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, October 26, 2013

Dia de los Muertos – Celebrating the Dead

October 26, 2013

Coming up next Saturday on November 2 is the annual Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Candlelight Procession in Old Town San Diego. This will be its 4th year and I was pleased to be able to lead the procession for the first year and the following years I was joined by more and more members of our SD Costume Guild. And each year the crowds of people joining in have filled the streets and making this a highly successful event.
This year we’re being asked to up the ante and return to the roots of the Mexican holiday of Dia de los Muertos by coming in full La Calaveras Catrina faces, or Elegant Lady/Skeleton.  So everyone in the lead procession are going to be painting their faces.
These are some photos I took of some of the Calaveras Catrinas in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico in 2011, and just looking at them again makes me happy. They’re so colorful!

Last month I started a new 1870s mourning dress in black embroidered eyelet cotton to have a more comfortable & cooler dress to wear during our hot weather, and it’s almost done. I made it from the Truly Victorian polonaise pattern since it goes together very quickly, and is the right time period for Old Town. Now that they've requested going back to the basics of los Muertos, that leaves the costuming wide opening for what people want to wear; mourning or similar to those worn by the Catrinas. I’ve been making some pleated trim for along the neckline and sleeve cuffs out of a band of the eyelet fabric, and finishing that with black velvet ribbon. The embroidery design is not this shiny but I had to use my flash for it to show up against the black. I paid $3 yard for this at Robert’s in the Garment District, so this dress is going to be in the “very cheap to make" category. I bought velvet covered buttons at Trim2000+ there also to go on the bodice and the sleeve cuffs.
To wear with it, I bought a flowered headpiece from the Johnson House in Old Town and since the flowers were only on one side of the head band, I added more to the other side to even it out. Michael's has all their Fall flowers for 70% off right now but they had no Spring colors like the ones already on it so I had to blend the Fall ones in. Because of the different flowers, the front and back look totally different. I plan on having a black veil on the back but haven’t decided how to do my hair yet, and if I’ll be wearing a hat too. I don’t like a flat look to my head. 

During the Procession where we walk from the Old Town center square to the El Campo de Santos Cemetery, we are carrying either battery operated candle lamps, or the tall cylinder religious candles.
The candle lamps just showed up in Michael’s stores for 2 for $5.99. So the countdown is on to finish my dress this week!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Spreading the Word about Costume College

October 23, 2013
Hi all, I just got back from Washington state and enjoying the cool weather there. It was a family trip but while I was there I was asked if I could take part in a panel presentation on the Costume College convention in Los Angeles for the Seattle-based costume guild SITU (Someplace in Time, Unlimited). It was to be presented by SITU in the auditorium at the Everett Library and was open to all costumers interested, and to the public. We would have a panel of 6 members who all had previous experience with CoCo that we could answer any questions, or share our experiences with the audience. I was the guest speaker.
I included a free day on our trip so I could travel over to Everett by ferry and car, and I was in costume the whole time. I chose to wear my 1890s Seaside dress since it didn't need a bustle and would be easier to pack and travel in. I did have to carry my straw boater in a bag on the plane because it was too fragile to pack. *Photos taken during the presentation are by Lady Victoria of SITU*
I still didn't get the blouse made I wanted for this so I needed a backup. At first I tried ordering one online but the one I wanted was out of stock, so I ordered my second choice but it was a thicker cotton and was really tight on the lower arms of my outside jacket. So I ended up wearing a 1905 blouse I'd made from a Truly Victorian pattern and took out the waistband and gathering of the pigeon bust so it could tuck in smoothly under my skirt. It was still a bit tight but do-able. I still plan on making a blouse for this dress but since the cold weather is starting to roll in, it won't be a priority for awhile. 

As I said, I wore this on the Washington ferries to go over the Juan de Fuca Straights and Puget Sound starting from the NW corner of WA. We drove up to Port Townsend, ferried our car over to Whidbey Island, and drove from Coupeville to the bottom of the island to Clinton where hubby dropped me off to walk onto the ferry to Mukilteo. He spent the day with friends on the island. It was foggy and cold, about 39d, but I wore my long black "modern" coat over my dress and I was very comfortable. But you could still see my skirts and boater hat, and I got a lot of curious and appreciative glances. I'm normally kind of shy walking around by myself in costume but being in a "seaside" dress I felt like I fit in with the location on the water. 
Joan H., from SITU, picked me up at the Mukilteo landing, and drove me up to her house to show me her sewing studio. I about fell on the floor when I saw it. My sewing room is a small bedroom that is starting to close in on me. Her's was a large downstairs portion of the house in an L-shape that goes way back. She had rows of clothing racks, maybe 8 of them, filled with her collection of costumes. This photo is the lower part of the "L". Across from them are shelves and tables. 
Then I started noticing how she stores things because even with a lot of space, it can still get out of hand. She had two ways of displaying her gloves---hanging on a line across the upper wall and from a tie rack hanging from the ceiling. 

