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.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

1905 Directoire Striped Gown

Back in 2013 I started a dress that started with a small photo from a fashion magazine labeled 1905 Directoire, and I began trying to make it. Trying, because I had to find patterns that I could use and alter to do it.  I had a striped fabric in mind when I went shopping in the LA Garment District and found one, a lightweight upholstery fabric that looked exactly like what was in my head.  It was olive green with brown and gold stripes, the stripes being what I was primarily looking for.
 **Fast-forward to 2016 and I could have used this pattern I bought from VPLL, although it is 1897, but that’s what we have Franken-patterning for. And yes, among costumers, that is a word, although my Spell Check doesn’t think so.**
I began pulling ideas for it from other photos and fashion prints, which is actually my favorite part of planning a dress.

At some point I thought I might make it as this green dress with a full bodice but in the end, didn’t have enough to do the sleeves, and couldn’t find any more of the fabric in the Garment District. So I went back to my vest plan. This dress however is still in my MAKE THESE file. 
The skirt was the easy part. I’d used Truly Victorian’s Edwardian skirt pattern, #TV E22, before and knew the stripes would make a great chevron pattern down the front. I sewed that up right away. Again I was asked later how I got those stripes to make that chevron pattern. I didn’t. The pattern did. When I laid out the fabric, I made sure the stripes matched along the edges of the selvedge, and that’s it. It’s cut on the bias and when you sew that front seam, that’s what it does. Awesome, isn’t it? And it’s a very flattering line.  
Now the problem was how to do that crossover vest. I first thought of trying to use this EvaDress pattern 1900 blouse but then remembered this Past Patterns #3973 tunic pattern I had that I could use w/o the overskirt portion.

 That seemed to be going to work and it was simple. I also wanted some contrasting trim on it to finish the edges, so did a dark brown binding of silk taffeta. It also didn’t fit me as low as the drawing, and was a lot longer. And yes, the problem could have been solved in making a muslin but hey, it was just a vest. What could go wrong? 

Next I started on my blouse. Again, looking at various ideas.

I had bought some accordion-pleated cream silk voile for the blouse and started cutting it out from the TV E 41 pattern that I was going to alter the sleeves on, but it kept stretching and I threw it into a bag and back on the shelf.
That’s about as far as the dress got done in 2013. Every once in a while, I looked at it, and last year thought maybe I should finish it. I even got a hat made just for it by a friend. It was inspired by another’s friend’s hat she’d made. Gina from Beauty from Ashes  made this pretty one for her Mom and I loved the turned up edge with lace fabric around it. 
My hat was made from scratch with a lovely ivory lace fabric and Dupioni bow, and should have inspired me to finish the dress. But it sat on top of my hat boxes taunting me for another year because I again didn’t get the dress finished.
 Finally, in April of 2016, while “planning” my wardrobe for the August Costume College, I said now was the time. It was soooo close to being done. But I decided I would make the blouse from a different pattern and fabric that was easier to handle. I had a Swiss dot ivory cotton voile, and came across this pattern that would be perfect to make my blouse.

I don’t care that this pattern says that it’s 1899, it’s not. The pigeon breast, dipped waist and sleeves make it about 1905. But it would need some scaling up for me, and I suddenly ran out of time to do much with it. I was also working on three others dresses. That darn squirrel.
If you’re interested in that pattern further, you can purchase it from The Vintage Pattern Girl on etsy.                                                                              
And Jennifer from Historical Sewing shows how she made hers from it.  After reading that again, I may just give it another try one of these days.

But then I pulled out the Ziplock bag that had the previous blouse ALL CUT OUT, and decided GO FOR IT! If it stretched and looked wonky while I was sewing it, it was a loose blouse that probably wouldn’t show it. Except, it sewed a lot easier than I expected, and even though it was very sheer, it handled fairly well. The buttonholes were a bit snaggy though. But hey, they’re tiny. I used some very tiny antique shell buttons I had from an Aunty. Once it was sewn I added some rows of lace I either bought in the Garment District, or if memory serves, from a seller in the Costume College Marketplace. I also sewed it around the collar and cuffs. As you can see, it’s quite sheer. To save time making a new corset cover, I used my ruffled one I’d made from Truly Victorian. My little Edwardian brooch went with it perfectly too. 

