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.


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!