Monday, August 28, 2017

, , , ,

New Cotton Striped Stockings, Oh YEAH!

Storyville portrait, New Orleans, c. 1912. Portrait by E. J. Bellocq.
Who doesn't love a good striped stocking?

The Georgians, Victorians, and Edwardians sure did! Striped stockings of various colors - some loud, some more demure - have been in fashion for several hundred years now, right up until today. Why are we so draw to wearing striped hosiery?

Stockings, The Met, late 19th century. Cotton. C.I.56.10.5a,b
Stockings, The Met, late 18th c - early 19th c. C.I.44.8.13a,b
Stockings, The Met, 19th century, silk. C.I.54.7.7a,b
We're thrilled to announce the first addition of striped cotton OTK (over-the-knee) socks into our Accessories shop. These super-stretchy, heavy-ish stockings feature bright colors in ribbed knit.

Stockings, OTK, cotton - green and black rib knit.

Stockings, OTK, cotton, yellow and black rib knit
You can wear these vertical-striped stockings for so many things. They'll work for late 18th century and late 19th century, particularly the 1890s, when all manner of brightly-colored, wackadoodle legwear was en vogue.

Also wear these stockings for Harry Potter cosplay, Halloween, or just because they're freakin' awesome. Check them out:

Click me like one of your French girls, Just kidding - striped stockings aren't just for Edwardian prostitutes, promise.

Hufflepuff stockings, or bumblebee stockings, or Victorian stockings because they totally wore these crazy things under their prim dresses.

The End. <3
Read More

Friday, August 25, 2017


Introducing Nicole Rudolph, Footwear Designer

We are beyond excited to officially announce the newest addition to the American Duchess / Royal Vintage team: Nicole Rudolph!

Many of you will know Nicole from her blog Diary of a Mantua Maker. Some of you will have also met her at Colonial Williamsburg and Costume College.

Nicole is not only an amazing mantua-maker and tailor, but an incredibly skilled historic shoemaker. Her research, know-how, and epic level of taste make her a real jewel in our tiara, and we could not be more excited to be working with her.

Here's a bit more about Nicole in her own words...

Tell us about how you got into historical costuming.

I have been interested in historical costuming since I was very young, making my first "historical" piece when I was 12- a purple crushed velvet Medieval gown with gold trim. It sounds terrible, but we all start somewhere! My mother is also an avid seamstress and taught me so much about sewing from an early age. From there I became responsible for costuming many of our high school's theatrical productions and went on to college for Technical Theatre at Ball State University. In designing a production of Cabaret I fell in love with researching historical costume and haven't been able to stop since!

What is your favorite period of dress?

My favorite era is probably the 1890s. I love the tailored looks that were so fashionable, as well as the absurdity of the sleeve proportions! So much changes in that one decade. But, the details, trim, and finishing of some of those garments is simply breathtaking. While no costume is ever "perfect", the closest I've come was with an 1890s jacket I made for steampunk a few years ago, so it's a bit of a sentimental time period for me as well.

An insane pair of 1920s shoes made by Nicole.

Did you go to school for historic costuming/dress? Have you done any training?

After college I worked at Colonial Williamsburg for about 8 years, starting in their Costume Design Center. I was fortunate to spend time learning tailoring, gown making, tent making, and even shoemaking from the tradespeople in Williamsburg. At the moment, I'm mid-way through graduate school, studying Fashion History at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

What lead you to shoes and footwear? How did you learn how to make shoes?

While at Colonial Williamsburg, I was frustrated by the lack of 18th century shoe options that fit me (the dark, pre-American Duchess days) and signed up to take an 18th century shoemaking workshop from Brett Walker. It turns out I have unusually narrow feet and have a hard time fitting into many off-the-rack styles. The only way to solve this was to plunge into the world of shoemaking and six years later I'm now in process on my 26th pair of shoes (I may have lost count). It's not an easy trade to learn, and in fact my first pair of shoes was two sizes too large for me and I've only suffered to wear them once! The second pair I wore through completely, however. And the third, and the fourth. Turns out I walk a lot!

