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.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Miss Havisham for Dickens Fest Fashion Show

Feb 2/3, 2013
This year’s fashion show at the Riverside (CA) Dickens Festival had two themes, Victorian Literary Characters by Nancy Smith, and One Hundred Years of Mourning Fashion by “yours truly”.
For the first half we were to choose or given a female character to dress as from great literature.  I have ALWAYS wanted to dress as Miss Havisham from Great Expectations for the Dickens Festival. After I made a dress for our Holiday Costume Walkabout at the Del Mar Antique Show in 2011 as the Ghost of Xmas Past, I kept thinking I could repurpose it as her. 
           This was my Ghost.
 So when Nancy asked me if I could do one of the women for her fashion show, I knew this was my chance. My dress is an antique white faux-silk taffeta made in the Regency-style using LaMode Bagatelle’s pattern with a drawstring neckline. I used a woodcut picture from an early edition of Great Expectations as my inspiration gown for Miss Havisham.

 For my wedding dress I added two rows of different lace to the neckline and wrists. I added wrist bands of white ribbon that closed with a white bow.  My bonnet was a Mela Hoyt-Heydon hat that originally had cream trims. I removed those and put white binding on the edge and a white floral brocade ribbon around the crown, with a vintage bunch of flowers. Attached to the back was a white tulle veil.   I liked the look that Gillian Anderson did for her version of Miss Havisham so I used her as my hair inspiration. I used a curly blonde wig that I made a cluster of curls in the back, and sprayed it with Bumble & Bumble white hairspray to age it.  I wasn’t able to do a pale colored makeup because I had to immediately change into a black gown and it kept coming off on it.                 

I carried a small nosegay of vintage millinery flowers and one of my Aunt Irene’s white hankies.

 In this photo, my friend Cindy was the Countess Olenska from The Age of Innocence, and my friend, Mary, was wearing my 1850s black gown for our mourning portion.    

My thanks to photographers Brendan Conoboy and Jerry Abuan for these lovely photos. For more photos, please visit Jerry’s gallery .


  1. This is wonderful! I have always wanted to dress as Miss Havisham! I will one day! I am learning to sew this year, so maybe I will make something!

    1. Thank you, Laura, I hope it inspires you to keep going. The first time I went to this festival, I just wore a skirt and cape but after seeing all the beauties there, that encouraged me to want to do better.

  2. Val, I have been looking forward to your post for the Riverside Dickens Festival and you did not disappoint. Delightful.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Rochelle, ATAA

  3. Val, I too have been watching for your post and more pictures of the Dickens Festival. Once again you've outdone yourself with this costume and history behind your choice of the costume. The white is stunning on you. Can't wait to read more...Karen


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