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, October 31, 2014

A Trio of Historical Classes Presentations, & Wearing the Autumn Bustle

Last Sunday a group of us from the San Diego Costume Guild, Cindy Piselli, Tracy Gomez and I presented our classes to our costume guild that we had done last August at Costume College. 
        “Watches & How Women Wore Them”; “Jewel Tone Handbags of the 1960s”; 
                                         and “Faking Hair Under Hats”


I had all intentions of wearing my normal street clothes due to the weather still being hot and having to lug in all my gear wasn't conducive to wearing a costume But Cindy managed to talk me into it. However I didn't want to wear my 1830s dress that started me on my path in creating my watch class because I wouldn't have anyone at home to help me get into it. And the other dress I would like to wear that had a watch pocket similar to one of my slideshow photos, my Autumn Bustle, would be too hot to wear with all it's polyester fabrics. But gradually the temperatures started to cool down a bit and by that day it was only supposed to be 72d in San Diego. So I gave in. I also wanted the chance to wear my antique capote bonnet that looked so nice with my gown but while I got dressed, my wig had too much hair for it to fit, and I had to wear my frazzled wig uncovered. I didn't leave myself enough time to come up with an alternative.
It was still pretty warm to wear and by the beginning of the class after setting everything up, I was pretty "dewy". I made a point of telling everyone THIS is the reason why its not recommended to use 
polyester when you make your dress. But I've used it a few times and usually have a cotton lining between it and my body. But it doesn't always help.
Our set-up at the YMCA worked out well. The room was much larger than we expected and had large windows on one wall for light. Definitely a great location for future classes. 

I began the classes with my Watch presentation and when I got to the slide that showed a dress and watch pocket similar to mine I stood up and walked around, showing it to everyone. I didn't think quick enough to ask someone to take my photo but the lights were dimmed for the slideshow so I don't know if that would have even worked. *Unbeknownst to me, my bustle got caught up on the back of the chair. Not pretty.*

Cindy THE BROKE COSTUMER brought a portion of her Jewel Tone handbags for her class on them to display and had Tisha show them as she described them. The history of these handbags made many of us suddenly realize that we had grown up with them and remembered seeing them. I had a moment when I remembered decorating a wooden purse kit from the Tandy Leather Co (who had copied the designs) when I was 12 years old. 

Tracy THE HISTORICAL HAIRDRESSER rounded out our classes with her demonstration of how to attach wig pieces to our heads just where it would show under the hat or bonnet. She showed one piece that had multiple uses and caused a lot of us to have that "ah-hah" moment. 
I've done this in parts where I've attached little curly bits on my temples for both 1810 & 1830 styles. I have a longer piece with curls that I've attached across the top of my head to poke out from under the front of my bonnet too. I can definitely say I too benefited from our class presentations too. 
                                                                     i  ~Val~

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Mad for Plaid, and Back to the 1830s

So here I was sitting pretty, just needed to finish a few projects for upcoming events, nothing major; just some hand sewn eyelets on my 18th C short jacket, and adding some feathers to my antique bonnet to wear with my Autumn Bustle gown next Sunday while I teach my watch class. It just needs a little fluff. 


The only other events I have coming up are Dia de los Muertos in Old Town (wearing my black and white polka dot polonaise with colorful head flowers, red shawl, and Catrina face), a Costumed Walkabout at the Del Mar Antique Show, and the San Francisco Dickens Fair, both of which I'll be wearing my Dickens-era 1830s teal dress. 

When suddenly out of the blue, PLAID struck me in the foreheard. Wow, Wow, Wow!  


This beautiful extant gown at the MET Museum just screamed MAKE MEEEEE!!  I think the reddish-burgundy with the blue is the more correct color than the orangey looking photos. But these started me in a frenzy of searching for more plaid dresses, and I'm going WHAT AM I DOING? I HAVE A DRESS! I DON'T NEED TO MAKE ANOTHER 1830s DRESS! 
Why yes I do. So the search began for fabric. I began looking for a medium weight cotton thinking I'd have more luck finding a plaid in it and would save money. Because we all know I already have FOUR 1830s dresses.  

So what do you think? Do I want to look like a man's plaid shirt or flannel pajamas?  

But none of those fabrics seemed right for a dress. The colors and patterns looked good though. But I'm really one of those touchy-feeley people who wants to feel the texture and weight of the fabric. I figured I'd be making the rounds of the fabric stores and soon, because I only have a little over a month to make it. 
And then another light bulb went off. I remembered seeing my friend Robin's gorgeous Dupioni silk 1860s dress at the Riverside Dickens Fest and it was the same color I was leaning towards. 

I decided I probably needed to extend my search to include Dupioni like her's was. She certainly doesn't look like she's wearing her husband's flannel pajamas. 
My local fabric stores had nothing I could use. Lots of solid color Dupioni's and lots of men's shirt and pj fabrics, but nothing even close to dress weight. So I went back to online shopping. Since I know what Dupioni feels like I knew I didn't have to worry about that, unless it had tons of slub. But with that pattern design, I think you'd need a magnifying glass to see that, and I think my cat is the only one who gets that close to my gowns. 
*Proof right here* 
I checked out a couple recommended silk sellers on ebay but yikes! prices running from $15-$20 a yard? I don't think so. I did find this one for $13.25 yard with free shipping, so if I got desperate....... It even looked close to the one Robin had. 

I started looking through Etsy next using Dupioni silk plaid as my search words and found a fabric seller with what turned out to be the same fabric on Special for $6.99 yard and only $2.99 shipping! But I think that's for the one yard and I needed 8.
The order button only went up to 6 yards and I panicked so I quickly emailed her asking if I could get more since the description said they could cut whatever you needed off the bolt. Luckily she had 7 yards plus a 1 yard piece left so I ordered it. Sorry girls, none left! My shipping turned out to be Flat Rate through the USPS for $12.50. Still not too bad considering the Special Price I got. I think my friend Cindy, The Broke Costumer, would approve. 
It was shipping that same day so I'm all excited to start this. I'd better get my butt in gear and finish that hat trimming and eyelet making before my sewing room is awash in fabulous plaid. And then I can do my quickie blog post on my 18th C jacket that I promised a few people