Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Historic & Retro Winter Shoes & Boots

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening? In the lane snow is glistening... <3

Here's our annual guide to this year's historic and retro winter shoes and boots from American Duchess and Royal Vintage. Now, before we start, please note that all American Duchess offerings and most of the Royal Vintage (except Alpen boots) have leather soles, which is the historically accurate material but is not the safest or most durable for winter wear. While our soles have a topical sealer applied to inhibit water and salt from soaking in too much, we highly recommend having your soles rubbered or half-rubbered at a shoe repair shop if you intend them for everyday wear in inclement weather.

So with that being said, here's what's on offer...

Londoner Edwardian Oxfords in Cherry - full-coverage, all-leather lace-up oxfords with 2 inch French heels. These shoes are solid, comfortable, and beautiful.

Vienna Victorian Booties - available in brown or black - pull-on congress gaiters with short 1.5 inch heels, all-leather construction, and adorable little bows on the softly-squared toes.

Renoir Victorian Button Boots - true side-buttoning boots with a scalloped edges, softly-squared toes, and short 1.5 inch heel. 

Camille Edwardian Boots - gorgeous leather and velveteen lace-up boots, available in black/black or burgundy/black.

Tavistock Button Boots - our classic true side-button boots with welted soles, 2 inch French heel, and pointed toes. 

Claire 1940s Oxfords - available in Army brown or black, these are a full-coverage, lace-up leather oxford with 1.6 inch heels and attractive perforation throughout.

Alpen Boots - our iconic, practical, comfortable winter booties are now avialable in brown velveteen and leather paired with natural sheepskin. RUBBER SOLES and 1.6 inch heels - warm, cozy, and cute!

Alpen Boots - RESTOCK in black/black! The original vintage winter boots in black velveteen, leather, and sheepskin. RUBBER SOLES and 1.6 inch, practical heels.

We hope you like these styles! Several of these are also available in other colors, so go have a peep at AmericanDuchess.com and RoyalVintageShoes.com to see our full ranges.
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Friday, December 6, 2019

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The Countess of Melbury's Ball c. 1789 - Inspo!

The Met, 1780s Italian gown. Inspiration for my own gown for this event.
Next March, 2020, I am attending the Countess of Melbury's Ball in Walnut Grove, California.

The event is set in 1789, and I've already been patterning and cutting, and stitching a little bit on my dress. So far it's just a plain ole Italian gown, the basic cut and construction of which carries from the mid-1770s all the way to the mid-1790s.

I like having versatility in dress (and they did too, back then), so I'm looking for ways to tether my costume to 1789 a little more specifically. Enter the fashion plates...

LACMA, fashion plate, 1789
Magasin des Modes, January 1788 - sortof a zone front robe a la turque combo.
Magasin des Modes, February 1788 - the 1780s are a lawless wasteland.
Interestingly, while I was compiling my 1788-89 Pinterest board, I didn't find much in the way of depictions of ballgowns specifically. The way I would identify evening dress is: sumptuous fabric, low, exposed decolletage, dressed hair (no hat), short sleeves (3/4 or 5/8). And yet, 99% of extant images show kerchiefs or chemisettes, hats or caps, and a lawless wasteland of styling that - to be honest - is leaving me confused!

Magasin des Modes, March 1789 - what do you think? Is this evening attire?
Ann Frankland Lewis, 1789 - notes say "The Windsor Uniform - worn at the ball at Windsor given on the King's recovery 1789." So this is specifically noted a ballgown and she appears to be wearing a kerchief and event-specific cap.
La famille Gohin by Louis-Leopold Boilly, 1787. This French portrait shows the woman in white wearing what I would identify as something appropriate for evening. I see her gown skirt is tied back in a swag in a similar way as the Ann Frankland Lewis drawing above - maybe I'll try this.
I suspect the fashion choices, and the choices about what sort of garments were depicted in paintings and fashion plates, had to do with social and political sentiment and unrest around this period. Needless to say, there was a lot going on in 1789, and generally across the history of western dress we tend to see more extravagance/expression/outlandish modes during periods of uncertainty.

It might be 1788 if you've got spots, stripes, swags, fringe, lace, scallops, AND flowers. Journal des Luxus, 1788.
So then what does this mean for my sartorial plan for evening dress of 1789? Well, jury is still out on that one. I  may experiment with contrast cuffs and collar, spangles, and a very fine silk gauze kerchief. Maybe I'll pull one side of the gown skirt back with a tie, or perhaps wear a wide fringed sash around the waist. Just a few ideas.

In the meantime, I've got the gown to construct first!

More info:

The Countess of Melbury's Ball
March 14, 2020
Grand Island Mansion
Walnut Grove, California (outside Sacramento)

The evening will include dinner, dancing, gaming, and performances. Off-site accommodation and taxi service is available.

Also, to search 18th century fashion plates by year, I highly recommend Dames a la Mode Tumblr here.




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Monday, December 2, 2019

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Book Review: Women of the 1920s: Style Glamour, & the Avante-Garde by Thomas Bleitner

Louise Brooks
On the eve of the 2020s, the spell of the exciting and revolutionary 1920s looms large. It was an unforgettable era with deep cultural shifts and powerful aesthetics. Women, in particular, sought new ways of expressing and defining themselves in all aspects of society. They present a fascinating topic, though the expansiveness of their experiences may prove a daunting subject to approach if you are unfamiliar with the influential names and their stories.


Here, Women of the 1920s: Style, Glamour, & the Avant-Garde provides a gateway to the world of notable women in the jazz age. In this visually fascinating book, Thomas Bleitner presents the stories of 17 women who were incredibly influential in their fields. The varying areas of culture are split into 5 chapters; Literature and Art, Society and Fashion, Photography and Film, Cabaret and Dance, and Adventure and Sports. Each section contains a brief introduction to that sphere of culture through establishing notable names, locations, and events before laying out short chapters on each woman. Infamous names, such as Zelda Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker, and Amelia Earhart are, of course, present. But for those less intimate with the period, a variety of less commonly known women such as Tamara de Lempicka, Lavinia Schulz, and Suzanne Lenglen are also included.

Tamara de Lempicka
Overall, the book is a concise 163 pages, sprinkled with photographs and art. The effectiveness of this book lies in the fact that it does not attempt to provide extensive biographies for these 17 women. There is just enough information to capture the reader's interest in the individual. At the end of the book are a few pages of recommended reading, not just on the subject of the 1920s, but on each woman. The next step in research is laid out for those that want more than an overview.

Edward Steichen for Vogue, 1928
As for the biographies, I was pleased to find that the content was filled with contemporary quotes, which helped to steer the discussion clear of the authors personal opinions and assessments. It speaks to their public impact and personal relationships in a way that a modern voice cannot. The academic in me would have preferred these quotes to be followed by citations, but I don’t feel that this book was intended for that purpose or audience. It is the perfect light read for someone who has always been curious about the era, these influential women, and their impact on a unique culture.

-- Nicole

*This post contains affiliate links.
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