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.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Previous Gowns Part 3: 1885 Blue Floral

I’ve started to catch up on documenting some of my older gowns, and this was the latest. I started this gown in 2007 & finished it in August 2008 for a Victorian tea.
I finally found the photo of a painting I’d printed off the internet that inspired my 1885 blue floral gown. With the help of a friend, I was able to get a scan of the photo to put back on my computer. *If anyone can identify the painting or painter, I’d really appreciate it. I printed this off my computer quite a few years ago and had a habit of not saving any identifying information with them.*

**Edited to add- the painting has been found! This was “Pruning Roses” by Robert James Gordon.

Besides loving the blue color, I liked the dark blue insert on the bodice and was happy when Truly Victorian came out with the French Vest pattern with the insert.

When I saw this fabric at Rosie’s Calico Cupboard, a quilt shop in San Diego, I knew right away it was perfect for this gown.

The painting doesn’t really show what the underskirt looks like but I decided I wanted to continue the solid color for it. I also didn’t have enough of the blue floral to make the skirt. The bodice was fairly easy to construct and the insert portion was even easier than it looks. I thought it was some complicated bit of hooks & eyes system to attach it, but instead it was just sides sewn to the front portion of the bodice to continue it to the center. Piece of cake! I used buttons & buttonholes as my closure on this, and used modern flat blue buttons. In hindsight, it also made it easier to alter the size because as I began losing weight, just moving the buttons over made that easy too. I had one oops while making it though. When I was opening the buttonhole up using my seam ripper, I pushed too hard, and I ripped right through the buttonhole and went an inch and half into the fabric. I did a very tight zigzag stitch over it in navy blue thread to close it, and I’ve been told it’s hardly noticeable. But I notice it.
As you will see in the photos of the completed gown, I was still in my early years of knowledge of how these were made and worn. The skirt in this era should be flat in front, with the excess in the back to go along with the bustle. And a little fuller petticoat wouldn’t hurt it either. But overall I still like it, and this pattern is very flattering.

I don’t have any decent photos of the hat since I’ve repurposed it into other colors for other gowns. At times I’ve worn an antique black wire frame bonnet with it but at some point I’d like to make one that looks more like the original painting.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

1912 Suit for the Titanic Boarding Party luncheon

Started Feb 7, 2011/ Finished April 17, 2011
For the Titanic Boarding Party luncheon, portraying Dr Alice Leader, survivor of the sinking.

One of our costume guild members began planning an event for the anniversary of the RMS Titanic sinking on April 12, 1912. It was to be a Titanic Boarding Party luncheon at the Harbor House Restaurant in Seaport Village, San Diego, on April 1 7. We were each to pick a real person from the Titanic’s passenger list to portray, either a survivor or not, and try to come up with their story.
I chose Dr Alice Leader, who was more interesting than just being a 1st class passenger.
Alice and her husband John worked together as physicians at a practice in New York City. Alice boarded the Titanic at Southampton by herself as a first class passenger. She was 49 years old. She shared cabin D-17 with her friend, Mrs. Margaret Swift. Both she & Margaret were rescued in lifeboat 8.
After her rescue from the Titanic, Alice returned to work. She retired in the 1920s and was a frequent visitor to the Orlando, Florida area. Alice Leader died of heart failure in Florida on April 20, 1944; she was buried in Attica, N.Y.

I began looking for something suitable for a first class passenger who was also a doctor. I liked the idea of a suit that could be worn while boarding the ship. Then I came across a photo of a hunting party where a lady was wearing a suit with a set of furs and it matched a fashion photo I had. I liked having lots of buttons and trims.

From here I gathered my accessories, starting with a hat I’d bought in 2004 from Mela Hoyt-Hayden at the Costume College Marketplace while I was there. I added my furs, an antique Edwardian parasol that was long enough to be a walking stick, and a smallish doctor’s medical bag I recently purchased in Williamsburg, and was the perfect size for a lady doctor.

I could only come up with two commercial patterns that were close to what I wanted to use, one by Rocking Horse Farms, or Wingeo 410 & 411. I already had the Wingeo pattern so I decided to use that. At some point, I still want to try the Rocking Horse one.

I’m using a lightweight suiting wool blend that I’ve had for about 5 years. It’s a light chocolate brown, and I bought some dark chocolate velveteen for the collar and trims. Unfortunately during that time some little winged beasties nibbled on some of it, so I had to recut one piece that was unsalvageable, but on the front with the lapel, I decided the lapel folding over would cover it. Besides I didn’t have enough fabric to recut that piece. To prevent stretching, I did a staystitch around all the pieces, & flatlined the front & back pieces with interfacing because of it being so lightweight.

