Wednesday, March 25, 2020

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American Duchess on Youtube!


Hi all! Well, in light of recent and ongoing events, we're all at home making lots and lots of Youtube videos. It's a good way to help keep the costuming and sewing inspiration alive, to feel productive, and to feel connected to the community.

If you're lining up watchlists for binge-sewing, please check out the American Duchess channel! We're adding loads of new content starting now and we plan to drop new videos every week.


Here are a few of our most popular videos - 




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Monday, March 23, 2020

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Podcast Episode 28: Merging Royal Vintage & American Duchess


Yay! Welcome back to a whole new season of podcastery! It's been awhile since we've done podcasts, but we get a lot of requests for them, so we thought we'd kick off this new season with some *business chat* - Royal Vintage merging with American Duchess and the whosits, whatsits, and whysits of that.

Also new this season, we're putting our podcasts on Youtube! If you like to queue up a playlist on Youtube for sewing, add us in there so you can listen while you stitch. This is also a groovy way for us to show you images of things we're talking about, particularly when the subject is quite visual (like bustles, coming up soon).

So we hope you enjoy this new season! Have a listen AND a watch here:


Or just have a listen here:

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Tuesday, March 17, 2020

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Review: Vecona Vintage Three-Piece Ladies' Suits

Sporting the Vecona Vintage "Viktoria" three-piece suit in grey wool blend, in Portugal.
Anyone who follows my personal Instagram page (@lauren_stowell) will know I'm a *big fan* of menswear, particularly three-piece suits. The combo of trousers+waistcoat+blazer looks good on everybody of every gender, every shape (in my humble opinion), and I just can't get enough.

But while there is a glut of available vintage repro menswear for men, the ladies are mostly left out. I have plenty of high-waisted trousers, and quite a few blazers too. I even have a few vests, some I've made myself, but pinning down a *matching* set, a true three pieces of the same material...now that is the holy grail.

I'm quite particular about the cut of the pieces making up a ladies' menswear-inspired suit. I've tried and failed many, many times at wearing pieces cut and made for men's bodies. Maybe I could get away with that when I was a teenager, but an abundance of cake and stress has provided 36-year-old me with too much hip, bum, and boobage to make men's pieces work. I also don't wish to invest a lot of money in clothing that doesn't fit quite right, and three-piece suits aren't cheap.

Thus far I have only found one vintage repro company making all three pieces cut specifically for ladycurves, and that is Vecona Vintage. I splurged a couple years ago on the Viktoria trousers and waistcoat, then begged Janet, the designer, to make a matching blazer to complete the look, which they did last December. At last!

This is the grey set - the trousers and the waistcoat.

And here's the matching jacket for the grey set. 
The suit now comes in two colorways - Viktoria is the grey and Mrs. Goodwood is the brown. While there is no difference between the cut, the materials do differ. The grey Viktoria suit is a wool blend and while it is pretty nice, it has the softness and drape of a blended fiber. Mrs. Goodwood, on the other hand, is 100% merino wool and has the lightness and crispness of that superior fiber.

The brown all-wool "Mrs. Goodwood" set - trousers and waistcoat.

The blazer for the "Mrs. Goodwood" set in brown merino wool.
The trousers, waistcoat, and jacket are all lined (trousers half-lined) with a viscose/acetate custom woven lining with the Vecona Vintage logo, and the buttons have tiny "Vecona Vintage" on them. These are nice touches. There are also plenty of pockets, and in the trousers I mean *real* pockets, deep pockets. There are also exterior pockets on the blazer, though they're not very deep.

I've found that the cut is very flattering, particularly the waistcoat. It comes down past the waist and flares over the hips. There's an adjustable buckle on the back. The trousers fit absolutely perfectly as well, with the waist and dept of the crotch exactly as they should be for vintage style. Additionally, the blazer has a lovely peaked lapel and shaping through the waist too. It's not boxy or half-arsed, and it even has some nice tailoring and padding in the shoulders, which are particularly hard to fit for me.

I ordered:
Size 14 trousers
Size 16 waistcoat
Size M blazer

My measurements are:
Bust 36" ish
Waist 30-31" ish
Hip - 40" ish

All of these pieces fit like they were made for me and I found them to run true to size.

The Vecona Vintage "Mrs. Goodwood" suits - two of the three pieces - in brown 100% merino wool, paired with a vintage repro House of Foxy rayon blouse. I'm still waiting for the Mrs. Goodwood waistcoat to restock.
As a small German company, you can expect very good, personal service from Kai and Janet. Unfortunately the mail system sometimes fails them - Vecona ships very quickly by DHL international, but DHL isn't particularly bothered about getting you your package on time. This may have just been my experience, but it took about a month and half to receive one of my orders placed in December. The second came quicker but still took about 3 weeks. For anyone outside the EU, I wouldn't be in a rush to get these items. But when you DO receive them, you won't be sorry.

So if you're looking a very, very high quality women's vintage repro three-piece suit, I highly recommend Vecona Vintage. These pieces are an investment (the total set will run you about $670 for the grey and $725 for the brown), but I felt comfortable purchasing because I've been searching so long for a vintage-cut three-piece ladies' suit and I know these pieces will last me for a very long time (if I just lay off the cake a bit...). I also feel good about supporting a fellow small business, and know that if I wait I may miss the opportunity to own these (as it stands I waited a week too long on the Mrs. Goodwood waistcoat and I'm waiting/praying for it to come back into stock soon!)

