Friday, December 8, 2017

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Simplicity 8578 and 8579 - TWO new 18th Century Patterns!

Ladies, we are SO excited to finally announce two new 18th century American Duchess patterns from Simplicity!

Simplicity 8578 is the Robe a la Francaise (Sacque) and petticoat and Simplicity 8579 is the underpinnings to go with it - shift, stays, and side hoops.



When Abby and I were writing The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking, we realized that readers, especially beginners, would be confused about where to get patterns for the gowns. We weren't able to include full gridded gown patterns in the book, so we referenced existing patterns from Patterns of Fashion 1, The Cut of Women's Clothes, Tidens Toj, and other available sources. Even with these sources listed, though, it seemed like a natural need and next step to produce paper patterns for use with the book. Add to this the gap in our book - stays and shift - and a collaboration between American Duchess and Simplicity was born.

Creating the patterns for the shift, stays, and hoops was easy. We opted for a different style of stays from Simplicity 8162 - back-closing, spiral-lacing, conical in shape, and with the awesome, accurate posture straps you're all going to love. Additionally, you'll find the shift pattern is accurate right down to the gussets and godets. The side hoops match those in the book and can be hand-sewn with the book instructions if you so choose.

Working out pattern shapes in paper rather than fabric - easier to manage the pleats and when unfolded, mark where each pleat needed to go.
Making the pattern for the sacque gown and petticoat was NOT easy! We faced challenges primarily with tissue space, finding ways to fit huge pattern shapes on only four large pieces of tissue, across all sizes.

The brown paper underneath is pleated for the iconic back pleats, then I layed the gown lining back piece over to trace the shape of the armscye and side back seam, before continuing on with the waist pleats for the skirt.
Starting with Abby's sacque gown lining from the book, I scaled down the shapes to a size 10 (Simplicity's required standard) and then origami'd the gown in paper onto that lining, constantly double-checking shapes and placement with the sacque made for Abby for the book.

Scribbles in my notebook figuring out how to make all of this work with the limited tissue space.
As always with commercial patterns, we had to make some changes to make the pattern accessible to novice costumers. The biggest change is from a pinned stomacher to a comperes front - that is, in the book we make a separate stomacher that is then pinned to both edges of the gown when dressing, and for the Simplicity pattern the stomacher closes center front and is stitched to the edges of the gown instead. Luckily, both methods are historically accurate. There are also very small changes to the trim templates and placement for the petticoat. The pattern also does not include the tucker and sleeve ruffles - instructions for these are in The American Duchess Guide.


One thing I am personally proud of is the use of our own photos for the pattern envelopes. Yup, that's Abby on both the envelopes, wearing garments that were made and fit specifically to her. One of the most difficult parts of developing historical patterns for commercial companies is that we never have access to the model for fittings and no part of the styling of the photo shoot, which can leads to less-than-stellar results. We have to give a HUGE thank you to Simplicity for bending "the rules" for us this time and accepting our photos for the pattern envelopes. This way, the silhouette and proportion, styling, fit, hair, makeup, etc. is all exactly as it should be.


We hope you like these new 18th century patterns. We tried to make them as historically accurate as possible, and intend for you to use the sacque pattern in conjunction with The American Duchess Guide to explore hand-sewing your gown, whether you want to try a technique here and there, or stitch the entire gown by hand.


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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

New! "Forget Me Not" 18th Century Shoe Buckles

Hi All!

We're thrilled to announce that Kimberly Walters of Sign of the Gray Horse has created another gorgeous shoe buckle design! Copied off an original in a private collection, this plated brass buckle comes in either a gold or silver finish.

Forget Me Not Shoe Buckles in Gold (Left) and Silver (Right)
18th Century Shoe Buckles - AmericanDuchess.com

We love the simple yet sophisticated design, perfect for those of you looking for something a little 'work a day' but still smart.

As with all of our shoe buckles, you get a discount if you order them with a pair of 18th century shoes, a great deal all around!

Red leather Dunmore Shoes and Forget Me Not Buckles in Silver 

After all, you can never have too many shoes...or shoe buckles, can you?

Shop all our 18th century shoe buckles at
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Monday, November 27, 2017

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What to Do When Someone Else is Making the Same Dress As You...


(....or has made the same dress...)

Do it anyway!

I've recently been eyeballing the 1660 bodice from the V&A, remembering how much I love the 1660s and that I've only made one gown once-upon-a-time but really enjoyed it. I also binged on two seasons of "Versailles," and felt giddy tremors of joy when I saw the incredibly detailed chapter on this very bodice in the V&A publication Seventeenth-Century Women's Dress Patterns: Book 2. Add to that a meant-to-be 6 yard piece of golden duchesse satin marinating in my stash and I'm there, planning my gown for Costume College 2018.

