Monday, March 30, 2015

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The One-Weekend 1940s Rayon Blouse


This past weekend I felt the need to stitch together something quick, easy, and very useful, using my favorite vintage fabric, rayon.

Luckily, my local Mill End fabric store has a good selection, and I picked up enough white rayon faille for two blouses.


I frankensteined Vogue 5724 and Simplicity 3079 together, after finding most of the pieces of the Vogue pattern missing. No worries - I just cut the sleeve on the Simplicity pattern short, and used the surviving collar piece from the Vogue. My version is missing the gathers from the neckline, and I didn't bother with the string tie thingy, but I think the over all effect is good. If I wanted to be extra '40s I'd put shoulder pads in....still debating that one, though.



It was a quick project and came out swell. I like the blouse very much, and it'll make a nice addition to my vintage wardrobe. :-)
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Thursday, March 26, 2015

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1780 Robe Retroussee - My Tribute to Avi

I have always been in love with this 1780s French gown from the Met, one for being a gorgeous gown, but because of the way the photograph was styled with the little dog mannequin:

The Met, 1780
To me, the little greyhound-like dog mannequin has always represented Avi, my dearest companion who passed away this time last year.  I had always intended to make this dress and take pictures with Avi, but never got around to it, though Avi participated in many costumed photo shoots over the years.

Avi and I posed together a lot in photo shoots for American Duchess. She would sit herself in the center of the backdrop and refuse to move, so we just went with it. :-)
When I was in LA last week, I found this embroidered silk taffeta and instantly thought of the picture from The Met, and this gown. The fabric was a bit of a splurge for me, but I knew I had to have it, and that even though I'll never be able to take the picture with Avi, it will remind me of her every time I wear the dress.  So I bought the fabric.

It's not a match, but it reminded me of the 1780 dress fabric, so I couldn't pass it up.
Luckily the Met has a lot of pictures of this gown, and I want to be true to the design. I'm hoping to have it done for a trip to Williamsburg in June - I better get stitching!



You can see more angles, and larger images at http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/84611
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Monday, March 23, 2015

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1785 Williamsburg Chintz Pierrot - Progress at Last!


I've been so diligently digging into the UFO pile, finishing things left and right, so I decided to pick up this little chintz jacket I started ages ago.

Here's the photo from last year - you can see the sleeve is pulling the shoulder and back in a funny way.
I had run into a problem with the sleeves (as usual). The sleeve heads were too shallow, so I removed the one sleeve I had set, and pattern-matched some extensions onto the tops of both sleeves.


I re-fit the sleeves over my dress form's shoulders, using the 18th century method, which is usually a good indication that they'll fit me. They're a little fuller than I would like, but I value mobility, so I'll just live with the slight easing gathers that remain over the top of the shoulder.

I don't have too far left to go on this jacket. I need to finish up the right sleeve's shoulder strap, then hem and trim the back skirt with *ruffles!* The ruffles will take a little time, but they're the big "huzzah" of the jacket, so it'll be worth it.

Looking back, I don't know why I did this jacket zone-front. I can't remember if I intended to add trim there or what, but the busy pattern in the fabric didn't really work with this design. Same for the crazy pleated back - these details would have been much more striking on a solid color.

Learning experience. :-)
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Friday, March 20, 2015

"Bronte" Victorian Slippers & "Highbury" Regency Slippers - Pre-Order Open!

I'm a little late to the game here on the blog, but better late than never!  If you follow us on Facebook or Twitter, you'll already know the new early 19th century slippers are now available to order, and with a $10 discount!


I've shared about the new "Bronte" slippers before, with extant examples from museums. I'm so happy with how our version turned out, and that unlike the originals, they're very comfortable to wear!

Bronte is available in black kid leather as well as white dyeable cotton sateen. The interior lacing loops mean you can wear them with a criss-crossed ribbon around the ankle, for a ball or just a different look, plus there's no end to creative things you can do with shoe clips and rosettes on the toes.


To Pre-Order Bronte for the $10 off discount, check out the Victorian page at AmericanDuchess.com

Left to right: Bronte in white sateen; Bronte in black kid leather; Highbury in white sateen. Ribbons not included.

