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.


Monday, July 30, 2012

Costume College 2012 starts this Thursday

And there will be lots and lots of pictures, and lots of beautiful costumes, and oh my! Four days of costumey goodness and classes. There will also be a Costume Exhibit Room, and a Caught on Camera photo display I'm doing there. If you're unfamiliar with Costume College, or CoCo, this is their link. Costume College

I have 5 costumes I plan to wear over the 4 days, and have two in the Costume Exhibit Room. I will be teaching a class on my Bloomer gown project (the patterns finally came in, YAY!), and hosting the Sunday Fantasy Tea, "The Golden Age of Hollywood Movie Awards". It will be like the Academy Awards but with a slight twist.
I usually take about 200 photos of everyone there since its so much fun to see what others have made. I'll be posting all those in my online album, and not here, so when I get back and upload them, I'll tell all about the convention and post the link to my photos.
I wished I could be dressed like this but I'm working on it.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

1903 Corset Cover- Truly Victorian TVE 02

Started July 8/ Finished July 18, 2012
This really shouldn’t take a normal person ten days to sew. However, I am the “Queen of Not Understanding Pattern Directions”, and I come by that title honestly.
I was kind of holding back sewing on mine until my friend who was making her’s could pass on a few hints as she was sewing it. I heard a few Arghs from her but she still managed to get it made in a fairly short period of time. And it’s a small item of clothing too.
 I had a very lightweight 100% cotton to make mine from, and at Heather McNaughton’s confirmation. I was able to use some pre-gathered wide eyelet lace for the front. I think that saved me a good chunk of time.
My first stumble: attaching the ruffle to the front facing. Instructions have you sewing ruffles to the facing (think of it as a yoke) and flipping it over which leaves a raw edge. Without copying all the instructions, basically you have the lace hanging loose in the front, and after sewing the second part of the facing to the front facing, your entire neckline is finished, kind of like a bag-lining.

Here is where I got confused; sewing the right sides to the wrong side, then flipping it all over. I put a label w/ a W to show the wrong sides of the ruffle/facing and the front placket onto the wrong side of the bodice. If you stare at this long enough your brain will finally have an aha moment. 
 You will then flip the lace & facing portion over to the front so you have created a two sided yoke with the lace hanging from it.
Second stumble: the back facing piece. I’m still not sure I have this right. But my favorite saying is I fudge it.  The directions have you iron one edge of the facing, then pin it right side to the wrong side of the back bodice then stitch the top edges together. This leaves the ironed edge facing up. Except when I flipped it over to the right side, it was just hanging loose. Fudging was to topstitch it AFTER the shoulder seams were done. My friend and I compared ours later, and her’s was not like that but we haven’t figured out how either of us did it.
 Sewing the shoulder seams was basically opening up both sides of the front and back facings, sewing them as one piece, then folding it back over to close it. After that I did my top stitching of the hanging back facing on the outside of the back bodice.  I cut a couple 2” wide bias strips of my fabric and made short facings on the armholes which are still open at this point. Then you do your side seams.
Two important things to remember:
1. The directions point out you should have at least 2-3” of your ruffle hanging out past the sides so it will catch in the side seams. I would recommend 4” because when mine was all sewn and ready to sew side seams together, because of the fluffiness of my lace I had to really stretch it to get it into the side seams. Just a thought.
 2. The directions also say to finish the front edge by the placket and have it back 1/2" from the front edge, which I did. Except the right side w/ buttonholes crossed over that left side where I placed my buttons still got covered up by the lace so I would recommend setting the left side of your ruffle back an inch. 
And here is the finished product. It’s not over my corset so I had to fluff up the bust to fill it out. I think once on, the yoke will be lower on my bust line than it is here. 

And of course we must share foopahs. While trimming off the excess lace ruffle after I sewed the side seams I managed to also clip a little hole on the side of the front facing. But I fixed that little puppy up with some Fray Check. And as I mentioned, my lace didn’t quite stretch completely into the side seam on one side, so there’s a teensy half inch that didn’t make it. But I don’t expect anyone to be looking under my armpit. This is also why I don’t make costumes for other folks. Unless you like that kind of stuff. But it’s good enough for me. I call it a learning experience. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

1903 Pink Voile gown

Started May 6, 2012/Finished July 3, 2012
This dress makes me happy. I should change the title to The Happy Pink Voile. The fabric is a cotton voile with bands of flowers and leaves on it. I purchased it a few years ago at Fabrics & Fabrics in the LA Garment District for $3.99 yd. It had to be lined with white cotton. I had other plans for it at the time I bought it but it was perfect for this dress.
The patterns I used were Truly Victorian’s #TVE 22, 1905 Circular Skirt & #TVE 41, 1903 Plain Waist/blouse.

