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

My photo
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.


Monday, September 7, 2009

Red Floral 1770s Polonaise

This was the first gown I ever made for the 1770s. I was encouraged by a friend whom I'd met at Costume College, and who worked in Colonial Williamsburg, to make one and wear it to Williamsburg, VA, the next time we visited there. She promised to dress up with me and take me around to some costuming background locations at Colonial Williamsburg. That was enough to entice me.
Two years ago I had made a costumey version using a Butterick pattern for a costume guild event at the Marie Antoinette movie. I was unfamiliar with how the dresses were constructed and totally confused by the stomacher but this pattern wasn't meant to be historically correct. I made it from a white cotton with orange flowers, and a petticoat made of a moire white polyester. The dress was ok but not what I wanted to repeat.
At the recommendation of friends, I used Period Impressions 1770s Polonaise pattern.

Before I made the gown, I had to have the correct stays to wear under it. I used a Butterick pattern, also recommended to me, and got started on it in a class with Shelley Peters in November 2007. I made it out of a powder blue silk dupioni I'd bought in the Los Angeles Garment District. When I finally got around it finishing it 6 months later, it was too big. I took it in but later it was still too big, so I made a second one. I used the version where it ties both in front and back to make it easier to put on.

I made my muslin from the measurements it had, and the first time I tried it on, it fit. So I didn't have to do any alterations. Although a year later I did have to take in three times due to weight loss.
My fabrics were both linen blends bought in the Garment District. I bought the red floral fabric after overhearing Sally Queen recommend it to some students she had during a private tour after Costume College. Some time later I went back and bought a solid red linen to go with it. I flatlined the bodice with a lightweight twill, which made it kind of bulky, not knowing that a linen or cotton would have been more acceptable.
Here I'm wearing it while partially constructed.

I made a pocket to go under the petticoat from a brown paisly patterned cotton fabric but it's too small so I'll have to make a bigger one soon.

My reproduction shoes bought from Fugawee. I liked these because I could change the color ribbon tied on the latchets but they were too tight in the toe box so I'm having to buy a different pair of shoes.

This is Barbee and I on our carriage ride in Colonial Williamsburg in April 2009. This was right after a breeze had blown off my cap and hat, and I pulled it back on. So it's really sloppy. I found out from Janea Whitacre, who works in the Milinery Store, that I needed to cut my neckline lower. It should barely cover the top of my stays. The neckline level on the pattern is generic, and is to be cut according to each person's size. So when I got home, I started altering it. Once that is done, I hope to have another photo posted here.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Celery/ Green Stripey 1870s Polonaise

I'm finally close to finishing the green striped polonaise. I had a deadline of today to get as much done as possible since I was going out of town. Of course having a deadline always makes you work harder.

Again, this is the pattern I used, Truly Victorian #410.
I'd seen someone else's gown who used white eyelet beading as trim around the neckline, down the front, and along the hemline. They ran a narrow ribbon matching the color in their gown through it. I tried to do the same with a matching green color but the celery green stripe was such an odd color that I couldn't find anything that matched, or even came close. So I decided on a yellow ribbon to pick up the yellow in the green color.
The openings for the ribbon to run thru the eyelet were really small, and it was taking me quite awhile to bend the ribbon to go through it. So I used a lacing needle that I'd bought to use on my corset and ran the ribbon with it. It worked out really well.

I had some vintage white buttons that I thought would look nice with this, and did machine sewn buttonholes

I'm having problems with the neckline where it buttons closed; it's a little too wide for me and it gaps out a bit. I thought I corrected that when I made up the muslin. But I think after I add a yellow bow to the top, it will cover that up.

This is without the boning in it. I've got the eyelet beading sewn along the neckline and down the front, and around the hem to the back.
And here is the side view showing the polonaise point on the side and the trim on it. I've seen this part tied back like mine is, or not tied back at all and it hangs straight. On mine I think I like the tied back look.
And my bonnet is coming along. Right now it's ready to be worn with a hat pin holding it on, which is period correct. But I've also seen it with a ribbon tying it under the chin. I might do that. The grapes are vintage and have a few holes in them but I think it gives them character. I glued a white striped translucent ribbon around the crown, and put a bow and tails on the back. The front has a similar bow and some bits of yellow velvet ribbon to tie in the yellow. I also saw one bonnet with a lace trim along the edges. I dug through my stash and found a pretty one I'm going to try. I think it needs more of something on the other side. I'm going to keep my eye out for some little yellow flowers or daisys.
I'm still sewing the boning in but looks like it will be done in plenty of time to wear for the 1870s Picnic in Wilmington (Long Beach) at the Banning Residence Museum.
I found some yellow ribbon in 2" & 3" widths today, along with some tiny yellow daisies that "looked" vintage instead of plasticky. So I added those to the bonnet, and I think I can call it done now.
Side view:
Back view:
Front view: And on me: I plan on wearing my braided halo hairpiece with the chignon attached to the back with this.