Category Archives: Field trip

Costume Exhibit: The Artistry of Outlander at The Paley Center

I made an unplanned visit to the Outlander costume exhibit. Mercy!

My daughter and I were shopping in Santa Monica (after driving down from Northern California for her incoming freshman academic advising appointment at her new college), when a friend on Facebook (thank you Teresa!) reminded me about the free The Artistry of Outlander exhibit at The Paley Center for Media. Google told me it was only 30 minutes away and my daughter was game, so off we went.

If you watch Outlander, you know that they spent the first part of the second season in Paris, where the costumes — for both men and women — are over the top. And this exhibit gives you an up close look at many of them. I did not realize how many fine details these costumes have that you simply cannot see on screen. Terry Dresbach, the Outlander costume designer, and her team cut no corners.

Photos speak louder than words in a case like this, so let’s get to it:


Claire’s Versailles garden dress.

This is my favorite costume from the Paris adventure. It’s one of at least two that draw inspiration from both the 18th century and the 1940s, which is noted on the display. Who knew brown and mustard and embroidered pink flowers could be so gorgeous together? Need a closer look?


Claire’s Versailles garden dress — embroidery detail.

This dress is stunning, and the scene so lovely, until …


Shudder. That’s enough of him.

Let’s move onto something far more pleasant. Louise!


Louise de Rohan’s blue silk dress.

Louise de Rohan is just a cotton candy confection of a person. This dress is full of frilly details, but look at them closely.


Louise de Rohan’s blue silk dress — trim detail.

The striped trim has raw pinked edges that are currently raveling! I’m sure this could be tidied up with a pair of scissors, but it was rather amazing to see how the edges were finished.

Details, that was the theme of the exhibit in my mind, even for the men.


Comte St. Germain’s brown coat and pink vest.

This is one of the more “plain” outfits Comte St. Germain wears. (He’s quite a bit more of a clothes horse than I realized. Many of his costumes are on display.) But look at the details!


Comte St. Germain’s brown coat — trim and button detail.


Comte St. Germain’s brown coat — cuff detail.

Just look at the buttons and the trim! There are about two dozen of these custom embroidered buttons on this coat. Did you catch any of this when watching? Me either.

Another exquisite dresser is Prince Charles Stuart, of course.


Prince Charles Stuart’s brown embroidered jacket.

This one has exceptional embroidery as well as custom embroidered buttons.


Prince Charles Stuart’s embroidered brown coat — embroidery and button detail.

I hadn’t remembered the following dress at all, but it was one of my favorites at the exhibit, because it’s muslin!


Louise de Rohan’s hand-painted muslin dress.

Yes, it really is muslin. There are beautiful florals on pretty much every costume. Some of the florals are embroidered, but many are hand-painted, like on this dress.


Louise de Rohan’s hand-painted muslin dress — sleeve detail.

This dress also has raw pinked edges, hiding among the two different kinds of lace on the sleeve. Because of the humble muslin, this dress seemed more accessible than the rest. It seems almost reasonable that I could make a hand-painted muslin dress. Almost.


Louise de Rohan’s hand-painted muslin dress — back detail.

I had to look at this very closely to see how it closes. Clearly, the closure is at center back. But how? Hooks and eyes, that’s how! By getting as close as I dared (I’ve been told to step back at costume exhibits before), I could just see a hook through the widest part of the gap. No wonder no one could dress themselves! Can you imagine?

And now for another 18th Century/1940s mashup — Claire’s Dior inspired “suit.”


Claire’s Dior-inspired “suit.”

Although the original iconic “bar suit” dates from 1947 (which is just after Clare left that era), Terry Dresbach designed this suit to span the couture of Clare’s two timelines. I think it was a pretty clever idea. She’s the costume designer; she can do what she wants!


Clare’s Dior-inspired “suit” — matching gloves.

And here’s another detail I didn’t see on screen, the cutouts on the matching leather gloves. I am becoming more and more fond of gloves, and although it doesn’t really get cold enough in my area of Northern California, I wear them in winter anyway.

Now we’ve come to another of my favorites — Master Raymond’s jacket.


Master Raymond’s jacket.

