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, May 8, 2012

1903 Floral Voile dress

Started May 6, 2012
I'm not wasting a minute to keep my momentum going. I have plans.
My original plans for Costume College convention in August was to make a couple 1930s dresses to wear for this year's theme track. But I lost steam on that. I do still have my vintage evening dress that I'm going to bling up for the Sunday Tea. But Downton Abbey has my heart, and that's where my costume madness is taking me.
So now that I have my Pink Striped dress done, although it will get a little tweaking since I figured out one of it's problems, I can start on my next dress. And then there's the next dress after that. :D
Surprise even to me, my next fabric is also kind of a pink stripe but the stripes are made of flowers. Must be a theme here.
A pretty picture first to give you an idea of what I'm thinking.

For the dress: as mentioned before, I already made Truly Victorian's Edwardian 1903 s-bend corset, so common sense tells me MAKE THE DRESS. And ooh, they just came out with the underpinnings too. 

I bought this fabric about 6 years ago and as you can see, had other plans for it. Its a sheer cotton voile purchased at Fabrics & Fabrics for I think $3.99 yd. Surprisingly I've still seen it there about 6 months ago but not much was left.

I've traced out my patterns for the skirt and bodice, and am ready to cut out the muslin for the bodice. I've already cut out the skirt and because of the floral striped pattern of the fabric, I doubt I'll be using the band pattern piece that makes a layered look to it midway down the skirt. I think a wide lace might look pretty on it though but I'm going to wait and see what the entire look of the skirt is before I decide on that. I've cut out the train length on it but I want to see how that looks too, and if I want to make it shorter.                                                    
Since the fabric is sheer, I'm cutting out an underskirt of a solid white cotton and am going to put a ruffle on the bottom of it. 
I work on my costumes a little bit each day and some days it comes together faster than others. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Wearing 1912 for the Titanic Artifact exhibit

Yesterday I pulled together all my accessories for my 1912 Pink Striped Day Dress, and wore it to the Titanic exhibit in Balboa Park, San Diego. After looking at antique photos, and photos collected from Downton Abbey for ideas, I wore my straw hat with pastel pink and blue flowers, a pearl necklace and drop pearl earrings, white crocheted gloves, white boots, and an antique Edwardian purse.  I like how it all came together.

The weather was beautiful that day and the museum’s white building stood out like a wedding cake.

As the other ladies started arriving we all took turns taking photos of each other.

The fun part was anticipating seeing three of us arriving in a dress made from the same pattern. Kate (of Madame Novice ), Liz, and I made them in different fabrics, did different collars, and placed our buttons in different spots. It took some people awhile to figure out it was the same pattern. And of course we were asked what pattern we had all used.
Suddenly it was time to go in at our appointed hour to the exhibit and I missed taking photos of all the other ladies. This photo was taken by Debbie B. and shows how pretty everyone looked. We had a few antique gowns but most were handmade.
 The Balboa Park exhibit is of artifacts brought back from the sunken ship and a small cross-section of what was recovered. It was mostly things like electrical sockets from the wall, lots of metal parts, vases, glass lamp shades, and lots of pottery, which held up very well in the watery conditions of 100 years. I found the most interesting were the personal items of the travelers; post cards, a tooth powder case and toothbrush, a jar of moisturizer still intact (gives us hope that it will do the same for our faces), a narrow gold rope chain necklace about 16”, a man’s small stick pin with a sapphire surrounded by diamonds, and a man’s pin-striped suit coat. Some things that were inside leather sachels held up very well because the leather didn’t deteriorate and allow water in. We didn’t see anything really fancy, and that may just have been because of what they were given to exhibit. Re-creations of the different class levels of rooms were displayed, and many of us thought 2nd class or even 3rd class didn’t look too bad. The beds were made of mahogany, not like the metal ones would be today. The menus for each class were displayed, and the simple food served to third class appealed to me more than the fancier first class. Ok, my lineage comes from Norwegian and German farmers.  And then there’s the wall of ice that you can reach out and touch, to try and get the feel of what it was like out there in the cold water and ice field where the Titanic went down. Other attendees had left hand prints and finger prints on it while trying to keep touching as long as they could before it became unbearable.
We weren’t allowed to take photos inside the exhibit so we had to wait until we came out the exit and were able to take more. This first group photo was taken by Debbie B. In the next photo, Glenda on the left is wearing an antique gown. Mary on the right in a gown she made.