What are your plans for the future?

I'll be finishing up graduate school in a year or so, with my thesis focusing on mid-19th century shoes. I've had to take a break from producing shoes because of school (aside from a few exciting pairs this summer), so I look forward to opening the workshop up again. I was able to take a research trip up the East coast this summer to look at original shoes in a few museums, leaving me full of inspiration and technical ideas I want to experiment with. I can't wait to start applying the research I've been doing!

If you'd like to follow Nicole more, check her out...

Read More

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Podcast Episode 11: Interview with Theatre/TV/Film Costumer Constance MacKenzie

Constance & Cathy Hay looking amazing at the Jane Austen Festival in Bath
Hello Lovelies!

Lauren and I had the pleasure of being introduced to Constance MacKenzie by Cathy Hay while we were at Costume College in August. It took all of about 5 minutes for us to develop a strong costumer girl crush on Constance. This girl has made incredible things happen throughout her career, and never took no for an answer.

She started her sewing journey attending Kentwell Hall's Tudor Days as a child and eventually becoming a reenactor & participant in the event. From there she secured a job at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, attending Wimbledon College of Arts for Costume Design, and eventually has worked her way into working on massive movies like....


She even got to be an extra in that scene when Diana is being outfitted in "proper" 1918 women's clothing. Constance is even in a gif!

See Constance?! She's measuring the customer in the background! Wee! 

While we don't get into a lot of nitty gritty history things with Constance, we thoroughly enjoyed hearing about her professional journey and we believe that she should be an inspiration to all young people who want to work in this field. Lauren and I both left the interview feeling inspired by Constance's drive and determination to follow her dreams and achieve her goals by being true to herself and working her bum off. 

Constance attending Tudor Days at Kentwell Hall

A selection of Ruffs made by Constance. She is a ruff queen! 

You can follow Constance on Facebook and Instagram!

Note: Thank you so much for all of your feedback both here, on facebook, and on iTunes - we are trying to figure out and better work with the sound issues (still a bit of a learning curve for me) - and while some steps have already been made, we are looking into other options so that way we can have better sound quality for all of our guests. <3
Read More

Monday, August 21, 2017

, , , ,

The "Jane Austen Goes to Ikea and then to Jane Austen Festival" Gown

This year was my first visit to Jane Austen Festival in Louisville, Kentucky, at beautiful Locust Grove historic site.

I had been to Locust Grove before on a rainy November afternoon rather a few years ago. I adored the house then, but longed to see it "brought to life" by this famous event.

I knew I would need a gown to handle the heat of Kentucky in Summer, something light and cool but also fashionable. It was an easy choice to explore the late 1790s after studying and creating the gown and millinery for the American Duchess Guide earlier this year.

My inspiration came from Kyoto Costume Institute, a couple of the transitional open robes in bold floral prints worn with white-work petticoats. While this direction was a bit more involved than the simpler round gown, I felt that the plainer petticoat would help balance the floral print.

The petticoat was an exercise in stash-busting - several different pieces put together and tea-stained for uniformity. It didn't come out quite how I'd hoped, but it gave the effect I was going for. I may revisit petticoat option later...
And yes, the floral is from Ikea. Huzzah for curtains! I was very happy with this textile - 100% cotton with a linen-ish look, lightweight enough for a gown, and with a pleasing design. My only quibble (if one can even quibble when one is using curtains for costuming) is that the design is screenprinted on and a little tough to get a needle through in some places.

I had originally planned to pleat the back skirt, but because I had already finished the bottom edge of the bodice and the top edge of the skirt, I stroke gathered and whipped the volume instead, which worked well with the sash and was secure and full enough for the right look.
The petticoat is a suspender style, opening on the side. Because of the sheerness of it I wore split drawers beneath, which may not be entirely accurate but they solved *many problems.*

The gown bodice is constructed on a linen lining and underbodice that pins at center front. The front - two pieces on drawstrings tying at center front - is then applied over the top. I love this transitional method so often seen on 1790s gowns, as it means you can use the same underbodice repeatedly and just do a different design over the top - surplice, bib front, gathered round or V-neck, etc. For reference, Abby's 1790s dinner gown is the very same bodice/underbodice, but how different these gowns look! It's merely a matter of what sleeve style/length, what front style, open robe or round gown? (Don't worry, we go over all of this fun in the book, too).

