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.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I got a Duchie award!

I remember awhile back Lauren of Wearing History  nominated me for one of these but I had no idea what it was, or if it was something I would be notified later that I had won. Whatever that was.
Today I was awarded a Duchie by Nabby at This Old Life and it came with some explanations. Her reason for awarding me was "I love all of her beautiful creations! Plus, according to her latest post, she is getting ready to make some dresses from my favorite era; I can't wait to see what she comes up with!"
I feel really honored and flattered that she would pass this on to me. And Nabby, I hope I live up to your expectations as I try out vintage costuming. I struggle through everything I make, and fudge alot. Fortunately most people never see that. Since your blog is on the 1930s, I'm sure I'll be visting you a lot more now.
And Lauren, if I was amiss with your nomination, I'm sorry. Thank you.
So, the rules of the game are: 
 “When you receive a Duchie Award, post on your blog (in any order)":
---Five things you love about historical costuming/wearing vintage clothing.
---Three (or more) blogs to pass the Duchie Award onto.
---A link back to the blog who awarded you the Duchie.
1. I love how pretty my historical clothing looks. My entire career was spent wearing uniforms & no jewelry, and to be able to dress in things this beautiful makes me feel amazing.
2. I love the creative process of making my costumes. Doing the research on each era, finding pictures of gowns that give me ideas and inspire me to greater challenges is a big part of it. And digging around antique shows and shops for old accessories I can add to make my clothing more authentic is a lot of fun.
3. I love how getting into costuming has expanded my world to include so many new people and other wonderfully creative friends.
4. I also love how people react to me wearing historical clothing. I'm treated so differently and love the compliments I get.

5. And finally, I really enjoy being able to share what I learn, and passing it on to a new generation.
PS., I still love hearing the "Yo baby!" from the young man on seeing me wearing my bustle gown at the gas pump. :)

Thank you, Nabby. You made my day.
And now to find 3 of my favorite blogs to spread the joy.
I just found my first one. I've been enjoying reading Mary's posts at An Historical Lady because I love how she makes and wears her costumes, and lives the life of an historical lady. She lives in a 230 year old house and its decorated beautifully. Mary is a delightful and courteous lady that fits her style so successfully. I'm happy to pass on this award to her.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What's on the planning table? 1930s-40s

Started Nov. 2011
With the theme track at Costume College 2012 of The Golden Age of Hollywood; 1930-1950, I have started to make my plans for a couple costumes for it. My preference is 30s & 40s but when the hem length was mid-calf. I have been skirting around these eras for a couple years, looking at patterns and hats, and vaguely at jewelry & shoes. I had little to no knowledge of them so I don’t really know what to look for. I’ve been to two vintage textile shows in Santa Monica and have been collecting some ideas of the look I wanted.
It all started with a hat.
My first purchase came from wanting one of these, a 1931 halo hat. I loved the look of the big halo in the back.

A few years ago at one of the vintage textile shows I found a 1940s one (on the left) that I fell in love with. And just recently found another (on the right) at a steal of a price at a local antique show.  I think it needs a little dressy up.
At the same vintage show while looking at some vintage dresses, a suit caught my eye and I decided that was what I’d like to make. I hoped to find a fabric in burgundy or purple, and it would go with my new hat. So with that in mind I started looking for accessories. Fortunately at this show the dealers know their stuff and when I asked to be shown some ‘30s jewelry they knew exactly what to show me. I found some Bakelite buttons and belt buckle to go with my planned suit.  At another show at Frock You in San Diego, I bought a pair of earrings to go with it, and a compact. From ebay I bought a cordite fabric purse w/ a clear Bakelite handle on it. I might even include one or more of my Stone Martin fox fur pieces. By then I’d also found my fabric, a plum colored lightweight wool/polyester blend. 

Shoes are going to be tough for me. I did buy this modern shoe that was similar to a vintage style but since my feet don’t like hard leather very much, it’s going to be hard.  I’m *dreaming* of buying this pair at ReMix in Los Angeles but my wallet has to be a bit fatter. They were extremely comfortable and soft.