I had a really hard time getting started on this Wingeo pattern. There is only one sheet of directions, and they’re minimal. It has a two collar option, one being a contrasting collar, but it’s not really clear how to do that, especially if you’ve never done a lapel collar before. I ended up begging for help and Jennifer Rosbrugh of Historical Sewing stepped in to try and decipher the directions. This was all done over the internet so it was confusing for both of us. Since the directions only showed a drawing of the jacket w/o a lapel, that confused me further. After a week of going back and forth, Jennifer was able to write up some new instructions for me and it was enough for a light bulb to go on and have an ah hah moment. Part of the problem was sewing the separate collar and it’s placement on the jacket so it lined up properly with the folded out lapel portion. The directions said to sew on the collar from the dots A to B. Except there were four dots and none were labeled. So when I finally sewed it, using the dots closest to the center opening, it didn’t lay down far enough to line up with the lapel.

This first photo shows the incorrectly lined up lapel collar. The second shows after I opened it up to the dot where it was supposed to match up to the dart on the jacket, it lined up properly.

I would not recommend this pattern for a beginner.
I sewed the sleeves on and then the belt, which I sewed by machine on a side seam on both sides, then hand tacked it to the front, leaving the back portion un-tacked. I read somewhere that it should stay loose since the back would tend to gather. I imagine if I had fitted the back portion a little more, I wouldn’t have had the looseness there. I wasn’t very happy with how the sleeves were fitting me at the shoulders, and then surprisingly in an Edwardian drafting class, it was discovered I had a very short shoulder line from my neck to the tip of my shoulder. So that explained why it was hanging down so low on my arms. So I had some help drawing a new line for my armseye and I cut off about 2 inches in, and reset my sleeves, which looked much better.
The belt made also of velveteen was attached to the jacket but I didn’t attach it on the back because it had some fullness that would have bunched up if I stitched it.

Once that and the sleeves were done, the rest went a lot quicker. The skirt also didn’t have much directions, and the only stumble made there was in the kick pleats which really didn’t have much to fold under the pleat but it looks ok. I forgot to take pictures of that while I was in “frantic-mode” of sewing for my event in three days.
My plans to cover buttons with the velveteen didn’t work because the fabric was too bulky. So I went in search of acceptable looking buttons. I found some at Yardage Town with a clover pattern cut out in the middle. They actually had enough of them for once. I used 6 large ones on the front of the double breasted jacket, four on each sleeve, and two on each side of the two kick pleats of the skirt. At some point I’d like to add a velveteen trim to the bottoms of the sleeves, but at this point, I’m just happy that it’s wearable.

The last part of this was my high necked blouse. I tried an Edwardian blouse I had on but the cotton sleeves fought with the cotton lining of the jacket sleeves and it was impossible to get it on. I almost didn’t get out of it. Plan B was a fake blouse, aka a dickie. I couldn’t find my pattern for making the blouse so I used another one for a high necked cape, Butterick 4952.
I just cut out the front and back pieces, with the collar. I shortened the bottoms of both bodies, and cut off part of the sides to even it out from the armholes, and just hemmed each side without having a side seam. The front seams and the collar overlapped enough to snap closures. I used a piece of antique lace from my stash and sewed one part around the collar, and then two pieces down the front on either side of the closure. I left a small area near the top for my Edwardian brooch to close it.

These photos were taken by Jerry Abuan. I didn’t realize until I saw the photos that when I put my hat on after getting out of my car and sticking my hat pin in, that I forgot to set it at an angle. This position isn’t the best angle for me or to show off the hat to its best. I also noticed the jacket wants to scrunch up too high above the waist after I’ve been sitting down. It causes the lower part of the jacket to pull at the last button. I don’t know if it’s too tight or what causes it yet. I need to get in the habit of pulling it down each time I get up.

We had our Captain Edward John Smith, and many lovely ladies.
More of my photos can be found here.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

1860s brown bonnet

Yesterday while attending the Prado Civil War reenactment in Chino, CA, I was asked about the bonnet I was wearing and how I made it. After I told one person how I’d done part of it, I got home and found out I’d never finished writing it up on my blog. So, Mary, this is for you.
January 22, 2010
For my 1860s olive green gown I made to wear at the Riverside Dickens Fair, I wanted to use a straw bonnet with it, trimming it up inside the top of the brim, and some kind of fancy trim around the crown. This was my inspiration I used.

