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, December 28, 2011

2011 Costumes in Review

It’s time to review what all I accomplished this last year in my costumes since it helps me see how much I actually accomplished, and still have yet to do. Yes, I do have more to do. My goal was to have at least one gown of each of my favorite eras so I would have something to wear for any costumed event coming up. I then had to have a Summer and a Winter outfit; then a day time and a late afternoon/early evening outfit. At least I don’t have to worry about ball gowns too. My feet don’t go that way.

It also helps me see what I’m still lacking, and what priority my whims need to follow. I REALLY want to make more 1830s gowns. REALLY do! But I have some other gowns that have priority over that. The 1930s dress I started needs to be finished, along with a couple others, for Costume College in August. And soon I’ll be making the Truly Victorian Edwardian corset. And it will need some frilly undies to go with it, maybe so I can show it off?

Here’s what I did accomplish this year:

In January I finished my 1850s Turquoise & Gold Plaid gown for the Riverside Dickens fashion show.
In February, I re-cut my 1770s polonaise into a curaco, and wore that to the DAR’s fashion show.                                         
In March, while at the Costume Accessories Symposium in Williamsburg, I made this lovely 1770s silk muff.
In April, I fought with the Wingeo pattern for a 1912 suit to wear to our Boarding the Titanic Party.
In July, I made one of my favorite dresses, an 1890s aqua La Belle Epoque gown, to wear to the Tea at Costume College.
Also in July, I finished my 1851 reprodution of a Bloomer costume to wear to Costume College. I copied it from an extant gown in the San Diego History Museum. This dress, and its pattern, is the focal point of a workshop I’ll be presenting during the next year.
In November, I finished an 1850s mourning gown and bonnet, to be worn at a couple different mourning events.


My first chance to wear it however, was at the Dia de los Muertos celebration in Old Town San Diego.

Also in November, our Costumed Walkabout at the Del Mar Antique Show was a Steampunk Christmas, and I made the Ghost of Christmas Past, Present & Future for that. It was the first costume I made that wasn’t meant as a historical gown, but I used an 1812 pattern for it.
In December, I finished an 1872 gown I’d started in November of 2010. I was able to wear it three times in December, and have been told it’s my best to date.
 I’ve also been making a Regency bodiced petticoat for a friend as a Xmas present and that should be done in the next couple days.
My sewing plans are being laid to rest for a week or so until I’m finished with the holidays. But that doesn’t mean my brain isn’t still working and planning. I have a few things cut out already, and just need to set my mind to them.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

1870s froofy feathered hat

I was asked many times about the feathered hat I was wearing with my 1872 Sassy Red bustle gown, so I decided to share its secrets. I did not make this hat. I bought it ten years ago at a Victorian festival in Los Angeles. It’s a modern made hat, not an antique.
So I sat here and took close-up photos of it, and discovered a few things about it. Here it is in all it’s prettiness.

The base of the hat is a piece of thick foam, similar to that used in upholstery. It’s cut in kind of a watermelon slice, and covered with a maroon fabric flocked in black. There’s an additional piece of that fabric sewn in a poof and attached on top of it. On top of that is a large velvet pleated piece that slightly hangs over the front. There’s black lace sewn around the sides, and longer pieces sewn to the ends to tie under my chin. The back has a short and long piece of a veil. It originally was really long and I cut off most of it. It’s the only part that doesn’t look right to me, and at some point I may remove it & replace it with something similar to the vintage ad showing this style of hat.

It has a cluster of black billowy ostrich feathers on top. I had always thought it was a group of feathers attached individually to the hat. Well, to my surprise while pulling it back to check underneath, it’s a length of a feather boa! So this may be easier to recreate than I ever thought. 


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Sassy Red Bustle and A Christmas Carol

Oh, Mr. Dickens!
This event had to be written about. On December 19, I attended a Dickens Tea in Riverside, CA, to see the one man show of A Christmas Carol. It’s performed by Gerald Charles Dickens, the g-g grandson of that notable writer. In 2003 I missed seeing him perform at the Riverside Dickens Fair, mostly because I didn’t know anything about it, or who was performing. I’ve kicked myself in the butt ever since. Shortly after that I found out I could buy a cd of his reading A Christmas Carol based on his performance.

It was delightful, and I’ve listened to it each year. But it wasn’t the same. When my friends told me they were attending a tea in Riverside with Gerald performing again, I bought my ticket right then.

