Tag Archives: Costume College

Costume College – Day 4 and the Fabric District

13 Jan

Sunday brought the last day of classes for Costume College. I got up rather early in the morning and made it down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast before they were open. I did not dress up for Sunday Undies as I deemed my morning as too busy to don a bustle and corset thru classes. I was joined for breakfast by a Seattle costumer I had met last year, Denise and had a very relaxing breakfast ogling everyone elses undergarments. After breakfast I rushed off to check out the Bargain Basement and claimed a few trinkets and fabric for future projects.

My first class of the day was Tasteful Tints and Textures presented by the ladies of Truly Victorian Patterns. I have come to love their patterns and was excited to hear what they had to say. The class was very informative about the “rules” of Victorian clothing and had a lot of detail(they should write a book!). My costumes are always a little bit to the left of historical accuracy so I didn’t go into it with any expectations. In some ways that can be the best way to learn. And boy did I! The history is fascinating. These ladies really know their stuff! I will definitely sit in on any future classes they teach.

After that I sat in on History of Corsets. Obviously I already have a pretty good understanding of corset history but I wanted to see if I could add anything to my prep for my Geek Girl Con corsetry panel (more on that in a future post). I actually learned a lot especially about pre-victorian corsetry. I haven’t done a lot of renaissance costuming so I got a lot of great info about that era and the beginnings of boned bodices.

The purple puff is the start of my chatelaine and the black flower is a kanzashi flower.

The purple puff is the start of my chatelaine and the black flower is a kanzashi flower.

The afternoon had two of my limited classes – Kanzashi Flowers and Ribbon Chatelaines. The Kanzashi flowers class was very fun, easy and a great way to spend a few hours and socialize with other people. I will certainly make more flowers in the future and they are easy enough that I dont think I will forget how. The Chatelaines class was less social but very interesting. I have always wanted a chateliane and was excited about having one without spending hundreds of dollars on a sterling one. Unfortunately I ended up leaving early because I started feeling terrible. I think it was a lack of sleep because I went back to my room and passed out for several hours. I figured staying in my room and resting was a good idea given the fabric district tour was the next day.


Vendor room gloves, trim, buttons and paint.

Now the fun part! Pictures of my treasures from the vendor room, bargain basement and the fabric district. The trip to and around the fabric district was fairly uneventful. I spend most of the day with Rebecca and occasionally with a few others I had met on the way. Its really nice to have a few people to follow around who know the area better. I went down with a little bit of a list and of course got a bunch of unexpected things.

In the Vendor room I got more fabulous metal buttons, a few bunches of random ribbon and trim, a nice pair of gloves suitable for Victorian and 20th century day wear and some shoe paint. I am excited to try the paint but of course need to find the right project.


Bargain basement trim, trinkets and buttons.

From the bargain basement I found a few trinkets, buttons, beads and ribbon as well two bundles of fabric. For the blue checks I have a 1940’s simple day dress in mind. The floral (I think its chintz but I am not very good with fabrics) I saw as a mid to late 18th century polonaise dress. I couldn’t pass it up. I think there are 8 yards of it and I ended up paying about $1 a yard. I need to do more research since 18th century is not my era.


Bargain basement fabrics. Is that chintz?more research on that one. Its not generally my era but I have definitely been inspired recently by other costumers.


My fabric district haul.


The silk haul

This year I had the fore thought to bring half loaded suitcases down to LA with me knowing a I would need the room after I hit up the fabric district. And I was right. I went with a short list including more black and chartreuse silk. They were out of the taffeta of the chartreuse but had the dupioni, so another 10 yards of silk came home. I also brought home a yard each of purple silk velvet and purple charmeuse.


Pewter and white cotton

I did come home with a few practical pieces. I found a yard of pewter cotton satin for lining whatever I make out of that pewter silk I got earlier in the year. I bought I think 10 yards of a light weight white cotton for $1 a yard to use for mock ups. I also found the quilting fabric I used for my tree skirt and Christmas stockings (the skulls and roses). I can find it locally but way more expensive.


