Tuesday, October 21, 2014

How and Why I Make Historical Shoes

Stratford Renaissance Shoes by American Duchess
"Stratford" Elizabethan Shoes - a collaboration by historical cordwainer Francis Classe and American Duchess
I realize lately that many of you may not know my story of how I got into making historical footwear.

Back in 2010, my now-husband Mr. C and I were both freelance creatives - I did illustration, and he did photographer. Not a whole lot was going on with, y'know, getting paid for those services, and the electricity was turned off more than once because we were struggling badly.

At the same time, I was costuming and blogging. Each time I finished a dress, I would stress over what shoes I was going to put with it, because nothing I had was really correct. I was worried about what others would say, and I personally felt that my hard work on the dress itself was tarnished by my poor shoe choices.

I thought that others were surely having this problem with shoes too, and wondered if I could find a way to get some made. So I started asking my blog followers what they thought, and looking for manufacturers, finally finding someone who would make these weird, old-fashioned shoes for a decent price.

The original satin "Georgiana" from 2011
It was important to me that these were shoes that were both beautiful and comfortable, historically accurate, and available nowhere else. There seemed to be a huge lack of pretty-pretty-princess shoes, so that's what I set out to design, starting with just one dyeable satin 18th century pump, which we called "Georgiana" after the Duchess of Devonshire.

The day we opened the pre-order, I was gobsmacked by the response from the costuming community: through our own crowd-funding website, overnight we sold enough "Georgianas" to do the production run. By the end of the 3-week pre-order period, we'd sold 230 pairs. I remember thinking that first night, "this is what I'm going to do with my life now."

Claremont Art Deco 1930s Shoes by American Duchess
Claremont, the "youngest" shoe we've made - from the 1930s
Fast forward three years, and I'm astonished still at the wonderful support of the community. We've certainly had our trials - factory changes, design improvements, trips across the world - but I could never have imagined being able to offer over thirty styles of historical shoes, a line of 18th century shoe buckles, and a selection of beautiful silk stockings.

From day one, the mission has always been the same: to design historically accurate shoes that are gorgeous, comfortable, and exactly what YOU want. Your shoes should make you feel glamorous and irreproachably correct in your period impression, while not inhibiting you from enjoying your events.

Dyeable Georgiana 18th century shoes by American Duchess
The latest version of the dyeable "Georgiana," which has been improved in silhouette, materials, and durability.
We will always strive to create grace and beauty for you, and allow you to explore the past through clothing, keeping history alive one step at a time.

With Much Love and Gratitude,









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7 comments:

  1. What a great story! We are hoping to gain that kind of growth and popularity with our hats some day.
    This was very inspirational!
    Thank you for sharing-
    Pru
    The Sisters Brimm

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    1. Thank you so much! Don't be afraid to "bare your soul" and talk about why you love making hats!

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  2. As Pru rightly says, your story is an inspiration to us all. One day I hope to purchase some of your pretty shoes - I have to save hard for them (the postage costs to the UK are wickedly high). I love reading your blog posts, so funny and honest. Good luck with all you do!

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    1. Thank you so much! We're trying to come up with ways to reduce the horrid shipping and import duties to the UK and EU. Hopefully we'll crack that nut soon!

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  3. Realizing "wishing" doesn't pay your bills I just had to stop, read this blog post and comment on how proud I am of your journey (though I don't even know you). Also, to let you know if I were able I would own at least four to eight pair of American Duchess shoes IF I had a job. My closet would be chock full with: Gibson (all colors); Spectator T-Strap (every color I could get my paws on; Savoy Edwardians (black/gold), Tavistoy boot in black AND white.

    Ecstatically yours,

    Lyric
    http://www.sewlyricallyvintage.wordpress.com

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    1. Thank you so much! Your support means a lot to me!

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  4. I started reading your blog back in 2009 and I've watched with absolute joy how your business has grown! It's a delight to see a costumer peer be able to thrive doing what they love, and you have definitely filled a gap in the market!

    Like others, I would have bought more of your shoes if I had the money to spend (import tax in Norway sadly adds almost a third of the original price (including shipping costs) on to the total, so it becomes even more expensive), but I indulged myself to a pair of your exquisite Tavistock button boots to go with my Victorian Steampunk wedding dress, and I absolutely adore them!

    You have come such a long way, and I wish you all the best of luck for the future!

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