Thursday, April 18, 2019

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Pre-Order is Open at American Duchess

Wow, where do we even start! There is so much new stuff this season!

You won't want to miss these! Men's and women's sizes for pumps, flat 18th century latchet shoes, and Hessian boots.
New MENS collection

We can all credit Albert Roberts for convincing us to finally (finally!) explore the world of men's historical shoes. We have three offerings from the last quarter of the 18th century and into the Regency period...

Albert Men's Georgian Pumps (1790 - 1820) - perfect late 18th century into Regency pumps to wear with stockings and breeches. Suitable for both military and civilian impressions. All leather with top edge binding and a vamp tie.

Hamilton Men's 18th Century Shoes (1770 - 1820) - Refined and elegant, our 18th century latchet shoes are lined in leather, have a common sense heel, and a sturdy leather sole. Hamiltons are the gentleman's shoe of choice.

Hessian Men's Georgian Boots (1790 - 1830) - The quintessential gentleman's boot of the late 18th century, Mr. Darcy and Beau Brummel would approve. Hessians come nearly up to the knee, feature the curved top, tassels, and slouched vamp seen in originals, and are suitable for military and civilian impressions alike. THREE calf sizes available - measure the broadest part of your calf, over your stockings and breeches.

Have a look at the new late 18th century men's shoes, also available in women's sizes!
These styles also work very well for ladies, so we're offering them all in women's sizing as well. If you've been yearning for a flat pair of walking shoes and 18th century latchet shoes for working class impressions, you can purchase these styles in your normal size. Cross-dressing and cosplay also benefit from these styles.

Bertie Ladies' Georgian Pump (1790 - 1820) - pretty little black flats with vamp tie and almond-shaped toe. These can be used for both day and evening and are a little more substantial than a basic ballet flat.

Schuyler Ladies' 18th Century Shoes (1770 - 1820) - Georgian era flats that work for a broad time period. These close with 18th century shoe buckles, have almond toes, and sturdy leather soles.

Linden Women's Georgian Boots (1790 - 1830) - tall Georgian boots with square toes, *tassels* and the fashionably slouchy vamp. Wear them for riding/hunting impressions, in cross-dressing, or with jeans this Fall because dayum they are that sexy. THREE calf sizes available.

Check out our entirely new line of performance-specific shoes.
New THEATRICAL collection

While we've often supplied historical footwear to operas, theaters, and other productions, this is our first stage-specific collection, featuring quick-rigging, flex-soles, and versatility in design. We have three offerings for our first Theatrical release...

Bernhardt Theatrical Victorian Boots - A great basic late Victorian design comes with an interior zipper paired with elastic laces for a perfect fit. You'll find our stable and curvaceous 2.5 inch French heel paired with a generous toe box, and well-fitted ankle.

Follies T-Straps - An excellent character shoe, our open-sided t-straps have unsealed flex soles (they're bendy!), well-balanced 2.5 inch Spanish heels, and an elastic loop on the strap to prevent stretching out. Quick-rig hooks in matching colors are available to purchase with the Follies (unfitted).

Garrick Theatrical 18th Century Shoes - Iconic Georgian style with none of the fuss. The Garricks have velcro latchets for instant on-and-off. They come ready to wear with gold slide buckles, and the ivory leather is dyeable. The Garricks have a comfortable toe box, our 2.5 inch Louis heel, and hidden elastic insets paired with unsealed flex soles for excellent danceability. Wear these incredible shoes for both performance and mobility-accessible costume shoes.

Gorgeous Garricks in black leather with gold faux buckles and Louis heels.
**All of our new theatrical shoes have unsealed leather soles. They are perfectly wearable and functional as all-the-time, off-the-stage shoes. We do recommend treating the soles with Mink Oil or having a rubber half sole applied at a shoe repair if you plan to wear them in wet conditions, though.

New REGENCY booties!

We have one new ladies-only release this season - the new Emma boots in bright red and Federal blue.

These new Regency boots are ankle-height, have round soft toes, and flat leather soles. Dress them up with rosettes on the toes, fringe around the top, you name it. These pretty little boots are perfect for c. 1800 - 1820.

New "Emma" Regency boots in blue and red - the blue are shown here with clip-on rosettes in ivory, also available in our shop!

