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.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Vista Civil War Weekend & the Dressmakers Shop

March 9-10, 2013

This past weekend I attended the Civil War reenactment at the Steam Engine Museum inVista, CA. I was part of the Historical Citizens Association, and we partially set up Oak Street with its shops. Due to bad weather our group was small. But we drew a lot of attention just the same. We were set up next to the sutlers tents which was perfect for a “main street”. We had a pretty good sized space with drop cloths and a large canvas overhead. A roped off picket fence surrounded us with a “door” in front, and a sign stating Mrs Cressman- Dressmaker, No. 69 Oak Street. 
 I was not Mrs.Cressman. That was Lana. I was Mrs. Ripper. I was set up near the door with my hand crank sewing machine and I drew in a lot of people curious of what I was doing. I had a completed dress hanging next to me to show them what I had sewed on my machine. Across from me Lana was cutting out fabrics and hand-sewing the lining into a top hat. Next to me was Paige who was demonstrating ink writing using a quill pen and writing to her husband away at war. And Trudy came to visit for the day. On one side of us was The Parlour, where ladies, Joanne and Annette, demonstrated games, calling cards and handcrafts. And on the other side arriving on Sunday, was Ginger and Mike of Sew Cranky Sewing Machines Sew Cranky They set up their machines to sell and demonstrate. Other friends stopped by during the day and we got to share some gossip and news. And I got my picture taken a few times.

One lady brought this adorable little sewing machine that reminded me of a child's machine but it was a real one. It was dated 1865 and does a chain stitch. She brought it back the next day for Mike at Sew Cranky to tune it up and show her how to work it.
On Saturday I wore my olive green 1860s dress which kept me warm but we were tromping through a lot of mud and my hems and boots brought a lot home with me. The next day proved to be sunny and drier and I wore my brown cotton Bloomer gown. I got a lot of stares and lots of compliments. One sutler even said she would love to wear one while she was working and would I be willing to make her one, and some for her to sell. I said I would think about it. I'm barely able to make my own gowns on time so I'm not sure I want to take that on. Making little girls dresses are a sideline and work well with demonstrating my sewing machine. I'm hoping I may have started a fashion trend however.
On Sunday afternoon we cleared the cutting table and I set out teapots and teacups I'd brought, along with some tea from Paris in a Cup tearoom called Perfumes of France, a fruity vanilla black tea. Other ladies brought cookies and fruit to the table, and we had a very nice afternoon tea, much to the delight of the public. Afterwards we played a fun game called, “Yesterday I bought...” and we took turns stating something we bought that was within reach. So “Yesterday I bought a new teapot”. “Yesterday I bought this new gown”. And so on, until we ran out of things we could “buy”. If you repeated anything someone else had bought, you were immediately out of the game. Next time I need to remember to have my sewing basket close and my pockets full of things.

I didn't leave the shop much except to visit a couple sutlers but we all enjoyed the afternoon of friendship and sharing with the public of what we do.

Thank you to Trudy, Jim Pool, and Darlene for a couple of these photos.

**In memory of my darling boy Rudy, who left the bonds of this earth on March 7, 2013. He was 11 years old and a truly loving kitty who is greatly missed.**



  1. Enjoyed your photos of the Civil War Re-enactment, Val.
    Wishing you birthday blessings all month long, and tea-filled moments the entire year!
    So sorry to read about Rudy's passing.
    Tea and Hugs,

  2. Dear Val,
    I am so sorry to hear about your kitty Rudy's passing. A terribly hard thing, to lose a dear companion.

    Very best,


  3. sorry about your kitty. Loosing a beloved fur family member is hard!

  4. Congrats, I've awarded you the "Very Inspiring Blogger" award! greetings marijke

    1. Thank you, marijke! I always hope I can inspire someone else.
      I, like you, feel my fingers tickle when I see beautiful costumes.


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