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, April 21, 2019

2019 Port Townsend Victorian Heritage Festival

Here is my delayed report on the Victorian Festival fashion show in Port Townsend, WA, on March 23. I’m still packing for us to move to our new house at the end of April.
The Festival is held every year to celebrate the Victorian history of this small town along the Puget Sound. When the plans for a train coming through fell through in the 1890s, commerce died and the city was almost abandoned. But the remaining Victorian-style buildings along Water Street, and many Victorian homes in the area were left behind.
The Port Townsend Historical Society began this Festival in an effort to bring its Victorian heritage back to life. In the past the events have mainly been indoors, due to inclement weather, and focused on lectures and demonstrations of the town’s history. Over the years, in a change of hands, these events have evolved but one has remained, the fashion show. I have been proud to participate in the fashion show since 2012, and was requested to take it over in 2017 when the previous director retired. With my contacts in the various costume groups in the area, and with the help of Mara Perry, Agnes Gawne, Patricia Francisco, and Julie & Terry Cheetham, of the Puget Sound Costume Guild, we helped raise the bar on the show, and are now considered the biggest draw of the Festival. This year the Festival’s director, Jason Pageau, even tried something different instead of lectures and demonstrations. He set it up as a meet and greet: a social hour the night before, and a garden party the next day. This was due to feedback where people wanted more interaction and less lectures.
The Festival’s theme this year was “The Social Season”, which gave me the inspiration for our fashion show theme, “Victorians in High Society”. My ideas were to show all the fancy dresses and clothing of high society. Except with losing some models in the week preceding, we had to add in some day wear, and a wonderful tea gown.
On Friday night, we attended the Social Hour and were introduced to the “Governor” (Jason Pageau) and his wife, using calling cards we were each given. Beverages and snacks were provided.

The next day was supposed to be a Garden Party in the grass area next to the American Legion Hall, but the weather was being iffy, so they moved it indoors to be a Conservatory Party. Mostly this was just chatting with everyone and a lively introduction to the Language of the Fan was given by Tracy Wirta and Agnes Gawne, which turned into kind of a comedy.

One of the complaints from the visitors was that the busy schedule gave them no time to visit the town, or have lunch and shop. So, there was a break after this until the fashion show at 4pm. So, we all took off to do just that, and our photos were taken as we did that.

See the papered up windows on the right of this photo? That’s the new location of District Fabrics that has just moved to Port Townsend. It’s next to Pippa’s Real Tea shop on Water Street. Sadly, the grand opening was delayed so I didn’t get to visit before I left Washington.

I took advantage of this time and visited the Port Townsend Antique Mall, and afterwards had lunch at my favorite, the Khuh Larb Thai restaurant. I did find one treasure at the antique mall, a piece of silk fabric. I spotted this bright fuchsia silky fabric draped around the shoulders of a mannequin and asked the clerk if it was for sale. She took it off and found a tag for $20, labeled silk. It was even printed on the selvage as silk.  SOLD! There were 4 yards and my mind was already circling around what Edwardian dress I could make using it combined with a solid fabric. This dress from 1912 was suggested to me. Now there’s another reason for me to finish my corset for this time period.

Then I headed back to my room at The Swan Hotel to change into my dress for the fashion show. I had a wonderful cozy room on the bottom floor, which I have marked on my calendar to reserve next year. No more lugging suitcases up 2 or 3 flights of steep stairs! It had a nice outside deck with seating where I could sit and watch the harbor.
Our “stage” for the fashion show at the American Legion Hall was again on floor level, which I must say is THE BEST way to do one. We have a much larger area to walk and can get much closer to the audience so they can see us better. This works especially well, as we had a very large audience and everyone had a good view of us. We’re always hoping for better photos of us in action, and this year we were lucky because my friend, Marilyn Miller, and a member of the Puget Sound Costume Guild, Robert Bergstrom, were both in the audience and took some of the best photos of us.

These are my backstage photos I took as we were waiting to go on.

Agnes Gawne was again our narrator, and we have her model her beautiful dresses too. She wore her copy of an 1820s dress in black velvet from a museum collection. The details were amazing up close. 

First out was Mara Perry, in a fabulous 1890s green Artistic Reform tea gown. A few of us are now drooling to make our own.

Rebecca Maiten first wore her evening version of her 1870s dress, with short sleeves and a lower neckline, which she copied from a museum dress. She wore a daytime bodice later in the show.

Cristal Bailey’s late 1880s evening dress, in a beautiful emerald green dotted fabric, topped off with a fur cape.

Our newest member to our troupe, Francis Classe, was a welcome addition as we like including the gentlemen in the show too. We love men who like to dress up with us and can show off their accessories.

Another pair of new models were Tracy Wirta and Scott Rovanpera, new residents of Port Townsend. Both wore coordinating outfits from the 1870s but we pointed out that men’s clothing didn’t change much so it was good to the 1900s.

I wore my 1837 Pumpkin evening dress with my striped turban. I also gave the audience a peek at my multi-tiered petticoat and quilted petticoat under it, which of course the newspaper, The Leader, chose to take that as my photo in the newspaper.

Patricia Francisco wore her 1904 evening dress of red silk with a exquisite black sequined lace overdress.

Mara Perry came out again wearing her 1890s evening dress. She loves her big puffy sleeves. We both are fans of those.

Rebecca Maiten was our finale, wearing her daytime version of her copy of the early 1870s museum dress. We didn’t get a photo of it during the show but this one was taken outside, and shows her long sleeves of the daytime bodice. It also showed off the true color of her dress.

Every year I hope to have a nice group shot of us but I realize that with our size group, that’s a bit hard. So, sections is all we can hope for. 

Tracy Wirta let us know the Port Townsend newspaper, The Leader, had taken photos and our show made the front page with a full page inside of more photos. They were really cute and made us look like paper dolls. She sent us copies of the paper to keep.

My thanks to photographers Marilyn Miller, Robert Bergstrom, and Svetlana Saitova for these photos I was able to include in my blog. 
The next day a bunch of us met in the Fort Worden park for our annual photo shoot at the barracks and along the water front. I only brought two costumes with me this year and wore my 1870s Red Plaid polonaise but added a new hat for it that I made the week before I flew up to Washington. I used a straw-hat base that I bent up the back, covered the crown in black silk taffeta, and added black lace and ribbons I had. Then basted on some sprigs of white antique berries on both sides from my stash.

Later along the beach we all took photos of each other. I like doing candid ones. I love how these look like paintings. 

We had to do a goofy photo.
 All that worked up an appetite, and we headed over to the Commander’s Beach House for our afternoon tea. This has been our favorite but after 3 years, we’re going to give others a chance to try it since we usually take over the whole room. Next year we’re going to the Old Consulate Inn for their tea. 

I fell in love with these adorable salt & pepper shakers and they’re lucky they didn’t end up in my reticule.
We already have an idea we’re working on for next year’s fashion show to add a surprise to the whole festival. I love it when these inspirations strike.