Review: “Costume College 2021 Goes Virtual”

Review 1: All Together Separately

Image from Costume College 2021 Registration Booklet

Welcome back to Mukashi no Sewing! For a while I’ve thought that it would be fun to do periodic reviews here, and attending Virtual Costume College this year provided my first opportunity.

Costume College is a “three-day costuming arts conference” that normally takes place in Southern California every year. Despite having family nearby, I’ve never actually attended it in person, but I’d read many reviews from other historical clothing bloggers about it so when the virtual option popped up this year I decided to attend.

So many incredibly talented makers!

I’ll be totally honest – one of the biggest draws of attending for me was the vendor list, since attendees were informed in advance who would be “there” as well as that the vendors would be offering discounts. I already knew I wanted to order from Period Corsets, and calculated the cost of attending vs. a potential discount on the corset I was looking at. This was the final deciding factor in my attendance, as even the lowest discount I anticipated would cover the cost of the convention for me. As it turned out, the discount was much higher than I’d hoped, so it was an even better deal! I have bookmarked some of the other vendors for later perusal, but didn’t end up purchasing anything from them during the event.

I FAR prefer virtual shopping excursions from in-person. At traditional conventions browsing booths always produces a lot of anxiety for me, as I like to look at things and then maybe walk away and consider without feeling like I’m being rude to the people manning the booth. I don’t like shopping in person for anything except books, honestly, so this was not a huge surprise. I do hope that the vendors had a good return on their virtual vending investment, as they all had lovely wares to offer!

So…so many things to do…

Another section I barely participated in was the “lounge” or social activities. I find mingling online with people I don’t already know to be somehow even more torturous than doing so in-person, and I happily skipped everything from the Lounge except for checking out the Bargain Basement Auction. At other small conventions I’ve attended in person such as Gallifrey One, I also passed on the “mixers” so this tracks for me. I would be very interested to hear other attendees’ experiences doing the virtual mixers – let me know in the comments if you went to any at Virtual Costume College this year and how they were!

As I mentioned in my recent Steampunk Utility Belt post, I’d hoped to attend that workshop, but Finn’s medical emergency took precedence. So ultimately I only ended up attending two lectures: “Your Dress is Not Finished, Pt 2” with Val LaBore, and “Victorian Parasol Trimming” with Maegen Hensley.

Her dress looks pretty finished! Images continue to be taken from CoCo Registration Booklet

Val’s lecture was great! She showed probably 2-300 images from every decade of the Victorian Era covering such accessories such as pockets, jewelry, parasols, hats, handbags, and more. The research and compilation of all those disparate pieces must have taken positively ages. She did not provide a copy of her slideshow after the fact, but explicitly permitted screenshots of her lecture for personal use, so I took one of every slide for my favorite Natural Form and Second Bustle eras! She had a few minor technical difficulties to begin with, but they were promptly resolved by the Costume College staff which was very impressive!

Shh, don’t tell anyone – this was totally a workshop in disguise!

Maegen’s lecture on Victorian Parasol Trimming was OUTSTANDING. Not only did she show us extant images of everything she covered, but then she performed live demonstrations of all the techniques of parasol trimming as well! She provided her slideshow after the class and told us beforehand not to take notes, but just to relax and take it in since she’d be giving us all the info afterward. She mentioned that she does a parasol restoration masterclass at Black Orchid Atelier and you can BET that your girl is going to be attending that. I may or may not check the site every week to see if registration has opened yet… 😀

After all that learning, I was as tired as an Ashleigh! ❤

Although my participation in Costume College 2021 Goes Virtual was objectively fairly limited, I absolutely felt it was worth it. The conference fees were about $96, and the patterns & hardware for the steampunk utility belt were another $57 or so. Considering the discount I got on the corset I wanted, I was already ahead of the game even before attending any lectures! 🙂 Even though I was only able to attend two of the lectures I registered for, I learned a lot and got many great ideas for my own upcoming projects. Viewing the “fashion walk” was inspiring as well! Even though I didn’t really interact with other makers, I felt connected to all the other people doing beautiful and historical work just like me.

Would I attend it in-person? That’s a solid “maybe.” I doubt I would go every year, but considering how close my family lives to the venue, I find it likely that I would attend at least one in-person Costume College as part of a longer trip to see my relatives. Plus I could save on hotel costs… 😉 I hope you’ve enjoyed this review of my experiences at Costume College 2021 Goes Virtual! Please let me know in the comments if you have any follow-up questions for me, and I look forward to doing more reviews periodically of events and books!

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