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, August 13, 2012

The Wearing of the Costumes; AKA Costume College

Aug 2-6, 2012
This entry will have some of my photos but for all of them, please go to my online album here: 
       The Golden Age of Hollywood; 1930s, 40s, & 50s.

Day One- Thursday, Aug 2
The four days I was at CoCo went by in a blur. Suddenly it was Sunday, the last day, and I was amazed that it was almost over. But I did get to spend one more day in the Garment District buying some fabric since of course I now have all kinds of ideas of new costumes I want to make.
From Thursday afternoon into the evening most of us are checking into the hotel, all of which means we are totally overwhelming the poor bellmen when, instead of needing one cart to bring in some luggage, we are talking 2-3 to get all the extra stuff. Many of our rooms weren’t ready until 4pm and they had no room left to store things so we had to leave them in our cars out in the parking structure until they were ready and we could unload. So in the meantime we wandered the halls, ran into old friends, had lunch, and twittered like birds (not Twitter).
Because of my car being loaded with 4 dress forms, 2 very large Rubbermaid containers with Sunday Tea decorations & teapots, a large suitcase, hatbox, boxes with student handouts and patterns for my class, food and water, it took 3 trips to get it all upstairs. My roommates arrived and an instant hurricane ensued in the room. If you’ve been to a costume convention, you know EXACTLY what I speak of. Then dresses had to be pressed that would go on display in the Costume Exhibit, and ones that we would be immediately wearing. Why can things not get wrinkled in suitcases? That would be a great invention!
It was kind of a mad rush when our rooms were ready, and we had three things going on at once. The Vintage Pool Party started at 6:30pm; CoCo Registration Check-In was at 7-9, and the Costume Exhibit was open from 7-9 also for setting up our costumes. And we had to change into our Pool Party outfits.  So I finished ironing my two costumes that would be exhibited, and took those down and dressed my mannequins, then helped Cindy dress her Marie mannequin.  Back up in the room Cindy, Cat, & I changed into our own theme costume for the Pool Party, vintage 1950s Tiki. We all wore flowers in our hair, Cindy brought us parrot earrings, I brought us plastic pineapple mugs, and Cat made us vintage cigar box purses that she’s going to be selling next weekend at Tiki Oasis in San Diego. They’re so cute! Our dresses were simply made and I used Vogue V8555. The wide waistband was a little fussy, and it was my first zipper installation in over 30 years. I forgot that modern patterns have more ease in them, so right now it’s a little loose. 
 Photo from Cindy
I stopped on the way to the pool to check in for Costume College and it was quick because I was in the teacher line. By this time it was close to 8pm and on walking out to the pool, we found it wasn’t as crowded as expected. We found out later most people showed up at 6:30, then went to check in, and wandered away.
I got to meet a fellow blogger, Stephanie -  Girl with the Star Spangled Heart   (Hi Stephanie!)
We bellied up to the bar and filled our Tiki pineapple mugs with a drink of our choice and started socializing.
Joy & I enjoying our drinks.
 Photo from Cindy
There were some amazing Carmen Miranda-style costumes but I guess we missed all the vintage bathing suits.

 Photos from Cindy
Day Two-Friday, Aug 3
The next morning classes started at 9am and we all went our separate ways. I wore my 1850s Brown Bloomers since I was teaching my Amelia & Her Shocking Bloomers, & A Lost Pattern, at 11:30. My first class was with Jennifer Rosbrugh, of Historical Sewing, for Sleeve Fitting in Victorian Bodices. I already had her instructions from her website but enjoyed seeing it live too.
I was able to stay for most of her class then headed back to my room to pile all my stuff into this great wire cart Cindy had brought which held my huge box of patterns, my student handouts, my dress form, and my original green Bloomer gown. With a little help I was able to get it all down there myself. *I now own one of those*.  I had 15 minutes to set up and get my laptop hooked up to the digital projector to start my slideshow. Except my laptop didn’t recognize the driver and I had no idea how to make that work. Fortunately there was a tech savvy friend there who figured out I could plug my thumb drive directly into the projector and make it work. That still was a little wonky and all my photos were out of order, and some wouldn’t show. But I was still able to do my presentation and had a lot of fun sharing all the excitement I felt on the discovery of the missing pattern for the Bloomer gown and recreating it. When I told them I had the pattern for sale, a line immediately started at the desk. Besides the 5 already pre-ordered, I sold all but 4 of the 18 I’d brought with me. And have orders for a couple more of the smaller sizes I was out of.
 The cover design on the pattern has changed, and I prefer the original but Saundra wanted to show the original gown before it was altered, and that the pattern was for two gowns. I noticed the hairstyle and ribbons in the hair of the lady on the right were similar to my style when I wore the gown and sent Saundra a photo of it. Feels a little creepy to me. I made sure I opened all the instructions books to the page where I was acknowledged in it and signed them.