This dress is made to be worn with TV’s S-bend corset but I’ve seen it worn without, and I think it could work with just having a fluffy corset cover under the blouse, and a small bum pad at the back of the skirt.
When I started cutting the fabric for this dress, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to have the band of fabric going around the skirt, and decided to wait until I had it sewn to make that decision. Because of the designs on the fabric, I decided it didn’t need that extra bit of interest. It’s quite pretty all by itself. It did get a little bit of lace on the collar and a solid pink silk taffeta Medici belt to add more color.
This entire outfit was a breeze to make. There’s not as much fitting on the bodice/waist required since it’s loose and flowing. As mentioned in my earlier post of “You Learn Something New Every Day” I talked about my method of doing the closure first, then the side seams for a better fit. I just added a footnote to that today:   ** from Jennifer Rosbrugh of“When you're fitting your muslin, take into account that your flatlining/lining plus any bones if used, will take up some of the fabric causing it to be a bit smaller.”**
This applies to my method of doing the bodice closure first. At this point you should already have the flatlining (or possibly lining) done, but if you will also have bones & they’re not sewn it yet, take that into account.**  This continues to add to my “learning something new every day”.
The skirt, other than being one big piece of pattern and fabric to handle, was very easy to sew. I cut mine on the bias by opening the fabric up to its full width and folding it in half lengthwise. Once again without even thinking of matching stripes I cut out the skirt and magically I ended up with chevron stripes on the front and back. I think its sheer luck, and they’re not exact but this is not the first time the sewing fairies have graced me with this. This also made the decision for me not to do any other trimming on the skirt because even my other idea of doing a ruffle around the bottom would disrupt the pretty patterns it’s made. I didn’t do it this time, but my next skirt will have its closure done first too.
The blouse/waist was also very easy to sew. I flatlined all the pieces with white cotton, and as mentioned in my previous post, sewed the shoulders together first. Then I finished the back closure to the point where all it needed was buttons and buttonholes. These could have been done at this time. When I fitted it on me, I just safety pinned the back closed. Then I put it on inside out and by looking in a mirror, pinned the sides closed. It still came out with the half inch seam allowance, so my pattern fitting was pretty much spot on. I unpinned the neck line just enough to slip it over my head, then machine basted the sides and tried it on again, this time right side out. It was a good fit. I was so excited; I had to tell the world! So, all my costume friends and social groups have been spammed thoroughly. I can hardly wait to try this on a front opening bodice because I’ve gone round and round on getting an even front closure with no luck.  
The sleeves were funny and full at the cuffs, and they hang down a bit. The cuff has an extended overlap and the pattern showed two buttons on it. When I asked Heather about it, she said she thought it needed two buttons so that was good enough for me.

 The pattern gives you three neckline choices, just a round narrow edged neck, a pointed stock and a round stock collar. I was stalled, and couldn’t decide which I wanted. I cut out the round stock one and sewed it like I normally would have, and planned to sew it directly to the blouse. But the directions weren’t heading the same way I was. Good thing I stalled because when I saw Heather’s I noticed it wasn’t really attached to her blouse. And apparently I didn’t know what a stock collar was either. It’s a detachable collar. Her’s was attached at the front and back. But she said yes, I could just sew the collar directly to the blouse. Since I’m familiar with that, and I love to fudge, that’s how it was sewn on. I wanted to sew some lace on the blouse but every piece that I tried to sew in a curve across the front of the bodice just wouldn’t lay flat. So the collar got the only piece of lacey trim. I tacked it along the top and bottom points. It overlaps my buttons in the back but I’m able to still get to get to them through the lace openings. I used plain flat pearl buttons with a shank.

 Some of the fashion plates and photos of extant gowns showed a belt being worn which really adds to the finished look in my opinion. I originally wanted to have a nice big rhinestone buckle on mine that is strictly decorative but when I made the belt, I forgot about that and made one end pointed which wouldn’t work with a buckle on it. I made it using the same pattern I’d used on another gown, Timeless Stitches #525. I used a piece of buckram in the center to keep it stiff.

So now was my first chance to try it on with my s-bend corset and its little rump pad to see what effect it had on my posture. Unfortunately I forgot to have someone lace me into the corset so it would fit me each time with some adjustments. So the bottom of the corset where it sits over my bum pad is really loose and I’m not getting the little bump in the back.
 I’ve been thinking on what kind of hat to wear with this and found this ad for 1904-1906 Summer hats.
 I realized I could re-purpose another hat I'd made of white tape lace placemats I made for my 1900 La Belle Époque gown. My cat, Chloe, contributed to this hat by knocking down a bag of vintage millinery flowers I had on a top shelf, and when I picked it up I saw a large pink velvet rose with leaves that I'd found at a vintage show. So I set the hat on my head in different positions and found the best spot to add the rose.

 A couple of my friends have commented that they always see me in costume wigs, so they don’t see the real me. So here is half of the real me, short hair and all.