Saturday, December 31, 2016

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My Last Project of 2016

1930s-inspired hooded wool bomber jacket.
It feels like I haven't sewn much this year. I certainly have lapsed on the blogging, which I greatly apologize for! Everything we've been stitching up since October has been for next year's 18th century sewing book and we can't share it, so it goes without saying that it's been very difficult to do anything other than that.

Luckily I had a couple days between Christmas and New Years "off," and I decided to make something for myself - a 1930s-inspired jacket. I love jackets and coats, and needed something cozy but with a short waist. I was inspired by the pullover in the bottom right of this 1930s Sears catalog page:

The inspiration jacket isn't really a jacket after all - it's a pullover with ribbed cuffs and band and a small collar. Adorbs!
I had some lovely plaid wool in the stash and a 1970s pattern that would serve as the base:

The pattern - Simplicity 5891 - and the fabric, a plaid melton.
The pattern, Simplicity 5891, was close-ish. I needed to adjust the waist measurement, which was easy to do with just two seams. I also wanted to convert the band and cuffs to ribbing, and add a hood.

My doodles and notes with adjustments and alterations.
The jacket shell went together easily. I took the time to do bound buttonholes, which came out a bit small. I'm not sure bound buttonholes were the best choice for this project, since the wool was so thick. If they'd been larger it would have been easier to work through them, but despite my mistakes at least I know they'll last a long time. I don't trust my stitched buttonholing technique!

Bound button holes - there's a lot more steps that come after this, so don't be deceived. They look nice, though.
The ribbing was both tricky and easy. The cuffs were a right royal pain but the band was surprisingly straightforward. The difficulties come from access on a modern machine, but I'm wont to think it's my technique that's in need of revision. Surely there's an easier way to do ribbed cuffs! For the band, I assembled it with the wool tab first, then applied it to the bodice. I added that little tab because I needed something sturdy to button to - you see this done in bomber jackets quite often.

The shell of the jacket assembled, waiting for the lining.
Lastly, the lining. I put the lining in by hand but only because I've never learned the proper way to do it by machine! I did some parts out of order - for instance, I should have stitched the lining of the sleeve at the cuff right-sides-together, then pulled it through and finished the armscye, instead of turning the lining and felling it to the cuff (what a pain!) - and it took me many hours to wrestle the lining in, but I won in the end.

Felling the lining in by hand. It took a long time, and my lining - a poly crepe - wasn't nice to sew.
I put a welt pocket in lining, since there was no room on the exterior for functional pockets (too short). This is the first time I'd ever done a pocket like this and I'm pleased with the result, though I see how to improve next time. I'm glad I took the time to add it, too, because it's the perfect place to stash my keys and phone on dog park days.

The "lips" of my interior pocket. These are made just like bound buttonholes, then the pocket back is applied. I used the instructions in the Vogue sewing book. This is my favorite part of the jacket, to be honest. 
All in all I'm very pleased with my last project of 2016, and happy that I carved out a little time to make something for myself that I will wear often. Wearing and loving something you made it one of the best feelings.

Cozy and cute - I've been living in this jacket since I finished it.
Happy New Year to you all! I look forward to your projects in 2017!
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Thursday, December 22, 2016

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What The Heck Is This 18th Century Dress?

I keep a Pinterest Board called "Historical Costuming Weirdness," wherein I pin all the things I find that don't match up nicely with what we think we know about historical dress *right now.* I love these images because they make me scratch my head and speculate, but most importantly, they make me research. Down, down, down the Research Rabbit Hole I go and if I don't find the answer iron-clad, I've learned an awful lot of cool stuff along the way.

Such is the case with these two 18th century portraits:

La Liseuse, by Jean-Etienne Liotard, c. 1746
A similar portrait attributed online to Jean Baptiste Mallet. I haven't found a confirmed date for this portrait, but based on the hair, we think late 1760s to early 1770s.

