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, 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. 


  1. What wonderful outfits! I especially like the dress with the triangle belt and the ones with the pantaloons. I haven't seen any costumes in that style before, just a sketch of that woman who used to wear them.

    1. Thank you, Laura. If you'd like to read more about the Bloomers and the gowns I recreated, go to my blog entry here.

  2. GREAT post! Really enjoyed this! Best wishes for a very happy new year from the 'old brown cape in New Hampshire'!

  3. Val, you're a whiz on the machine, that's for sure! I got one dress done (for me), one shirt and one paletot for my husband, and at the end of the year I squeaked out a bonnet, smoking cap and a waistcoat. Slim pickens, only two 'big' projects out of the small bunch. And they weren't that big in terms of difficulty. Pretty simple in fact.

    At the Whaley House, we are transitioning to the 1870's in our period clothing program and this year, I have my sewing work cut out for me in a big way. My first challenge is to tackle a bustleform. I've got my American Duchess tutorial here this morning and an old hoop skirt to repurpose for it, and we'll see just how far I get on that today!

    1. Robin, I will again issue my invitation: come on over and I'll help you make the 1870s polonaise and make it different so its not like everyone elses. :)

  4. If you can find the McCall's magazine that has your 1910s pattern it it, it will tell you some hints on how to make it up. That might help. Also look for The Delineator and Harper's Bazaar. The patterns were sold through the magazines. I don't sew, but I drooled over the fashion magazines of the early 1900s to have someone make up this lovely creation

    It has a bodice lining of China silk sewn to the skirt and the bodice was attached over that.

    This one too was created from period patterns and photographs

    1. Thank you, QNPoohBear, I'm always on the lookout for some of those magazines if they're in my price range.
      Your doll's dresses are cute.

  5. Dear Val,
    What a successful year of really handsome outfits, IMHO. My favorites? The 1870s polonaise and that darling 1912 pink dress.

    Will be looking forward to the interview: it's so neat that you've been tapped for one, because you put your costumes to such good and constant use.

    Very best,


    1. Thank you, Natalie. I appreciate hearing what people's favorites are. It helps encourage me to go on to bigger and better things. :)

  6. Val, check the library! I found copies of old fashion magazines at an art school nearby. I found some on Google Books too. You might also be able to find microfilms of the old magazines at the library too. My university has a few.


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