Green and black wool. Its much darker in person


Umbridge silk

My impulse buys are a little more random. I had a vague idea for a German renaissance costume and founds some light weight hunter green wool for a decent price and bought 5 yards (hopefully its enough). I also fell in love with some pink silk suiting. Rebecca came up with an idea to do bustle gowns for the Harry Potter teachers and I quickly claimed Umbridge. The silk suiting really says Umbridge to me. Sadly there are less than 3 yards. Not sure how I am going to make it work yet. I also found the pink plaid as a back up for Umbridge in case I cant find something better. It might also become a 40’s dress.


The cottons: Umbridge plaid, Christmas quilting fabric and swiss dot for a regency dress.

I also found some black Swiss dot which I absolutely love. I have been wanting to make another Regency dress but not white. It seemed the Swiss dot would be perfect and not scream mourning dress. Very excited for this project.


The fabric district trim. Its amazing how cheep trim is down there.

I bought some beautiful black trim that I just couldn’t resist. I ended up getting 23 yards for $20 cash which was a way better deal than getting the 10 yards I wanted. Ah well. The pink trim I bought with the intention for using it for Umbridge but I am not sure its quite right. The smaller black is just plain upholstery trim that in Seattle is $4-5 a yard but I got for under $1 a yard. Its always good to have some basic trim on hand.

That evening I had dinner with a few ladies I had talked to on the bus ride back. Then spent an uneventful night in my room packing up.

I think that covers it. I flew home on Tuesday morning with bags stuffed to the gills. I am so looking forward to next year and all the projects in between.


Costume College – Day 3

20 Aug

Saturday brought an early morning. Up for breakfast and straight into Jennifer Rosebrugh’s (of Historical Sewing.com) Sleeve Fitting for Victorian Bodices class. I learned SO much in this class! I have hacked my way thru self drafted sleeves many times but the fit has not been perfect. Its been a sore spot for some time. I learned 2 critical rules or tips that I will absolutely note forget. 1 – the snugger the fit of the arm pit area the more movement. This is absolutely contrary to every modern plus sized pattern from the big 4. So often pattern companies (even some small ones) just enlarge a pattern instead of properly grading a pattern up. Even if it is properly graded modern ideas of ease make for huge uncomfortable arms-eyes. Now I know how to check the patterns fit in this area BEFORE I even start cutting out the pattern. In reality I knew how to do this before but now it has completely sunk in. Sometimes you just need someone to come up with the words to explain what you already know. The 2nd rule I took away was – start the decorative details of the sleeve after the break point. My notes describe the break point as just above the muscle on the arm. Jennifer went into great detail about the terminology used drafting a sleeve, most of which I could not regurgitate for you. Having never taken a true pattern drafting class most of this was new. Over all the class showed me how much I actually do understand but how much I still have to learn. I am certainly a bit excited to draft a new sleeve pattern for myself! And if I see a pattern drafting class offered some where I should probably take it.


Marie Antoinette en chemise, portrait of the queen in a “muslin” dress, by Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun

Next up was La Chemise a la Reine presented by Sarah Lorraine. I periodically read her blog (modehistorique.com)  and knew she was presenting a class about her research. 18th century costume is not currently my passion so I knew very little about a Chemise a la Reine, just what I had scanned from her blog.  I had no idea how much Marie Antoinette was rebelling against the system or why and what part this dress had to play in that rebellion. I loved that the presentation was mostly paintings and art history. Sometimes I forget how much I love art history. Over all the story that Ms Lorraine is telling about this garment is enthralling. Or maybe its her excitement is catching. I understand why people love the era and I might come around soon. I was very sad I had to leave before the end of her presentation but I needed a lunch break before my first limited class.

The ribbon techniques I learned.

The ribbon techniques I learned.

Limited classes at CoCo, I am learning, are hit and miss. My first one of this year, Victorian Ribbon Work by Sandra Durbin, was kind of middle of the road. I loved her as a teacher, very fun and encouraging. The class over all was an intro class and went by so fast. I walked away with several good techniques I can use to trim future projects. I am sure I could learn all of it from a book but sometimes you need a teacher to build confidence. Plus the teacher was very fun and different.