Artist Interpretation = Bunk

To be honest, I haven't seen a lot of mindful speculation on what these women are wearing. Most of the commentary has been "artistic license," and "artist interpretation," which is maddening because it shows a complete lack of understanding of historic portraiture and has become the thing to say rather than a simple "I don't know." Before I tell you what I think this garment is, I'm first going to say that in representative art prior to the 19th century, particularly portraiture, there was a reason for everything. There has to be a reason to depict something in a portrait. Often this is symbolism (look at any portrait by Holbein), but when it comes to dress, you just don't see clothing being completely "made up," painted from imagination. It references something real. Fancy dress, yes; extravagant gowns, yes; Europeans depicted in exotic dress of the orient, oh yes. But these items of clothing existed and were on that person (or a dummy) when he or she sat for the painter.

The reason I know this is because I am a trained artist, and the school in which I trained shares a direct link with the great masters of the Renaissance. My art training was intense, strict, all-consuming, and effective. Drawing from life was the foundation of everything. Reference, reference, reference. Does this sound familiar when applied to historical reenacting? To "just make it up" was as looked down on and as obvious as just "making it up" when re-creating a historical ensemble. To illustrate the point, here's an example of an artist "just making it up":

Virgin and Child Surrounded by Angels, by Jean Fouquet, c. 1452. Part of the Melun Diptych. This is an example of  an artist NOT drawing from life. Although the depiction is of the Madonna, the woman is believed to be Agnes Sorel, mistress of King Charles VII, who had died two years earlier. Definitely not drawing from life!
There was a very real shift in the philosophy of art in the mid-19th century. We call it "Art for Art's Sake," and this shift lead to well-defined and well-known stylistic periods: impressionism, post-impressionism, surrealism, dadaism, cubism, abstract art (and on and on to today). But this was not the expectation or leisure of working artists before the mid-19th century, whose financial security and success depended on their ability (and training) to paint realistically. Realism in art, especially portraiture, was king (the invention of photography replaces this requirement in the mid-19th century, and profoundly alters the course of art ever after). "Artistic license" is in flattering the sitter, enhancing what's already there, or downplaying what's not desired, but in the time when the gown painted in a portrait cost significantly more than the painting itself, it would be highly unprofessional for the artist to change it!

Now you know my partial motivation for spending hours digging for the reference for these portraits, so let's get back to them.

Jean Etienne Liotard and "The Reader"

The first is commonly called La Liseuse (The Reader), and is by Jean-Étienne Liotard, c. 1746. Further digging revealed that the portrait is of Liotard's niece (Mlle Marianne Lavergne, or Miss Lewis), and there are two versions of it.

Another version of La Liseuse, or Mlle Lavergne, the painter's niece.
Liotard was Swiss-French, born 1702 and perishing in 1789. He was renowned for painting Europeans in Turkish, Arabesque, and other fancy dress. He also showed an interest in regional dress, like in this lovely chalk portrait from 1737 described as a Roman lady:

click for larger image, to read the caption.
The portrait in the Rijksmuseum has an inscription on the back that says "Madelle Lavergne de Lion peint par Liotard." Another reference from a 1907 publication called "The Art of the Dresden Gallery" calls the picture "La Belle Lyonnaise."

Excerpt from "Catalogue of the Pictures, Miniatures, Pastels, Framed Water Colour, Drawings, Etc. in the Rijks-Museum at Amsterdam", 1905

Excerpt from "The Art of the Desden Gallery" 1907

This was the first real clue.

French > Lyon > Swiss > Zurich > Liotard

Immediately I went hunting for depictions of 18th century regional dress, particularly from Lyon. I found very little, and most of the images were from the 19th century, but I began to see similarities in garments....but not from Lyon.

The most similar depictions were Swiss, particularly from Zurich:

The caption on this one was "Swiss-Canton of Valais Lotschentaler wedding people". I feel this one is closest, but again this is from the 19th or early 20th century.

Swiss - Canton of Appenzell Ausser Rhoden - though sleeveless, the broad stomacher with spiral lacing through rings is very similar. 