Now the news for "Highbury" - thanks to your feedback, we made some improvements to Highbury. The fit is better, but the major changes are in the soling materials, which is now leather, and the upper material, which we changed to our favorite dyeable cotton sateen. They're so easy to dye with awesome results, and have that bit of sheen for dressier occasions, without the fragility of silk.

We've kept the four sets of lacing loops on the interior, which allow for several different designs in how you lace the ribbons, plus it's easy to decorate to your heart's content with shoe clip bows, rosettes, and pom poms. You never again have to fear wearing the same shoes as somebody else at the event!

To Pre-Order Highbury for the $10 off discount, visit 

Pre-Order ends March 27th. Delivery in about 2 - 4 weeks!

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Monday, March 16, 2015

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Wearing History 1930s "Moderne" Dress - Done, Finally!

Wearing History "Moderne" dress with alterations, paired with a me-made cloche, and "Sylvia" two-tone 1930s shoes in red/white
I finally finished it! YAY! It only took me - oh my goodness - two years. This is my ultimate UFO, but I bucked my usual trend of total abandonment and suffered through the fiddly finishing bits to complete the thing.

And I'm so happy I did. I *love* this dress.

I chose rayon for the fabric and found it finicky. Next time I will be sure to baste everything, because the rayon is quite slippery and wants to be naughty. It's worth the extra effort, though, as the drape and feel of rayon is so appealing.


The "Moderne" pattern says it's for advanced sewers, but with the version I made, I would call it pretty easy. That being said, I omitted the sleeves altogether, went with the easier neck style, and cut off the button placket detail at the hip. That left only the ruffly neck pieces to wrestle with, and they really weren't that big a deal. If you went with, for instance, View 1 unaltered, it would present more of a challenge.

Now that it's done, and I'm fully addicted to Wearing History patterns, I might be so bold as to say this is my favorite thing of their that I've yet made. It's just so quintessentially 1930s, but you can wear this as a modern outfit with no weird looks, too (not that weird looks bother us, right?). I'm also happy that I can make the pattern again, use the buttoned-up View 1, and have a totally different dress. Money well spent!


If you'd like to give "Modern" a go, it's available as a printed paper pattern or an ePattern on Wearing History's new site.
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Thursday, March 12, 2015

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I. Miller & Sons - Shoes for Movie Stars, Chorus Girls, and You.



There are a few names in the history of footwear that conjure up instant praise and awe. You may know a few - Pietro Yantorny, Roger Vivier, and I. Miller.

Differing from the first two, who were both couture footwear designers commanding the highest price for the most exclusive shoes, I. Miller designed and made shoes for performers, movie stars, but also the general public.


Sources vary concerning Israel Miller's origin. He immigrated to the U.S. from Prussia in the late 1880s/early 1890s, with prior experience as a cutter and designer in Paris. In New York he worked with John Azzimonti, the leading maker of footwear for the stage, then eventually set up his own company in 1895. Business boomed and I.Miller & Sons was soon dressing the feet of Broadway dancers, opera singers, silent film stars, and socialites with their glamorous and trend-setting heels.

Throughout the first three decades of the 20th century, I.Miller grew to 228 stores across the country, the flagship store being the famous I'Miller building in New York City, decorated with the enduring images of Ethel Barrymore, Marilyn Miller, Mary Pickford, and Rosa Ponselle, four of Miller's illustrious film clients.


I.Miller shoes were also carried in prominent shoe stores like Frank Werner Co. in San Francisco. Shoes found in these stores were stamped "I.Miller & Sons" on one insole, with the name of the shoe store and city on the other.

I find I'Miller shoes fascinating because I keep acquiring them, quite by accident. The I.Miller & Sons foil stamp on the insole is now a familiar sight accompanied by a warm feeling and connection with the past. Like I.Miller, American Duchess makes shoes for theater, opera, and film performers, and often in the same styles!


Two of my favorites came from two different friends, quite unrelated. One pair has the I.Miller stamp on the inside, was sold by Frank Werner Co. in San Francisco, and came out of a theater costume room. The second pair has no mark, so how do I know they're I.Miller as well? Because the fabric is the very same pattern, and the last and heel shapes match! These two styles were made around the same time in the late 1920s/early 1930s, and somehow survived in pretty good condition, and have now arrived in the same collection. It boggles my mind!