The bodice - top is the back, bottom is the front. You can see the linen left plain and just hemmed where it will later be covered by the gathered front pieces.
For the event, I wore the gown and petticoat with a silk sash, ruffled chemisette, and Dashwood Regency Slippers in brown/tan. In the morning I wore a Caroline hat I re-fashioned from an old straw hat (many are the bows. many!), then changed into the turban cap for our formal dinner.

Dashwood Regency Slippers in brown/tan for Saturday. I wore the black/black on Sunday.

A bit hard to see, but the straw Caroline hat served me well for sun protection and added fluff. Thank you to Tony Tumbusch for the photo <3
Best of all, I didn't die. We were lucky to have rather favorable weather this year, and my gown was comfortable and easy to wear, breathable, and quite cool. I was surprised to have been more comfortable on Saturday dressed as a lady in stays and petticoats than I was on Sunday as a sailor dressed in trousers and waistcoat!

For more information and tutorials on making your own 1790s gown and millinery, you'll love our upcoming 18th century costuming manual, The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking, now available to pre-order on Amazon. <3

Millinery and Accessories - the turban cap and chemisette are two pieces we made for the book. Coral necklace by K. Walters At the Sign of the Gray Horse.

Read More

Friday, August 18, 2017


The Robe a la Turque - Part 2 - The Gown

Italian Gown in yellow silk taffeta worn with a ruffled voile apron and cap, and fashionable black silk hat with black "Dunmore" shoes. Mid-1780s.
One thing I love most in costuming is versatility. I love that our Georgian foremothers re-trimmed old gowns, refashioned old frocks, and mixed-and-matched their clothing and accessories in different ways to achieve different looks. Being able to wear something for more than one occasion is economical, and this was at the forefront of my mind in planning my Turkish-inspired costume.

In studying the portrait, I concluded that the costume was a throw-together of various pieces to hand. A gown here, a belt there, oooh a shiny sash, how about this polonaise robe, wait put some fur on it...there we go. I can just imagine the actors and actresses of Comedie Francaise raiding a big trunk of garments, assembling them into various "characters," like the Sultana here.

So that is what I did too.

I started with an Italian gown. Lucky for me, Abby cut a muslin 18th c. bodice on me recently and I was able to get straight to assembly after a quick test fit. I tweaked the front closure from center front pinning to overlapping on an angle, to create the fold-down lapels seen on the gown in the portrait.

The lapels of the bodice are lined in purple silk, trimmed with silver leaves.

The trim had to be applied to the purple lining silk prior to the assembling of the outer and lining fabrics, so no stitches showed through.
I also added Flippy-Flappies, which were tricky and needed fiddling more than once. Additionally, my diagonal "zone" seams went all wibbly-wobbly on me and I had to piece in some extra silk to make up for the gap. Still a mystery to me how that got quite so off!

Pinning a flippy-flappy into place on the muslin bodice front. I had to adjust these a couple times.
For the back, I stuck with the simple two-piece back rather than adding additional seams. This meant quicker assembly of the CB seam and an easy fitting through the two side-back seams. I even reference our own book (The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking) multiple times to be extra sure I was doing things in the right order and with the right seaming techniques.

Center back seam assembled with internal boning channels. I worked on the bodice over the split bum, which helped me curve the back waist edge down into the point.

The finished gown back. I pulled my stitched a little tight on the CB seam which caused a little rumplage - this is a watch point for you guys when working with thin silk!
One thing I really love about Italian Gowns is that they really do go together super fast. The longest process was in trimming and lining the front of the bodice to fold down into those lapels. Aside from that, once the front and back pieces were together, I pleated up the skirt, stitched it to the bodice, leaving the raw edges turned down on the inside, and hemmed it. The last steps were to set the sleeves (thanks, Abby!), apply the shoulder straps, and tack in the lace tucker.

