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, December 25, 2016

2016 Review: A Look Back on My Costuming Year.

All my events for the year are over, and my poor brain can’t focus on anything right now, so I probably won’t be sewing until after Christmas. Which, by the way, is today.
Right now I'm waiting for to send me a 20% off sale so I can have my last year's blog posts published as a book. *tapping foot* 

OK, I lied. I have been sewing. But it’s just hand-hemming 18th century/1700s kerchiefs from a fine white cotton voile each night while I’m watching TV. I made one for myself for my Outlander dress, and since I had leftover fabric & enjoyed the hand-sewing, I made another. Then decided why not sell it? So, I posted it on a Facebook selling group, and it was grabbed within 30 seconds. I cut out two more, and left a message that if anyone wanted one, to put their name on the list. I got quite a few orders and since I’m finishing up the last two, I took a couple more orders. I’m not letting my fingers get rusty. I decided I’d better pick up some more of the fabric and found it was getting REALLY scarce. So, I’ve been driving to a couple distant JoAnn’s to buy the few yards they have left. Of course, none of them will ship it to me. 

I began this year planning a new dress for the Riverside Dickens fashion show in February by pulling out an 1853 fashion plate of a gorgeous purple dress that looked like it would challenge my construction talents. And it fit right in to the “purple theme” of the show.

I was able to repeat wearing it in the fashion show at the Port Townsend (WA) Victorian Festival in March, where I also wore my 1885 Pink Polka Dot bustle, AND did my presentation on “Watches & How Women Wore Them” at the Festival.

My next dress was going to be for an Edwardian tea aboard the Queen Mary ship in Long Beach. Again, I pulled out one of my favorite fashion plates from 1908 that I wanted to copy. I mostly Franken-patterned it from various patterns for the bodice.

I “discovered” a new pattern company, Edwardian Rose, on ebay and etsy. There were limited printed patterns but were also available as a download and you printed them out. I was excited and willing to give it a shot, and even wrote up an easy how-to for my blog and to teach it at Costume College the following July.
This was the first pattern I tried where I printed it out. But when I got to cutting it out of the rose fabric I had, I found I didn’t have enough of the lace I needed for the neckline, and I couldn’t go further with the sewing until I did. As of the end of the year, I still haven’t found any that would look suitable so that’s on the back burner. I bought a couple more of her patterns so at some point I swear I’m going to make them. 
I finally decided my corset of 4 years was a bit shoddy and besides, it had green paint splatters on it. *Long story* I went to one of Shelley Peters’ sewing workshop weekends, and made a new one out of purple brocade coutil. Now I’m back in fashion.

I seriously began planning my wardrobe in April for Costume College and finally finished up one I was really excited about; an 1870s tea gown inspired by a Frederick A. Worth tea gown. It didn’t cooperate as much as I’d hoped for, and some details had to be discarded. But the embroidered fabric made me swoon every time I handled it. And it lived up to its awesomeness when I finished it in plenty of time.

To save some time in starting a new dress, I finally gave in and finished my 1905 Directoire dress I’d started two years ago, after being inspired by a tiny little photo. It required a lot of tweaking on the vest but the blouse, which had already been cut two years ago, just about made itself. I wore it both to Costume College and later to a celebration at the Marston House in San Diego. 

Another outfit I’d had on my planning table for a long time was this 1897 evening dress. The lace on the collar and sleeves was what kept me from going forward with it for a long time. But after buying a lace embroidered table runner at Costume College Marketplace, I knew at last I could give it a shot. I would have loved to make it from velvet, as the photo seem show it is, but my plan this year was to make the dress in fuchsia. I couldn’t find any fuchsia velvet. So, it became silk taffeta. I had to rush this in the last week and didn’t focus on the sleeves long enough so I’m not happy with them. Next time. Because it needs to be worn again.

After becoming a fan of Outlander, I became excited about making a 1740s dress from it. When our Costumed Walkabout at the Del Mar Antique Show was given cosplay from movies or TV as our theme, it gave me a boot in the bum to get that made. I’m pretty happy with it, and now I have time to tweak it before taking it to Costume College next year. 