 Photos from Carolyn
 I hated to take my green Bloomers on the dress form back to my room. The ladies said everyone should get a chance to see it, and suggested I put it out in the hallway. Then someone else said take it to the Costume Exhibit! Excellent idea! I took it over, got the ok from a department head, and it stood right near the entry.
I had a few minutes before my next class so I took some photos of the Costume Exhibit and my Caught on Camera display.

had two gowns on display this year; my 1900 aqua La Belle Époque gown,
And my 1790s Periwinkle Blue Josephine gown.
Because we were running out of time I had to leave all the photos to be put up on the Caught on Camera display board to one of the volunteers (thank you, Tonya!) and I think she did an excellent job. Next year I’m hoping to have a better display board for it. One side held individual photos and a memorial collage for one of our San Diego guild members who passed away this year. The other side was guild and costume group photos of all their members attending events. I wanted to show people all the different groups represented at Costume College, and all the wonderful events and costumes they do. Next year I plan to expand on that more.

I headed off to my next class, Quick and Dirty Hats from the 30s, 40s, and 50s. It was an overview of hat shapes, how to find them in thrift shops, and how to reshape hats using steam, wiring, and other techniques to get the shape you want. It wasn’t an instructional class, just mostly to show you what the possibilities are.
I went to the Early Bird Shopping at the Marketplace, where our purchase of the $7 ticket goes to next year’s scholarship students. It was already crowded in the back where Mela Hoyt-Heydon had her hats for sale. I stopped first at one of my favorite vintage/antique sellers who has a very small booth but I always find some little treasures from her. She had a basket of millinery trims that I bought a couple things from and a vintage Bakelite brooch in a butterscotch color. From the button & lace lady, I bought a bag of bone buttons, and a roll of lace to use on my chemises, which I need to make more of. I had hopes of finding a Summer Civil War bonnet from Mela but there was none to be found. So I saved big money this year.
 Then we headed back to our room to change into our outfits for the Ice Cream Social. The decoration theme follows the previous year’s CoCo theme, which is Medieval. Most people wear whatever they like. Since I don’t do medieval, I decided to wear my Carmelite Nun which would fit in, and I could be comfortable and wear my tennis shoes w/ orthotics to give my feet a break. Cindy and Cat went vintage.
 I had a lot of fun wearing the nun and surprising my friends.

 These are some general photos I took around the room.

Day Three: Saturday, Aug 4.
Today was my Downton Abbey/Edwardian day and I wore my Pink Striped dress but only found one photo so far of me. Sadly you don’t think fast enough to hand your camera to others somedays. Cat was wearing her vintage dresses that day.
 Photo from Tonya