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Wednesday, April 3, 2019

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How to Scale Up Gridded Sewing Patterns with Adobe Photoshop

If you've been into historical costuming for any amount of time, you will be familiar with many a book featuring gridded (or scaled) sewing patterns. The Tudor Tailor, Patterns of Fashion (all of them), Period Costume for Stage and Screen, and The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking all have gridded patterns...but little to no information on how to scale these up.

There are a number of ways to scale up gridded sewing patterns. The most direct method is to plot the points on a 1 inch square piece of paper (buy large grid paper pads or draw your own on butcher paper). I've seen others use projectors. My particular favorite method, though, is to use the power of the almighty computer, and that is the method I am going to show you below...

How to Scale Up Gridded Sewing Patterns in Photoshop

1. Scan in the gridded pattern you wish to use. It's important that you get a good, straight scan with no distortion. Open the scanned file in Adobe Photoshop.

Open your scanned pattern in Photoshop. I am using the 1780s cap pattern from The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking in this example.
2. Using the selection tool, draw a box around 4 grid squares. Right click and select "copy" ( ctrl-C).

Select 4 of the grid boxes and copy (ctrl-C)
3. Create a new file (File > New). When the new file box comes up, it should have the dimensions of the copied portion of the grid already in place. Click OK.

You don't have to change anything on this new file box, so long as you copied the four squares - it gives the dimensions of the copied portion automatically.
4. The new file will open with a long, skinny aspect ratio. Paste the 4 squares (ctrl-P).

5. From the "Image" dropdown menu, select "Image Size."

6. The Image Size dialog box will open. Under "Document Size" in the middle, set the document width to 4 and make sure the unit measurement is "Inches." The 4 corresponds with the 4 squares you selected earlier.

The "4" in "width" corresponds with the four boxes you copied earlier
7. Still in the Image Size dialog box, click the dropdown arrow next to "Width" in the Pixel Dimensions box (the top box). Select "Percent." The number in the "width" box will change - write this number down. In my case the number changed to 206.19.

The "1200" in this screenshot changed to "206.19" after selecting "percentage" here. Write this number down! You'll need it later.
8. Going back to your scanned pattern file, click the "Image" dropdown menu at the top and select "Image Size."

9. In the Image Size dialog box, click the dropdown menu next to "Width" in the Pixel Dimensions box (at the top), and select Percent. You will see the number in "Width" change.

Once you select "percentage" the number to the left will change. It won't match the earlier 206.19. You have to do that manually in the next step.
10. Change the "Width" number to the percentage number you wrote down in step 7. Click OK.

11. You will see the file auto-scale. This is now at actual size and the grid boxes should be 1 inch.

How to Print Your Gridded Pattern

12. In order to print out and use your pattern, select "File" from the dropdown menu at the top, then "Save As."

13. In the Save As dialog box, select "Photoshop PDF" from the Format dropdown menu. Rename the file and save it.

14. Now open the PDF file in Adobe Acrobat.

13. Select "Print." Set the correct Printer at the top (if you have more than one), then click "Poster" under Page Sizing & Handling. This tiles the image. Under "Tile Scale" it should say "100%" and there should be about a 0.005 Overlap. No other adjustments need to be made unless you want to play around with the cut marks, labels, or paper orientation. Click "Print."

Check these four places in your Adobe Acrobat Print dialog box.
14. Before you print the entire tiled document, print just one of the pages and check the scale against a ruler. Make sure those boxes are 1 inch. If they're not, make sure your printer scale is 100%, and/or revisit the scaling instructions above. Once you're happy, print the entire document.

Print one page out on paper and check the printed grid against a ruler. It should measure 1 inch by 1 inch exactly.
Final Tips and Thoughts

For a small cap pattern like this, it took only 6 sheets, but dress patterns can take many, many more. Tape the sheets together, overlapping the edges and getting the grid to line up in both directions.

Most gridded patterns in books do not have seam allowance. There may be enough space to add it on the taped-together pattern, or you may add it as you lay out and cut your pieces on fabric.

Lastly, simple patterns like caps don't need size adjustment, though you can certainly reduce or increase scale in Photoshop before printing. Dress patterns, on the other hand, are usually taken from real women's clothing and are not a one-size shot. Your pattern will need adjustment. Some of this can be done in Photoshop prior to printing, but in all cases, you'll want to do a mockup and futz from there.