 These next two from Cindy P.

This is my favorite shot of the day; digging for my cellphone that I had tucked into the top of my corset and it had fallen down into my bodice. With only having a small purse and no side pocket, I have no where to put my camera & cellphone. I need to come up with a better solution for that. I tried putting my cellphone into the outside pocket of my purse but the poor antique threads were rotted and broke. So I need to stitch that back together.

Later we split up into groups and went to various places for lunch. Ten of us went to the Museum Café by the Old Globe theatre for lunch, and afterwards took a group photo of us in the garden.
**Some final thoughts on this dress and my corset. I wore my Victorian corset since I don’t have the long lined Edwardian one made yet. As many of us know the Victorian one pushes all the fluff up and down out of the waist, and it has to go somewhere. When wearing Victorian gowns, the skirt is full so none of that is a problem. However with the closer fitting straight dresses of the late Edwardians and early ‘teens, that fluff will show.  My other 1903 one wouldn’t have worked since it has the same effect. So now I’m determined to make one of the long lined Edwardian ones, and have already printed out the pattern posted by Festive Attyre. With the help of a friend enlarging it and fitting me, I hope to have my new one in time to wear it next time with this dress. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

1912 Pink Striped Cotton Day Dress

Started April / Finished May 2012

I have to admit, right up front, that I am a Downton Abbey fan. But mainly because of its dresses, because, as you know, I am a costume junkie.  I was caught up in the Titanic frenzy of dresses from that era of the frilly layered fabulous gowns. But then I saw the day dresses Lady Mary, Edith, and Sybil were wearing.  They still had an elegance of lace about them and could easily be worn to afternoon tea.
So while others were scanning the internet for photos and patterns of Titanic dresses, I was looking among the lesser known eras between 1912-1914. Finding existing patterns that I could use (ie, not have to scale up) with the correct lines was tough. But the more I looked at fashion prints, and drooled over Lady Mary’s dresses, I started to see them: patterns that underneath the sleeves and collars had the correct bones. I think my eye got better as I kept looking because I finally found three patterns that Lady Mary would be proud to wear.  Ok, the Sense & Sensibility 1912 Kimono pattern and the Hint of History #102 -1910 Collection/Kimono Sleeve Jumper Dress & Blouse are the same designer, Amanda Kastner, and very similar. My bad. She made the first kimono dress for S&S as part of a contest, and then went on with her own pattern line. But she did them slightly different and I like her own version better.  

And then I came across this Folkwear #508 pattern for a dress and jacket. In the drawing of the pattern it didn’t look like much but when I saw it made up, wow! Lady Mary spot on! Too bad the weather is warming up so I wouldn’t even be able to wear it till next Winter.

Then I remembered a Hint of History pattern I’d bought a couple years ago that I had liked but didn’t like because of the collar. But if you removed that big bathrobe collar, you have a similar dress to this pretty one Lady Sybil wore. 

I got slightly distracted by trying to make a 1914 dress from a vintage McCall’s pattern, and it’s close to being done but I’m not sure I like how it looks. With our Titanic Artifact Exhibit tour at Balboa Park coming up on May 5, I needed something I’d be proud to wear. After suggesting the Hint of History pattern to a friend, and seeing how it came out on her, I was sold. I’d purchased a loose-woven, slightly sheer cotton pink striped fabric in the Garment District a couple months ago that I knew would work for this era. I’m proud to say it was only $1 a yard. It did need lining though, and I used thin white cotton to flatline each part of the dress. The true color is more pink than peach as it looks in the photo.

