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.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Gaslight Gathering Victorian fashion show

We got some wonderful video taken of the Victorian fashion show at the Gaslight Gathering Steampunk & Victoriana convention a few weeks ago. You can get a good look at each and every gown the models wore that were copied or inspired by fashion prints or photos.
I’m the first model in Video #1 wearing my 1850s turquoise & gold plaid gown, and the last model in Video #2. Each video is 15 minutes long. Enjoy!
Video #1
Video #2

These are my critics, Chloe and Rudy, who are very helpful with my sewing. It’s very hard work.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A DIY Pattern Organizer

May 24, 2011
Do you need a portable pattern reference guide? Step this way!
I came up with this idea of having a portable pattern reference book about 5 years ago after numerous trips to the Garment District in LA, and coming across the perfect fabric for a costume but not having the fabric amounts with me. How many times has that happened to you? I don’t always go looking for fabric for a specific pattern, which I would have the amounts with me, or sometimes the muse just hits me. So I’ve either under-bought or over-bought the amount I needed.
I started writing down all my pattern numbers with a slight description next to it, & hoping to remember what it looked like. But when you have over 250 patterns, your memory doesn’t always serve. And it got messy after awhile.
I tried the 3x5 card method but that’s not great for carrying that many around. It’s still a good idea for putting your fabric swatches on unless you’re like me and also have an Obsessive Amount of Fabric. I ended up putting swatches of them just in a Ziploc bag.
I found a 6 ½ x 3 ½ inch vinyl bound book with an elastic strap around it, and decided to put pictures of all my patterns in it, along with fabric & trim amounts needed for it. The first time I showed it to a group of Costume College newbies who were going to the Garment District and didn’t know how much fabric they would need, I almost didn’t get it back.
I’ve shared my idea with a few people, with favorable comments, and today while working on mine, I decided to share it with more people. Because that’s what costumers do.
Start by finding your book to make it with. I bought mine at Staples office supply, and yesterday saw some in a variety of colors on sale for $3. I think they’re normally $5. Then start collecting photos of all your patterns. The easiest way is to find them on the internet, either on the pattern company’s website, or if out of print, on eBay, or just type in a search. Copy and save the photo to your computer. Make sure you save the pattern company name and number with it; example, TV 410.
You will need to print them out to a size that will fit in your book. I like them about 3” or less so I can see the details. But you can do them half that size to put two to a page if you like. The speediest way to print them is to put them on a Word document where you can put multiples on the page. Once that’s done, cut them and tape them to the page in the book. Trim the photo as much as possible to eliminate bulk in the book. You can include the name & # on the print out but I just write it in the book next to the photo.

I put them in a numerical order in my book. I’ve tried different ways, like the era but I seem to try and hunt them by number more often. Although I do have one section that is a compilation of all my 1930s & 40s ones. Leave a couple pages blank between each pattern company to add other purchases later. The books come with a lot of pages so it will take quite a few to fill it up. It’s small enough to carry in your purse, or back pocket, and will save you from disastrous purchases in the future.
And while we’re on Obsessive-Compulsive Costuming, have I told you about my Costume Projects & Fabrics book? This one is 7x9”, a mini three ring binder, also purchases at Staples. I cut pages of card stock in half and punch holes in it for my pages. Much cheaper than buying them.

I print out pictures of my inspiration gown & the pattern if I have one yet. Then I tape the fabric swatch next to it. Sometimes there’s more than one fabric for multiple gowns. I write on the piece of fabric how many yards there are too.

It’s just a way I try to keep control of what I plan to make with a fabric I purchased, or at least remember WHY I bought it. This is a similar idea to using 3x5 cards. Since they’re taped on the pages, it’s easy to move them if I change my mind what I’m using it for.
I also have a second book that I move these pages to once the gown is completed, along with a photo of me wearing it. There are some days that I either don’t have a costume to work on, am stumped by how to do something, or just don’t feel like sewing. This becomes a very satisfactory replacement, and I see instant results.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sewing piping & ruching-1850s style

May 13, 2011
AKA Piping for Dummies:
I started a new costume a few weeks ago, an 1850s gown, and it will be my first attempt at doing piping. I tried doing it a few years ago, and never figured out how to get in between the fabric and the facing where it was just a narrow cord showing. Later I did a fake piping as trim along the edge of a sleeve jockey, my collar, and cuffs by sewing my silk taffeta trim right sides together to the edge of the fabric with a narrow hem. Then I turned it over to the inside and sewed a tiny hem to the back. I was basically just covering the edge of the fabric but from the front it looked like a nice narrow piping. You’ll probably remember this from an earlier post when I made my 1860s olive green gown.