You can shop with Vecona at https://www.vecona-vintage.com/. They also have a fantastic men's line, as well as tons of other items for women.

*This post is NOT a paid promotion. I just really friggin' love these suits. 
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Tuesday, March 10, 2020

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The 1630 Thang - Finishing the Bodies

Dayum she looks good! 1630 Dutch formal basque bodice with ribbon points.
It's been a few weeks since I started the yellow and black bumblebee-lobster bodice/bodies/smooth-covered stays for my 1630 ensemble, and I'm pleased to report that they are now done!

The foundation layer for this bodice is two layers of heavy linen. The front pieces are heavily boned while the back has no boning at all. Initially sewing the boning channels was no big deal. I opted to use the machine, and fully intended to use the machine wherever I could, but I quickly found out that that was *only* the boning channels...everything else had to be done by hand. As usual (lol).

A look at the inner structure before lining. I did the boning channels by machine and I initially tried to do the padding on the back piece with zig-zag machine stitches but ended up going back and pad-stitching by hand to get the curve.

After the boning channels and the bones were in, I applied the wool padding to the shoulder strap and upper chest. I used dark blue heavy wool melton and roughly pad-stitched it on. I then added another layer of white muslin because the blue wool was showing through the yellow taffeta of the cover.

Padding the bodice front with wool

I added a layer of white muslin over the wool to mask the dark color. I ended up adding more muslin padding over the whole thing, but next time I'll use flannel.
Applying the cover was the biggest hand-aching, awkward, pain in the tuchus! I debated backing the taffeta with something because it is so lightweight and now I wish I had. After handling the front pieces even just a little, the boning started to show through in that annoying ridgy way and I had to nip in between the layers from the side and smoosh in a couple layers of muslin to try to pad the area a little. So for the future, and for anybody doing smooth-covered anything, pad the silk layer. There was a great tip from a reader to pad with thin cotton flannel, and if I'd had any on hand I definitely would've used that. As it stands now, the cover isn't perfect. Oh well - live/sew/learn.

Bah! Wrinkles! This happened because I didn't pad the thin silk taffeta layer enough and the boning started showing through.
Applying the covers to the front pieces was straightforward in some places, but not in others. I went at it as you would for stays - turning the seam allowance over the edges and roughly stitching it down to the inside, all sins to be covered later by a lining layer. This got tricky on the top neckline, particularly where there's a rather severe angle at the shoulder strap/neckline junction. Some of the original bodices are turned and cleanly stitched there somehow, but others are bound on the top edge, which is what I'll be doing since I have annoying fraying silk sticking out at those two points.

The two sides of the bodice assembled but not yet joined. There are a bazillion stitched in there that you can't see because the thread is white. This is also the last time the bodice could lay relatively flat.

With the covers mostly finished, I also finished applying MOAR TRIM to the basque, and stitching the eyelets in the back edges. Time for a fitting! This required helping hands - Christina and Nicole, whom I cannot thank enough.

More trim on the basque, plus I did the eyelets for the points and added on the buttons, which were a lucky find from Tinsel Trading.
Chrissy and Nicole fitting this thing on me, lacing up the back and pinning the shoulder straps and side seams.
I put all of the skirt supports and petticoats on - it's the first time I've had everything on my own body, woo! - and pinned the center front overlap securely which created the S curve of the bodice front. Then Chrissy and Nicole pinned the side back seams while I held the bodice front tightly against my body, to get a snug fit.

And after the holding and pinning, the verdict was in about the back lacing. We left a 1 inch gap for adjustability, and there is no pulling on the back edges/lacing. The bodice fit smoothly and tightly in front without yanking on the back and pulling the eyelets out of shape. All of the complex fitting is achieved with curved seams, both the center front and the side back seams, which is a fascinating and very clever feat of engineering. So I am confident in saying that no, another pair of stays was *not* worn beneath this bodice.


The shoulder straps and side seams are pinned for this fitting, and the front curve looks really good. No other foundation is worn beneath this.
That being said this bodice does not feel like wearing stays at all. There is no waist reduction. It presses on the bust but it doesn't lift, shape, or otherwise noticeably alter that area. The shoulders are a bit restrictive, as in I won't be reaching over my head lest I pull the entire dress up (but just in case I do, it's all tied together with points so at least it will go back to where it ought to be). Generally, though, the entire thing is more of a manufactured shape that the body sits in rather than a garment for manipulating the body into a certain shape, if that makes sense.
Like the examples in Patterns of Fashion 5 and the Cologne book, the fronts of these bodies are fully lined with silk, including the basque. This was a massive pain to do with the shoulder straps sewn and I recommend doing the lining with the pieces still flat as possible for anybody working on something like this.
Blood, sweat, and tears later the bodice is done! I bound the neckline and armholes with black twill tape, stitched the side seams with English Stitch, and roughly stitched on the basque as best I could. This is the only project I've done where it actually got harder and harder the closer to finishing I got. Eegads!
So now it's onward to the next piece. I have choices. Do I make...
The vlieger (surcoat)?
-or-
The shirt/shift?

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