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; Past President of the San Diego Costume Guild, member of Orange County Costume Guild, and a representative of the San Diego History Center. 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.


Wednesday, September 11, 2019


                 Reenactment of the Railroad Groundbreaking Ceremony in Campo, CA
Our weather in Southern California has been sweltering recently. This has actually been weather we usually have late July-August, with humidity, hitting high temperatures, along with an occasional thunderstorm. But Mother Nature is delayed this year, so instead of just hot and dry, we’re still in miserable hot and damp.
I normally don’t like to do outdoor events in the summer. I don’t handle heat well. But when my friend Birda asked for some costumed players to be part of a reenactment ceremony at the Pacific-Southwest Railway Museum in Campo, I responded to attend. Our time period would be 1900-1910. This doesn’t require lots of underpinnings and many of us chose to wear light flowy cottons. I looked through my closet of dresses for that time period, and had two choices, both of which were from 1905. I really wanted to wear my olive-green striped outfit because it’s only been out of the closet twice but with it being a heavier polyester fabric, there was no way I could get away with wearing it in 90+ degree weather. So, my cotton voile pink floral dress came out. It needed shortening because I apparently have shrunk a half inch. It already was a bit too long due to my dress-form not set at the right height. In fact, I think most of my dresses are going to need some altering very soon.

The next issue was my hair. Wearing a full wig is awfully hot. I loved my little braid halo with an attached braided bun that I plop on top of my head for earlier eras but this time period needs a much fuller hair style. Most people are familiar with the “Gibson Girl” hairstyle, and that’s what I needed, a fullness on the sides to hold up the large hat. This is my braid halo I wear for most of my 1860s-80s outfits as long as I wear a bonnet or hat that covers the top and sides of my head. It’s made from making a braid from the 24” Jumbo artificial hair extensions (sometimes called switches) you can purchase at beauty supply stores. They’re really cheap, about $2.59. You attach the ends by hand-sewing them together.  It can be messy looking but your bun will cover that. Then use a 2nd switch make a second braid, and twist it into a small bun. Don’t ask me how to do that, I had my wig lady do all this. I can barely do braids. Then cover the bun with a matching fine hair net to keep in the fuzzies. Sew it to the back of the halo braid, and attach toupee clips to the front and back of the halo to attach to your own hair. I can’t find a really good photo showing me wearing it but this one gives you an idea. I usually let my bangs hang out a bit too. 

For my faux early 1900s wig, which most people are familiar with the fluffy “Gibson Girl” style, it needed to be a very full and fluffy braid so that most of it would show around my head and hold up my hat. A skinny head of hair and a big hat for this time period is, I don’t think, not very flattering. It also keeps your hat from falling over your face.
I wasn’t sure how many of the switches would be needed for this, so I just bought 3. I took them over to my wig lady, Creations by Coni, and showed her some photos of what I wanted, explained to her my idea, and brought the hat I’d be wearing. She caught on right away. She enjoys a challenge too.

Within 4 days she called me and said come and try it on. It was wonderful!

She loosely braided all the switches into one, then folded it in half. She twisted the raw ends together and sewed a heavy duty thread around them to keep it together. She wrapped a long strip of fabric around that, stitched it tight then pulled it to the folded center and ran the threads around it. I plan on buying another switch that can be wrapped around the fabric part. 
The only parts of my own hair that show are on top of my head, and my hat covers that. It hangs low enough in the back and on the sides to cover my short hair. I chose to have my bangs hanging out too, at least until I can get that fabric portion covered. It also needs toupee clips stitched to the front and back to hold it on my head. The hardest part is running hat pins in to catch the braid. They’re lower than the hat. So that's going to need some thinking. I think I may be able to use this also for some other time periods. 
So, onto the train event. We were told to wander around the train museum, have our picnic lunches, and at some point, meet for a group photo. Except when that time came everyone had scattered to different parts of the museum and were taking photos themselves. I wandered a bit and walked up into one of the antique cars and caboose. They were pretty worn out due to age and the weather from being outside. But you could still see the first-class booths were classy and had their own toilet and shower. The “steerage” or workers caboose were just rows of bunk beds, sharing one toilet.
After I got off the caboose, I walked around to the front and found the group photo had just been taken on the back stairs. I finally was called up and got on a couple lower steps and made it into one group photo. Then Cindy took some of just me on the landing. 

The main part of the reenactment was recreating an old photo showing the ground breaking ceremony for the railroad coming through, and of course the speeches of all the big-wigs. Cindy Piselli (THE BROKE COSTUMER) got to be the woman seated in the photo. I trimmed up a straw boater hat for her, and I think she got the look very well.

While we were seated during the ceremony, I took one photo showing the reenactors starting the dig. And yes, it’s pretty barren and dusty out there. At 92d it was hot but there was a strong wind that helped and also blew off our hats and parasols a few times. 
                              **Thanks to Cindy P., Brian T., Carol S., & Russell S. for their photos.**

As the hot weather continues for who knows how long, I’m pulling out some fabrics for a couple 1912 dresses and will be using this Hint of History #102 Kimono dress pattern.


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