The only costume event I went to during the holidays was our Guild’s Holiday Dinner. I almost went to another event in LA but decided since the next day I would again have to drive back up there for a holiday tea with a friend, I decided that was too much. Tea with my friend, Martha, won over. I didn’t want to make a new dress for the Guild dinner, and my idea for years has been having something to wear for every time period, and then be able to wear them multiple times. I had a red & black checked dress I’d worn a few years ago, and just decided to dress it up a little more. It got a bit of white lace on the neckline, but also a new black fur hat. I was also going to carry my black Persian curly lamb muff I had bought last Xmas but when I went looking for it, I pulled out my black sealskin one and forgot I was looking for the lamb. Oh well, it was black. Now I need to find that lamb, and maybe put all my muffs together so that doesn’t happen again.
So as the old year is quickly fading into the past, I’ve been doing some planning and squirreling trying to decide what will be made next year. I made a list of what events I have coming up so I can better focus on what I should do first. Right now, it’s the Riverside Dickens fashion show and I decided the gown I had started over a month ago, will come first for that. I’m going to Shelley Peter’s sewing workshop over the New Year’s weekend to work on it some more.
One of the outfits I’ve been itching to start is a 1912 jade green linen dress using Truly Victorian’s new patterns.

Since I signed up for Jennifer Rosburgh’s online sewing workshop to make a new long line corset that I will need for it, I think that will come first. I just need to make a run up to LA for the perfect fabric. It really needs to be a stripe.
I have lots of other ideas in the planning stage but time and events will have to decide what happens next. Although I saw a truly beautiful 1795 open robe that will have to be made for Costume College too. And I REALLY AM trying to make things I bought fabric for already, and there’s a good chance that rose-gold changeable silk taffeta I bought in SF *blank* years ago, will be made up.

It looks like I made 5 new costumes, finished 1 that was close to being done, and 1 new corset. Why does it always feel like I didn’t make much?

As this holiday season winds down, besides my next wardrobe planning, I’m also planning my holiday tea for in January that I have each year for my friends from work, and some of my other friends. So, for now the cooking and baking continues and the sewing is on the backburner, besides those 18th c kerchiefs I’m still making to keep me from going stir crazy.

Monday, November 28, 2016


For the first time in two, maybe three years, I am actually able to go to our Costume Guild’s Xmas dinner, which has conflicted a few years with either the San Francisco Dickens Faire I went to, or the family get- together.

I’ve been seriously trying to wear more of my existing costumes to save some work for myself, and this time I will be re-wearing my Red and Black Checked Bustle Gown but adding a bit of lace to it, just so it feels fresh. It has a black fringe along the bottom of the apron but that’s as much trim as it got last time, and I barely had enough for that. So, again using my stash, I found some lace that would look nice but only had enough for the neckline and not the cuffs. Maybe someday I’ll buy some that has enough but for now, the stash will have to be enough. I think it also needs some jingle bells attached to the skirt to jingle as I walk. 

I started thinking about this a month ago, so that’s as far as I got. And no new inspiration popped up that I could do to it.

But yesterday while roaming the Del Mar Antique Show during our Costumed Walkabout, I saw this fur hat and it hit me. I could add a new hat to it, and trim it up. It has a slight turn-out on the edges that makes it look Edwardian so I’m going to tack those down a bit to stand straight up.
I’ve been admiring some of the fur-trimmed dresses, capes and hats that some of my east coast friends, and others who live in places that get cold weather were making or wearing. So, this is my nod to the “cold” weather of Southern California, a fur hat. After coming home I immediately began looking up photos of these hats from the 1880s. Most I found are about 1885, the same time as my dress, so win-win!

This was in a group of hats from that date also.

Anyway, I think I’m on the right track with this. I may add some black feathers to it, or maybe a sprig of holly just for the holiday.
Then IF, and that’s IF, it’s cold enough in the evening for our Xmas dinner, I may actually be able to FINALLY wear my Talma wrap made of black Persian curly lamb without sweating too much. It’s pretty heavy and would definitely keep me warm.  And either way, I’m going to carry my antique black beaver fur muff. 

