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.


Sunday, January 30, 2011

So what's on the planning table?

My mind keeps wandering to what I want to start working on, but necessities have a priority. I need to finish the re-do of my 1770s red floral caraco. It will be another Frankencostume, starting out from one pattern, and being redone partly with another. I need it done by next Friday, to wear to a fashion show for the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) in San Diego, being put on by the Women's History Museum. I'll be wearing that as day wear, and my teal caraco, minus some of the Venetian Masquerade bling, for evening wear. I'll be dressing up my friend Cindy in my periwinkle blue 1795 open robe as another model. Somehow I have to have enough time while Cindy is modeling her outfit, to switch from my day gown to evening, and change my hair, which will just be a wig and feathers.
I started yesterday redoing the sleeves on the red floral, and making lengths of the same fabric to put a small pleated trim around the bodice and sleeves. After that, I just need to put the closures in (hook and eye tape/ I don't trust myself with pinning myself in), and it will be done. I've started another post for that, and will publish it here when the remodel is done.
It doesn't sound like much to do but I'm the world's slowest procrastinating sewer. *Case in point- am I sewing right now?*
Next on the table will be an Edwardian suit, for an April event with our costume guild, using Wingeo's #410 Traveling Suit
I have a muslin made up from that pattern already, and the fabric, a light brown suit weight wool blend and brown velvet for the collar. I bought a beautiful hat from Mela Hoyt-Hayden way back in 2003 that's been waiting for this outfit to be made for it.
While making my 1850s teal plaid gown, I also cut out and sewed a duplicate black silk taffeta bodice for my mourning interpretation, and can also be worn with white accessories. The skirt is mostly done too. I'm still gathering up ideas for trims for it. I might use it for the Bennington Memorial, San Diego, in July, and then later at Old Town.
After that, if nothing else comes up, I need to start working on my La Belle Epoque gown for the Fantasy Tea theme at Costume College in August.
This is my fabric and lace I'll be using for my 1890-1900s gown.
I'm using the movie, The Golden Bowl, as my inspiration, especially this dress.
I've found a few other ideas for the sleeves and neckline.
The planning is in my opinion, the fun part!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Riverside Dickens Festival 2011

My gown was received very well at the Festival, and it looked nice in the fashion show too. The scene I was in was an afternoon whist party where we were seated playing cards. Funny thing was, none of us knew how to play, so we faked it.
*Photo courtesy of Jerry Abuan *

I even warned them of one lady cheating. :)

This photo was taken with my camera of me with a couple of our Guild members.

This one was also taken by Jerry of me and my friend, Cindy.

All I think I'm going to be changing on this outfit is to make some pretty sheer undersleeves, and I can call it done!
*Edited to add*- I just got this nice compliment from a friend: "Turquoise Plaid of Awesomeness +2 paired with Bonnet of Ethereal Awesomeness +2 equals Outfit of Dickens Nirvana +5! ;-)"

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Completion of my 1850s Turquoise Plaid gown

This blue plaid gown was my inspiration.

I started this gown around December 14, and I’ve even amazed myself that I finished it in just a little over a month, and with a week to spare before I’ll be wearing it for the Riverside Dickens fashion show. Granted, I am retired, but everyone knows you really ARE busier after you retire, and it’s true. I also have a hard time keeping my nose to the grindstone when so many other things are calling to me.
I had a few problems when I used sleeves from one pattern company that had the shorter bell shape that I wanted for my other pattern. This is a closeup of the sleeve from the Butterick 6694 that I used.

I rounded the edges off so I didn’t have the points but the more I look at this pattern, the more I like the points on both the sleeves and the bodice. Oh well, next time.
The sleeves on this pattern fit higher than the ones on my Simplicity 3855 pattern so there was a lot of poofiness on the top of the sleeve cap. The Simplicity had a dropped sleeve cap that went 5” down my arm, where this one only went down 2”. In the end, I cut off the extra 3” on the shoulder of the bodice and it went in easier. It still has a little uneveniness but it was acceptable. I’m not a perfectionist, and if it works, I’m happy. Or just lazy.
And look! The plaids match! After reading an article by Diane Yoshitomi on Your Wardrobe Unlock’d about matching plaids, I paid more attention to doing that. *Disclaimer- the skirt fabric's third panel doesn't match because I didn't have enough fabric to correct that.*

With only a month to make the gown, I didn’t have time to make new set of pretty undersleeves for this. I wanted to have a layer of lace on top of the cotton undersleeve, so I sewed a wide lace trim to the bottom of the sleeve cuff. I do have a plain pair of cotton undersleeves I can wear for now but eventually I want to make a softer prettier pair.
Once the bodice was pretty much constructed, I made up the little chemisette that comes with the Simplicity pattern. It was simple and quick, only taking me 4 hours to make. The waist is a bit too long for me, since I didn’t even think of checking the fit but since it does under the bodice, that will never be seen. A simple correction will just require turning the bottoms up farther for a new ribbon channel. I used a fine cotton for the chemisette, vintage mother of pearl buttons, and a cotton crocheted lace on the neckline.

