Wednesday, May 17, 2017

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Podcast Episode 3: All About the Louis Exclusive c. 1660-1720

Hi All!

For this week's episode, Abby & Lauren sit down and chat about the newest Exclusive offering from American Duchess - The Louis (Pre-Order open until May 19th! $295)

Our Louis Exclusives come in a dark red and deep blue velveteen with silver embroidery.

Here's what we chat about -
  • Abby asks Lauren to explain how the exclusive process works for American Duchess.
  • Lauren discusses the evolution of the heeled shoe & why we named the shoes after King Louis XIV
  • Abby & Lauren chat about Lady Mary Stanhope Gell, who is rumored to have owned the original shoes we were inspired by for the exclusive. 
  • We giggle about our costuming choices and ideas for the Louis shoes & how we would costume around the shoes. 

Blue velvet shoes with silver embroidery c. 1660, rumored to have belonged to Lady Mary Stanhope (here)
Here's the namesake of our shoes, King Louis XIV, rocking some red heels & a hell of a wig -

King Louis XIV, 1701, by Hyacinthe Rigaud (here)
Thanks to research done by Kimberly of Silk Damask, below is a portrait of Mary Stanhope from sometime in the early 1600s (when she was still a Radclyffe!). Also, don't forget to check out Kim's post on Silk Damask about the shoes & Mary Stanhope, it's a great summary of what we talk about in the podcast! 

Mary Radclyffe by William Larkin, c. 1610-1613, Berger Collection

Lauren and Abby both agree that maybe experimenting with doing some costuming c. 1660 would be fun...something like this:

One of Charles II's favorite ladies, Barbara Villiers, Countess of Castlemaine & Duchess of Cleveland by Peter Lely (Here)
We also talk about making an early 1700s mantua, like these to go with the Louis shoe -

Portrait of a Family in an Interior, Nicolas Walraven van Haften, MFA Boston, 1982.139

This is the style of gown that Abby is talking about when she references looking like a Mrs. Potato Head. 
Henrietta Maria after Sir Anthony van Dyck, 1630s (NPG London)
We hope you enjoy the podcast & don't forget to order your Louis exclusives today! (Easy Pay Layaway & Returns are both possible with our exclusives!) 

Our Louis in a dark red with matching leather heel. 

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Monday, May 15, 2017

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Abby's Austen Fest Dinner Dress

Hey All!

Abby here! As some of you know, Lauren & I will be attending Jane Austen Festival in Louisville, KY this July (soo excited to go home for business! woo!). As a part of the festivities, Lauren and I are going to be guests at a dinner hosted by the HMS Acastas group, and while we're super excited to be participating in this fun bit of living history....I need a dinner dress to wear.

Ugh. Ok. More sewing for me!

Luckily, I really am in love with the late 1790s, and all of the different influences that can be found in just a few years of fashion. While I have my "book" dress for one day, being that it's just a spotted linen (from Britex Fabrics, San Francisco) it's not really the best for a more formal dinner. So I have been doing research to come up with a fun late 1790s game plan for dinner, and I think I've come up with a plan!

Full Dress, May 1799, Claremont Colleges Digital Library
This print is my main inspiration. While I don't want to wear an entirely silk gown in the middle of July in Louisville (I know better...) I did want some silk to help make my appearance seem a bit more "formal" for dinner. This print dates from 1799 which is also the year I am aiming for, and is considered "full dress"! While my gown will be out of a light weight block printed cotton, my plan is that the blue tunic in the print will probably be in (hopefully!) an emerald green and I will make a turban to match. I'm still trying to figure out my jewelry options though. Currently, I'm lusting after some coral....

After I decided on this print, I wanted to see what else was out there in the internet to see if this little silk tunic thing was just a one off or was it actually trendy at the turn of the century. As it turns out, this look was definitely "in" c. 1799-1800. Hooray! Here are some other fashion prints I found while trolling the internet....

