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.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Costume College 2013, "Ask Me How I Goofed"

August 17, 2013

See all these ribbons on my name tag from Costume College? I earned them! I asked for the one that said “Ask Me How I Goofed”, & “Ask Me How I Did It”.
I only made two new dresses for CoCo this year; my 1905 Purple Silk Voile, and 1890s Blue Striped Seaside Dress. The others were previously worn but not at CoCo, so they’re new to that.  I had one winner this year, and one loser.
So first is my “loser”, the 1905 dress. I think we all need to stretch our abilities sometimes and this was mine. I tried altering a pattern that had worked well on me before, and cut out part of the neckline to make it an evening dress. To my mind, it seemed like it would work. But this was one of those pigeon breast blouses that have excess fabric that poofs and hangs over your belt. It’s not a fitted bodice. I was using Truly Victorian’s TVE 41 (1903) blouse waist pattern for it. When last you saw this dress, it was on my dressform.
Making that blouse was scary. I could have ruined it. But I told myself I have enough fabric I could make an entirely new blouse if it didn’t work.
First problem: see that area of shoulder fabric to the inside of the ribbons? When I cut that I lost two inches from the shoulder seam, which now didn’t match the back shoulder seam. After putting out some queries to my sewing friends, I ended up cutting just a bit from the back to make it curve like a round neckline. That seemed to work fine.
 Next problem: I was sewing away on this not thinking about it fitting me because I’d already made one before and it fit great. Bad. I have a sign hanging over my computer that says “Mark Closures First on Patterns”. A big sign! When I made the first one, I did the back placket first with buttons and buttonholes, THEN did my side seams. The front was poofy like it should and all was right in the sewing world. THIS time I forgot that warning. I sewed it all together and did the placket last. I remember thinking the front poof looked a little too poofy but I didn’t listen to that little inner bird chirping at me.
The week before CoCo I tried it on to mark the buttons in the back but I never really tried the whole thing on to see how it would look on me. It looked ok on my dressform. And by the time I was done sewing on the buttons, the rest of it was already packed in a garment bag downstairs.
The skirt was great! Kind of plain compared to the bodice but I plan on buying more of the velvet ribbon and doing a band of it around the bottom of the skirt. Someday.
Problem Three: I really like wearing hats. They’re much easier than just dealing with the hair. And my “hair” is wigs. So I searched around for some hair trimming ideas and came up with BIG feathers and a brooch. It looked good on my wig and wig stand, but never put it on myself and walked around with it.
I got to wear my new American Duchess Gibson shoes with this. I made sure I walked around the house to get used to them, and even hammered the back of the heel (padded with a towel) to soften it up.
Problem Four: I accidently put thicker stockings on while dressing at CoCo (wasn’t thinking at that point) and the shoes were tight and my toes all bent to form the point of the shoe. After about an hour I could barely walk and finally took them off and hobbled barefoot back to my room. Lame. Someone who has foot problems already should really know better.
I’ve been waiting to see if any nice photos come in of me wearing the dress, and so far I’m seeing the colors are not showing up well. The purple heliotrope color ribbon sometimes looks green or brown. The olive green taffeta belt I made isn’t a great choice. Darker purple would have been better. But hey, the blouse is so big and poofy in front, it hangs over it so you can barely see it. Hah!
This is the one photo taken by Debbie B. that does show it purple. And then it turns to green in Jerry A.’s photo. Now where did those pointy and tall ostrich feathers go? In my face! I kept blowing them out of my face all evening. I can’t really assign them a problem number but there it is.

So Problem Five was when I cut away the neckline on the blouse, I also cut away the support that held up the entire front. And where does that poofy fabric go? -down over the belt. Also there’s too much fabric in the front. I have the same amount of poofy underpinnings under the blouse as my last dress did but I tweaked the fit. Oh well, I have enough of the fabric I can make another blouse, and maybe try it with the rows of velvet ribbon going down the front without cutting anything out this time.
Now that I think of it, this has been a pattern with me: When I make a new dress the first time it is wholly and completely on ME is *the day I’m wearing it*. I don’t try it all on before the big day. I need to correct that bad habit. Will I? We’ll see.
I consider my “winner” this year as the 1890s Blue Striped Seaside Dress for the Sunday Fantasy Tea at CoCo. I was happy with the fit and my minor alterations to it.
The tea this year was very colorful and piratey, with its theme of Pirates of Penzance; A Victorian Seaside Romp. There were many pirates, and many seaside themed gowns. We sang along with stanzas from Pirates of Penzance, and listed to singers from it also. We had lots of small sandwiches, blueberry and plain scones sprinkled with sugar, and cream or lemon curd to top them. Our meal started with little skewers of meat or veggies with a hoisin sauce, tiny chopped fruit in a glass, and a wine glass of sparkling cider. Desserts were a mix of French pastries, and as a requirement of Costume College, there will always be chocolate among them.

At our place settings we had little fans, and a handmade card of Victorian ladies and pirates and decorated with pretty things, like lace and flowers. 

One wall held a landscape of a beach for the seaside feel of the room.

 I sat with Natalie, our Dean this year, during the tea. I found out veils worn with glasses is a nuisance especially if you take them off a lot for photos. *I must point out the “dome” over my stomach that my corset is causing. It’s too big around the bottom so a new one is in the works. Must have flat tummy for the 1890s.*
On another wall was a photo backdrop for us to have our photos taken by Jerry Abuan . Cindy and I goofed off.

 And we found us a pirate!

As a side note: I had two gowns in the Costume Display room this year, my 1905 Pink Voile (sister of this year’s Purple Silk Voile failure) & one from 2005, my 1914 Shower Curtain Tea Gown. Yes, it was made from an embroidered cotton batiste shower curtain purchased at Target back in 2004. 

1 comment:

  1. Dear Val
    Good Monday-morning quarterbacking. I can see where the voile dress might have been a pain; velvet so easily photographs funny, for instance, and those poofy fronts are hard to make look good, in my estimation. When I've worn them they've kept slipping out and require far too much futzing. They might work better when the poofed part is mounted to a tight foundation, as was done for formal dresses, but I've not tried that. Still way many points for try #2. Not too many people attempt the pigeon front era.

    Oh, and I seem to do the same thing, fail to try on and make the first wearing the experiment. Um, not a good idea. Dress rehearsals really help.

    LOVE the seaside dress!!

    Very best,



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