What do Dust Ruffles and Dress Shields, Beginning Thermoplastics techniques, Death’s Head Buttons, and Making a Pair of Mechanical Wings have in common? Each is one of the over 150 classes that will be offered at this year’s Costume College, presented by the Costumers Guild West, this July in Woodland Hills, California.

As an avid re-enactor, and dresser-in-Victorian-period-clothing, I have seen small glimpses of Costume College through pictures on various web sites that cater to period attire, but didn’t have any real idea of what transpired there until I ran into a fellow costumer several months ago. She asked if I was planning to attend Costume College as though it were a foregone conclusion that I would be going. When I confessed that I had never been, she launched into paeans of praise for the wonderful classes available. She went into particular detail about a class called “A Pressing Matter”, a two-hour session devoted to – you guessed it – the humble task of ironing. One would hardly guess that such a mundane activity actually has many special tricks of the trade that make all the difference in the appearance of a finished costume. In the end, my own enthusiasm was kindled to attend Costume College myself.

The first great hint my friend provided was the fact that by joining the Costumer’s Guild, I could reduce the “tuition” for the college by more than the membership fee, so I joined. My friend failed to mention the delightful monthly newsletter that accompanied the membership. Since January of this year I have received several of these little gems, complete with wonderful feature articles on topics as varied as the Ruby Slippers from the original Wizard of Oz movie, to a brief history of the lovely burlesque “Fan Dancers”, but I digress.

Early in May, I received my long-awaited Registration Book, and can now hardly contain myself in lusting after far more of the classes than I can possibly attend during the three-day event. This year the focus of the college is on creating accessories to finish one’s costume – be it Steampunk, Regency, Victorian, Edwardian, or early 1900’s attire. They even have a class called “Jackie Kennedy’s Pearls”. However, exactly which classes I will be able to attend is yet to be discovered. This is because there are two types of classes offered; Unlimited Classes – for which no signup is required and may be attended by as many as will fit into the room, and Limited Attendance Classes. To attend these latter classes, one must submit a form that ranks your top five picks in the order of their importance to you. This form must be submitted to the Costumer’s Guild well in advance of the college. Sometime after May 12th, which is the deadline for returning the Limited Attendance form, attendees will be notified of which classes they get to attend. There is no guarantee that you will get all of your choices, but they are assured to get at least one.

As of this writing, I have submitted my five choices, and now must wait to see which class(es) I will get before I can select the rest of my schedule. The requests are assigned classes based on several factors, among them the response date that they received your request, maximum class size, and the date you originally signed up to go to the Costume College. In the meantime, I am constantly finding new classes – like making a ribbon chatelaine, or learning about Tambour Embroidery, or creating a Duct Tape Pattern – oh the list is endless!

If you are interested in finding out more about Costume College, go to the Costumer’s Guild West web site at www.costumecollege.net.

Note: Sue McDonald has been writing for the Recollections site for several years, and also loves to sew. She makes period-correct accessories for ladies and gents, and enjoys dressing in Victorian and Edwardian period attire.