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.


Thursday, December 12, 2019


I wished I had more to share of completed outfits for my final post of the year but everything I have been working off and on for the past several months are all in a state of incomplete. However, I do want to have a finale post to close out this year. That is unless I suddenly get a wild hare on and finish something or make major progress on one.
As mentioned earlier, my sets of skirts and shirtwaists all just need hemming and a couple more buttonholes. I forgot about the ones on the cuffs. They’re all collecting on my door. Same with my burgundy ‘teens dresses but I’m liking one more than the other so that may win out as getting finished earlier. And since I can wear my Purple Floral Voile bustle in a fashion show in January, I need to finish that one up. I think it just needs its lavender bows on the sides and hemmed (as usual).

I actually started a new project about a month ago, in hopes of having it done for the Riverside Dickens Festival in Feb next year for the fashion show, and possibly wear to the Port Townsend Victorian Festival at the end of March. I’ve been wanting to make an Arsenic Green Dress and hadn’t come across any green fabric that would do it justice, but finally did. It’s a dark Kelly-green Bengaline, a perfect color and weight for it.
And then I started doing my favorite part: digging around on the internet for information on the history of these “killer” dresses, as they were killers. The arsenic used to create this vivid green color started back in Germany in 1814. It infiltrated everything, down to paint, wall paper, and ladies clothing. Unfortunately, it would leech into a lady’s skin and was poisonous. It also affected those painting with it. The color was still being used as late as 1895 when the truth came out about it. There are existing samples of the wall paper and some dresses, and they are still treated as being deadly. 

These are a few of the known extant dresses held in museums containing arsenic in them. Those handling them have to wear gloves and masks even after all these years.

After looking through a few photos of a couple of the extant dresses, I decided I liked the 1872’s ones and am going to try making this one.
The dress is not displayed with the proper hoop/bustle under it, so the skirt is too big. It should look like these; flatter in front, fuller in back. I don’t have a correct one so I’ll be wearing a small hoop with a bum pad on the back.

I found a couple ads showing some beautiful bodices of this date, along with the hoop/bustle worn under the skirts. They also showed skirt shapes, sleeve trims, and hats being worn then. I’m still working on my hat plan.

This Truly Victorian pattern #TV 403 would work well for my bodice, although while making my mock-up, I removed the lapels and won’t be turning up the bottom of the peplum. I still need to find my contrast fabric for the center piece. And I need to hunt around for some fringe for it.
I’m making the skirt with just panels of fabric but the overskirt will need a pattern. Heather from Truly Victorian told me she’s been playing with a pattern for one and this has encouraged her to make it, and I hope its soon but overskirts go together a little quicker.

And this is what I’ve done on it so far. Impressive, right? At least it looks Christmasy.
And speaking of Christmas; the other day I got an inspiration for next year after decorating our new house with lights. We had one night where a group of judges go through the neighborhood and give out award signs for various themes. (Nope, didn’t win). I noticed a lot of my neighbors would sit out in their driveways and offer wine, champagne, and hot chocolate. Yes, they bribe! One had an elf, and that has inspired me to make a Santa suit for myself and next year sit out there and hand out my homemade caramels. Right now is the perfect time to buy the pattern and fabric, so off to JoAnns I went. The Simplicity 2542 pattern was on sale, as was the red faux-suede and white fleece. I want to make the long Santa coat for myself and add some feminine touches to it. I fell in love with the little reindeer pin and will wear it on the neckline. It should be warm to wear outside, and look like a vintage Santa. No beard, I’ll be a Mrs. Santa. I may even be able to wear it to a couple other places, maybe shopping? This project will be sometime next year, maybe when I’m not so busy. Hahah!