For my 1850s gown, which I’m recreating from an original, I wanted to do it correctly as the pattern indicated. I already knew how to make bias strips from my fabric, and cut several lengths of it using a ruler that was 1-1/4 inch wide. After asking my friends on LiveJournal for suggestions to use for the cording, the overwhelming popular one was Lily Sugar n Cream 4 ply cotton yarn. I happened to have a few rolls of it from using it on a corded petticoat.Michael's carries this.

I folded the bias strip in half and placed the length of yarn down the middle, and secured it at one end with a straight pin. To keep the edges even, I pinned it down the length of the fabric. I used a zipper foot and sewed it as close to the edge of the yarn as I could. I even let the foot go slightly onto the top of the yarn to get it closer. For instructions on how to do this, I pulled out my copy of Cloak & Corsets “Modern Sewing Techniques for Historical Clothing Construction”, and found the chapter on piping. It had enough information to guide me through the next steps.

I pinned it to the right side of my bodice with the half inch portion of the bias strip even with the edge of my bodice & basted it to hold in place. In this case, my seam allowances are a half inch, and I was sewing it around my arm hole & shoulder seams. On the armhole I started and ended it under my arm at the side seam. I overlapped the ends and pinned the loose ends up into the seam allowance so they crisscrossed. Later I trimmed those ends off even with the seam.

When I sewed the seams together I sewed the piping again using my zipper foot, and kept it close to the yarn. I thought this was going to be hard getting it exact but with my silk taffeta I can actually see the bump made by the yarn. You can also feel it. And you do want to get it close so the piping isn’t flopping around outside the seam.

Then I sewed the sleeve on as usual, making sure the edges were all even so my half inch seam would work. Here you can see the armhole piping. You can’t see the shoulder one since the seam is towards the back but it’s there. And once I got the hang of this, I didn’t stop. I decided to do it along the bottom edge of the bodice too. There are some other seams on the bodice that will be getting piping also.

And THEN I got to try a different method of making ruching to trim the front of the bodice. My method as shown in my earlier 1770s gowns, was to turn the edges of the strip of fabric to the center and press, then gather it down the center, so it was ruffley on the edges. This gown does it different. The edges are turned under 1/4 inch on the sides, and gathered down BOTH sides so it pleats it down the middle. This photo shows the sewn edges on the strip on the top with a gathering stitch. The bottom one has it gathered up and pinned to the bodice. I hand sewed it using a basting stitch with only a small stitch showing on top down the stitch lines on the sides.

The first strip I sewed on the bodice has the gathers not level enough so I’m going to take out some of the hand stitches and even it out a little more. But I learned something new and now have a new trim technique to add to my skills.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Gaslight Gathering Steampunk & Victorian Fashion Shows

Last weekend I attended the first, and hopefully annual, Gaslight Gathering Steampunk & Victoriana convention in San Diego, CA.

This is Kaja Foglio, who with her husband Phil, write the comic Girl Genius which was the inspiration for much of Steampunk fashion.

With my friends, Mary Jennings, and Shelley Peters of the Kansas Merchantile aka The Widow Peters.

Other than wearing Steampunk, my friend Cindy asked me to be in the fashion show she was running on Mother's Day, which would be Victorian fashions that we used historical paintings, photos or fashion prints as our inspiration.
I already had one gown made that I'd sort of copied from a fashion print, and started another that I was using a photo of Queen Victoria to copy but realized that it was the same pattern as the other gown. So I decided to wear another gown that also had been inspired by a painting.
My first gown, an 1850s turquoise plaid was inspired by this print of the green plaid gown. I previously documented the making of that one.

We had a photographer that grabbed us as we left the room for a quick photo, and unfortunately by that time my lips were quivering from so much smiling, and I was rushing to change into my next gown. I've decided I need to wear this WITHOUT the bonnet because it's big bow is covering all the pretty trims on the front, and my brooch.

My second gown, which was just documented in my previous post, was an 1885 blue floral gown inspired by this painting.

I carried a basket with roses in a similar color and one in my hand. I didn't get a photo I liked that time, so this one with my friends Lauren and Cindy (the show's narrator) shows it off partially.

I'm doing another fashion show this next weekend, and will be wearing my 1770s red floral caraco again since they don't have anything from that time period, and my friend Cindy will be wearing her purple pleated gown. At least neither of us have to rush to finish anything because I want to focus on my new 1850s gown right now.