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, August 14, 2012

PART TWO: The Wearing of the Costumes, CoCo 2012

Aug 2-6, 2012
This entry will have some of my photos but for all of them, please go to my online album here:

After an evening of glamour, we all had to come back to “reality” as we costumers know it, and dress in another era for another day. And attend more classes.
I was too busy to attend the Sunday Undies Breakfast where attendees dress in their beautiful underpinnings such as chemises, corsets, petticoats, girdles, hosiery, negligee (all PG-rated of course) and go down to the restaurant in public to be able to show off what is worn under their costumes, and all the hard work they did on them. I ran into a couple in the hallways though. 
Today after attending one class I have to start getting the Pearls Room decorated for the Sunday Fantasy Tea. So I dressed right off in my 1905 gown I would be wearing. My first stop was at the Truly Victorian booth in the Marketplace to get a photo with Heather in both our gowns. Laura was still in her undies and even though I thought it would be nice to see what we had under our gowns, she was too shy.


 My first class on Saturday was Make-up Palettes & Application Techniques: 20s-40s, by Laura Lowe. I found this very interesting with all the photos showing the different styles and she went into great detail of the shape of the eyebrows, nails & lips. She had samples of the different cosmetics and their modern versions that we can still buy. I had a hard time keeping up but did manage to write a few notes of what to buy, although most of them are hard to read now: for ‘30s --look for Smashbox  foundations and rouge, lips- Sephora’s R13.  For ’40 lips—look for Revlon Strawberry Sue or Love That Pink.  A great website she gave us for doing makeup is  Her final words of wisdom are “the vintage look focuses on eyes & lips, and a matte skin finish.
My next class was Victorian Mourning by Kristine Scott. Since I’m doing a mourning interpretation I wanted to attend this, and to meet Kristine. She explained the rules of first year, second year, and third year mourning, with the changes in dress and accessories style for each one, and comparing women’s and men’s rules. Much of this I knew already but it confirmed some things I’d heard of.
As mentioned in my previous post, I met up with my friend, Trudy, in the Costume Exhibit, got us some lunch and then I headed off to another class by Carolyn Runnells, “Dressing the Victorian Lady”. I’d read about her presentations online and on cruise lines, and even bought her cd of “Dressing the Edwardian Lady” through Amazon. So this time I wanted to see it in person.  . She passed around some of the gowns she had for us to look at the details. One I liked in particular was inside her pleated green skirt that was ruched up on the sides.  I turned it inside out and along the side seam is a channel of fabric that a cord goes through. It’s attached at the top inside the channel and comes out the bottom. You pull it up and attach the cord to the bottom partway up. This gives you more control on how much you wanted it ruched up. And you can let it out to iron it flat. I just have ribbons that tie for the bustling and have a tendency to untie themselves. My side ruching/pleating was more permanent. This was a great tip that I walked away with.

 Carolyn put on the different pieces she had to show how each were worn, and has a wardrobe of exquisite clothing passed on to her by the husband of a lady who passed away. She tells a very touching story about it at the end of her presentation and commemorates her program to this lady.

Then I stopped in for Lauren Maringola’s class, Creating a Basic 30s or 40s Wardrobe, which she used a vintage wardrobe planning sheet with putting pieces together to create a bigger wardrobe.
And from there I went back to my room to start dressing for the Red Carpet & Gala.

Now we’re back to Sunday.
After leaving my last class, I headed over to the Pearls Room where the tea would be held. My containers with decorations and teapots had been brought downstairs from my room earlier by the banquet manager so I didn’t have to mess with that. The room was being set up with tables and while they were doing that I started taping my movie posters to the walls. I set them at an angle and then added large gold stars between them. At some point I realized I was creating a wave effect with the curves so I continued that throughout the room. You can kind of see it in the back of this photo. I also requested that the lights in the room be slightly dimmed so it wasn't a brightly lit classroom anymore. Soon the tables were set and we were ready to open the doors.

 I started my music of movie theme track songs, and Cindy and I greeted everyone as they arrived.

 My plan with the Golden Age of Hollywood Movie Awards theme was to mimic the Academy Awards but instead of awarding movie stars, the winners would be the characters in the movies from the 1930s, 40s, & 50s. My assistant, Cindy, was a movie buff and she came up with the characters from the movies, and since she knew the movies, she wrote some funny acceptance speeches for my winners to win. We made little cards with the character’s name on it, then the actor who played them, & the movie and year. Each card was placed under everyone’s plate on the table. My front display for the awards ceremony included a gold foil- wrapped box to hold the sealed envelopes of the winning names, and a few of the gold statues and gold star sprays that were also on the tables.