This was the only day I didn’t have anything preventing me from taking classes, and somehow I ended up missing one. My first class of the day was Thrifting: Is it Vintage or Modern? It was a fun class, but all on 50s, 60s, 70s, not 30s & 40s as I’d hoped. The teacher had a table and clothes rack filled with clothing and accessories and we all walked past them and then eyeballed an item that caught our eye. She asked each of us which was our favorite and why, and explained why certain styles and tags on them are clues to finding vintage. I picked a gorgeous red alligator purse that was early 50s but could also be late 40s. Now I want that purse! The class I missed, which was directly after it, and even in the same room for heaven’s sake, was Lauren Maringola’s, of Wearing History, Decoding Vintage Patterns. I’d even brought a vintage 1914 pattern hoping to learn how to understand it. I’m still not sure how I managed to miss it. I had a friend coming down for the day and she was volunteering to sit in the Costume Exhibit and then joining us later for dinner. After I found her, got her situated and brought her and I some lunch, I headed over to the Marketplace to do some more shopping. I finally caught up with Mela again to show her the hat I was wearing that I could have sworn was one of her’s. I’d bought it at a vintage show a few years ago and was told it was vintage but it always bugged me that it looked familiar. Mela confirmed that it was indeed one of her’s and she took photos of it for future copies. I picked up a couple new patterns, and then it was time to start dressing for the Red Carpet and Gala. We all planned to wear 30s, 40s, 50s for that. This was my first time doing 30s and I’m not really that familiar with it. I never got around to making something to wear so I wore a hot pink vintage 30s gown that I bought in an antique mall up in Port Townsend, WA, a couple years ago. I had a diamond brooch to wear on the center neckline but Cat put one of her own on instead, saying mine was a little older. I added white gardenias to my hair, and a silver mesh handbag. Cat also put one of her furs on me, so all three of us were wearing fur when we arrived on the Red Carpet. People and attendees not dressed, lined the hallways leading to the Gala to take photos of everyone arriving.
 Photo from June
I found I’m not really comfortable wearing 1930s and miss my bustle, big petticoats and corset. I think I look like my great aunt Esther (not necessarily a good thing) but good ole Jerry managed to get some decent ones of me.
 We headed off for dinner in the hotel, in lieu of eating at the Gala, and we were sadly disappointed in the food and the service, which is slower than a snail stuck in molasses. Apparently it wasn’t so great in the Gala either, so next year I think we’ll be going across the street to a restaurant in the Mall instead. That’s rather surprising for a Marriott too. Afterwards we went back to the Gala as everyone finished eating and started taking photos and enjoying watching all the pretty costumes. There were lots of pretty gentlemen too.
*My next blog entry will be for Day Four and Five*


  1. I think you look FAB in your pink 1930s! Truly. :-)

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  3. It was awesome to meet you at Costume College. :) I think all of the vintage bathing suits came out Sunday evening for some actual swimming after the loud music party packed up.

    1. Stephanie, I'm sorry to have missed that then. I was pretty busy packing up after the Sunday Tea and just died afterwards. I did get to go out to dinner across the street with my friend.
      I hope to see you again next year!

  4. Oh I had to chuckle at "instant hurricane" in the room. It took 2 carts to get 4 gals stuff to the room, plus we all carried things. What a fabtabulus weekend.

  5. How very charming and interesting!! I, who cannot thread a needle, enjoy such creative marvels from and pretty standpoint AND from the talent it must take to create them.

    I followed some chain of links from a lady who commented on my own blog in 2011, and I'm delighted that it led to you!


    PS I admired greatly, but I could not help thinking how HOT you must be as Dear Amelia AND as a nun! Didn't our great-grandmas endure a LOT?

    1. Rachel, thank you very much. I had basic sewing skills when I started 10 years ago so we can do it!
      Actually most of my gowns were quite comfortable because they're mostly natural fabrics, and I wear cotton underpinnings. Its our modern polyesters and nylon/spandex blends in our clothes that keep us hot. But yes, at a certain temperature, we would all be fanning ourselves madly.

  6. So much fun! Loved reading about this adventure of displays, classes, costumes, and camaraderie. Great photos and fashion spreading across eons. I think you look great in the 30s pink too!

  7. Looks like frantic fun! Wish I'd been able to squeeze it in but hoping for next year!

  8. Val, I enjoy reading about all your costuming adventures. This is an amazing amount of work!

  9. I do love also reading your costume adventures. Lovely, lovely, lovely!

  10. I've just looked through these pictures again Val - I like the fruit in the martini glass and, of course, the beautiful clothes.

    Am finally now just getting around to subscribing. I'm slow!


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