After the ribbon class it was time to get ready for the evening Gala. I had arranged to go to a restaurant off sight with Rebecca Maiten and some of her friends that I did not know. I wore my very simple maroon early regency dress. My plan of wearing something simple and not getting stopped for too many photos worked. The red carpet experience still terrifies me a little  but the simplicity of dress made the evening far more pleasant. Over all I am very pleased with the dress. Its comfortable and reasonably flattering. I love the jewelry I made (my first real attempt at jewelry making) and the shawl. My hair was AMAZING! Totally worth the time to do pin curls the night before. I had made a set of transitional short stays and BOOOOOO! by the end of the night they were digging into my back. In the trash they go! Hopefully the true regency stays I am working on fit better.

Rebecca had gathered a large group of ladies who opted to eat at an Italian restaurant across the street. Rebecca looked fabulous in her court gown and we all made quiet a spectacle walking over there. After dinner another spectacle as we walked back and then to the photo studio for pictures. I stopped in at the Gala to see some of the costumes but the stays were starting to bother me so I called it a night.  Over all it was a very pleasant evening with some lovely ladies (whose names I sadly don’t really remember). But the best part of the night? Taking those bloody stays off!

Costume College – Day 2

20 Aug

Friday brought the first day of classes. I had picked up my registration packet the day before and had planned my classes for the day.

First up was Dust Ruffles and Dress Shields presented by Bobbie Kalben (who I had visited the Huntington with). The class was mostly images of extant gowns and period advertisements. I learned a lot about a very specific element of Victorian dress making.  Likely I will be able to incorporate some of this info into future dresses.

Next was a hands on class on making Leather Thimbles. I hate metal thimbles and have been looking for something for a number of years. The class was interesting and I walked away with a prototype thimble which will work well for me with a few adjustments.

I sat in on the first half of the Hand-bound Eyelets class. Didnt learn much but its always nice to realize your technique is what other people are doing. I did get the name Hedgehog Handworks as a source for quality tools and supplies.

Slytherian bustle CoCo

Photo by Rebecca Maiten

The last class of the day for me was on modeling for photos. I am terrible at having my picture taken and last year at CoCo really overwhelmed me with the amount of photos and photographers. The really frustrating part is that because I am so awkward in photos my costumes look terrible. The class was directed at people exactly like me. The teacher had some great tips about posture and more importantly attitude. Obviously the way you feel will reflect in your photos. Its such a hard thing to remember when you are filled with anxiety about photos. I did learn a lot but the hands on section of the class filled me with dread. I had to leave. I am never good with group activities. However I think enough sank in that over time I will be come a little more comfortable.

After classes it was time to get ready for the Ice Cream Social. Because of the Saturday night Red Carpet experience last year was so over whelming, I planned this year to my more impressive costume on Friday night and a more subdued costume on Saturday. So, Friday was the Slytherian Bustle Costume. I am very pleased by the finished costume and I received a bunch of compliments. Apparently the color was very impressive. I was able to use some of the info I learned in the modeling class in the numerous photos I stopped for. Some of them turned out pretty well.

Slytherian bustle CoCo 2

Photo by Rebecca Maiten Featuring Adi Harris petting my arm

The Ice Cream Social was ok over all. I talked to a handful of people I didnt know and a few people I had met last year. And of course I saw some BEAUTIFUL costumes. Unfortunately I dont take pictures. I know – shame on me. However a quick Flickr search turns up a bunch if you are interested.

Over all it was a good start to a great weekend.

Costume College – Day 1

19 Aug

I left Seattle early Thursday morning. A few weeks prior a local costumer attending CoCo, Bobbie, suggested a group trip to the Huntington Library on the Thursday before CoCo. Bobbie was amazingly kind and picked me up from the airport so that I could join the Huntington trip. I had no idea what I was in for and boy was I surprised. I had never heard of the Huntington. When we arrived it was excruciatingly hot and I couldn’t find my sunscreen. First stop was the gift shop where I found a teal paper parasol, a lovely addition to my collection.

