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.


Sunday, November 22, 2015


I started planning for our next Costume Walkabout at the Del Mar Antique Show in November once I heard the theme was Alice in Wonderland. Of course there will be the usual characters there but I don’t like to do “costumes” and wanted to stick to my historical clothing. This is where “character development” comes in which I don’t normally do but I did one in the past as The Ghost of Xmas Past, Present, and Future for a previous Walkabout.
It didn’t take me long after searching for Alice ideas to come up with an adult Alice Liddell, who the book was written for, all grown up. The book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was written in 1865, and Alice Liddell was 10 years old when it was written. So I figured by adding 30 years to her life that would make it about 1895. So there I had my time period I wanted to make my dress.

My memory of Alice is from the original 1951 Disney movie when I was growing up. And then I saw someone’s page of ideas for costuming an Alice, and I got some ideas from it.  Blue skirt, white blouse, maybe a half apron. I’ve got black Mary Jane shoes. Ooh, bunny jewelry! 
And then I thought how about an Alice who became totally obsessed with rabbits when she grew up?That gave me all kinds of ideas for some accessories. It would be like the White Rabbit wouldn’t leave her, day or night. Her jewelry could be rabbits. And she would always be looking for rabbits.
I came across this photo of a watch-style purse, and remembered this large wooden pocket watch I had that was actually a Christmas decoration. It has a short gold chain, and I can hang it by a small chatelaine onto my waistband.
I first thought of wearing a black ribbon headband but after being reminded of a hat, I pulled out my boater hat that HAS a black ribbon on it. Perfect!  Needing to add a little something to the blouse for color, I thought of making a navy blue bow tie for the neck like this photo I found. I still hadn’t decided on a white apron yet.

Hunting for jewelry on Etsy was fun! I typed a search in for bunny jewelry and was surprised the amount of it that popped up, and many referred to the Wonderland White Rabbit, or Peter Rabbit. Since Alice Liddell was a real person, I didn’t want to refer too much to the cartoon character, and picked this life-like bunny pendant. It was only $10. But then I saw this antique child’s ring with THE rabbit in it looking at his pocket watch, and it was ONLY $7, so yeah, gotta have it! Total cost in jewelry was kept under $20. I like that. I don’t usually spend a lot on accessories for my costumes, unless it’s something antique but since everything else came from my stash, I decided that was ok.

I also decided to include a very small stuffed rabbit and knew I had to make an apron now to put it in the pocket of the apron. My friend Cindy found me a cream plush one at a swap meet that was a perfect fit for a pocket. So which came first, the apron or the rabbit?
While I was out shopping in the Halloween sales department at Michael’s I found this black bow tie for $3.97, so that saves me from making something that will probably cost more than that. I originally planned on wearing my usual white boots but remembered I’d bought some Mary Jane-style black shoes recently and they were similar to the shoes Alice wore as a child. 

I considered wearing a blonde wig for about 15 seconds. Uhh…no. I used to be white blonde myself, and as I got older it became more brown/auburn. So I decided I would stick to my usual wig color, and have it up in a 90s style, her being an adult and all.

My patterns are the Truly Victorian #494- 1894 shirtwaist, and #291- 1898 walking skirt.

I had picked up some powder blue cotton-twill blend fabric for my friend but it had a bit of stretch in it  and wouldn’t work for her, so I decided to use it for my skirt instead of wasting it. My white 100% cotton for the shirtwaist is a bit sheer and would need a good stiff netting in the sleeves to hold up those big puppies.

The apron was the easy part. My very first sewing project when I was a little girl was an apron I learned how to make at our local girls club. A large square of fabric, hemmed on three sides, pleated or gathered onto a long strip of fabric that was folded over and became the ties in the back.  Another small square of fabric became the pocket just big enough to hold a bunny. He was safety-pinned in for safety.

