getting Around in the 1800s: Bicycles, Lamps, Bells, & Whistles; and something about guns, along with walking tours of uptown and downtown Port Townsend. In the past there were usually about four more, but apparently, they had problems getting people for them this year. My group remembered we had talked last year about offering some costume-related talks, and especially more for women. No one reminded us, and we forgot. So next year we hope to get our stuff together. There are also afternoon teas given at a couple locations especially for the event, and the Saturday night ball, which is rather small, and even less in costume than in the past.

The theme I chose this year was “Favorite Characters from Victorian Novels”. This gave me a chance to extend the time period of the costumes being worn too, starting in the 1830s at the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign. What surprised me was the manager of the Festival decided to follow my idea and titled the entire Festival theme as “Legends of Literature”. Unfortunately, he failed to ask me who I would have in our show, and announced we would have Alice in Wonderland, (sorry but no rabbits this year), and Jane Austen. (I need to educate him in the “Victorian time period”). 

We did have a Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson though; and Mrs. Hudson as our narrator. 

Each model chose a book or character from a book and dressed according to the time period of it. Along with their description, I included a small portion from the book to give the audience an insight into it, or to set the stage. Author Edith Wharton was a popular writer for the models. 
My list of models and their characters were:
Rebecca Maiten                            -1830s  Dickens -Oliver Twist
Barb & Rob Gregg                        -1870s  Wharton -Age of Innocence
Sharon Ricketts                            -1900 Wharton -The Other Two
Mara Perry                                    -1890s  Wilde -The Importance of Being Earnest
Patricia Francisco                         -1904 James -The Golden Bowl
Valarie LaBore                              -1837  Gaskill -Cranford
Agnes Gawne                               -1890s  Doyle -The Dying Detective
Marc McDaniels                            -1890s Doyle -Sherlock Holmes
Stephen Pierce                             -1890s Doyle -Sherlock Holmes
Vanessa Wood                                -1870s Wharton -The Buccaneers

Some of our characters were familiar, like Sherlock and Dr. Watson, but many were lesser known ones, although the books were not. I hope it brought the books to life for them, and a visual of what the characters in the books would look like. I’m all for exposing the town to more historical dress next year and going back even farther to Regency and the 1700s, since there is now a reenactment event over in Port Angeles.


  1. What a fun show! I wish I could have participated :)

  2. This was an inspired theme! Your pictures and the ideals (many of whom are friends) looked splendid. I live your blog with all its informative details. I would love to be a part of this next year. I was President iof SITU fir 10 years and have amosy authentic wardrobe 18th c to Edwardian. Please keep me in mind for next year if you are organizing the fashion show. Kimberly Brangwin

    1. That would be wonderful, Kimberly. Please contact one of the members there, like Rita, or others who were in our show, for contact info. I don't want to publish emails here.

  3. Totally missed this. Now that I'm following your blog I hope to participate next year.


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