And we must have trim! Lots of it! I made a 1” wide ruffle from the plaid fabric, machine gathered it, and sewed it around the neckline and down the front by hand. Then I went around the cuffs. Ok, stop me now.

I made one big bow to pin at the bottom of the V front. Then a friend suggested a second smaller bow just below it. I also made a set of the smaller bows and put those on the sleeves just above the ruffle.
My skirt was just 3 panels of my 60” wide fabric, and cartridge pleated to a narrow self fabric waistband. For this show, I’m wearing a tulle crinoline petticoat for the fullness, with a flounced cotton petticoat over it. Later I want to make a corded petticoat to wear instead. I had one but it didn’t have the fullness this skirt needs.
My accessories will be an antique brass Victorian pendant with a small cameo on it, and my navy blue bonnet made by Mela Hoyt-Hayden from her Young Victoria collection. I’ll be wearing a white lace day cap under it. Tomorrow I have an appointment with a hair stylist who is going to style a long straight wig into a proper hairstyle of the era for me. She’s as excited as I am.

Last night, and with only 4 days to spare, I finished the gown. Of course I’m already wanting to tweak a few things, but that will have to wait until after this weekend. And now I can start on the black mourning version of this pattern.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ruffles and Petticoats introduction

Two months ago a friend of mine and I decided we wanted to start making affordable Victorian and Edwardian underpinnings and sell them. I wanted to do just petticoats, and she was going to do chemises and drawers. Someday we may add other accessories but since we're pretty busy making our own costumes, this is just a sideline for both of us.
I decided I didn't want to make plain white petticoats but have them in fancier colors and patterns. I'm just making cotton ones right now, and each one has a ruffle with a pretty trim at the bottom. I'm making them out of pastels: light blue, sage green, pink, and lavender, and have fabrics with polka dots, tiny florals, and stripes ready to be made. Many will be one of a kind depending on fabrics I find. These are all machine sewn.
My Victorian petticoat is flatter in the front, and pleated in the back to accommodate a bustle, but not the very large ones. My late Victorian and Edwardians are pleated all around for a flatter silhouette.
These are sold as finished items, not custom ordered. My petticoats are $35.00 plus shipping. Once we get a good stock of them made up, we plan to have a location where we'll just post photos of them to sell. In the meantime, here are some that are ready for sale now.
This is a closeup of the trim on one of them. The trims may vary according to the availability.

All of these have a waist measuring 36-38" but can be made smaller since the excess ruffles would remain in the back; or about 3" larger but having a gap at the placket, which obviously would be covered by a skirt.

Sage green:

Light blue:

Pink Floral: SOLD


I am selling them now. In fact I sold my first one at our last San Diego Costume Guild meeting and she's very happy with it. They come from a smoke-free house, although my cats do help in the sewing.

If you're interested in one, email me at cinnamonhrts AT yahoo dot com. I do have Paypal.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Dia de los Muertos in Old Town San Diego

This event was last Nov 1, and I was just reminded about it. It also gives me something else to write about.
The Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican celebration, the Day of the Dead. It's the day after our Halloween, and honors those who have passed on, and they build memorials to them. These aren't religious altars as some people think, but memorials, and they had them all over Old Town during the celebration.
I had talked to a couple people running the Candlelight Procession that starts at the Whaley House, and goes to the El Campo Santo Cemetery up the street. They ended up asking if any of us would come in mourning costume and lead the procession. It was the first year they were doing this, and were really excited to get off to a good start. I wore my 1870s purple floral polonaise and an antique black lace mourning veil that I'd bought at the Johnson House in Old Town.
We had a very large group from our costume guild show up over in the marketplace.

We began the procession in front of the Whaley House, and our group stood on the porch waiting to lead the crowd of about 200 people carrying candles in the Procession. Many of us brought battery operated candles to carry.

While I was standing there waiting, I was next to a column, and near the edge of the steps. I felt someone push my shoulder like they wanted to get past me. But I turned and no one was there. I thought then maybe I had bumped into the wood column but I was about 8" away from it. So apparently one of the ghosts of the Whaley House was anxious to get by me. It didn't bother me, as I've loved the House since I was in elementary school, and first went on tours there.
Later we arrived at the cemetery, and gathered around some of the graves for photos.

The whole event kind of fell apart then because there wasn't anything planned other than going to the cemetery. But next year they've asked us to portray actual people, and hopefully the program will be a little more rounded out. This is one of the events I'm working on my 1850s black mourning gown for.
These are some of the altars around Old Town.