I wanted to have the high point at the top like a spoon bonnet instead of being rounded, so I placed a medium gauge millinery wire along the edge before I bound the edges. After it was sewn I bent it to the shape I wanted. *Test the strength of your wire to see if it will hold the shape*. First I sewed the millinery wire around the inside edge, using a wide zigzag stitch over it with my sewing machine. As long as you sew slowly, you shouldn’t have any problems. Then I pleated an antique white silk taffeta to go inside the bonnet, and pinned it in place to get the fit right. Line it up with the outside edges of the bonnet, with the excess down in the middle. You can trim off the excess. Make a round disk of the same lining fabric and turning the edges under, sew it on top of the raw edges at the bottom.

I machine-sewed a strip of the same fabric on the outside of the edge, then turned it over to the inside, and slipstitched it on by hand. I forgot to take a photo of the bonnet after I sewed and turned the edge over to finish the front. I slipstitched it to the inside lining.

I dug through my collection of millinery flowers that I find at antique shows and put a couple bits together for the upper brim. I basted these on. For the outside trim, I made a brown ribbon using a 4” wide strip of silk taffeta folded in half and sewn, closing off the ends at an angle, and leaving a bit open in the middle to turn it inside out. The finished width was 2”. Make it long enough to go around the top and then hang down on each side so you can tie it in a bow under your chin. I hand-tacked it through the straw frame, and decided I didn’t care that the stitches showed through on the inside & they wouldn’t show anyhow. *This could be done prior to lining it if you think of it in time.*

For the bavelot and bow on the back of the bonnet, I sewed more strips of the brown silk taffeta, similar to how I did the ribbon, but made the bavelot portion wider, about 8” which was folded in half. I hand-stitched these to the back of the bonnet along the lower edge. I made a pleated ribbon to go on top of the ribbon already sewn on by using a 4” strip & turning the edges under and towards the center so it had finished outside edges. The finished width was 2”. I machine-sewed down the center to hold them together. Then I tacked them down in the center through the bonnet frame.

For my side trims, I used some more of my millinery trims and sewed a sprig on each side and put small bows at the base of each one, this time using regular brown ribbon. At each point at the bottom of the bonnet, I sewed a narrow ribbon to tie under my chin, in addition to the regular bow to hold it in place better. Besides helping the bonnet holds its shape better, it also keeps the stress of your regular ribbon so it doesn’t untie as easily.

Here was the photo taken of me when I first wore it in Riverside 2010.

Friday, April 1, 2011

My album from Williamsburg

I didn't really want to put anything in my costume blog except writing about my costumes, but this time I'll make an exception. Because there's no way I could get all my photos in here.
I've uploaded all the photos from my week in W'burg to my online album: going to the Costume Accessories Symposium; visiting the Costume Accessories: Head to Toe exhibit at the Dewitt-Wallace museum; the muff making workshop; attending a private 18th c candlelight dinner at the King's Arms Tavern, and a private 18th c. musical presentation at the Raleigh Tavern. The last two I attended in costume, wearing my teal caraco but unfortunately having to wear an almost black wig since I left mine at home. My hair and wigs are more of a reddish light auburn. Oh well. The only decent photos I have of me so far were taken by Angela Burnley, so I thank you very much, Angela. This is what I was supposed to look like:

In the section with the photos from the Head to Toe exhibit at the Dewitt-Wallace, I left my sometimes blurry photos of the item's description to save me the typing.
Even though I went on private tours of costume collections at some museums, we were asked not to post photos of those online. However, I do plan on cropping bits and pieces of parts of them that I specifically liked and want to talk about, and incorporate those in my own costumes. But that's for later.
At the end of the second night of the two day conference that I attended, Janea Whitacre presented her program, All things Millinerial, with a wonderful "fashion show" that was the hit of the whole program. SO MUCH EYE CANDY! Most of the time the ladies were moving so it was hard to get photos from the stage that weren't too blurry but I think most came out. And we got to take closeups of them later. And boy, did I! To to the point of stalking one of them, a black Regency gown, that I think needs to be added to my wardrobe!
Please be so kind as to leave a comment there if you like. I'd love to know what you think, or that you enjoyed them. OR you can do it here.