This looks like an easy construct but the pattern has been very simplified. There’s one pattern piece that’s used in part for the skirt back, side fronts, and the front. So you have to cut your fabric to the line indicated for that piece. My suggestion would be to trace each pattern piece on paper and cut them out individually so it’s not confusing. Because it is confusing. I didn’t do that, and I was confused a couple times. And you need to mark which is the top of each piece because there isn’t that much difference between the top and the bottom. But there is a subtle and important difference where the top of the skirt has a slight curve on the hips. So make a note of that.
The bodice is two pieces, with a solid back and two front pieces that will cross over each other. If you decide not to do the shawl collar as I did, you will need to sew a bias edge facing along the front edges. I used some bias strips of my fabric.  There’s a triangle shaped insert that is attached permanently to one side of the front and then closed with hooks & eyes or snaps on the other. The pattern suggested sewing only on three sides and leaving the side that will be attached to the front raw and just finish the edge. But I found it just as easy to sew right sides together with a small opening, then turning it inside out for a nice clean finish. The fitting on the bodice is done by gathering under the bustline. I may need a little fitting in the back and was going to do gathers there as indicated on the pattern but after seeing an original gown that used pleats to fit it, I’m going to do that in the back instead.

Even though I’m not doing the shawl collar I’m still going to have a collar. At this time I’m leaning towards making a narrow shorter one out of white linen with an overlay of lace. This gives you an idea what I’m thinking of but I don’t think it will be the shiny lace shown here. I just recently purchased an antique collar on ebay and when it arrives I’m going to see how it looks. It does need a solid background of white over the pink stripes to show off the lace.

I sewed the skirt panels together leaving the front overlap open. Once I finished those two edges, I laid them on top of each other to fit me, then basted them together up to 8” from the top, which will be my opening placket.
Next up was adding the waistband between the skirt and bodice. The waistband had two pieces, the inside and the outside but they’re sewn on separately as far as I can see. With a little explanation from a friend who’d already made the dress, I managed to fudge it as best I could, since neither of us could really understand the directions. It wasn’t us. It was the pattern.
So for starters, I sewed one piece right sides together to the bottom of the bodice. And then did the same to the top of the skirt. I thought I would have some excess fabric in the back of the skirt but didn’t. However because of the crossover bodice, I did have excess on the right front side of the skirt. I didn’t want to gather it to make it and me more poofy, so I just made a pleat slightly in front of the side seam. I think I remember reading in the pattern about cutting that away and curving it in more at the side seam. When I make this again, and I will, I’ll look into that a little more. In fact, once this next event is over and I have some time, I’ll probably do a little altering on this one.

 To attach the inside waistband, I ironed down  the edges of both sides of it, and laid it onto the inside of the waist and slipstitched it on. Here you can see the inside of the front waistband attaching the bodice and skirt together. Once that's done, my friend recommended topstitching the two together. 
 The lace collar I bought finally arrived and it’s more ivory than white and looks kind of yellow on the white background, so that’s a no-go. After reading where someone else was making the same dress and used the smallest version of the pattern’s collar, I thought that was a great idea. But then I laid my lace collar over it and traced it onto the pattern to make it narrower instead of trying to draw the lines free-hand. I also made it shorter instead of going all the way down to the waist.

The sleeves were very easy to sew and attach but the larger size I used left a very very wide cuff. So I sewed it in a little narrower towards the end where the sleeve cuff is attached. I used the cuff pattern and cut it narrower so it would fit my altered sleeve. The cuff is pretty straightforward on attaching, but different than I’m used to. Sew them right sides together, then one of them right sides to the sleeve and stitch. Turn it back and turn it partly under to the inside and slipstitch it to the back. Then fold it partly back to the outside, leaving about ½” under, and back over the sleeve.  Clear as mud, right?
My first idea for buttons was to cover some, but as time was running short, I bought some pink ones with a dull satin finish. After I’d sewn snaps along the inside of the bodice overlap, I thought buttons would be too heavy to put there, even if decorative. But the bodice needed some color. I saw an antique dress that had some buttons on its collar so I took that idea, and placed three on each side, and repeated two of them on each cuff.  Then I made buttonholes on the waistband and down the front placket to use more of the buttons.  And this is what I finally ended up with.
 Accessories will be this vintage hat I have, white boots since I don’t have any other shoes for this yet, a brown leather antique Edwardian purse, & crocheted lace gloves. Tomorrow I’ll be wearing it to the Titanic Artifact exhibit.  How do you like that? Another dress finished just the night before an event.