How wonderful is this jacket? It has custom embroidery and hand-painted details of various mystical and astrological symbols, only some of which I recognize. But it’s so clever, it deserves a closer look at each panel:


Master Raymond’s jacket — detail.


Master Raymond’s jacket — detail.



Master Raymond’s jacket — detail.


Master Raymond’s jacket — detail.



Master Raymond’s jacket — back detail.

I just love this jacket. How much fun would it be to embroidery a vest in a similar fashion? I have an embroidery machine. It’s not impossible!

And now we’ll wrap up with The Red Dress. The Red Dress was in the front window of The Paley Center, so there was no way to take a full-length shot without horrific glare (even on an overcast day), but, my camera has a tilt and twist view screen, so I could put the camera in front of the dress (where I wouldn’t fit), while I stood to the side to frame the shot. Et voila!


Claire’s Red Dress — detail.

The criss-cross straps in front, the neckline trim, the piping along the bodice bottom — There is so much more going on with this dress than I realized. Thank goodness I got to see this one, and so many others, in person.

And my takeaway — I need to up my sewing game when it comes to the fine details. Painted muslin, mystical symbols, embroidered buttons — I want to try them all!

As usual, I did not share everything at the exhibit — only the displays that inspired me the most. There’s much more to see! If you’d like to go, details are below.



The Artistry of Outlander
The Paley Center for Media

Wednesday through Sunday 12 to 5 p.m.
465 North Beverly Drive
Beverly Hills, California

June 8 to August 14, 2016
Admission is FREE and open to the public.

Sewing and the State Fair

I love going to the California State Fair, that annual celebration of the Golden State with an emphasis on its agricultural industry. I’m not sure how many people outside our state realize that warm beaches are but a fraction of what we have to offer. Agriculture is an important part of our economy. In fact, if you live in the United States, you’ve probably eaten some produce from our state.

The California State Fair and Exposition.

The California Exposition & State Fair.

I live in Sacramento County, where we’re lucky enough to have the State Fair in our backyard. I go chiefly to see the award-winning sewing projects from people of all ages, but there’s plenty of other things to do as well.

While the fair has a wide variety of attractions (concerts, carnival rides, weird stuff for sale), I prefer the old-fashioned features, such as the Counties Exhibit, which provides each county the opportunity to show its best attributes.

The agricultural abundance of the state was a theme in the county exhibits.

The agricultural abundance of the state is on view throughout the Counties Exhibits area.

Sacramento County in particularly brands itself as the Farm to Fork Capital. It's a legitimate claim. So much good food is grown in our region that frankly it's a delicious place to live.

Sacramento County in particular brands itself as America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital. So much good food is grown in our region that frankly it’s a delicious place to live. We have a year-round farmer’s market in my town that has wonderful produce even in winter.

The Old West (in the form of a display showcasing Bodie, a ghost town in Mono County) is on display.

Mono County chose to focus its exhibit on Bodie State Historic Park. I’ve never been to this gold-mining ghost town, but this display makes me want to visit.

On the way to the sewing exhibits, I came across some unusual characters that are another slice of life in California.

Other aspects of California culture are on display at the fair as well.

Random Chinese dragon sighting.

I'm not sure who these folks are or where they were heading, but they saw my camera and stopped to pose.

I’m not sure where these stilt walkers were heading, but they know to strike a pose when they see a camera.

The California Crafts exhibit is my main interest. It showcases the sewing goodness that I came to see:

Fantastic quilt. The red quilt stitches really enhance this beautiful quilt.

Such as this gorgeous quilt. The red quilt stitches really enhance this project. (I couldn’t get close enough to read the quilter’s name. They need to make those signs bigger! If you know it, please share so I can credit the work.)

I believe this is Grandmas' Endless Love by Gina Heon. I have always been fascinated by double wedding ring quilts. The geometry of the pieces is crazy.

The geometry of double wedding ring quilts fascinates me. I believe this is “Grandma’s Endless Love” by Gina Heon.

There weren’t nearly as many garments on display as in years past, but this one caught my eye:

These are some very long ties!

This upcycle fashion project is “Neck Ties All Around,” by Mary Boyer.

And the next generation of sewing enthusiasts was well represented:

These impressive garments are by Dustin Gerringer (10-12 age group, three-piece Western outfit) and Ashley Olson (16-18 age group, Wool Coat and Dress).