Costume de Bal, Year 8 (1799), Here
I really love the asymmetrical cut and the tassels on this leaves me strongly tempted to kind of blend the two prints together to create my look. I love me some tassels....

Full Dress, December 1798, Here
While the purple is really cool, I wasn't terribly fond of the more shapeless tunic in pink...

The Fatima Robe and 3 Bonnets, October 1798, Here
This "Fatima Robe" is different from the others I found, but I fell in love with the sleeve details...

Costume Parisien, 1799, Pinterest 
So... this is a lot of look... but again, asymmetrical & tassels! 

Costume de Bal, Costume Parisien, 1799, Pinterest

I love, love, love the ribbon detailing on this outfit. I would love to see this gown made up in person...I bet the colors would just pop! (Also - tassel.)

All of these prints are just fabulous in so many ways, but it has left me with quite a bit of sewing to do! I've already started on the gown (pictures to come later!), and now I just need to source the right color & weight of silk, and figure out the jewelry for the look. 

Only a couple of months left! 
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Thursday, May 11, 2017

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Podcast Episode 2: Civil War Mourning with Samantha McCarty

Hello All!

We're excited to announce our "second" episode of Fashion History with American Duchess! Today, we are chatting with the lovely Samantha McCarty of The Couture Courtesan all about mourning dress during the American Civil War. I (Abby) have been lucky enough to listen to Samantha lecture on this subject on two separate occasions, and I still was completely enthralled by the wealth of knowledge that Samantha shared on the subject for the podcast.

Samantha in Half-Mourning while attending Gettysburg Remembrance Day

Here are some example images & links to fabrics so you can make your own mourning attire:

Click Here to buy a modern (silk) crape substitute that Samantha recommends.

For worsted wool you can check out - Burnley & Trowbridge & Mood Fabrics

Full or Deep Mourning

Woman in Full Mourning. Courtesy of Samantha
Woman in Full Mourning with widow's cap and lappets (Courtesy of Samantha)

Woman in Full Mourning from New York. (Ebay)
English woman wearing a widow's cap with crape "folds" around the skirt of her dress, you can also see her white collar like what Samantha mentions! (Here)

Samantha wearing Full Mourning with her veil pulled down.

Examples of Half or Light Mourning

Samantha in a cotton Half Mourning Dress

Half Mourning Dress from North Carolina Museum of History

Black and Purple Silk Dress, 1860, MFA Boston

Samantha in a silk taffeta half-mourning dress (Here)

Mourning Accessories

Mourning Corsage of Abraham Lincoln, April 1865, Met Museum

Framed in Memorial Hair Art, 1850, French, Etsy

1880 Black Enamel & 18k Gold Memorial Ring, Erstwhile Jewelry

Victorian Gutta-Percha & Gold Mourning Earrings, Ruby Lane

Victorian Mourning Brooch with Acorn Motif, Whitby Jet, Amazing Adornments
We hope you enjoy the episode! 

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Monday, May 8, 2017

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EXCLUSIVE! "Louis" Velveteen & Embroidered Baroque Shoes

OK, I know, it's taken us half a year to get the new Exclusives going, but now that we're here....

Meet "Louis," the new velveteen, leather, and silver embroidered shoes now available for pre-order at

Way back we did a vote on our Facebook page, pitting a selection of drool-worthy historic shoes from all periods against one another in an epic battle to find a winner. That winner was this pair of incredible women's pumps from c. 1660, attributed to Lady Mary Stanhope, held in the Northampton Museum:

Velvet and silver embroidered shoes with leather heels, attributed to Lady Mary Stanhope, c. 1660. Northamption Museum.
Next we asked you all to vote on your favorite potential colors for our version of these shoes. The results were the original dark blue as well as a rich deep red wine, another excellent color choice for the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

Museum of London, c. 1651 (orphaned work)

Our version of these swanky shoes is made on the Pompadour last and heel. We've used a lovely short-pile velveteen paired with matching leather on the curvy French heels. The vamp and quarters are heavily embroidered in silver threads, matched with a silver ribbon tie, and picked out with the white leather rand, a hallmark of shoes of this time.