Our next stop was the American Galleries. Bobbie had made reservations for tea at the Rose Garden Tea Room so we had only 45 minutes or so. The museum is beautiful. I was able to see just a little of the 18th and 19th century collection and most of the 20th century collection. The pop art (a favorite of mine) was ok. A few fun pieces. However the 1920s-40s stuff was amazing. I don’t know much about Social Realism but it certainly sparked an interest. They had several paintings by Charles White which were very evocative. They also had a painting I loved of a early American carnival with a fat lady attraction in the foreground. It also featured a “Men Only” tent of dancing girls and large crowds. I wish I took note of the artist. I have always been fascinated by early carnivals and side show acts especially how they related to human sexuality and the historical roll of women. Depictions of fat women in art are not too common and certainly not the severely obese women who became side show attractions.

The Rose Garden Tea Room serves a lovely buffet style tea. There were 6 of us mostly from Seattle. It was a great opportunity to get to know people I had met in passing. It was also a welcome refuge from the heat.

After tea Bobbie and I headed to the Huntington Art Gallery housed in the Huntington Mansion. When entering the gallery, there is a portrait of Arabella Huntington. A.HuntingtonI LOVE this painting and the more I discover about this woman the more I love her. The story goes that she requested the artist repaint her portrait because she wanted to be depicted as she really was, wrinkles and glasses and all. I love that! Clearly she was feisty woman.

The Huntington Gallery is FULL of amazing art work. Most of it is 18th century but some Renaissance and early 19th century. The beauty of visiting a museum with costumers is the conversation! I learned so much and enjoyed wandering around with such interesting ladies. It was a wonderful experience to hear bits of history, construction ideas, and general awe of the beautiful portraits. The Thornton Portrait Gallery especially had us all enrapture.

The portraits were amazing but my favorite was a small collection of Albert Durer prints. I have always admired his work but to see it in person is astounding. The details on such a small scale is impressive. I am also drawn to his dark subject matter.However I did note his depiction of women is a bit masculine. I’m sure their have been several papers written on it.

We had to pick up speed so we could visit the actual library before we left. This is when it hit me how HUGE this place really was. The library looked like a giant vault from the outside which isn’t far off. A curator said the collection includes over 6 million books. The library has a small display of the important books in the collection. I love books and more than that I love old books. The highlight of the entire visit was a complete Shakespeare’s First Folio. I had never seen one before. It was so exciting I almost started crying. I have been reading Shakespeare since I was 12 and it was the reason I started doing theater and costume design. It was very exciting! They also had a Gutenberg Bible and several Twain letters and first editions. I wish more books were available. Someday maybe I will be qualified to do research in the library. Maybe. Someday.

In order not to get stuck in horrendous traffic we had to leave the Huntington earlier than any of us would have liked. We made a quick stop at the gift shop on the way out. Museum gift shops are great places to find research books. This time I struck out as far as costume resources. I did get a kids art book for my son and a couple postcards of Arabella Huntington. Her portrait will have a place of honor in my sewing room.

The ride to the hotel was full of delightful conversion with Bobbie. After that, I had a quiet night in my hotel room, getting unpacked and some quick sewing projects.

The Countdown to Costume College

3 Jul

When I was a kid I always loved advent calendars. Each December my grandma would give my brother and I those little cardboard ones with the chocolates inside. I loved hunting for the correct date, the sound of the cardboard and plastic as I opened it and the shaped chocolate hidden inside. Each day that went by came with a treat. The passing of time, as we eagerly awaited Christmas, was exciting, something to look forward to. Oh how things change when you reach adulthood.

Time is ticking away. The count down to Costume College is flying by. Much like Christmas, as a child, I am very eager to get to the end. But oi vay do I have so much to do. I have been working diligently whenever I can. I’m actually pretty proud of my focus and dedication. No (ok almost no) procrastination in this camp! However my main issue has been not enough time. Life events, big and small, keep getting in the way.

Slytherian bustle back

Slytherian bustle back

Each week I get 2 days to myself to sew, clean house and do anything else I can’t do with my toddler around. 16 hours a week of badly needed quiet and solitude. It’s amazing how desperate you become for silence when you have a little kid around all the time. I end up with about 12 -14 hours of actual sewing time. Some days I get so much done in those precious hours. Other days I have just started when it’s time to stop. Over the past month I have also lost a few days to other projects. We are new home owners and predictably have a long list of house projects. One week it was new floors. The next new bookcases and deep cleaning away the dust from the floors. The next week a no school day for my son.  I’ve lost 5 days of sewing time in the past month. No wonder I feel so behind.