Next up were the buttons on the vest and the decorative ones on the shoulders. I just bought some from JoAnn’s, being in a time crunch. They looked like brown leather.
I put it on to mark the buttons and this is where something decided it didn’t want to cross over to my left without being wonky. And in that, I mean bad baggy. When I have it on, it’s not quite as baggy as that lower section is because I have the fluffiness of the ruffled corset cover to fill it out. But you can see how the front is much longer than the pattern drawing shows. When I started the pattern, I thought that excess was the pigeon breast pouch but it didn’t want to do that. So I took a tuck into the waistband to make it a bit shorter. It doesn’t look really great on my dress form since it’s longer waisted than I am.  

I’m thinking at some point I might want to cut down the top of it and make the opening lower. But who am I kidding? This already took 2 years and so far, I think it looked quite nice in the final outcome. I added a brown silk rose to the front of the hat to pull it all together, and wore my antique leather purse that hangs by a small chatelaine to my waistband. I was wearing my cream American Duchess Gibson shoes but with all the walking and nervousness about getting up on stage at the CoCo Friday Social and being announced as the next Assistant Dean, my feet were killing me. So I took them off. And I walked on stage holding up my shoes. Hey, Lauren! It was free advertising!

One thing I’m learning from dresses I make each year to wear to events: I’m always going to want to alter or edit it afterwards. I rush to finish it and something won’t be right.
However, I did make one dress this year that I don’t want to change a thing on it. My 1870s tea gown.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

A Peek at Costume College 2016

I didn’t take many photos during Costume College this year, mainly because I was talking to people all the time and kept getting distracted. I also kept forgetting to hand my camera/cell phone to someone to take MY photo too. So I only have a couple unless others pop up on the internet someday. The story of my life. I usually take tons of photos to add to my Caught on Camera display we have there each year. Next year I will be almost totally dependent on what people send me. 
My main excuse? When it was announced I would be the Assistant Dean for Costume College in 2017, which means Dean in 2018, I talked to a lot of people. I have a year to learn how to do this. The position is only for a year, and no, it’s not paid as a friend asked me. Costume College is a costume conference run by costumers. They learn from each other, and the classes are taught by other costumers. All positions are volunteer, and I just wrote an article on that which is on their website.
Besides my brain going into a vortex about this, it also went into overdrive of all the ideas I have for my theme for 2018. I had to first decide what Bonus Track Classes will be in next year’s curriculum and was given a short period of time (one day) to choose that. I told everyone since I was a historical costumer, of course my theme would revolve around that. Earlier I was reminded to make it all-inclusive of the different genres that attend CoCo. So my Bonus Track Classes that will be mixed into next year’s selections will be “Understructures of the Costume”. This will include underpinnings but also structures used to hold or support the costume, whether it be hoops, armor or wings. My main theme for 2018 is barely fluttering in my head but I have a year to work on that.
I started out with five dresses I planned on wearing to CoCo this year but just days before, I whittled it down to three. Once I knew what and when the classes were scheduled that I wanted to go to, and matched that up with the events, I decided I didn’t have time to be switching out of one costume to another. And I’m glad I did because the one day I wore one all day I was exhausted by that evening with all the running around.

My first costume was my 1905 Directoire green and brown striped dress with a pleated silk voile blouse. I used this photo as my inspiration, and it evolved as it went along. 
The next day since I was running from class to class, and also teaching my class on digital patterns, I chose to wear street clothes and then changed into my 1897 Fuschia dress for the Gala Red Carpet. I had no really good photos of it, mostly blurry but the one decent one shows me the sleeves REALLY need to have an under-support. It was a very lightweight cotton voile, and I wasn’t able to do the puffy sleeve portion of it since I didn’t have enough of the embroidered lace I’d used. I do have plenty of the fabric so I may completely re-do the sleeves, And so far I have no photo of the front of the bodice that had the gorgeous lace lapels on it. I did wear my first tiara though.

I always seem to have one favorite dress each year, and this time it was my 1870s tea gown I wore to the Sunday Breakfast and during the rest of the day. It wasn’t quite as warm as I expected. It’s a beautiful plum color but dang, we look like midgets wearing them. I guess because of no waistline. I’m 5-4 but look like 4ft in these photos.  I also wore my new petticoat I made the day before I left, but you could only see it when I walked. 