 Once everyone was seated and finished their afternoon tea, the awards ceremony was began.  I pulled out sealed pages from the gold box and called the first winner’s name. The person who had that card came up to the microphone and I handed them a gold wrapped gift and held the page open for them to read their acceptance speech.  There were about 80 people in the audience and I had 20 prizes to hand out. I was delighted that each of the winners spoke or acted in the character’s voice in reading their speech. It was really comical.
Two examples:   And the winner is......
Marie Antoinette played by Norma Shearer in “Marie Antoinette” -1938    Thank you Academy for this wonderful award.  What a beautiful tea you have given in MY honor!  (sweeps arm grandly around the room)  I command you, let us ALL eat cake!

Dracula played by Bela Lugosi in “Dracula” -1931    I normally do not appear before dusk, but I bit back my dislike of the afternoon and came to accept my award. What a delicious looking group we have for tea today. I never drink…..tea.

 The prizes I gave away were small sewing notions I felt suited for all our talents, and hopefully will help with future projects.
Both Jennifer and I wore our new 1905 gowns made specifically for the tea this year and we enjoyed having our photos taken often. Mine was made using Truly Victorian’s patterns for the bodice and skirt. Jennifer used the skirt pattern but used a vintage one for her bodice. We’re now all stalking her for that pattern.

 Our paparazzi photographer, Jerry Abuan, walked around and took photos of all the movie stars and guests and I think everyone had a great time.  I thank Jerry very much for all the lovely photos he took of us, and more can be found on his website here. They can be downloaded for free, or purchased for a nominal fee.
And may I introduce next year’s Tea Mistress for Costume College 2013- Cindy Piselli, my assistant this year. 
After packing up all the decorations and picking up my gowns in the Costume Exhibit, I brought it all back to my room and died. My roommates had all packed up and were ready to hit the road. After making sure they had all their belongings and were gone, I started my own packing. I was staying one more night but I knew in the morning the chances of getting a bellman at a reasonable time to get everything back downstairs was next to impossible with the group getting ready to go on the Garment District Tour. I wasn’t going on the tour this year but instead was driving over myself from the hotel and then driving home from there. It actually saved me about an hour in travel time doing this. But I sure missed going with the group. There’s so much comraderie there. I did meet up with two of my friends, Angela & Janea from Williamsburg, who had attended Costume College, and we had agreed to meet in the GD. We met up in Home Fabrics, and did some running around there and generally geeking out over the fabrics.

After making some purchases there we went to a little hole in the wall next door, called Sweetpea’s and bought a few more fabrics. I found a perfect pink striped twill fabric to make my 1910 corset that cost me $4. It will go on top of the coutil I have for it. I think that’s the first project I’ll be working on as long as I don’t get distracted by something else……SQUIRREL!!!   
Since we all had different goals that day, and they were leaving later to go to the Huntington Gardens, we split up after that. I had a few things on my shopping list, keeping my mind open to any cotton voiles, or dark stripped fabric for Fall 1905 skirt, and some kind of white cotton voile for a blouse to go with it. Mission accomplished! I also bought some more of the pink striped cotton voile that I’d made my 1914 dress from to make a Civil War dress. I’m still in that pink mode. I also bought a very inexpensive peach and teal polyester blend to make the Button Dress from the Decades of Style pattern. Then I found an olive green with brown striped lightweight upholstery fabric that I think will work nicely for the Fall 1905 skirt, and an ivory lightly pleated voile for the blouse. Also a white figured cotton voile for another blouse. So far these have all been under $4 a yard. And a little bit of whimsy: I had to have some cherry fabric for a vintagey sundress. 

By the way, I did end up buying a Mela hat. It’s a Downton Abbey hat, guys! I had to! 


  1. Love that hat! I think I tried it on but had to pass it up.

  2. WOW! If you're doing the tea next year I'm totally going. That looks like it was amazing!!

    Great write ups and great photos! You looked fab all weekend, though I didn't get to see all your outfits!

    1. Lauren, I did the tea two years in a row. Cindy Piselli will be the Tea Mistress next year, and I can guarantee it will also be amazing.

  3. Great blog, Val! I like the class descriptions as I did not go to the same ones as you did.

  4. Fabulous.

    I loved the tea last year and was delighted to have won something too which has been sooo useful to me this past year.

    Now I have a job, I can start working towards coming back for CoCo 2014!!


  5. The tea last year and this year were superb, you did a fantastic job. As Cindy was your mentee I'm sure she'll do a good job also. Not sure I would want to follow in your shoes :)

  6. How fun! That's all I can say. I love that you are so involved with costuming and enjoy so much.

  7. Wow, this looks like an amazing experience! Your costumes are absolutely fabulous; I can't imagine how much work you put into them.


    1. Thank you, Abby, I really enjoy every bit of work I put into them, but they sometimes fight back. So I'm grateful that they work out in the end, and I get compliments that yours from them.

  8. You have great experience; you have managed wisely dressing style. Thanks for sharing this useful idea of dressing.


I would love to hear if this was any help to you. Pretty please!