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, June 27, 2014

Reports of the CoCo Tornado Hitting So. California!

*A tongue-in-cheek post as the countdown begins to Costume College*
Around this time of year, about a month before Costume College begins in Woodland Hills, tornados begin showing up in sewing rooms and spaces all over Southern California and spread to the rest of the state and eventually to the entire US! Reports are even coming in from other countries!
The scattering of fabrics and patterns, pins on the floor, and the violence and stress it causes is so overwhelming that it causes many tears and throwing of things, and yes, even rants and disputes in the affected households. Cats normally complacent, observing and helping the sewers suddenly run and hide in fear. Stalwart dogs even learn to stay at bay.
Reports have come in of multiple rooms being struck, and off-shoots disrupting other plans and projects are also occurring.

The aftermath isn’t pretty and may take weeks or months, some say years or never, to clean up and recover. This is what my sewing room looked like while four projects, along with hats, were in progress. I can’t tell where one project begins, and another one ends.

Friends have been sending in photos captured at the moment of massive upheavals in their working areas. Jennifer wasn’t hit quite as bad as others closer to the coast are reporting. But she said it’s going to get worse over the weekend.

Tonya said she cleaned up a bit already. But if we know her, that won’t last long.

Cindy was able to make a small path to check out her damage. She found things buried among debris and is wasting no time getting back into her routine. 
Sarah reports some confusion as everything was pushed into one corner. But she’s making progress once again.

Hearing from Joyce, everything was shoved into the kitchen.   It seems to be a good place to continue sewing and maybe get dinner done at the same time.
Finally heard from Birda, as she had to dig herself out from under the piles! Apparently things scattered all around her house.
Latest reports are: it’s going to get worse! As the date gets closer, no one will be getting any sleep and only noises will be heard from dark corners underneath all the fabrics. Families will have to fend for themselves for meals.  *You know who you are!*
**According to recent updates, it has gotten worse. Today more photos were sent in showing further disaster zones. 
Sally said she's been working up a storm, so she hadn't even noticed anything different until she saw this report. 
Janet  left for a few hours and on her return wasn't able to find the dress she had been working on. I don't even see her sewing machine in there. 
But then suddenly, out of the confusion and darkness, comes beauty! At Costume College you will see all the lovely things that were made during this stressful time of year and you may never have believed that this is where it came from. But I wanted to share with everyone what the creative process looks like, and that you too are not alone in this mass confusion the two months before CoCo.
And I have to share a quote from my hubby when I was so deep in misery looking at all my piles and messes about my room. “Yes, that’s the way you work. But in the end you’ll make something beautiful.”
I want to thank those that have continued sending prayers and good wishes to my Sewing Kitty, Chloe. These photos are from three days ago. This is all part of the massive viral infection she had. She continues to improve although had some scary setbacks this week that scared her mommy but when your cat yells at you loudly for breakfast, I consider that a good sign of recovery. A couple days later her eyes are completely clear and she has started to take tentative steps herself outside. 


Friday, June 20, 2014

Planning for the 1915 Centennial in Balboa Park

Half the fun in making costume is the planning and researching, or so I think. Ok, most of the time that’s the easy part, or so I think. But The Squirrel really enjoys this part.
Next year our San Diego Balboa Park is celebrating the Centennial of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, and ever since we heard about it our guild is happily planning to join in and wear costume of the period. The planners are ecstatic about us doing that too. I know it’s a year away but many of us need that time to get ‘er done. A tentative date is for April 11-12, 2015.

Besides having many photos of gowns from that era in my files already, I’ve been searching Pinterest for other ideas.  I’m on the fence between 4 different ideas so here is what I’m thinking so far:

Patterns that might be used are these: the Decades of Style #1601 & Simplicity 8474 are both out of print but I have them in my stash.
These are possibilities from the 1915 collection at Past Patterns.
I originally wanted to make my dress with an orange and white color because I want to use my orange parasol so bad! But the chances of finding the right fabric is slim. 

I have this green striped cotton in my stash and it’s such a nice Spring color so I’m leaning towards it and the parasol will still look good with it. So far it looks like I’ll be doing a green jumper with a white blouse style. And I’ll be playing with different accessories and hats too. Ooooh!
But knowing The Squirrel, things may change in the next year. 
In the meantime I’m trying to get back into finishing my two 1830s dresses and get started on my 1910 Black Ascot, all of which are needed for Costume College, which I only have six weeks left to finish them. I started hemming the 1830s Midnight Mourning gown last night, and as soon as I can get my hubby out of bed, I’ll be able to start cutting my 1910 gown on it.

Monday, June 16, 2014


On Saturday, June 14, members of our costume guild were requested to join in the 200th anniversary celebration of the Star Spangled Banner on Flag Day onboard the USS Midway Museum in San Diego. Costumes requested were 1814 (the year of the song) and red, white, and blue. A few costumes also included the Georgian period and various ones that included the colors. We were quite colorful!

Down below in the mid-deck of the ship, where the museum displays are, was decorated for the celebration. After taking numerous photos of ourselves, we gathered in front of the main display for a large group photo that we haven’t had a chance to do in a long time. It looked like there was about 50 of us.
Then the program began by the Mountain Fife and Drum Corp gathering there to play old battle and dance music, and we formed a line along the sides of them. When they concluded, they marched, still playing, down the deck and up the stairs to the upper hanger deck with our group parading behind them. I’d love to have seen a full view of the whole procession because it must have been impressive! As we were walking up the stairs with the drums playing ahead of us, it sent chills down my back. Kinda of felt like going into battle.

Outside on the hanger deck, the band continued playing, there was cannon fire, and muskets shot off during the ceremonies and presentations, which included presenting the Midway with a reproduction of the original flag flown on the USS Constitution and raising it up on the yardarm.

And there were fly-overs by Navy planes.
At the stern of the ship, there was a bench that some of the ladies took a break on, and it became a photo-op for the public. We had many photos taken here by the visitors to the museum.

I wore a previous costume for this, a white sheer cotton voile using LaMode Bagatelle’s pattern.
My bodiced petticoat was made using their pattern, and then I made the dress with the same pattern having a drawstring neckline and waist but raised the neckline an inch. My open robe was a Frankenpattern using Butterick 4890. I had extended the front and elongated it under the bust to become a belt. Then I added elbow length sleeves and shortened the skirt.
All I had to do this time for my costume was have a new bonnet. The base was made by Cat.
Minerva Manx etsy  and I finished up the trim. I had made mine rather simple but after seeing the other ones that Cat trimmed, I’m thinking it may get more if I wear it again. We talked a bit about maybe having an Empire/Directoire-era tea so we could dress up again.

These are a couple others that she did for herself and Birda.  

These two were made by April for her and Cindy.

And so many other pretty hats and dresses, and uniforms.

 My thanks to Jerry Abuan for again taking some beautiful photos of us. To see all his photos of everyone and the event, go to his website here.