The latest pair is older than the two metallic brocade shoes. These came to me from a local store that had been using them in a shop display. I didn't know they were I.Miller when I convinced the shop owner to sell them to me, but was extra pleased to see that gilt stamp on the insole, along with a quality inspection stamp with the date 9-24-2? (the last digit is faded away). With the shape of the toe, last, and French heel, these shoes are early 20s, and belonged to who knows! A performer, a singer, a starlet, a bride?


Israel Miller died in August 1929, just three years after his famous New York flagship store was opened. He had grown the company to be one of the most successful shoe manufactories in U.S. history. The company continued after Israel Miller's death, revitalizing its brand in the 1950s with the help of commercial illustrator Andy Warhol. The brand eventually ceased in the 1970s.

Maybe we'll last for 75 years too. :-)

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Monday, March 9, 2015

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Review: Wearing History "Smooth Sailing" Trousers

Wearing History "Smooth Sailing" Trousers, Pendleton Blazer, 1940s style shoes by b.a.i.t. Footwear

My hunt for the perfect vintage pants has been long but not unfulfilled. I have made some of my own, but when it comes to trousers I'd really rather just buy them.

Really.

So I was thrilled when one of my favorite designers and fellow small business woman, Lauren Maringola of Wearing History, launched a Kickstarter campaign for her ready-to-wear line, which included her "Smooth Sailing" trousers in denim.

Oh hell yes.

I'm really happy with the quality and fit of the pants. They are made of lightweight denim (real denim!) that drapes nicely for the wide legs, and they fit perfectly through the waist and derriere.

Wearing History adjusted the pattern of these pants for a slightly more modern aesthetic, raising the crotch a bit, where vintage pants it's practically to the knees. This doesn't effect the vintage look at all, just makes them more comfortable and flattering.


Another nice detail - Lauren left a considerable depth of hem, so the pants can easily be let down to wear with high heels or if you're tall. As they are, I can wear them with flats, a huge bonus in a sea of though-shalt-only-wear-heels trousers available from the high street, and very convenient for casual wear.

The only drawback, which is really just my personal preference, is that the pants do not have pockets or belt loops. This keeps the lines over the hips and around the waist slim, though the lack of belt loops means you can't cinch the waist in. I'm between sizes, and had a little extra space in the waistband, but found it simple to adjust by moving the button at the side closure.

One last note - you may find you need to get some granny panties. Low rise, modern undies create a noticeable, um, dent (?) in the body that shows through the slim-fitting hips on the Smooth Sailing Trousers. High-rise knickers solve the problem. Get some pretty ones.
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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Plimoth Plantation: Call For Papers!


I'm boosting the signal for anyone interested in presenting at the Plimoth Plantation conference "Trimmings: Adorning the Fashionable Figure in the 17th Century," taking place June 6 -7, 2015 at Plimoth Plantation.

Here's the info:


Trimmings: Adorning the Fashionable Figure in the 17th Century 
Conference Call for papers


Plimoth Plantation’s 17th-Century Trimmings Conference will take place on June 6 and 7, 2015. The process and purpose of adorning oneself with decorative and embellished wardrobes was an important part of the post-medieval world. The trimmings trade contributed to a global economy, supported a complex guild structure, and bolstered expressions of social and economic class.

We are seeking submissions for a series of academic presentations to be given at the conference. Topics are not limited to the 1620s, but may range from the 16th to the 18th century. Both theoretical and practical topics will be considered; we are looking for papers or projects that are informational, creative and innovative! Topics of interest include, but are not limited to,

  • Production: material sourcing, mechanical innovations, creation and skill 
  • Economics: global trade, social capital, tradesmen and guild structures 
  • Symbolism: Military or religious meaning, vanity and morality, adornment in current popular culture 

The deadline for abstract submission is March 31, 2015, and notification of acceptance will occur by April 15.

Please send your proposal abstract by filling out a submission form at http://www.jotform.us/form/50555776454161. Only abstracts using the form will be accepted.

Plimoth Plantation is unable to pay for any expenses involved in the preparation and presentation of papers. Please obtain all necessary permissions for use of images before the presentation is given. Participants will receive free admission to the trimmings conference.

Length of presentations: 20 minutes




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