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, September 25, 2016


A conversation started up the other day about colors; specifically, the colors we choose for our dresses in costuming. And then a comment on my previous blog about the black and pink dress I was planning, and about her “inner goth” loving it. That, and my wondering why this time of year I start leaning towards wanting to make black dresses made me think more about it. After commenting about it on Facebook, that brought me to pull out all my photos of dresses I’d made in black or primary black. And holy mother of kittens, I’m looking like a closet Goth! 

And even for Halloween I’ve been wearing the full length black robe and hood with a different mask each year.

The question has come up many times in looking at old black & white daguerreotypes, tintypes, and cabinet card photos, whether those dresses were really black. It’s hard to tell. But a good example is this 1851 photo of a mother and two daughters. The dress on the right is in fact this green dress held in the San Diego History Center costume collection. Now it’s fun for me to imagine what color the other dresses actually are.
These two test shots of color swatches in solids and patterned, first in color, then in black and white, shows how different they look. So don't judge a color by it's photo. 
I’m not sure what the draw of wearing black is for me but I think they tend to be elegant, and I love how they contrast with the other colors of my dress and make them stand out. The all-black ones I’ve done, either mourning or my “best black dress” versions, allow me to play with more textures and trimmings that have no distractions from other colors or patterns of fabric with them. I think a “black canvas” works perfectly for that.
Tell me this doesn’t make your fingers itchy to do something like it.

I did my dream fashion show a few years ago when I wrote and directed "One Hundred Years of Mourning Fashion" and included 10-12 of my creative friends to each research and make a mourning dress from a time period of their choice. We presented it at the 2013 Riverside Dickens Faire fashion show, and again at Costume College that year. 

So whether it’s my “inner Goth” as some have called it, or my artistic side, I will keep on making these black themed dresses and be happy about it. Because they do, for some reason, make me happy.

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