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.


Wednesday, September 9, 2015


I feel so laid back and relaxed being able to work on a dress that won’t need to be worn until November. Each day I can work on it a little bit and if I make more work for myself than is necessary, that’s my problem. Because I am and I have. I’ve turned a fairly simple pattern into something complicated. But I have time.
In November I’ve planned a picnic for our costume guild, “A Picnic in Tissot’s Garden” in Balboa Park. My vision was in a garden with blooming roses, looking like a painting, with everyone dressed in summer pastels. You actually can do that in November in Southern California. My first choice of location turned out not to be available, unless we paid an exorbitant fee to rent it. That’s no fun. So my second choice is our lovely Balboa Park near the botanical garden and lily pond. There’s a lovely grassy area just off to the side of the Botanical Building that’s perfect for a picnic and we’re slightly out of the public eye. Until that is when we parade around the pond. And we will.
My vision of my dress would be white, frothy, and ruffly. It was easy finding the fabric, a white cotton voile with light green Swiss dots that I spotted at Roberts Textiles in the LA Garment District for $3 a yard.
I first played around with putting a couple patterns together to create my vision. After I saw a couple dresses my friends had made using an Ageless Pattern I decided this bodice pattern would be less work and matched my vision. Ageless Patterns # 1462, an 1870 jacket, from  Patterns of Time  
I’ve never made anything from this company but after hearing my friends say it was pretty easy, I was willing to try it. Of course this is a reprint from an antique pattern, which means NO DIRECTIONS. You do get some directions that say sew the three pattern pieces together. Yeah, THREE pattern pieces-front, back, sleeves. And it says to sew revers (rows of tucks) along the neckline. You get to figure out how to bind the edges of the bodice (I did self-fabric facings). You don’t have to finely finish any edges either because it will be covered up with rows of lace or self-fabric ruffles.
The pattern size on this is up to you to figure out. But since my two friends who made this pattern are close to my size, I figured I could work with it. It’s loose fitting and is meant to be pulled in tight with a belt. No boning either. I measured across the pattern pieces for the waist and bust size, and added 2” to the side seams for my 37” waist/ 42” bust. Then I made a muslin to try it on. It was quite loose with a lot of flare over the hips.  The armholes were a different animal. The armhole on the pattern looked REALLY narrow. And it had a weird point coming up on it. After enlarging the pattern, I cut away some of the armhole to fit myself and sewed it. And that weird point just hung there. I have no idea where it was supposed to go, and it got cut off. My suggestion is sew it and then trim as needed for yourself.

So the muslin fit ok, and I cut out the fabric and sewed it all together after flat-lining it with a plain white cotton since it was pretty sheer. It’s still really loose, and makes me think I almost could have gotten away with not enlarging it as much as I did. It doesn’t say how the front closes but my friends said they used hooks & eyes. Mine may cross over and hook closed because it’s too loose to close it straight down the front like the pictures show. But we’re going for loose here so that’s ok. As you can see, my bodice is all nicely finished.
The revers, or tucks, are where I ran into problems. The pattern gave no dimensions for the revers; just showed a line that you fit the revers into and then lay rows of ruffles along the edge to finish them. It did suggest lace ruffles of 2 ½” wide. Seemed easy enough. I cut strips of 2” wide fabric and folded them in half. Then I sewed each strip down on top of the next fitting them into the marked lines, starting at the V-neckline edge with a tiny bit of overlap, and then moving across the lines marked on the pattern. 

This is where I realized the ends are unfinished where I started them at my shoulder seams. It occurred to me it might have been better to sew them on BEFORE I sewed the shoulder seams and facings on. Oh well! I wasn’t going to rip all that out again. So I was just going to make sure my ruffled lace would cover it up. But then the unfinished outer edges of the tucks started to bother me, and I made more work for myself than necessary and boxed them in with narrow bands of fabric. Did I really think anyone was going to see those? Maybe.
And then came the closer look at the line drawing of the back of the bodice, and it started to go downhill from there. The revers apparently are supposed to go all around the back of the neck too. Oops. So my famous fudging comes into play. I just raised the line of the ruffled lace up to the back of the neck.
The lace was topstitched down onto the edges of the revers, and there you have it. All that extra work and no one can even see it.  Then the second row of ruffles really finished it nicely. 

I added the sleeves, which still need their ruffles in this photo, and more lace along the bottom of the bodice.
My skirt is made using Truly Victorian’s #208, View B. I haven’t bustled up the back of it yet, and am trying to decide if I need to make a lining or just stick with some white petticoats.  