American Duchess Exclusive - "Louis" Court Shoes in Blue

American Duchess Exclusive - "Louis" Court Shoes in Wine
For those new to the Exclusives, these are short-run, made-to order shoes that are available by pre-order only. As they are not part of our regular line due to the posh materials and fanciful designs, each pair is made by hand by the master shoemaker at our workshop. They are truly special, extremely limited, and achingly gorgeous.

Exclusives do qualify for EasyPay, coupons codes, Free USA shipping, and any credits and discounts you may have.

Pre-Order May 5 - 19, 2017
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Saturday, May 6, 2017

Podcast Episode 1: Welcome to Fashion History with American Duchess!

Hello All!

Lauren and I are sooo excited to announce a new project we've been working on for the past few weeks - Fashion History with American Duchess - a podcast series! While we love doing Facebook Livestream videos (and we will do them again - promise!), sometimes they're a bit tricky for us to not only sit down and record, but we also found that our videos could get loonngggggggggggggggggggg.

We still want to talk about interesting subjects related to costuming, dress history, etc, but we realized that livestreaming wasn't really the best fit for that content, so we came up with the idea of doing a podcast that would allow us to really get into the meaty subjects about our most favorite topics that also allows us to still have fun and keep up the fun conversations that we have!

You can find our podcast, Fashion History with American Duchess, on iTunes, Google Play, and SoundCloud now!

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Thursday, May 4, 2017

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Pieces of Me - Remaking an 18th Century Gown

Sacque gown, partially deconstructed, 1765-69 - National Trust NT 1350856
It's commonly known that 18th century dress textiles were made and remade and remade again. A great many extant gowns in museum collections show evidence of being altered - some of them in the 19th century (darts, omg) and some of them in the 18th century.

Some of my favorite museum pieces are 1840s gowns made from great great grandma's old 1740s Spitalfields brocade. Can you imagine slicing into a century-old textile and refashioning it into a gown for yourself?

It was common and expected, though. And pretty cool! It's like dress history geology - a core sample of sedimentary mantua-making rock revealing layers and layers going back in time to the origin. Just how many incarnations has one silk fabric undergone? {nerd moment}

This year for the Costume College gala I want to finally make my version of the Madame Guimard portrait.

Portrait of Madame Guimard by Jean-Baptiste Greuze, c. 1790 - LACMA
I've broken down the many layers of this stage costume into three main parts: the robe, the gown, and the petticoat (or possibly harem-type pants, which is what I'd like to make). For the gown, the yellow part, I plan to make an Italian gown that can be worn on its own. I love versatility.

I happen to have a yellow gown already. Or, well....I had.

My Costume College gala dress last year was a 1750s gold shot taffeta English gown. I loved it, but I also love cheese and Starbucks, so I can no longer get the thing on (along with most of my other costumes. Joy). Here enters the idea to pick apart and re-make it.

Alas, this gown - in this incarnation - is no more. I still have the petticoat and stomacher.
What a great way to study a mantua-maker's experience. In picking apart the dress, small but significant discoveries come to light. Some are really obvious - boy these hand stitches are easy to pick, while my regret in that one machine-sewn seam is palpable. Also, the amount of fabric in a pleated back, and a particularly cool discovery of pulling apart pleated robings to find they form that recognizable 1770s squared-off bodice front perfectly. Additionally, there's no need to re-cut or sew the sleeves. They're still assembled, sans cuffs, ready to be set in again and re-trimmed.

The English gown picked apart. I left the creases in to show what everything used to be. There's quite a lot of textile here waiting to be refashioned.
The next step is to press all this out and carefully re-cut what's needed. I look forward to the discoveries at this part of the project too, and sharing the process with you.
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