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

My photo
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.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

What a busy month!

I suddenly seem to be all over the place; online, in a blog, & in a museum.
The last couple weeks have been spent finishing my two costumes for the Riverside Dickens Festival fashion show on Feb 2 & 3. As I was finishing them, I realized my wardrobe was black and white; a wedding gown and a mourning gown. I'll have a separate blog entry on making them but will wait until I have some photos of me actually wearing them.
This is my wedding gown for Miss Haversham from Great Expectations, and my 1886 mourning bustle for the "One Hundred Years of Mourning Fashion" I put together. I'll have 10 other models with me wearing the decades of 1810-1910. I think that's going to be really awesome! The neckline on my wedding dress is actually bare but I have a layer of lace covering the "yellow body" of my dressform.

This postman style bonnet was specially made for me by a friend to go with my outfit.  
But in less than two weeks I will be doing my Bloomer presentation at the San Diego History Museum in Balboa Park. I'm getting into the stress mode now for that and know I need to do a couple alteration/corrections on my gown that I copied off the original in the museum. You don't want your "fudging" to be scruntinized by the Costume Institute, although I will be offering a disclaimer that I'm not perfect. This is the link to the museum announcement but I've printed it below. San Diego History Center

RSVP to 619-232-6203, ext. 129 or email
January 28, 2013 - 3:00pm - 5:00pm
 San Diego History Center, Casa de Balboa, Balboa Park
 $10 SDHC, Costume Council, and SD Costume Guild members, $15 non-members
Valarie LaBore, Past President of San Diego Costume Guild, shares the incredible story of Amelia Bloomer who’s adoption and promotion of pantaloons underneath a dress as a style of dress for women, that eventually became known as ‘Bloomers’,  would revolutionize the dress reform movement of the 1850s;  as well as the process she took to recreate an 1851 Bloomer ensemble, believed to be only one of two remaining in museum collections in the entire country, held in the Costume & Textile Collection at San Diego History Center.  Talk is accompanied by a light afternoon tea.

I love it that they included a light afternoon tea. They know how much I like tea. The Program Director is talking to me about possibly being on a morning talk show prior to this so of course that adds to more stress. It seems like I'm getting pushed more and more into the public eye this year. 

And just today Part 2 was finished on The Goose Mother Blog where she's been interviewing me. This time it was focused more on my afternoon tea party catering. It's fun including my friends in the story and pulling out old photos from some of the teas I catered, and tearooms we visited together. 
Goose Mother Blog Part II

Friday, January 4, 2013

Where I have to talk about myself

As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm being interviewed on another sewing blog, The Mother Goose Blog.  Nadia started out selling her vintage patterns on it, and then began writing about her own sewing, pattern designers, crafters, and in general encouraging other seamstresses. When she and Andrea Schewe (of Simplicity patterns) contacted me a couple months ago after she had interviewed Andrea in an extensive series of articles, she asked to interview me about my costuming history and how my catering tea parties led me to it.
I'm used to talking about my costumes, how I make them, and where I wear them. So I felt it odd that someone would want to know about me and wanted me to talk about myself. But after some squirming and a few prods and questions, Nadia has posted her first interview of me, with more to come, and telling more about my tea parties.
A Closet Full of Costumes & A Cabinet Full of Tea

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 Costumes in Review

January 1, 2013
Once again I was thinking I didn’t make many new costumes this past year but as I just finished going back through my blog starting from January I discovered I still managed to make four. In addition to that, I made a corset and a corset cover. The gowns I made this year were simpler, and one was already 3/4th done and only needed to have its closures and trims done. I love my assembly line method of sewing where I’m able to have an extra standing by. Magically I was able to produce a finished dress out of thin air in a matter of a few days!
This year I was also able to re-use some of my dresses a few times for events and fashion shows. This has been one of my goals to have at some point a variety of gowns that if any era event came up that I wanted to go to, I wouldn’t have to kill myself trying to make something for it. Not that I don’t do that, but I didn’t have to as often.
I stepped out of my comfort zone of Victorian to try making a 1914 dress using a vintage pattern. It was a McCall’s 6053 purchased from Past Patterns. It had very little directions since they assume you know how these are sewn. There were some markings of dots and triangles but again you had to know what they were. I won’t say I was a miserable failure but I haven’t finished it yet. I’m still stuck on the under dress. At some point I’ll pull it out again and see what I can figure out; read: fudge it.  And I found out I need to learn how to do lapel collars since it has one.

 My next project was making a 1903 corset using Truly Victorian’s E-01, from their new Edwardian line. Jennifer Rosbrugh of Historical Sewing offered an online class as a test and I took on the challenge. I did pretty well on it and actually finished it in the one month we were set. Then of course I had to make the corset cover and chemises to go with it. The chemises are almost done.

In the meantime I did a couple fashion shows and wore some dresses I already had. My 1885 Best Black Bustle gown, 1850 Bloomer gown, & 1890s La Belle Époque, were worn in Port Townsend, WA’s Victorian Festival; the Creative Stitchery Guild, & Gaslight Gathering in San Diego. It was a nice change not to make anything, and fun to wear them again. 
One of my favorite parts of the Victorian Festival was making a costume for my Mom to wear with me this time. It’s so fun to be able to share this with her.
 I wanted to make something in 1912 for our visit to the Titanic exhibit so I tried another new pattern and made one of my favorite dresses of the year in pink stripped cotton. I got three wearings out of it; for the exhibit, volunteering at a local historic home tour, and finally at Costume College.

We did a couple more Costumed Walkabouts at the Del Mar Antique Show, and it's become one of my favorite events. With Costume College coming up, I had hopes of making a couple 1930s dresses, but got so wrapped up in the Edwardian undies, and the new 1905 Truly Victorian waist and skirt that they totally fell off the radar. But I was very happy with my 1905 outfit, and am already planning to make another one. I wore that to the Sunday Tea at CoCo.  I definitely want to wear this one a couple more times. I also wore a vintage 1930s evening dress I’d found at an antique shop. Still not sure if this is a time period I’m comfortable in.

Also for CoCo, I wore my brown Bloomer gown for my presentation on Bloomers, again at the Mark Twain festival in Old Town San Diego, and later at a special presentation on them for our San Diego Costume Guild.
For the 1870s Bustle Picnic put on by the Historical Citizen’s Association, I whipped out the partially done black and white polka dot polonaise and finished it in one week to wear. This one is also going to get some more wearing once it warms up again but I want to add some more trim to it.
Our guild had a 1950s Bash at the Corvette Diner and for this I found a vintage 50s dress instead of making one. It was fun searching for accessories for it but it’s still not my choice of costuming.
I went to two teas, volunteered at three different locations, and my hand crank sewing machine made its first appearance at a Civil War reenactment where I started sewing little girls’ dresses on it and later sold them.
I ended the year with two holiday events; a visit to San Francisco for the Dickens Fair, and our guild’s holiday dinner in Old Town.
So my total for new dresses made this year was four, along with a corset. But my closet got a lot of use out of it, and that made me happy.
I’m not one to slow down because for my first project of the New Year I’ve started working on is a 1910 long line corset. I’m almost done with an 1880s mourning gown for the 2013 Riverside Dickens fashion show. At this time I’m also being interviewed for a series of articles on my costuming and how my afternoon teas led me to it. The first installment is set to be published later this week on a blog and I’ll be leaving a link to it here. It’s been a little uncomfortable talking about myself instead of just my costumes, but I’m getting used to it.