With all these in hand, I started searching for THE pattern to make my suit from.  Of course most of the real vintage ones were tiny tiny, so my search had to be from reproduction ones. My final choice was this Vintage Vogue pattern #1019. Hey look, she even has a halo hat. It’s dated as 1947.  I also have Butterick  #6759, a 1948 Retro design.
Living in Southern CA, there’s only a few possibilies to wear something as warm as this suit. So my next search was for dresses that could be worn in the daytime. I don’t dance or go to balls, and I wanted them to be casual dressy. My first bit of education was fabric colors & designs. Learning the designs on the fabrics was fun because there are many actual pieces of clothing still in existence. I was even able to see some in person and touch them in stores where they were sold. Way out of my price range, I might add. I loved this one I found in a store in Old Town Orange, CA. It’s 1930s, rayon/cotton, & IT FIT ME. But it’s $120. It looks very similar to a 1935 one in a Sears catalog I bought.  

Then the pattern search was on. I came up with all these I was able to buy.


Next up was fabric search. I’ve already started sewing the black and white floral using the Simplicity 9360 pattern. And I bought a red belt for it, along with some red buttons for trim, and a cute red chenille flower pin, as long as it’s not too heavy for the flimsy fabric.  The brown and green plaid will be using the vintage Art Deco #963 pattern. Depending on how that one turns out, I may also use the green with white flower rayon for another one. I’m taking a wait and see plan on making these. I have no idea how I’ll look in them and the fabrics are very inexpensive ($2-$3 yd) so I can experiment without breaking the bank. Did I mention all this fabric is flimsy? Quite a change for a costumer who’s gotten used to fabrics with more body and texture.

This last Simplicity #2387 pattern I’m saving to make my own version of the blue floral $120 dress I saw. The elusive fabric is out there somewhere.
And then there's the hair and makeup. That's a totally different animal to attack. I have very very short hair, so once again, I need wigs. And with a few of the youtube videos of doing vintage makeup, that will be fun to try.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Ghost of Xmas Past, Present & Future—a Time Traveling Ghost

Started Oct & Completed Nov, 2011

Our costume guild’s tri-yearly costumed walkabout at the Del Mar Antique Show in San Diego has covered many different costume themes; Victorian, Edwardian, 1920-1950s, Fantasy, Carnivale, & Pirate. Last January we did Steampunk (Victorian/ Science Fiction). It was hugely popular with the antique vendors, the show producer, and the public. So it wasn’t a surprise that it was requested again. And again, but this time for Christmas. Christmas? At first I wasn’t too thrilled with it because that makes it too costumey, too Halloweeny. But as other people started coming up with ideas, like Steampunk Santa, Steampunk Elf, I started thinking about it more. So how does a Victorian costumer who does a Steampunk Time Travel Agent become something Christmas? My first thought was my favorite Christmas book, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I visualized all the characters in the book, how they would dress, and even how they were dressed in all the different movie variations of the story, ALL of which I have. I kept thinking about the women’s gowns, and maybe adding holiday trim to it. But that wouldn’t make it Steampunk. Then I remembered the ghosts. The Ghost of Christmas Past, and so on. I could do that. And how to make it Steampunk? All three ghosts combined into one, a time traveling ghost! Which they actually do travel in the past & future in the story. I ended up giving myself the long title of The Ghost of Christmas Past, Present & Future, but ended up introducing myself as just the Past one.
I only had a month to make this as I would be gone for 3 weeks on vacation, so I chose a simple gown to make. I took the design for my gown from a drawing I’d seen of young Ebenezer Scrooge’s love, Belle, in her Regency style gown. This wouldn’t require a lot of work, and I had a muslin already cut to my size from my La Mode Bagatelle Regency wardrobe patterns. And I already had an ivory silk taffeta to make it from. I used the pattern for the gathered neckline of the bodiced petticoat.
So how to make it ghostly? Obviously all my skin would need to be covered. I lengthened the sleeves, and a chemisette would go in the neckline of the bodice with a ruffle around my neck and long white gloves. Since I’m not able to move the bust line on my dress form, my gown doesn’t fit properly on it for this photo.

I’d seen one costumer dressed as another ghost where she used black face paint and covered her head and upper body with a layer of cheesecloth. It gave her a gauzy appearance and her face didn’t show.  Since I knew I would have to be driving to the event and occasionally people would be seeing my face, I chose to use white face paint instead that would blend into the cheesecloth. I bought a package of cheese cloth at JoAnn’s Fabrics. It wasn’t the yellowish-waxy stuff I’d seen before, but white and very soft. I used two layers of it to go over my bonnet, (that was made by Mela Hoyt-Hayden), and down to my waist. It was tacked to the bonnet to hold it in place. On the top of the brim I tacked a cluster of holly. And I carried an electric candlestick with holly around it too.
Ok, white face paint is not very attractive, but fortunately I had a cheesecloth veil. I did however forget to read my own earlier notes about getting a white wig or wearing a white cap to cover the parts of my own hair that showed under the front of the bonnet.