While this is not the only method, it's one of my favorites. Please note I'm using Photoshop CS6 in this tutorial. Newer and older versions of Photoshop may have some functions in slightly different places, but generally speaking the Image > Image Size dialog box hasn't changed much in a very long time.

I hope you find this tutorial useful!

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Friday, March 1, 2019

SALE! It's Spring Cleaning Time!

Woo! It's our annual Spring Cleaning Sale!

We have many beautiful styles coming into bloom for you this season. Check out these deals...

Amelie - $75 ($120) - These beautiful satin Edwardian slippers come in a variety of colors, each with a matching set of double bow shoe clips. The luminous satin pairs elegantly with the 1.75 inch French heel and almond shaped toe for a beautiful evening slipper of the Edwardian period.

Tissot - $99 ($155) - Elegance in mid-Victorian footwear is to be found in our Tissot slippers. These beautiful leather slippers are accurate for late 1850s through the 1880s and can be worn both as day and evening shoes. The Tissots come in either black or ivory and each have a set of large satin clip-on rosettes made after original examples.

Moliere - $120 ($160) - Quintessentially Edwardian, the Molieres are the very shape of turn-of-the-century glamour. With the large tongue, pointed toe, and 2.25 inch graceful French heels, you'll be both comfortable and chic for hours in these gorgeous reproduction slip-ons.

All of these...and MORE than just these too! Spring Cleaning goes through March 22, 2019
Dashwood - $65 ($99) - Treat yourself to a pair of reproduction Regency slippers. These adorable flats are made of sateen foxed with leather featuring a historically accurate stitch design on the toe. Dress your Dashwoods up with shoe clips, bows, or tassels and wear them with everything Jane Austen. This is our last offering of Regency slippers for some time, so don't miss these cuties for this amazing price.

Kensington - $120 ($175) - Green, Light Blue, Navy, and Pink. There are only a small selection of these colorful Kensingtons available. Enjoy these beautiful all-leather 18th century shoes with 1.75 inch French heels. Kensingtons in red, oxblood, and ivory will be back, but these unique colors will not be renewed.

Odds & Ends...
We have just a couple pairs of Stratford Elizabethan Shoes, Sophie 18th Century Mules, and Astoria Edwardian Shoes in Ivory remaining as well. You'll find them in the SALE section too.

* All sale shoes DO qualify for EasyPay. Coupons and gift certificates may also be used.
** Sale shoes ARE returnable for cash or store credit. Sweet!

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Thursday, February 21, 2019

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Annual 2019 Sewing Slump - My Tips for Self-Care in Sewing

The Letter, Pietro Longhi, 1746

It's that time of year! It seems right about this time, on an annual basis, I go into a dreadful sewing slump. I'm not motivated to even peek into my [utter disaster of a] sewing room, let alone drape or cut or stitch on anything. Even the simplest projects are gargantuan and better left untouched for more motivated days.

Do you ever feel this way?

Usually this slump bothers me, but this year I'm trying to give myself a break. We're moving house in just a couple weeks and I don't want to start anything new only to pack it all in and then feel stressed for not working on it while everything is in upheaval.

This leads me to think about self-care when it comes to sewing....or giving yourself permission to NOT do what usually brings peace, creativity, release, or relaxation.

The Seamstress, Jean-Francois Millet, 1853
It may seem crazy to feel stress around something that normally lowers the stress level, but in creative pursuits, especially when tied to social media in some way, it can feel like you're falling behind or "not performing" when you stop to take a breather.

The catch-22 is that you need to rest to be creative, even when creativity gives you a rest. The most important thing is to avoid performance pressure when creating. I believe all artists, no matter the medium, go through this. Have you ever heard that little voice in your head that says your work isn't good enough, that you've done that technique wrong, and you're a failure? It's crippling!

Let's all collectively give ourselves permission to leave the thread spools where they've fallen and close the door on it all for a little while.

Sewing Apprentic, Anne Claude Phillipe de Tubieres, 1737

It may also help to try something new and totally different for a short time too. What is stimulating and exciting your creative brain right now? For me (and I know at least two other historical costumers like this too), I love zippy cars, racing, and going to car meets. It's totally and completely removed from historical costuming, and it's a great way to take a break and recharge. Perhaps you're into horseback riding, surfing, hiking and camping, travel, aerospace engineering, biology, you name it. Pursue those other interests and recharge your dressmaking batteries.