But then I remembered that Angela Mombers made a stunning version of this dress earlier this year....and I remembered the six gorgeous women wearing Baroque gowns at CoCo this year, one of them gold and divine....and then I saw Angela Clayton's shimmering orange 1660s confection....and even just this morning I saw Atelier Nostalgia's most recent work on her version of this very same V&A bodice.

Vivien and Elizabeth in gorgeous Cavalier dress.
Oh no! I felt...weirdness...like...should I not do this gown now because others have already done it and are already doing it? Will they think I copied them? Am I unoriginal?  Shouldn't I find something new and interesting and not already done?

Do you ever feel this way?

The thing is.....everything has been done. There is nothing new in historical costuming! Even this original 1660s bodice survives with at least two other examples that are incredibly similar, yet each has its own unique markers.

Many gowns made from the same or similar fabric - the "curtain-a-long" project - every one of these is so different. It's as much about the millinery as the cut of the gown, remember. Costume College 2013.
If you're feeling intimidated from what's come before, take a deep breath and remember that you're an individual - your style sense is your own. History belongs to everyone. Nobody can own historical fashion, the designs, the colors, the trims, the techniques....all of this is available to us to explore and learn and use to create expressions of ourselves through costume.

Abby and Natalie - similar but not the same! Costume College 2014
You will always put your own unique spin on whatever it is you make, just as dressmakers of centuries gone by copied fashionable dress from magazines, prints, paintings, the court, etc., but did it in their own ways. The fabric and color choices, the trim, the fit and silhouette - all of these things will differ between gowns that come from the same source material.

In a perfect world, I would love to get everyone who has made the 1660 V&A bodice (or Bath, or Claydon House) together to gab about our experiences and take some awesome photos. It seems like quite a cool way to connect to each other through making and experiencing.

We don't have to compete. There should be no fear, reluctance, competition, or jealousy in historical dress - we are all here to have fun, learn, experience, play, and enjoy this special slice of history.

Merja and Kendra both made gowns from a fashion plate of Marie Antoinette - they are clearly the same source material, but each lady has made hers her own. Costume College 2013
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For those interested:
The Claydon House bodice is gridded out in Patterns of Fashion 1 by Janet Arnold.
The Bath gown is diagramed in The Cut of Women's Clothes by Norah Waugh. There is also a picture of the Claydon House bodice in Waugh.


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Friday, November 24, 2017

American Duchess SALE!


It's all you need to know.

Just kidding, here's what you need to know...

First... www.AmericanDuchess.com is the place.

Then...

20% OFF Classics:


Londoner (tan) - Our gorgeous Edwardian oxfords offer so much snazz, comfort, and durability all rolled into one. Perfect for c. 1900 - 1925 or everyday wear.
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Fraser (ivory) - Excellent 18th century shoes perfect for the first half of the Georgian period. Beautiful, dyeable/paintable ivory leather with French heels, latchet closure, and white rands. c. 1700 - 1750
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Astoria (ivory) - Here's your chance at our classic lattice-strap Edwardian shoes in beautiful ivory leather. Amazing, low-heeled shoes for c. 1900 - 1925 or for everyday.
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Hartfield (brown) - Just a few pairs of these beautiful Regency boots left! Chocolate brown leather, lined in leather, with a lace-up closure and flat leather sole. Don't miss these - they're discontinued!
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Renoir (ivory) - True side-buttoning Civil War and Bustle period leather boots with low knock-on heels and square toes. Don't forget your button hook!
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Clearance Shoes, Imperfects, One-offs & Exclusives:

Bigger discounts and a top-up of everything chillin' in the warehouse that's not part of regular stock. Imperfects have small cosmetic flaws, which equal big savings for you. Plus, we have a few pairs of one-offs and leftover Exclusives. Check them all out in the SALE section.

Exclusives, one-offs, etc. - there is some special stuff in the "Sale" section that definitely won't last - go forth!

Combo deals:


Free stockings or buckles or button hooks? Yes please!

Plus we have a special holiday combo this year - our new red/white "Dunmore" 18th century shoes + buckles or stockings (free!) + a signed copy of "The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking" for the regular price (woot!). Step your Georgian journey off in the right direction!