The skirt was very easy to sew together, although I had to deal with some stretchiness. I staystitched all around each panel that helped a bit but the waistband may start stretching quite a bit. In retrospect, I think I should have sewn a real sturdy interfacing in it to hold it firm. Maybe at a later time I can re-do that.
The blouse was probably the most work but still an easy sew. I used some stiff netting folded over and covered with a layer of cotton between my arm and the sleeve so it wasn’t scratchy. It only went in the section from the armseye about 6 inches down, although there was more in the poofiness. There’s still a bit of it in the armseye seam allowance that I’m slowly snipping away but will probably still poke me occasionally. A solution for next time will be to finish off the netting seam first with a strip of fabric before it goes into the armseye.
I chose the front buttoned view, and the short peplum primarily for more length to tuck into the waistband. I don’t plan on wearing it on the outside of the skirt. I’m not real happy with my collar. I managed to miss having a piece in it that the upper collar would fold over, so mine sticks up. Which is ok but there’s a slight gap. My bowtie will be covering that up though. 

So here is the whole outfit put together, and I decided I would bring my blue parasol that had just been recovered by my friend, Connie, at Victorian Parasols. *Don’t mind the little black and white furball there. She gets into everything.*

So off we go to the Del Mar Antique Show in San Diego for Lady Mari’s Costume Walkabout. We do this twice yearly and are given a theme to dress in. Today’s theme was Alice in Wonderland, and there were many Cheshire Cats, Mad Hatters, Queen of Hearts, White Queen, Dormouse, White Rabbits, a White Knight, Tweedle Dedee, Knave of Hearts, and many variations of fantasy and Steampunk. I had expected to see a lot of Alices though. Very surprising there was not!

This is worth pointing out. Bob was the Mad Hatter and had his dormouse skeleton in his teapot. Also notice the bandoliers with tea tins, tea spoons and strainers. And his tea medals. Lots of details went into this. 

By the way, did you know this year was the 150th Anniversary of the publishing of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland book? Happy anniversary Lewis Caroll and to Alice Liddell, who the book was written for. You can read more about the book’s beginnings here:
This was likely the last costume event I’m going to this year, unless I’m able to make it to our Guild holiday dinner since it coincides with our family get-together. Keeping my fingers crossed I can get out early enough to go. If I do go, I will most likely wear my 1880s Red & Black Check bustle dress.
But there will be more sewing going on; like working on an 1830s bonnet in an online class I signed up for last month at Historical, and working on my purple dress for the Riverside Dickens Festival fashion show. Oh sheesh, I just realized what I wrote. I’m making dresses JUST for fashion shows now? No, it will have other uses. It’s just the next and first event I will need it for. And then there’s a maize yellow 1905 dress I want to make for an April event.
Thank you to Jerry Abuan  for some of the photos I shared here. 


  1. I love this post! A lot of background thought went into this outfit and that makes it easier to relate to. It was fresh and crisp looking and a perfect blend of historical and whimsey.

  2. What a great outfit, and you really do look like grown up Alice. :) I bind the whole armscye seam allowance with something nice like the cotton when I put net into sleeves. I bind them just like I would a quilt - with bias folded in two then folded over the raw edges and hand stitched to the seam stitches. Works a treat. It's also good for sheer fabrics, but I use the same sheer fabric.

    1. Thank you for the tip, Maryanne. That's something I can do w/o having to rip stuff out.

  3. Everything looks lovely.
    Rochelle, ATAA

  4. Your costume is amazing, and brunette is perfectly perfect for an adult Alice Liddell, as she was a brunette since childhood. T'was another, later Alice who was the inspiration for the illustrations and the long blonde hair. Not the Alice the book was written for, and the true Alice was a rare bird from the get go, as far as fashion and style goes. Bangs on children during the 1840's, 50's and 60's was unheard of across the board unless a child got hold of the shears and we all know how those 'selfies' turn out. But Alice's mother preferred to go against convention simply because Alice was in possession of a high, broad forehead and looked better in bangs. She was probably one of the first little girls of the early mid-Victorian era to sport what became the classic pageboy of the 20's and 30's.

  5. Love this! Looks wonderland! Ooops, mean wonderful!

  6. Very cool interpretation. I have a similar Christmas ornament. It made me think I should keep it out when I pack Christmas up and use it at CoCo's Steampunk event.


I would love to hear if this was any help to you. Pretty please!