When the time is right, you'll be overjoyed and excited at the prospect of a new historical costume, and the stitches will flow freely from your eager fingers.

So rest, relax, and try to embrace the slump. You'll be back at sewing in no time. <3

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Sunday, February 10, 2019


A 1630s Dutch Mistress

A still from "Tulip Fever," a beautiful film with some very very historically accurate 1630s costuming.
Oh boy, am I torn on Costume College Gala plans for 2019. I really want to do something 17th century, but I have so many choices!

I secretly love almost all of the 17th century. Fashion and aesthetic changed quite drastically, so there is a lot to explore in those 100 years. I'm drawn to the 1660s (I made one gown a long time ago and loved it) and have some materials and a plan already for a gold duchesse satin gown....but I also love the 1630s, particularly Dutch fashion, and I also have some of the materials for my own rendition.

One of the clearest images I've found in my 1630s rabbit hole depicting vital details of the gown, bodice, and petticoat along with accessories and silhouette. Rijksmuseum, 1619-1623
I'm currently (that is, today at this minute) most drawn to the Dutch early 1630s for two reasons. One is that one of my besties gave me some imperial yellow silk for Christmas; the other is that Patterns of Fashion 5 has exactly the bodice (smooth covered stays) in it that I could not find resources for last year when I became interested in these gowns. Additionally, I have a ridiculous amount of near-black silk taffeta that's been marinating for several years and I took Constance Mackenzie's Elizabethan Ruffs class at Costume College. AND I saw a good number of these gowns in portraits at the Louvre this Fall, so..........ok, I guess that's actually five reasons.

Five reasons to make a gown is four reasons more than I really need. So I'll take this as an imperative from the Universe.

Frans Hals painted many portraits of noblewomen in this type of dress. Here is a detail from one such portrait.
Looking over the Patterns of Fashion 5 pages, the construction of the most showstopping piece, the smooth-covered stays, doesn't look that complex. There are only three pieces - back, front, and skirt - with boning in the front only, and pad stitching in the back shoulders and the skirt. There is a lot of handwork there, but I may take some shortcuts, like working falsie buttonholes for non-functional buttons, and possibly purchasing ready-made replica buttons from The Tudor Tailor instead of covering 30-some odd wooden molds with thread.

This bodice is in Patterns of Fashion 5 and also the Abegg-Stiftung book, the latter of which has several more examples. Early 1630s.
In addition to the lobster-tail smooth-covered stays, the ensemble needs a set of sleeves (matching the stays in brightass yellow and black), the gown itself, a petticoat, cuffs, the mother of all ruffs with a rabatto or picadil, jewelry (possibly a girdle), and the cap. I thankfully already have a shift, stockings, shoes, and a gigantic bum roll, but I may also need other or different skirt supports and a purpose-made underpetticoat.

Another of the bodices from the Abegg-Stiftung book, this one a little earlier and with matching sleeves, which weren't always present. The book notes that sleeves often matched the bodice, but were tied into the armscyes of the overgowns rather than always stitched to the under bodice. More on all that later...
In preparation for this project I went through the very complex, long, and confusing process orf hunting down a vital publication - Kölner Patrizier- und Bürgerkleidung des 17. Jahrhunderts Die Kostümsammlung Hüpsch im Hessischen Landesmuseum Darmstadt (Cologne patrician and citizen clothing of the 17th century The costume collection Hüpsch in the Hessian State Museum Darmstadt) from the Abegg-Stiftung website. This book is in German, but comes with an English translation of the first three chapters. It's full of detailed descriptions (most of which I can't read, lol - I'll find a way!) of many 17th century garments including the smooth-covered stays from Patterns of Fashion5, and partial surviving gown worn over. Despite the book being very expensive, difficult to purchase online (wire transfer?), not in my language, and slow in shipping from Switzerland (came in a bag?), it is an incredible tome of focused costume study from a period for which there are very few resources. I'm happy to have it!

This is the book is amazing.
I'm very excited for this project. I love weird and wonderful periods of dress, especially the ones that are least loved by the historical costuming world. I like the challenge of trying to get it portrait-right and learning the why's and how's along the way.

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