*** I'm adding a couple photos from our Guild Holiday Dinner since I have nothing further to write about my dress other than show the two photos I have. I received a lot of compliments on it, and especially my hat. I used a snowflake brooch I'd recently received at a holiday tea. ***


Thursday, November 17, 2016


With just a few days left before our Costumed Walkabout at the Del Mar Antique Fair on Saturday I’m getting down to the final touches on my 1740s Outlander outfit. The theme for the Walkabout is Cosplay: any TV, movie, literary, or comic book character. So, there’s a huge field to pick from, and I chose Claire from the Outlander series. And the nice thing is its fits right into my historical wardrobe.

My muslin from the JP Ryan short jacket pattern still fit, so I cut my navy blue linen from it, and did the easy out: I baglined it in white cotton. I used View D with the laced front, but this time I tried making the winged sleeves on View B of the pattern. But for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how to attach it to the sleeves. Frustrated with my ineptness, I left it plain, as Claire’s is. The rest went together very easily, as all JP’s patterns do.
I had to do my cheater method with the front closure using grommets. I can’t do a lot of heavy-duty hand-stitching so I put grommets first in using a grommet setter, then overcast those by hand with navy blue embroidery thread. It took a lot of thread because the brass metal wanted to show through. I remembered last time I did this, I used a black Sharpie pen and colored over the brass. Now I find out there may actually be black grommets. If they come in this “OO” size I may have to get some, but I’m thinking she may have meant regular eyelets, not these. 

I finished sewing my jacket last week, and I made the stomacher (middle insert) with a brownish-gold upholstery fabric, using the pattern piece from the Butterick 8161 pattern. I liked the rounded bottom instead of the pointed one the JP Ryan pattern has that I used for my last white and blue short jacket.  In the TV series, Claire’s was rounded, so, there you go. 

Today I laced some dark navy blue ribbon through the grommets using my fantastic bodkin I bought from the Silly Sisters sutler years ago in Fredericksburg. Sadly, they don’t seem to have a website anymore.  These are thick rounded needles with large eyes that a ribbon can fit through and make it through those grommet holes. Makes it soooo much easier to lace yourself in. The Clover company has one but it looks thicker than mine.
And voila, we have a wearable outfit. 

I tried it all on the other day with the bum pad under the back. Umm, no, just no. Then I tried it with my bum roll. Again, WHY would I want to make my hips look bigger, and overall look bigger? If I was as skinny as a twig, it might work. Maybe it just takes some getting used to. Or maybe not.
Next up, I cut out a fine cotton voile kerchief to go around my neckline, which I think I’ll do some hand hemming on it. Since I don’t sew on my machine much at night, I like having some handwork to do. I found a couple diagrams for making different shapes on a blog. I’d love the curved neck one but for expediency, I just went with the common triangle. 

I measured 35” down the length of my voile per the diagram, tore it, folded it in half to make a triangle, pressed and then used that press line to cut the square into two triangles. An oops discovered the next day: I didn’t take into account the LONGER width of the fabric (42” after washing/shrinking) so it’s not a perfect 35” square. But I can’t even tell by looking at it now. I turned a narrow 1/4-inch hem on the edges and did a tiny straight stitch along the edges. Looking mighty fine. 
HAIR! Now we must have hair!   My wig: EEK! It’s a big mass of curls. Massive. Curls.
It must become THIS. But I’m no good at doing hair. I can barely make a ponytail and that’s it. So, I’m taking it to my wig lady and going to beg for help.  *Update- picking up my wig today on Thursday. She’s going to put it on me and see if it needs any tweaks.*
**Edited to add- I just picked up my wig and I LOVE IT!**
After this Saturday, I’ll have some photos of me wearing this, along with many other people in their Cosplay get-ups, whatever they decide to do. With the theme was very wide, there’s a lot of ideas out there.
**EDITED TO ADD** These are two photos from the Walkabout. The group photo was taken by Jerry of Zenfolio. 

                                      Hey, wake up there! We’ve got work to do, Chloe!