Ok, you’re asking how did I make this Steampunk-ish? My idea was to have a recording of a loud library clock going tick tock, with an occasional *gong!* to show that *time was running out”. I planned to record it to my ipod, then attach that to my mini ihome player and carry it in my Regency reticule. I found a few recordings online but none had the deep woody sound you associate with old clocks. My friend Shawn Crosby made one up for me and even though it was only 5 minutes long, I was able to copy it about 15 times on my ipod to make it play continuously. Unfortunately because the noise in the building at the show was so loud, the ticking was almost lost. But it was hilarious when all of a sudden a loud gong would play 8 times with people around me.
The day before the show I was wondering what people would think when they saw me driving to it with the white face. Thoughts of “was she going to a zombie attack?” or “maybe she’s off to see Breaking Dawn” went through my head. I’ll never know. I did see a couple quick stares which probably didn’t give anyone time to register just what did they exactly see.
And at the show I worried would people recognize who or what I was? And to my gratification, most of them did. I was asked a few times were I a bride? Of course, why not? I’m all in white. This led me to think I might be able to use this outfit again as Miss Haversham, the bride who was deserted at the altar, in Dickens’ Great Expectations. So now I’m letting my mind come up with ideas for it for the Riverside Dickens Festival in January 2012. Her gown could be trimmed with lace and I know I have lots of that in my stash.
Here are a few other photos of people at this event because there were some good ones.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Blog to book Part 2

A year after I started this blog I saw an ad for turning your blog into a book. Its similar to the photo album books that people are printing these days from weddings, babies, and other special occasions. I had one made for me when I retired, and we made one for my hubby when he retired too. In the days of people saving photos online instead of carrying them around, like me, its great to have something altogether like this to carry and show off.
My first book, the soft bound edition, that included the entire first year of my blog was surprisingly well made, only costing about $27. It was done by SharedBooks. The only odd part was the pictures were not always lined up with the text. But it still was exciting and gratifying to see MY gowns and everything I wrote about them in a BOOK!
So here I am now with two more years worth of photos and jabbering about them in my blog. And once again the anxiety of "what would happen if the website crashed and lost everything?" kicked in again. Of course I have all my posts saved on Word documents too but its not the same as "being out there".
Recently I got an email from about a sale they were having at 20% off. Perfect timing! I was able to get some final photos from a recent event added and sent it off. I chose to use the same cover design as my first one too. With twice as many pages and photos, it still only came to $45. And it arrived in less than a week, paying the less expensive shipping of 1-2 weeks.  This time I was given the option of either printing photos & texts the most compact way & using less paper, like it was the first time, or doing a better layout that would take more paper, thereby costing a little more. It really didn't cost that much more, and I think it looks much better.
This is the link for turning your blog into a book. . Its fairly simple and you can personalize a lot of it. Their customer service phone line is extremely helpful with any questions and assistance too. Because of the last day of the sale I was really having trouble getting mine started due to the heavy traffic online. I called their Customer Service Representative who downloaded mine for me & saved it, and this enabled me to go in and do the custom designs on it I wanted. They get my customer service award of the year!
These are some page examples from my book. I think the layout is much better now.

If you want to make your own photo book, not using a blog, just go to their main website. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

1850s Mourning gown for Dia de los Muertos

Before I’d left on vacation about a month ago, I had finished my mourning gown and bonnet, but sadly not my corded petticoat. So I had to resort to my backup of a tulle petticoat. But it shall get done! One of these days.
I draped an antique black floral veil over my bonnet & tacked it to stay on. I had also found a pair of black lace mitts at an Icings store that were similar to some in an 1860s photograph so I felt confident to wear them.

My first chance to wear it was for the annual Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead/All Soul’s Day) in Old Town San Diego, CA, on Nov 2. I and our costume guild led the Candlelight Procession from the historic Whaley House to the Campo de Santo Cemetery down the street. I showed up early and had my face painted as a Catrina (an elegant skeleton lady). I wanted to try it myself but decided to let someone else do it the first time. Next year! After it was done, I sat out on the wall in front of the Whaley House waiting for the other arrivals, and I became the focal point of many people having their photos taken with me. Fun!

This year more than 4000 people attended the Candlelight Procession and it was amazing to see them walking down the street, carrying candles, and arriving at the cemetery.

This was a photo taken later by Jerry Abuan.
Next year I plan on painting my own face but will need to practice in the meantime.