All of the goodness is at

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

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BOOK RELEASE: The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking


Today's the big day! Our book, The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking: How to Handsew Georgian Gowns and Wear The with Style has officially been released! While you can buy the book on any major book retailer, we do also have copies for sale on our website. If you want a signed copy of the book, make sure you click the box that says, "Yes, Please" before you add the book to your shopping cart! We can't wait for you all to read and enjoy the book, and then go off and make beautiful things from it!

The American Duchess Guide - https://www.american-duchess.com/american-duchess-guide

We've been doing a few Facebook Livestreams (English Gown, Sacque Gown, Italian Gown, 1790s Gown) on the different sewing projects in the book. Lauren and I also wanted to talk about what it was like to actually write/photograph/pattern/illustrate/edit/insanitysauce the book, so last week, we sat down and chatted about the experience on our "Fashion History" podcast.


We mention in the recording that we plan to supplement some parts of the book. Some things got cut out, some things were forgotten (oops), so we've already created some additional content to help you with your projects and will share more in the future.

Gathered front Italian gown variation - (c) 2017 American Duchess Inc.
One of the gown variation doodles Lauren sketched. None of the variations made it into the book, so we will share these sketches here on the blog later on.
Below is a gridded pattern for the full Italian Gown, which includes information on the skirt panels such as widths and number of breadths, placement of the bodice waist edge, and placement for the ties. We hope you find this useful!

1780 Italian Gown Pattern - The American Duchess Guide *supplement* - (c)2017 American Duchess Inc.
Click to enlarge
When it comes to "workshops," we are thrilled to be collaborating with Jennifer Rosbrugh of Historical Sewing on classes that will use The American Duchess Guide as a textbook. Jennifer will take great care of you, and we'll pop in on occasion to shed some light on particular sections and techniques.

The American Duchess Guide - https://www.american-duchess.com/american-duchess-guide

Finally, we want to give a huge, huge, huge thank you to all of you. This book was a big challenge for us, and demanded a lot of blood, sweat, and tears and blood and more blood. We could not have completed this book without your support. We hope that you love the book and that there's something in there that will help you along your costuming journey.

Thank you for going on this grand 18th century dressmaking adventure with us. <3

Lauren & Abby

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Sunday, November 19, 2017

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NEW! Special Edition "Dunmore" 18th c. Shoes in Red/White

American Duchess "Dunmore" shoes in red leather bound in white

This year, we've created a special shoe to coincide with the launch of our new book, The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking.

The idea came about from the shoes we created for Maggie to wear with the 1780 Italian gown - white Dunmores dyed bright red with the heels painted white. Originally only available in black wool or white cotton sateen, the allure of one of our most popular 18th century shoes in leather seemed too ripe to pass up. So here they are, our special holiday shoe: Red & White Leather Dunmore!

Red Dunmores featuring the new Forget Me Not 18th century shoe buckles by Sign of the Grey Horse 
The best red leather shoes in the late 18th c. were made of Moroccan, a goat leather with a distinct pebbled finish. While Moroccan isn't available today, we developed a pebbled finish on our calf leather uppers to mimic this historic material.

Red Leather Shoes, 1770-1789, Met Museum
Additionally, white bound edges and the white leather heel are hallmarks of mid 1770s - early 90s ladies shoes, so we opted for leather-covered heels in white and white twill tape on the edges. This two-tone style is one you see repeatedly in originals, prints, and paintings of the period.

American Duchess "Dunmore" 18th Century Shoes in red leather trimmed in white
"Dunmore" 18th Century Shoes in red pebbled leather with white binding and white leather heels. Shown here with "Fleur" 18th Century Shoe Buckles. AmericanDuchess.com
Women of the 18th century loved to wear brightly contrasting shoes with their outfits. While it may seem a bit of a "risk" to wear red and white shoes with your attire, we encourage you to try them - bold red shoes seem to go with everything, weirdly, and you can accent almost any gown with a bit of red here and there to make it pop. You can see the variety in these fabulous prints (just a few of *many* depicting red and white shoes):

Bob Blunt in Amaze, or Female Fashionable Follies, 1776, British Museum

The Fair Penitent, April 1781, British Museum

The Wishing Females, 1780s, American Antiquarian 
We're so excited about our special limited holiday Dunmore shoe, and we hope you are too! We only ran 200 pairs in ten sizes, so if you're madly in love with these, don't wait (or ask very nicely for Christmas or Hanukkah).

Georgian Gorgeous - "Dunmore" 18th Century Shoes in red leather trimmed in white. 
Also, for our Black Friday Sale, November 24 - November 27, we are offering a combo deal with the new red Dunmores, free buckles or stockings (your choice), and a signed copy of our book for the sale price. Skip on over to AmericanDuchess.com to check it out!
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