Pleating up one side of the gown skirts. I didn't do a great job, to be honest. Better next time....

Last bit of gown construction - applying the shoulder straps after the sleeves have been fitted. This is fiddly, but it sure does feel good to get it done!
Just like that, the gown was down. It felt great to have something completed that I could wear if I did not finish all the rest of the pieces for the Turkish costume. And, of course, my favorite aspect is that it can be worn different ways - either as a fashionable outfit with a split bum, apron, hat, and cap, or snazzed up a la Turque.

The yellow Italian Gown worn as fashionable European dress. The bodice is pinned closed up to the neckline, hiding those trimmed lapels completely, especially with the breast bow. The gown skirt is tied up and the ensemble worn over a split bum and matching yellow silk petticoat with a fluffy voile apron. To finish the look, a large 1780s cap, black silk hat, and black "Dunmore" shoes and "Dandridge" buckles. There is nothing "Turkish" about this ensemble.
Fashionable dress, mid-1780s

...but can you believe this is the same gown? Here the gown is worn over bright pink shalwar (pants) and a high chemisette. While still worn over stays, I did not wear any hip or bum padding. I roughly tacked on a decorative front panel to the skirt, looped up to show the purple lining and silver trim, which tied in with the lapels of the bodice worn open. The addition of the blue robe, a few accessories, and a change of cap and shoes render this outfit ready for the stage.
Turkish-inspired stage costume, 1790.
Never fear - I know there's a lot more going on with the Turque than just the gown, and I have posts on the way for the poofy-pants, the robe, the accessories, etc. Stay tuned!

And if you'd like to learn how to make a late 18th century gown like this, pre-order a copy of our Georgian mantua-making and millinery manual, The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking, releasing November 21st. We present detailed how-to's within on how to make both caps, the apron, and the black silk hat that appear in this post, in addition to step-by-step instructions on constructing the Italian gown in the accurate 18th century way.
Read More

Monday, August 14, 2017


The Robe a la Turque, part 1

Mademoiselle Guimard in Turkish Dress by Greuze, 1790 - LACMA (detail)
Who doesn't love the feeling of completing a project you've been obsessing about for *years* and getting to wear it to the big event of the year? I know it seems silly - Lauren, gosh, just make x-y-z already - but as our lives get busier and time shorter, it's hard to stick to any project at all, let alone one with so many facets.

I'm feeling proud of my completed 1790 Ottoman-inspired stage costume. It is some of the best (and fastest) work I've done, but more interesting to me are the levels of history and culture this ensemble deals with.

At the Costume College gala - don't worry, I'll show you all the parts and pieces of this costume later (in better photos). Yes, I'm teasing you.
Originally I thought the portrait of Mademoiselle Guimard by Greuze, 1790, just depicted a woman in the popular Turkish-inspired dress so loved in France in the 18th century. As I peered into the world surrounding the creation of the portrait, though, I realized that Guimard's ensemble differed from the fashionable "Robe a la Turque" quite a bit. This helped me make decisions in how to construct the parts of this stage costume.

"Costume of the Sultana used in the Comedie Francaise in the plays where there is a role for this costume" (1779). Because I could not see the bottom half of Guimard in the portrait, I used this plate as secondary reference.
To break this down from the skin out, here's what I wore:

  • shift
  • stays
  • shalwar (pants)
  • gown
  • sash
  • belt
  • kurdi (robe)

I will go over each of these pieces and their construction in the next few posts about this project.

Ultimately, what I ended up creating from Greuze's portrait was what I believe to have been a stage costume thrown together from a variety of pieces made in the Western fashion rather than original Turkish pieces. The whole look together formed this European fantasy of Ottoman dress while having very little do with it, especially in the construction.

My original drawing and notes from way back. For the most part I stuck to this.
As a stage costume, the bright primary colors, extravagant textures, and shimmering trims would have read wonderfully and been a feast for the eyes. Oddly enough, viewing the Chagall exhibit at LACMA two days before wearing this costume really helped me understand the needs and intentions of theatrical costume, quite different from those of fashionable dress, even if both have the same Turkish influences.