These impressive garments are by Dustin Geringer (10-12 age group, three-piece Western outfit) and Ashley Olson (16-18 age group, Wool Coat and Dress).

As part of showcasing the agriculture of California, the fair includes a three-acre farm area that this year also features drought-tolerant decorative plants and information on saving water.

A visit to the farm area is at least good for some shade.

The farm area has some nice shady spots.

There's a small farm at Cal Expo, which is where the fair is held. California has a variety of grape growing regions.

California’s grape-growing industry is represented.

Apparently, kiwis are grown here as well. I didn't know that.

Apparently, kiwifruit are grown here as well. I had no idea.


But the "Old West" is not extinct. There's always a blacksmith at the fair, showing off his craft. Here are sample horseshoes. This, too, is California.

There’s always a booth at the farm where a blacksmith shows off his craft. Here are sample horseshoes. The Old West is not quite extinct.

Baby animals are always a big draw at the fair. There has been controversy about having pregnant animals give birth at the fair (in the middle of a crowd is not the most comfortable place to deliver), but the fair has worked to improve conditions.

It wouldn’t be a state fair without animals. There has been controversy about having pregnant animals give birth at the fair (in the middle of a crowd is not the most comfortable place to deliver), but the fair has addresses some of the concerns and improved conditions.

And you can’t go to the fair without eating fair food. And “fair food” really means fried food. There are healthful options, but really? You can eat a salad any day, but how often can you eat funnel cake?


I have to admit that as I head toward my 50s, my fried food game is not what it once was. I couldn’t eat even half of that funnel cake.

Maybe next year.


California State Fair

The California State Fair showcases much more of the state than can be shown here. There’s still time to attend. The 2015 fair runs through Sunday, July 26. More information is available at


Museum Visit — High Style: The Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection

Another wonderful costume exhibit has arrived in San Francisco, so my Museum Girlfriends and I headed out to The City on a beautiful spring day.

This month, High Style: The Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection opened at the Legion of Honor. The architecturally stunning museum is situated high on a hill in San Francisco’s Lincoln Park, with postcard-worthy views of the Pacific Ocean and Golden Gate Bridge.

The Legion of Honor Museum. Photo by Jeanne Marie Tokunaga.

The Legion of Honor Museum.

High Style showcases more than 60 costumes from the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The exhibit captures key moments of 20th Century fashion design, from 1910 to 1980.

In this post, I highlight a few of the costumes that I found particularly interesting. The first to draw me in for a closer look reflects the brief period in the early 1920s when wide hips accompanied the familiar dropped waists.

Jeanne Lanvin, 1923. Photo by Jeanne Marie Tokunaga.

Jeanne Lanvin, 1923.

This silhouette will be familiar to fans of Downton Abbey. Lady Rose sported similar styles in the recently concluded Season 5.

Lady Rose MacClare.

Couture gowns feature hours of hand crafting, as the exquisite beading of this gown shows.

Jean-Philippe Worth, circa 1907. Photo by Jeanne Marie Tokunaga.

Jean-Philippe Worth, circa 1907.

While some of the intricate beading on display seems out of reach for an amateur seamstress, the look of the bead detail on this bolero jacket could be emulated with machine embroidery.

Elsa Schiaparelli, 1940. Photo by Jeanne Marie Tokunaga

Elsa Schiaparelli, 1940.

There was an unexpected vintage movie treat in the form of this costume.

Fontana, 1954. Photo by Jeanne Marie Tokunaga

Fontana, 1954.


Ava Gardner in The Barefoot Contessa.

This American day dress from the 1940s was one of my favorites because of its graphic punch and timeless style.

Madame Eta Hentz, 1944. Photo by Jeanne Marie Tokunaga.

Madame Eta Hentz, 1944.

I don’t know how the crossover detail was achieved, but I’d love to figure it out.

This dress features beautifully constructed seaming with gold trim inserted.

Elizabeth Hawes, 1936. Photo by Jeanne Marie Tokunaga.

Elizabeth Hawes, 1936.

I have always loved this poetic and dramatic blouse style. It reminded me of a favorite movie costume.

