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, December 18, 2012

December Costume Events

December 2, 2012
Being so busy as we all are during the holiday season, I decided to combine all three of my costume events together in one entry. Beginning on the first weekend of December, I flew up to San Francisco to attend the Great Dickens Fair, held at the Cow Palace in San Bruno.  
The weather was threatening to come down with biblical amounts of rain and wind, but it stalled a bit so on my arrival it was just light to medium sprinkles. My roommates, Karen and Joy, and I arrived at the Cow Palace the next morning as it was beginning to come down heavier. Fortunately by the time we walked from our car to the building our skirts weren’t too wet. But the next day, when I was flying home, the torrential rain and winds arrived, causing a lot of damage around the city and managed to delay my flight eight times. But I made it home with no mishaps.
I decided I didn’t need to make anything new for this event since I had two 1860s gowns I’d never worn there before. I picked my olive green w/ purple trim gown to wear since it was more of a Winter color, and I wore the straw bonnet I’d trimmed for it. I brought my maroon paisley shawl which has kept me warm in the past but this storm was not a cold one and once inside the Cow Palace with the thousand people, it warmed up very quickly. In fact it was very warm and we were all fanning ourselves. So much for experiencing London at Christmas time.
If you’ve never been to this event most people describe it, and I agree, as mindboggling. It’s entirely indoors using a huge coliseum-size building with many adjoining buildings. In fact, rodeos are held there, and we saw the cattle gates out in the parking lot. I imagine this is why it’s called the Cow Palace but I haven’t confirmed that. They recreate the streets of old London in Dickens time with shops, pubs, and eateries. It moves from fancy homes, like Tavistock House, down to the run-down wharves. There are stages on the “wharf” where sailors and bawdy ladies sing old English songs. At Fezziwig’s people can dance on a huge dance floor. Characters from all of Dickens novels mingle with the crowds and interact with them. I had a long conversation with Mr. Tulkinghorn from Bleak House. I sat and listened to Edgar Allen Poe reading a poem while he sipped absinthe. Ebenezer Scrooge was seen startling shop owners as he walked along the streets yelling Happy Christmas! Mr. Dickens himself read parts of his books to visitors of the Green Man Inn, which by the way is next door to King Edward’s Pub where I purchased eggnog brandies for my friends and I.

The day I attended was also the same day the GBACG (Greater Bay Area Costume Guild) was attending so the number of people attending in period costume was higher. I was able to spend time with my friends from there and joined in their group photo shoot.

At the close of the day everyone joins in singing the Messiah at Fezziwig’s where they hold up placards with the words for us to follow along. It’s a great way to end a fun day.

With a week and a half notice our guild members were asked if we could provide any costumed walkers for a Xmas-decorated antique car parade in downtown El Cajon. It was going to be their first one. Alrighty then, this would be my third parade in two months, and it gave me a chance to wear my red and black checked 1872 gown. To change it up I decided to wear my antique hat with it instead of the black & maroon feathered one I wore last year, and added my antique sealskin muff.   
The weather was threatening some rain so we were a little nervous but it held off until late in the evening when everything was pretty much over. A large contingent of Steampunk folks showed up and caused a few startled looks from the attendees, but five of us came in historical gowns and also got some attention. Originally we were offered a seat in one of the cars but most had small windows and we really wanted to show off our gowns. So quite a few of us ended up walking behind the different cars. My friends, Cat and Paige, joined me in walking the two block distance.

We don’t have any photos of us walking in the parade but we took some of each other with some of the decorated cars. Since Cat has her own vintage car, next year we’re going to decorate and ride in it ourselves.

During the annual Holiday in the Park celebration in Old Town San Diego our costume guild held our December meeting as a holiday dinner at the Cosmopolitan Hotel there. I think there were about 28 members in a variety of costumes. Some arrived early and we walked around the town square having our photos taken by people in the park. We were often asked if we were carolers. We also had Father Christmas with us and he was the center of many many photos.

Photo by Jerry Abuan

So now I have one and a half months to finish my gown for my next event.