Slytherian side bustle

Slytherian side bustle

I have managed a lot of progress however. At night I have been hand sewing my Regency era stays. On sewing room days I have been working on my Slytherian bustle dress. Its coming along beautifully. Underskirt and over skirt need hand sewing only. The bodice is together save sleeves and I am currently working on trim (a mix of machine and hand sewing). I did make a goal this year of hand sewing as much as I could and I stuck to it however if has greatly increased the time needed for finishing work.

For the underskirt I used my grand bustle skirt pattern I developed last year and altered it to fit tightly over the bustle frame. I dont have enough fabric for a flowing skirt and wanted a more tailored look all around. Attached to that are 2 rows of box pleated ruffles. The over skirt is based on the Truly Victorian 1886 Asymmetrical Drape (TV382) with some alterations. I put a cut in the center back and pulled up edges to create a mini butterfly look.


Slytherian Bodice Front

For the bodice I used my bodice pattern from the Frolicking costume with some additions. I found an image of the Ageless Patterns 1887 Corsage Vest and loved the lines. I try not to copy peoples work as much as possible but I knew if I bought the pattern it would not help me more than if I just made it myself. So after a quick mock up I moved on to the bodice. To my frustration I discovered I do not have enough fabric for the bodice and the sleeves. So right now the sleeves are on hold while I brainstorm some alternatives.

Slytherian Bodice Back

Slytherian Bodice Back

Shortly I will need to make some other decisions. The Slytherian bustle has a number of hours left but I believe I will have enough time to complete another ensemble before Costume College. Not a huge one but something. I would like to do a non Victorian project but what?!? On my list of goals is a full Regency ensemble but do I have enough time? I still have a lot of work on the stays and would need to do the chemise, petticoats and gown plus accessories. I had intended to do an open robe so that is a 2 part gown. What to do? Whatever the decision I know I have to use stash fabric. I do have that pewter silk which I am thinking is right for a Georgian gown but would need to research and design it. I have also recently been lured by Renaissance designs especially German. Something about the bright wool dresses and bust line is interesting. But I have NO experience in that era. I also love Elizabethan but that is a lot of details. What to do?!? I have to make the decision soon.

A Frolick on a Train

20 May

I finally went to an event! Its only been what 5 months?!?

Sunday we went on an outing to the Northwest Railway Museum with the local steampunk group.  I tend to fit in better with the steampunk crowd because tho I love historical costuming of all sorts, I tend to prioritize flamboyant design over historical accuracy. Being absolutely historically correct would drive me mad. My hat is off to those who can do it. But I digrese… Over all we had a grand time.  It threatened to rain but really only spit on us. Most of the time we were in a covered train car so it wouldn’t have mattered much.  My husband and son went along for the ride.  I managed to get a little bit of costume for the little monster and he had a grand time! With a fit thrown in now and again (he did not want to leave the train!).

I finally wore my Frolicking Suit. It was exceedingly practical for a train outing and very comfortable. Good length, easy on and off and not too cumbersome. I certainly would have been warm had the temperature been higher. It also had been many months since I had worn a corset so that was a bit uncomfortable. I vow to wear one routinely in prep for Costume College. I opted for some very comfortable brown Dr Martins. Over the years I have given up on fancy shoes and go for practical. Beautiful shoes are forbidden candy for this fat lady. Its just not worth the twisted ankles and blisters. The Docs served me well and were not too distracting. On reflection I think tan leather would be more appropriate. I am also debating my glove choice. Tan? Pink? Cream or white? I also think I need a hat. Strike that. I NEED a hat! Maybe I can get to that before costume college. As far as sewing notes I think I need to raise the back of the bustle hem because you cant see the pleating underneath.  Other than that the only mishap was a button that got caught on something and popped off.  Over all I call that a success.

Now to the pictures…


The finished Frolicking Suit! My husband did not notice the branch…


My son and I. As you can see, raising the bustle would be a good idea.


On the train. I actually like this picture of me – chins and all. It really looks like me and I am smiling. Couldn’t ask for more.


The monster does not want to leave the train.