NYPL - depiction of early 18th century Zurich dress, from an 1898 document. (there are many versions of this). The ensemble on the right most notably.
This bodice, though sleeveless, shows a similar under-bodice sort of garment, though this one looks like it's sewn to the outer bodice. Again, this is a 19th century image and we know that clothing, even regional dress, changed across this period.

None of these are spot-on, so I cannot and will not say categorically that what Mlle Lavergne is wearing is Swiss regional dress, but the connections are easily seen. Liotard was Swiss. This sitter was a real person. She was wearing real clothing.

Maybe-Mallet and the *Other* "Reader"

Now, the second portrait...


For the time being, I am going to say this portrait is by an unknown artist. Though the image is on Pinterest, attributed to Jean-Baptiste Mallet, I cannot find a reliable original record, accession number, or any mention of it in catalogs to confirm that it is indeed by him. (if you have a record, please let me know!) The reason for our skepticism is because Mallet was born in 1759, and the hair style of the sitter indicates the late 1760s to early 1770s, and the painting style the 1750s through 1770s. This is completely inconclusive, please note, but until we learn more about this portrait and where it's held, I'm not going to definitively say it's by Mallet.

Whoever did paint this portrait, it appears they came into contact with Liotard's earlier work at some point. The sitter is in the same pose, performing the same action, and is clearly wearing a very similar outfit, but the similarities end there. The sitter is looking straight at us, with fashionably dressed hair. Her gown appears to be a sacque in a subtley fancy fabric, but the ensemble lacks the details of Liotard's depiction, notably the apron, the bows at the waist, and the finely painted elements of the underbodice and lacing.

This portrait was "informed by" Liotard's, to use a very art world phrase. It's not a copy, but it's inspired by. This could come about any number of ways - the artist could have loved Liotard's work and wanted to do an homage, or the sitter could have loved Liotard's work and asked to be depicted in this way.

While both painters were painting real people, Liotard's portrait has an authenticity to it that the later work lacks. You can see this in the lack of realism on the later portrait's gown, which leads me to believe that his reference for the clothing was Liotard's painting, not real Swiss regional dress, OR that the sitter's marchande de modes concocted this costume.

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The lesson I learned in all this, and that I wish to pass on to you, goes back to research. Don't accept a modern excuse of "it's just artist interpretation; it's just artistic license." Instead, dive down that rabbit hole and find the answers! There are myriad weird-ass things in historical costume, but just like in science, it's all "magic and mystery" before somebody uncovers the evidence and links it together, to the benefit of us all. That "somebody" could be you.



A super-big image of Liotard's painting can be seen and studied here.
The book with the portrait of the Roman woman is available here.
Read "Art for Art's Sake: Its Fallacy and Viciousness," 1917, here.


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Monday, December 19, 2016

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The Vintage Makeup Review - with Lauren & Abby


Whether you've gone fully down the vintage style rabbit hole of everyday dress or you need a faceplan for an impending costume party, today we're going to share with you our discoveries concerning vintage repro and still-being-made-today makeup products.

We've selected and tested a number of different products from lipsticks to face powders. Each of these is either a modern historical reproduction (like Besame) or an item that has survived the sands of time and is still being made and sold today (like Coty Airspun and Max Factor Pan-Stik). So without further ado, here are the Pro's, Con's, and Where-to-Buy's of vintage makeup:

Max Factor Pan-Stik Foundation
Introduced in 1948.
A very thick foundation in a variety of colors, in stick form.

Pros: Easy to apply. Very good coverage. Many colors available. Matte finish. This stuff is serious stage-and-screen business.
Cons: Can look a bit weird in certain artificial lights. Can clog pores. Needs powdering throughout the day - feels a bit greasy after day-long wear.
Where to Buy: Amazon or Vermont Country Store



Coty Airspun Face Powder
Since 1935.
A translucent powder and a lot of it. Comes in a plastic box with a large powder puff.

