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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Friday, November 3, 2017

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Podcast Episode 13: Flappers, Fringe, and Fashion with Zoë Beery

Hi All!

This week on Fashion History with American Duchess we speak with the amazing Zoë Beery, a writer for Racked, about her article on how flappers didn't wear fringed dresses (at least not the ones that we all think of today as "flapper" dresses --- you know, the ones you find in the Halloween costume pop up shops...)

Zoë Beery rocking some great vintage fashion

While we started down the path of the origin of this 1920s fringed flapper dress myth, as with so many of our interviews, the three of us found ourselves discussing the evolution of gender, sexuality, and fashion and the quirky juxtaposition of the 1920s vs. the 1950s. It was quite the fun discussion, which lead to a few nice moments of deep thought and contemplation during and after our chat with Zoë.

We really enjoyed this thought provoking episode and hope you do, too! If you have any thoughts on what we talk about this episode, feel free to leave a comment below.

Abby & Lauren

P.S. -- This episode was recorded through a Skype call, and sometimes that leads to funny noises because of weird internet connections. :)

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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

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What I've Learned About the 1830s in 2.75 Days

Dress, c. 1835 - FIDM
Though I have less and less time to devote to making historical costumes these days (ironically, but such is running two footwear companies), I still love a good dive down a rabbit hole. This weekend past was spent pouring over any and all 1830s references on my bookcase (and some from Abby's library as well) in an effort to begin forming an idea of this new period of interest.

Spending so long in the 18th century has raised the bar for me, in terms of costume research, context, and construction. Gone are the days of throwing together something vaguely resembling an inspiring photo in the Kyoto Costume Institute book for a ball at the weekend. Now I want to know all I can about the material culture, current events, regional happenings, favored textiles, their manufacture, dress construction and by whom, and on and on. Context adds a richness to making and wearing the garment that I really enjoy to where I can no longer do without it...like Starbucks.

Dress, 1831-35, Cora Ginsburg
This weekend I learned so many things that will come into play as I consider, compile, cut, and construct my 1830s costume.

The insane silhouette we most associate with the 1830s was actually in fashion for quite a short time. The very end of the 1820s saw the ballooning of the gigot sleeves, which then deflated just a few years later by the middle of the 1830s. I'm tickled by this because we see its like throughout history. What outlandish fashions can you think of that have come to represent an entire period or decade?

The gigot sleeves were not all there was to the early 1830s silhouette, though. I see a combination of shapes that add up to a whole with a very particular effect. In my opinion women were, by these fashions, made to look like dolls. I am reminded of the Russian nesting dolls I had as a child - big round heads, sloping shoulders and full busts, and a dome-shaped skirt ending quite at or above the ankle. The effect is diminutive no matter the height of the woman. I can see that skipping just one elements of this ensemble will throw off the look entirely. Go big or go home!

A typical fashion print, c. 1830-35
That being said, these elements are:

  • A bodice cut wide across the shoulders and neckline.
  • Utterly enormous sleeves tapering and well-fitted from elbow to wrist.
  • A sloping pelerine, canezou, capelet, or falling collar. The slope and breadth over the shoulders is key, and the opportunities for fluff here are enticing.
  • A narrow waist with a straight-cut waistline and a wide belt.
  • A full, dome-shaped skirt, ankle-length.
  • A very large, very round hat or bonnet stacked with trimmings

Round round round. Everything is round and soft and sloped. So desirable was the roundness of form that the profile altogether was obscured by broad-brimmed bonnets in favor of a perfectly oval face. The only thing that isn't round seems to be the shoes, with their sharply squared toes (lol.)

Dargate Swatch Book, c. 1830. My gown will be made out of approximately zero of these fabrics, but it's incredible to see the variety available. Thanks, roller printing!
Additionally, cotton was king in the 1830s. Advancements in milling and textile printing technologies in the late 18th century, along with the slave-driven production of raw cotton lead to a boom in cotton production in the Northwest of England. Cotton was cheap, washable, could be brightly colored and patterned, and became the favored fabric for everything from underpinnings to gown linings to gowns themselves. While I personally plan to still use linen for my shift, I have some polished cotton ready to line whatever loud-and-proud cotton print I use for the fashion fabric of my gown.