I will be writing a blog for each outfit when I have time. I’m still getting used to the 300 emails a day that come with being “involved” with Costume College, most of that being every single comment people make on the posts on the Facebook pages. But after 8 days it’s starting to slow down. That's why you're getting this today. 

I mentioned the classes I went to: on the first day I took “Fashions of the Great War Period (1914-1918)”, followed by “Accessorizing Your ‘Teens & Twenties”, then “Designing for the Era-1890s & Edwardian”. These are my favorite type of classes: lectures on the styles of the eras. I like the education and seeing photos from people who know what they’re talking about. I still need a lot of education. My final class would have been “Creating a PowerPoint Lecture and Connecting to a Projector”. I’ve already been using PowerPoint for my classes but just with some basic information, and wanted to learn more. But I got into a conversation with someone, had to get lunch, and then suddenly found out I’d missed it. Fortunately, the teacher said she will email me her handout.
I took a couple photos during classes but due to lighting, they’re not always great. This was in Heather & Laura McNaughton’s class, “Designing for the Era-1890s & Edwardian”.
The next morning, I got up late and missed my 9am class, “Millinery Mockups” (yeah, I know) and then had to work the Information Desk. I got a little busy there too and missed another class, “From Boteh to Paisley” (I heard that was great). I made it to “A Fortnight in 1916”, where Leimomi Oakes (The Dreamstress ) shared how she spent time living as she would have during 1916. She even brought us chocolate all the way from New Zealand. 

A short time later I taught my class on Conquering the Digital Patterns but I failed to again ask someone to take a photo of me. Oh well, it wasn’t as if I was dressed all fancy.
On Sunday I took all of Lauren Stowell’s (“American Duchess” ) classes on the 18th century. At the crack of dawn, 9am, was How to Hack the Simplicity Outlander patterns (which I have, and have become a fan of the Outlander series). She is still planning a blog video on this because it’s a lot of details to go into just in a lecture. But what stuck out for me was picking earth-tones for the lower & middle classes dresses, try for something other than tartan (I was corrected to call it tartan or tartan plaid, rather than plaid) and try for some of the middle to upper classes dresses using the pattern. Of course I said I wanted to make a tartan since I NEVER get to wear tartan. So that was ok. She shared her floofy day cap she wears under her hat - and that the gowns definitely need the bum pad or hip pads. I had her show what shoes she was wearing and they were very much like my Burnley & Trowbridge ones but her’s were red.

For more pretties from the series, check out Frock Flicks posts on Season 1 and Season 2 of Outlander.
If you want it all, this was my search for any reference to Outlander there.
I took this photo of one of the ladies in the classroom while admiring her bodice, and realized JUST NOW that this is Gloria from “In the Long Run”.  I *knew* Gloria while I was on LiveJournal (a precursor to Facebook) and have seen her skills grow over the years. I’m sorry I didn’t recognized her at the time and asked if she remembered me from my LJ blog, “ChloeandRudy”.
 I ran into Lauren a bit later before her next class, “Accessorizing Your 18th C Wardrobe”, when we both had a chance to sit down and rest, and chat. Isn’t this beautiful, with all its accessories?
The final class I took that day was Lauren’s “Creating a Miss Fisher Wardrobe (1920s/30s)”. It was mostly for my friend who couldn’t attend but I enjoyed it too, as I love the series also but don’t want to wear the clothes as much. Due to the lighting I wasn’t able to take photos from her screen images but thought the color chart for Cool & Warm Colors was worth trying to photograph.

Lauren already has her notes from this class up on her blog.
So that’s it! I missed out on so many classes I wanted to go to but you can’t do it all unless you don’t plan to eat, sleep, or even rest. And when you throw chat sessions into the mix, or shopping, you just miss out on some. I came away with more inspiration, as I always do, and plans on fixing up a couple things I made.

**I forgot to add what I bought in the CoCo Marketplace. A couple of the new Truly Victorian Edwardian patterns, some blue floral brocade coutil for a 1910 corset, silk ribbon flowers and green leaf tendril for a hat, a vintage lace collar, vintage brown feathers, & an antique black trim piece. 

Came home to my sweet Chloe, who was still recovering from her bout of respiratory infection and MRSA. She’s as skinny as a rail but we’re getting the fat back on her.