Pros: Definitely does the job. Powder on with the enormous powder puff after applying foundation. Keeps things matte and lovely. The packaging is attractive and reminiscent of the original cardboard box.
Cons: Smells like granny, and maybe not in a good way. The smell is definitely "vintage," and thankfully fades off quickly.
Where to Buy: CVS (if you're lucky), Amazon, Walmart.com



Besame Brightening Face Powders
Repro
Vanilla and violet face powders for post-foundation setting. Also work for setting lipstick and generally brightening the complexion.

Pros: Smells wonderful. Does the job. Works great over foundation and concealer or just on its own. It does appear to brighten the skin up a touch. Comes in cute packaging that is easy to carry with you. Plus this company is a small business manufacturing in the USA.
Cons: The powderpuff is a bit insubstantial. Not a lot of powder for your money.
Where to Buy: Besame.com, Amazon



Tangee Blush
Early 1920s.
One blush to rule them all - the formula changes to the perfect shade for every complexion. Magic.

Pros: It really works. A little goes a long way. Beautiful flush without looking like a clown. Works for all skin tones. No smell.
Cons: A little goes a long way. We mean it! Only available from one vendor.
Where to Buy: Vermont Country Store and Nowhere Else




Besame Lipsticks
Repro
A large selection of colors made according to original colors by decade - authentic shades for the 1920s through the 1970s, each researched and reproduced faithfully.

Pros: Authentic, repro colors for each time period in highly-pigmented formulas that go on and stay on. They also smell wonderful. True reds available for warm and cool skin tones with help choosing your shades on the Besame website.
Cons: Variations in formulas color-to-color mean some lispticks are creamy while others are very dry. It can hurt to put the very dry ones on. The shape of the bullet makes applying from the tube very difficult. The bullet is quite short - you don't get a lot of lipstick for your money, but they do last a long time because of how pigmented they are.
Where to Buy: Besame.com


Tangee Lipstick
Early 1920s.
A novel lipstick that changes according to the wearer's skin tone. Always produces the perfect shade of pink for each individual.

Pros: Easy to apply - creamy formula acts more like a lip gloss than a traditional lipstick and goes on smoothly. Good shape to the bullet. Stays on and is "no fuss" with choosing the right color.
Cons: THE SMELL/TASTE OF THIS STUFF IS DIABOLICAL. Sorry to put that in all caps, but consider that your warning! I wanted to love Tangee and wear it constantly but the odor was so strong it made it unwearable for both me and Abby. The perfume is a mega-strong chemical floral scent that assaults the nostrils all day long and causes a weird feeling in the mouth (yes, you're tasting what you're smelling). Yum.
Where to Buy: Vermont Country Store and Nowhere Else


Besame Cake Mascara
Repro
The old-fashioned cake + brush of the 1920s - get it wet and apply the wax formula.

Pros: Despite being water soluble, this mascara stays on very well. Easier to use than appears. Comes with a brush and pretty packaging. Can also be used for eyebrows Isn't heavy but isn't invisible - build it up in layers.
Cons: Water soluble. Yes, it's got staying power...but don't cry or go swimming. The brush is alright but a spooly style might be easier to use. Let the cake dry before folding the paper back over it or else the paper will stick to it.
Where to Buy: Besame.com, Amazon


To hear more of Lauren and Abby's musings....possibly too much musing...50 minutes of musing....on these products, check out our video below (we shot this live some time ago, so while it is no longer live, it does contain all the shenanigans of a completely improvised show. You've been warned):




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Friday, December 16, 2016

It's Free Shipping Weekend!

Well, the title says it all:


This weekend we have FREE Priority Mail shipping on all USA orders, regardless of size or weight.

We've also added a few things to the SALE section, most notably "Tavistock" Victorian Button Boots. Don't forget that "Victoria" Carriage Boots and "Dunmore" 18th Century Shoes in Dyeable Sateen are also on clearance.

Additionally....

Royal Vintage Shoes - Free Shipping This Weekend!

We've got FREE Priority Mail Shipping on US orders all weekend long at Royal Vintage too!