Her collection of purses took up quite a bit of this wall. 
Her method for storing all her fabrics was what really impressed me. She had two large "bookcases" with divided shelves where each contained a rattan basket purchased from Ikea. Her fabrics were separated by color in each basket. 
From here we drove off to the Everett Library, where Joan and a couple other ladies set up the tables and chairs. The panelists table was up on the stage. They also had a tea set up for the attendees. 
Joan and I, and one member in the audience were the only ones in costume. Joan wore her new Aesthetic Reform gown that she made using purchases from the CoCo Marketplace and the Garment District during the tour. 
We all brought copies of previous CoCo student handbooks to share with everyone, and items purchased or made during it. Joan asked us individually about our experiences with the classes, the scheduling, the events, travel arrangements, food, and of course the costumes. We each discussed our favorite and least favorite classes too. I also strongly suggested they volunteer for at least two hours to get the feel of the event and get to know people easier.  And Joan was encouraging anyone to think about possibly being a teacher someday. The whole idea was to demystify the experience and encourage new attendees. It can be rather intimidating and I remember very well my first time attending in 2003. If you've been to Costume College, you may recognize some of these ladies on the panel.
I really enjoyed being part of this panel and sharing my own experiences and knowledge. I think I saw a few fires lit under a couple ladies for next year. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Off the Costume Path

I promised a link to my other blog on our recent trip to France and England. It does have some photos of costumes in museums but not many. So if you're not interested in armchair traveling, I won't be offended if you're not interested in it. To read it chronologically you'll have to click on each individual day in the right column because its not showing it manually. Not sure what's up with that yet.

I will however have some costuming to report after this weekend as I'll be on a panel with the Seattle costume guild, SITU, this Saturday while they give a presentation on Los Angeles Costume College convention to their members and other interested parties. And of course we're going to dress in costume. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Celebrating an 1883 Schoolhouse's 130th Birthday

A couple weeks ago I was invited to come dressed in 1880s attire for the grand opening of the 1883 Schoolhouse in Encinitas, CA. They hoped to have a group of us for their event and to be photographed by the newspaper.
I originally thought to wear something really fabulous, like my 1885 Best Black gown, but when the weather decided it was going to be VERY hot, I knew that wasn't possible. It's an upholstery fabric, and even though its not heavy, it is dense and can be very warm itself. My next choice was my late 1870s Black & White Polka Dot that I've added an overskirt and wear a slight bustle with, so I fit into the early '80s. Its cotton and much cooler, and I always get nice compliments on it.
The day did start out getting warm, even though the schoolhouse is situated right next to the beach. The only thing that blocks the view of the beach is a row of houses. The building had at one time been moved elsewhere and later scheduled for demolition but a group of preservationists got together and saved it. Its history made it the oldest building in Encinitas and worth saving. It also was moved back near its original location near the beach.
It's exactly what you'd expect a little one room schoolhouse to look like; white on the outside, and a single room inside with wooden floors. There was a collection up front of old children's school desks and various items you'd find to teach children with. It was all nicely set up.
I arrived a little early and got to wander around to look at everything while it was being set up for the “birthday party”. They had a nice display of old newspaper articles on the area and the schoolhouse as it was being refurbished. Once the event began, I was still the only one there and had my photo taken lots of times. The rest of our group showed up later and just in time for the newspaper photographer when he arrived. 
Our job was mainly to walk around and look pretty, adding a backdrop to the schoolhouse. I think we did a good job of that, and the docents at the school were very happy with us, as were all the attendees of the event.
I've been waiting for some photos to be sent to me of the front of the school, and others that were taken of me but so far have only received the two here that were taken by Jody R. 
This link to The Coast News article online shows our photo (which I placed at the top of this blog entry) on the front page with our names, plus a history of the house.