Today I cut out the apron from the Skirt B pattern piece and finished with a row of the lace. In the pattern it has you sew it into the side seams but I like my apron separate so I sewed a narrow waistband around it that ties in the back. I’ve pinned a couple pleats on the side in this photo and decided after seeing it that it’s going to get one more near the bottom.  My green belt is made of some silk taffeta remnants I have, along with the bow at the neckline. Right now it just has a buckle brooch on it to fake a buckle, and ties in the back with a larger bow. I’m looking for a small round buckle to put there. The sleeves still need a tuck in them to pull them up and add bows to them too.
I still need to do the bustling in the back and thought about buying, finally, the appropriate bustle cage for this time period, since I’ve been trying to get by with an 1880s bustle. This bustle should have a half hoop on the bottom of front skirt to hold it out properly so I don’t get that “caved-in” look that I’ve been dealing with. I didn’t want to make one but this is the pattern for it, Truly Victorian #108, the Grand Bustle. I checked with Shelley Peters to see if she had any for sale but she didn’t at this time. When I asked if I could do a temporary one using my current bustle and put a channel along the bottom of it with Petersham ribbon and hoop bone, she said it would work. So that’s the plan.
My hat for this is still in the planning stages. I have a few ideas, using this hat style on the blue dress, with some of the green taffeta, and play with some trims I pulled from the stash. If I can find this green feather, which I apparently have according to this photo, it might be added to it also.

Chloe has been spending most of her days sleeping and not harassing me while I’ve been sewing but she’s enjoying the near 100d the rest of us are melting from. I heard the news mention tonight that all of Southern California’s lawns now have a tan. In other words, brown.


Thursday, September 3, 2015

Calling All Costume Guilds & Groups!

Many times I hear costumers/people say they can never find anyone or groups they can play dress-up with, or places to go in costume. I started a list of them on my pattern review group on Facebook after asking around for anyone to share them. 
Now I want to reach out to all my readers here on Blog and ask you too to share a link to your guild or group in the US or elsewhere. 
Please write out the name of the group, and then provide a link to their WEBSITE or FACEBOOK PAGE. I will be checking them first before approving its inclusion on my blog to prevent spamming. 
                                                        They will be "Chloe Approved".

These are ones I have so far:
Costumers Guild West (CGW-Los Angeles area, CA)

Historical Citizen's Association ( HCA- Los Angeles area, CA)
San Diego Costume Guild (SDCG-San Diego, CA) 

Greater Bay Area Costume Guild (GBACG-San Francisco area, CA) 

Puget Sound Historical Costumers Guild (Washington state) 

Costuming in Seattle-(SITU-Somewhere in Time, Unlimited--Seattle, WA)

PDX Time Travellers Costume Guild (Metro Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, WA)

Dallas Fort Worth Costumers Guild (Dallas/Fort Worth, TX)

Kansas City Costume Guild (KCCG -Kansas)

Central Florida Costumer's Guild (CFCG-Florida)

Washington DC Area Costumers  (Washington, DC)

Empire State Costumers  (NY / NJ)

Gilded Age Society  (NJ / northest coast of US)

Living History Company (ST LOUIS, MO)

Costumers Anonymous of North Texas (Dallas/Fort Worth ,TX)

RennFire /Fire-Friends in Recreation & Education)  (Phoenix, AZ) (under construction)
FB--The Tudor Project & More 

Oregon Regency Society  

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


1907—Original photograph by Jaques Boyer 1907                           
This morning Cindy from The Broke Costumer called my attention to a photo on Facebook from 1907 that had been colorized, and of course had ladies working on dresses. Eye candy! 
The company called PhotograFix is in England but has a page on Facebook too.
The first thing that caught my eye was the layered bodice on the blue dress in the background.
Cindy had said look at how they added the trim upside down. ?? She had to point me away to the bottom of the maroon skirt and the lady pinning a row of trim on it. At first you can see some gold, and a piece hanging down.
But on closer look, right where the skirt is separating and there’s a gap between the trim, I saw what she was talking about. If you follow the line just inside where the skirt separates, you can see a wide piece has been sewn on top of the skirt. Starting at the bottom it has a narrow band of gold. Follow it up and it folds over with the second band of gold starting to go down with a fold hanging there. Obviously we may never know what happened to the bottom of that fold, possibly it was tacked down. But what a great way to add a border to the skirt. BTW, this was a Frederick Worth gown, photographed in the House of Worth in France.

Now about that blue bodice…

It was built by layers also. I tried my own version of doing that a few years ago, and just started with a base bodice, and laid parts of lace and fabric on top of each other. Not haute couture like this but it was rather fun. Edwardian Black & White Reception Gown 

Now back to your regularly scheduled program.  There are things going on in my sewing room. A new pattern, and I'm making it for our "A Picnic in Tissot's Garden" in Balboa Park, San Diego, in the middle of November.