Norman Norell, circa 1970. Photo by Jeanne Marie Tokunaga.

Norman Norell, circa 1970.

Lauren Bacall in 1953's How to Marry a Millionaire.

Lauren Bacall in 1953’s How to Marry a Millionaire.

Below is my favorite garment in the collection. It’s fun and makes me smile. My companions and I decided this bubbly bubble dress would not work very well for a sit-down dinner. It’s strictly stand-up cocktail attire.

Arnold Scaasi, 1961. Photo by Jeanne Marie Tokunaga.

Arnold Scaasi, 1961.

The last portion of the exhibit was devoted to Charles James, which I appreciated because although I was in New York during the last week of the James exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I just didn’t have time to go.

This James dress features three different kinds of fabric in similar colors so that it looks different as light hits it at various angles.

Charles James, 1947. Photo by Jeanne Marie Tokunaga.

Charles James, 1947.

I loved this charming sketch from James because it’s so relatable. It looks like it’s right off a legal pad!

Charles James, 1956. Photo by Jeanne Marie Tokunaga.

Charles James, 1956.

James was known for his elaborate garment understructures that turned clothing into architecture. The showstopper garment below, along with the rest of the Charles James costumes in the exhibit, is not on a full mannequin like the other displays. This shows how much of the shape is within the garment itself, rather than from the form it is on.

Charles James, 1955. Photo by Jeanne Marie Tokunaga.

Charles James, 1955.

The room that houses the red dress also had monitors with fascinating computer animations showing flat pattern pieces turning into James’ three-dimensional designs, X-rays showing boning and other structure within dresses, and bisections of dresses to show how skirts are supported.

As I said, this is just a small portion of the garments on display. I don’t even get into the striking hats and glorious shoes. If you’re a fan of 20th Century fashion and within reasonable distance of San Francisco, it’s worth the trip.

The accompanying 250-page full-color exhibition catalogue, High Style: Masterworks From the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection, features most of the garments from the exhibit and many, many more. It’s a great deal at only $35.

High Style: The Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection will be on exhibit at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor Museum through July 19, 2015.

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair

Victorian London is brought to life every Christmas season at the Great Dickens Christmas Fair.

As someone who enjoys elements of bygone eras, I have been intrigued by this event for years. This weekend, I finally decided to make the two-hour drive and brought along my teenage daughter and her girlfriend. We had a blast.

Held in a large exhibition building in Daly City (just south of San Francisco), the Dickens Fair creates a Victorian-era streetscape complete with shops, food, and entertainment. Modern elements of the building are camouflaged, and the floor is strewn with straw.

A clock on the street.

A clock on one of the buildings. The design of the event is beautiful.

A shoppe sign.

A pub sign. Food and beverage choices included spiced nuts, meat pies, fish and chips, pasta, Greek food, pastries, a large tea shoppe (reservations recommended), and several pubs.

One of the stage shows.

There are a number of stages with shows throughout the day.

Hundreds of engaging performers in period costume as well as several well-known Dickens characters are found throughout the event, and attendees are encouraged to dress in costume as well.

Gentlemen dining at one of the establishments.

This is one of the many tableaus that actors stage to add atmosphere.

The Ghost of Christmas Past helps Ebenezer Scrooge recall happier times at Fezziwig's Dance Party.

At Fezziwig’s Dance Party, we saw the Ghost of Christmas Past taking Ebenezer Scrooge on a trip to remember happier days.

We saw Queen Victoria several times throughout the day.

Of course, Queen Victoria reigns over the Dickens Fair. She and her entourage made several appearances.

As I don’t have any Victorian garb, I opted to wear my Clara dress and a pair of riding boots. I almost brought a shawl, but thought better of it. It turned out to be rather warm inside.

Next year, I plan to FILL my shopping basket with purchases.

Next year, I plan to FILL my shopping basket. There are a wide variety of goods available, including Victorian-style clothing, jewelry, candles, soaps, and antique books.

Together, this all makes for a charming holiday outing. Now that we know what to expect, we can’t wait to go back next year to see more of the stage shows, sample a wider variety of the food, and buy more gifts.

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair runs for two more weekends this year at the Cow Palace.

You can find the rest of my photos on Flickr.


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