Speaking of underpinnings, the only thing I get to carry over is my late 18th century shift. Though there were other designs popping up by the 1830s, the basic shift was still well in use. Hooray for that - at least I have one piece already! As for the rest, I need:
  • Stays/Corset - I've found reference to both terms being used. India rubber elastic was also being used in stays but I'm not sure how - references indicate use for straps.
  • Split drawers
  • Corded petticoat, starched to eternity.
  • Bustle - appears to be stacks of ruffles, maybe horsehair, worn over the corded petticoat.
  • Possibly/probably one other petticoat, maybe flounced.
  • Sleeve puffs - these are optional, but I want!
1830s Underpinnings - FIDM
Of course, I loathe...LOATHE...making underwear, especially an entire new set from a new period. So imagine my glee when I found the major pieces for sale on Etsy all at reasonable prices. I got a corded petticoat from HandStitchesInTime and a corset and sleeve pads from WorkshopKarinaFienn. Cheating? Maybe. Caring? No. I want to hurry up get to the tasty bits of making the gown and millinery! I have so little time as it is!

Okay, so that wasn't *everything* I learned this past weekend, but it was rather a lot. The plan is forming and I'm getting inspired and excited. Yay!

For those wishing to add to your libraries concerning the 1830s, here is my book list:

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Friday, October 27, 2017

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The American Duchess Guide: Behind the Scenes With The 1760s Sacque Gown {Video}

Our c. 1768 sacque gown created for The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking, made for and modeled by Abby Cox. You can create this or your own creative design with the instructions in the book!
Hi lovelies! We recently did a Facebook Livecast all about the 1760s sacque gown (robe a la Francaise) and its various accessories that we made for The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking.

In this video, we give a little preview of the elements of the gown, petticoat, trimmings, cap, hoops, and more, with a peek at the patterns, diagrams, and how-to parts in the book. We also share some behind-the-scenes stories, tidbits, and challenges.

Of all the projects in the book, the sacque is the most "spectacular," but actually wasn't the hardest to make! Even though robes a la Francaise seem intimidating, we try to break it down in tutorials for everyone.

The back pleats of the sacque, or robe a la Francaise, are iconic and so flattering. Learn how to easily pleat this style with the hidden 3rd pleat for perfectly crisp pleats.
Additionally, we have two new Simplicity patterns coming out this winter for this gown and the underpinnings to go with it. Those two pattern packs include shift, stays, side hoops, the gown (comperes front stomacher), and the petticoat. We encourage everyone to use the Simplicity patterns in partnership with the book to create your own hand-sewn ensemble.

Special Preview! Here's a look at the shift, stays, and side hoops in our next Simplicity pattern release. This packet is designed to be used with the sacque gown, also being released.
The Simplicity patterns are coming in December, just after our book is released. We'll post everywhere, don't worry!

If you'd like to pre-order The American Duchess Guide, you can get it here. We will also have signed copies available on AmericanDuchess.com on November 21st. <3
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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A Late Date with the 1830s

Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum, 1835.
Is it finally time to venture into the 1830s? I've talked about it for years; I've seen my friends do incredible 1830s gowns and even reproduce the wacky and wonderful 1830s hair. And all along the way I've been touched by a little jealousy....those 1830s ensembles sure look fun!

I've only ever made one 1830s dress and it, well, it really wasn't. I did a few things wrong, such as cutting the sleeves way too narrow and using a front closure (in my defense, I had no one to dress me at the time, so this was a necessary adjustment, but not historically accurate. I no longer have this dilemma).

But that weird red cotton dress was loads of fun to wear (plus I have a lot of fabric to make a new bodice proper) and I think it's time to revisit the experience.

2014 - My only 1830s dress could have been better...luckily I have enough fabric to make a new bodice, which will be a good mock-up for a version in silk later on.
What scares me a little is that I've spent *so* much time in the late 18th century that now I feel trepidation at taking on a new period. What intrigues me, though, is the similarities and differences to be discovered between the last quarter of the 18th c. and the 1830s. We still don't have the sewing machine in the Romantic Era, and there was only a generation or two between Georgian mantua-makers and those of the 1830s. How were skills potentially passed on, improved upon, and did any fall into disuse?

So. Here we are again.

Beret sleeve, why can't I quit you? LACMA, c. 1830

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