I have to confess, I’m a fan girl of A Christmas Carol. I have the entire Department 56 Dickens Village of just the Christmas Carol. And a large oversized book of A Christmas Carol with moving characters and a music box inside. Each year my Christmas letters begin with a quote from the story on the opening line. And I have every movie ever made of the Christmas carol. My favorite is the Mr. Magoo version. The worst is the recent Jim Carey version.

Yesterday we all met in the front lobby of the Marriott Hotel, where the tea was held, for a group photo at the Christmas tree.
On arriving at the banquet room, I spotted Gerald Dickens right away, and cautiously approached him, asking if we were allowed to have our photo taken with him. He grinned that enormous grin and held out his arm. I told him of how I had been waiting all these years for him to return to us.

Then Queen Victoria and Prince Albert arrived, and the formalities began.

They were all escorted by their Guard to the main table.  Gerald was seated at the right so he could pop back and forth to the stage.
Our table was right up front and had a great view of the stage. We weren’t allowed to take photos during the performance. Gerald had a big leather chair on the stage with a small table and floor lamp next to it. On the other side was a hall tree with his top hat and cane, and short stool. These were all his props. The play was done in 5 scenes, or staves, and in between each one, the courses of our tea were served. Gerald played all the characters of the play with different voices and mannerisms, and are quite hilarious. He is joyously energetic and bounces all over the stage with waving arms. He sometimes walked off the short stage into the audience and continued his act, stopping occasionally to comment and once did a pratfall, we think, after tripping over Mr Pickwick’s chair. Mr Pickwick was very apologetic and a whole happy conversation came out of that.

Back on the stage, Gerald fell asleep after the first visit of the Ghost of Christmas Past, and was obnoxiously snoring when our next course came out. At the end of the play when Scrooge was finally ready to go out on the streets and try to wish people “Merry Christmas!” he stepped off the stage and shook hands with a few people and exchanged their greetings as he became more enthusiastic each time. He shook the gentleman’s hand next to me, then reached for my hand, raised it to his lips and kissed it, saying “Enchante, Madame. That’s the only French I know”. I think my face was as red as my gown.

Afterwards Mr. Dickens was available to autograph any of the books & characters purchased from Byer’s Choice, who are his sponsors now. I had brought my cd, and when I handed it to him, I said I bet you haven’t seen one of these in awhile. He smiled, and said no, he hadn’t. I could tell he was pleased, and he signed the inside cover of it for me. *photo from a friend*

Afterwards my friends and I walked over to the Mission Inn to see it lit up with all it’s Christmas lights and displays. All along the top arches of the Mission were moving characters in tune with music being played.

Many holiday booths were set up in the promenade square outside, and there were adorable reindeer for us to see.

It was such a beautiful sight, and a wondrous day for me. I felt like I was stopped a million times from people asking to take my photo, which I’m more than happy to. That’s the whole point of making beautiful dresses to be admired.  We often had to say no we weren’t carolers. And my voice was still a little too hoarse to even try.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Debut of my 1872 Red & Black bustle gown

This is the first time I’ve had so many photos taken of my costume to choose from. My friend Marcee met with me early before our guild’s Holiday in the Park, at the Victorian houses in Heritage Square, Old Town San Diego. There were very few people around so we had our pick of locations. This was my favorite shot so far. The black ostrich feathers on my hat made me feel very sassy!

Then we walked over to Old Town and visited some of the museum exhibits.

One of our favorite shops is The Johnson House. There’s always something there to buy and add to our costumes.  Later my boot lace came untied, and a gallant young man kneeled and assisted me.   
Dinner at the Cosmopolitan Hotel is always fun. There’s so much atmosphere and they let us play as much as we like. One of our members in red, Cece, did an impromptu Flamenco when the guitarist came in to play for us.

Cindy and I had our “twinsies”  photo taken at the Christmas tree, and then Marcee joined us for our “the bustle shot”.

 Then we wandered over to the saloon at the Cosmo for some fun and drinking.
Cindy and I had way too much Grand Marnier.

My thanks to photographers Marcee Chipman Daily, and Jerry Abuan of Agezinder Arts. I get to wear this again on Friday to attend the opening of the new Sherlock Holmes movie too.
I have to add this photo I took of a full size photo cut-out of a young lady’s pretty gown there.