Enjoy our broad selection of 1920s, 30s, and 40s shoes, including our own Classic 1940s Collection, any and all shipped free to you this weekend.



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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

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Popping Up In New York

New York from the Polaski Bridge
A couple weekends ago, Chris and I took a mini-vacay-partial-work-trip to New York.

The mini-vacay part involved lots of delicious and varied eateries in the ultra-hip(ster) areas of Brooklyn known as Williamsburg and Greenpoint; the partial-work part was (wo)manning our very first "try-and-buy" pop up shop at Slapback, the first official bricks-and-mortar shop to carry our new Royal Vintage line of 1940s shoes.

Renee, the owner of Slapback, and me, ready for a day of pop-uppering
It was such a treat to meet these girls!
The stunningly gorgeous Darlene - @highheelpaws on IG
The pop up event was quite fun! We had a little holiday display in Slapback, and got to meet lots of wonderful vintagey girls who came in to try on shoes. We took each of the seven designs in the Classic '40s collection and thoroughly enjoyed the shoes+dress pairings the girls chose.

In the evenings, Chris and I enjoyed touristy goodness. We were treated to "La bohème" at the Metropolitan Opera (thank you, Sidney!), which was an incredible spectacle. The stage is *enormous* with wonderful depth, height, and atmospheric design to the sets. The costuming and performances were top-notch and the opera house itself was breathtaking.

After the opera, we went to the top of the Empire State Building. The lines at midnight are, well, rather sparse, so we were able to go right up. It was wonderful, and freezing cold, and rather romantic.


Throughout the weekend I tried to wear my best vintage clothes. My 1940s tweed suit and color block dress were both from OverAttired. The green hat is from Frocks and Frills Vintage on Etsy. I wore Marilyns in black and red, Dolores in green, and Victoria Carriage Boots for walking all over in the cold (so cozy, so comfy!).

1940s Colore Block Dress with epic shoulder pads - from OverAttired

1940s Tweed Suit from Overattired | Hat from Frocks and Frills Vintage | The shoe is "Peggy" 1940s Spectator Pumps in Black/White.
Big THANK YOU to everyone who came to our little shop a couple weekends ago. It was a pleasure to meet you all and I hope to see you again in NYC!
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Monday, December 5, 2016

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Regency Foxed Slippers - Inspo

The Met, c. 1805-10
As we near the end of 2016 and look towards 2017, it's time to think about new historic shoe styles.

Yaaaaaaaay!!!!!!!!!!!

Whenever I start musing on new styles, I take a look at what's missing in the costuming community, what you ladies have been asking for, and where the holes in our shop are. The category that is meeting these criteria most right now is Regency. My how our Regency section looks lonely...

So it's time for new Regency shoes, but with that exciting proposition comes challenges. We want to create something that is different enough from the cheap-and-cheerful-Payless-ballet-flat but not too "out there" (we save those for the Exclusives, and yes, there will be Exclusives next year).

Through much discussion and research and musing and Starbucks runs, Abby and I are orbiting around a type of Regency flat we are seeing in several museum collection: The Foxed Slipper.

Foxing is the charming term for pieces of leather reinforcement found on fabric shoes. You're all familiar with 1830s-50s side-lace boots with foxing, but this trend started even earlier. It's a pretty addition as well as practical - the leather protects the sides and toes and sometimes heels of the shoes from wear.

The Met, c. 1812

The Met, c. 1800-1810. 

A less elegant design, but no less practical. These are from the Hopkins Collection. The photo is a snap from the book "Footwear" which is fab.
Many of the Regency era shoes with foxing exhibit it on the front vamp area, but some low booties also have the entire bottom half of the shoe foxed. Two-tones, especially in tan fabric and black or dark brown leather, appear very popular, but super-bright colors were also "a thing."

A Thing. Shoe-Icons, 1790s. Blue textile foxed with pink leather.
For the regular production line, we're thinking of trying these subtle two-tone low shoes in neutral and practical colors.

What do you think? Love them? Hate them?
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