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.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

When You Can’t Cut & Sew, You Plan

As mentioned in my last post, even though I was hobbled by a foot problem, I was still getting some sewing done as long as I could sit and do it. And my brain also was not resting. Can we say CADD? That’s Costume Attention Deficit Disorder, a familiar state of mind to many costumers. The designers/planners in us get carried away. 
Taking a look around my sewing room (& bedroom in the corners) I currently have piles I’m working on that include some more Regency reticules I cut out; an 1860s wrapper that since I worked on it some more, now I only need to hem it; a partially cut 1912 dress that I still haven’t found the lace fabric I want to do the neckline so it’s at a standstill. And new things are added to the pile: I finally found a dress from 1885 that I could use the 4 yds of Chinese black & gold brocade my neighbor had given me. But I was out of black silk taffeta to start cutting it. Gahh!! I’m in the mood!! I want to cut fabric!!

Fortunately, a couple days ago after taking mega-doses of Advil + Tylenol and wearing my shoes with orthotics, the plantar faciitis finally started going away. Enough that I was able to go fabric shopping for the black silk taffeta, including enough to do another dress, an 1880s black & pink princess dress.  Both fabrics were acquired, along with some black beaded lace for the front.

I’m not sure if I can use the Truly Victorian tea gown pattern and alter the neckline but the only other
option I have is to extend a bodice pattern to floor length. I notice each year as we come up on the Fall season that I start leaning towards a lot of black dresses. I haven’t had a chance to figure out just why yet.
You may remember an earlier princess dress I was playing around with and even had the fabric for that. Maybe if I had stayed with navy blue like the original dress instead of jade green, it might have still been more desirable. It's still on the planning board though. But this time of year black always wins over for me. 

And as I usually do while shopping the Garment District in LA, my eyes were grabbed by some pretties. One store was selling out its linen fabrics, the real stuff that wrinkles not the blend, and this rose one came home with me. Since it wasn’t on the planning list at the time, I’m still not sure what it will be, possibly the new Truly Victorian 1912 dress?

Oh, and then this! I found a remnant roll of 13 yds of it in the back room at Home Fabrics, and cheap cheap cheap! It’s 120” wide, curtain fabric in a beautiful golden yellow with darker gold leafy vines going down it. (The photo looks a lot lighter) It made me want to dance! Where have you been all my life? Sadly, it is polyester, but I would never EVER find something like this in expensive fabric. I bought all of it since you’re required to with remnant rolls, thinking I may only need under 6 yards and could sell the rest.
Well, guess what? While trying to fall asleep my brain thought otherwise. It can be an 1810, and an 1820s dress (I haven’t done that time period yet & want a bodice with the tab on the front and belted). Or this 1837 cream & gold striped one.  *Squirrely mind is in control now*

Or maybe this? (1834) See what I have to put up with around here? In fact I often see things I was all fired up to make on my memories on Facebook when they pop up each day. I've taken a second look at some of them and wonder what was I thinking? Or on the other hand, why haven't I made THAT yet? 
So on my way home from L.A. with visions of sugar plums dancing in my…… Oops wrong season. With visions of new dresses, we remembered a fabric store near Disneyland that our friend Trudy had mentioned that had tons of cotton fabric. So a quick side trip ensued. M&L Fabrics is at 3430 W.Ball Rd, west of I-5, just a couple miles farther west of Disneyland. It’s open every day of the week. OMG, it’s HUGE, like a warehouse!! Rows and rows of cotton bolts, mostly $5.99-$7.00 yd but then the other half of the store is tables upon tables of flat folded 100% cottons, flannels, white cottons, at $1.99 yd. We saw lots of pretty ones that could be 1850s, 1860s, and later 1930s-60s. I would also say this is a quilter’s heaven. There were some shelves with folds of satin too, and in the back room, there was some cheaper stuff, upholstery fabrics, leathers, and polyesters.  I bought some nice soft white cotton for some Edwardian combinations, $2.99 yd, but I didn’t need anything else at this time.
I only remembered to take photos of one half of the store while we were in line, and forgot to take some of the rest as we were leaving. We were a little bit excited.

So now my sewing is going forward again with the black brocade dress, which I’ve started with Truly Victorian #462 Tail Bodice pattern with the square neckline (no tail). I’ll be using #263 Trained Skirt pattern for the skirt and put the panel of brocade down the front of it. I’m going to cut out a pattern to do the brocade trim on the front of the bodice and see if I can cut strips of it to do the trim around the hem of the skirt. I’m hoping it’s not too heavy for the taffeta. 

 I’m still considering how to do the sleeves; brocade or black taffeta with brocade trim? The fabric used on the bodice trim almost looks like a sheer lace. But I’ll go ahead with the brocade and hope it’s not too heavy.
 Of course the minute I get up from my chair to get fabric, my chair gets hijacked.



  1. I feel you on the costume ADD! I'm stuck between 1830s and 1890s myself, even though what I'm working on is fantasy for Halloween :p

    And that black and pink princess dress is absolutely stunning! My inner high school goth desperately wants that dress!

    1. Ok, maybe there's a bit of closet goth in me? That might explain the whole draw to black dresses and mourning. Hmm...

  2. I love everything you have planned! I can't wait to live vicariously through all of your sewing adventures. I don't have enough time to go to work, don't they know I have costumes to make?! Can I retire yet? LOL!

    1. Shannie, I can so relate. While I was still working I was lucky to make one dress a year. After I retired, that became my life goal, and now I'm at about 4-5. Use that time to learn as much as you can.


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