In the end, I felt glamorous and authentic in this costume, but authentic only to the portrait of Guimard. To fashionable dress of France in 1790s or to real Ottoman dress of that period there was no faithfulness then nor now. And this fascinates me.

An example of the fashionable Robe a la Turque. Cabinet des Modes - November 1786. This is pretty similar, but it will have been constructed differently with the yellow bodice and striped robe likely being stitched together. 
Parts of this costume were quite easy while another part was the hardest technical challenge I've ever attempted. Stay tuned for more posts on each of these pieces and how they were made in the Eastern fashion using Western methods.
Read More

Friday, August 11, 2017

, ,

Trends - Late 18th Century Flippy-Flappies

The Met - Robe a l'Anglaise - 1785-87
When we start out in costuming for a particular era, we think in centuries - the 18th century, the 19th century - and quickly move into thirds. What were fashions like at the beginning, the middle, or the end? Then, as we learn obsess more, we define the decades separately from each other, and finally - if you're a particular kind of nerd like Abby Cox - your resolution is as fine as years and sometimes even season or months within a year. When you've whittled it down to decades or years, you start to notice particular trends in fashion that are lost in the wider view of a period.

One of these trends has recently piqued my interest. I call it, them, Flippy Flappies - bodices with tabs at the waist, popular for the second half of the 1780s (possibly earlier) to at least 1790 (possibly later). That's a pretty narrow few years, but during this time, Flippy Flappies were all the rage.

Patrick Berria "Zone Gown" - link is dead. This is a great example of a late 1780s Flippy Flappy bodice with an underbodice.
The underbodice from the Patrick Berria gown (dead link).
I first noticed the Flippy Flappies on the Mademoiselle Guimard portrait, 1790, that I've been studying so closely for my Costume College ensemble, as well as on the famous, delicious pink and white striped Italian Gown in The Met (C.I.66.39a, b). Then I began to see them more often:

Detail of the portrait of Guimard by Greuze, 1790, LACMA - you can see the tabbed bodice and an overlap at the front "point." that falls open with the lapels at the neckline. The white beneath is the underbodice.
Cabinet des Modes - November 1786 - great example of a Robe a la Turque with a cutaway gown and flippy-floppy underbodice.

Portrait of Madame de Serres by Joseph Boze, 1787.

A ridiculously amazing gown from Villa Rosemaine, 1780s - these flippy floppies are pinked, but still lined with linen squares beneath.
*Many more are to be found on my 1780s Pinterest board.

I have yet to discover any particular cause or reason for the trend. There may be none more than just fashion for fashion's sake, but quite often short-lived trends flare up from contemporary politic events, regional interests, or the whims or conditions of royalty. It would be interesting to cross-reference what was going on in Europe at the time that may have spawned this "Harlem Shake" of bodice design.

Dressed in Time's Flippy Flappy late 80s bodice at Costume College 2017 - so cleanly finished!
The Flippy Flappy bodice seem to often be what we call "zone fronts," with the cutaway look, but not always. Some of the FF's are hemmed, bound, and some pinked (cool!). I hemmed mine and it was a pain-in-the-tookus, and in seeing Dressed in Time's recent exploration into this style I much prefer her method of binding those tricky raw edges.

An example of a non-zone front flippy-flappy bodice, from Les Arts Decoratifs, dated 1780-89. This gown is a round gown, which could have easily been worn with a cutaway robe on top, a la Turque.
I look forward to sharing all the trials and tribulations of my own Flippy Flappy gown, which I shall share with you in future, detailed posts - but I would like to explore the 1780s and early 1790s more in the future. It was a bit of an "anything goes," wacky few years with potential for much creativity and expression.

My own Flippy Flappy bodice in progress - what a pain those tabs are! Next time I will pink them like in the Villa Rosemaine gown!
For all posts relating to Guimard and the Turkish outfit, click here.

Read More