Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A Little History of "Mansfield" Regency Riding Boots

Howdy! Today on our "little history" posts, I'll be giving you some background on our wonderfully exciting new late 18th century and Regency era riding boots.

Oh yes, I said riding boots!

The stunning Maggie in her 1790s riding habit.
Boots were a fairly new thing for women in the last quarter of the 18th century. Prior to about the mid-1780s, women wore boots for riding and hunting that were either the same or very similar to men's boots. (Men's and women's shoemaking were two separate trades; women's boots were most likely made by and for men) Enter about 1785 and the popularity of outdoor activities for women demanded a fashionable yet durable boot.

"The Masculine Gender," 1787. Lewis Walpole Gallery, 787.02.02
The boots from this period track perfectly the style for very pointed toes and short Italian heels seen on women's pumps and low shoes. We thought it would be great fun to create this kind of boot, so seldom seen. We've named them "Mansfield," after the Jane Austen novel "Mansfield Park."

Here are some of the original boots that served for reference...

Leather Boots, 1780 - 95. The Met, 2009.300.1487
Boots, c. 1810. Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences
Boot, 4th quarter of the 18th century. Musee International de la Chaussure.

Nicole also studied an original pair of boots in the Royal Ontario Museum, which we unfortunately cannot share photos of. A few more examples and variations can be seen on my Pinterest board here.

I spent quite a lot of time at the factory to get the fit of these boots just right. As a result, the ankles have a bit more curve to them and should be a better fit and the width across the ball of the foot is very relaxed. The pointed toes extend beyond the foot's toes rather than pinching the toes from the sides.

Mansfield boots in black leather. 1785 - 1810

Yummy, black and green with tiny little heels.
We've done our Mansfields in classic black with black binding and heels, but we've also done a beautiful pine green leather trimmed in black with black heels too. The heels are our adorably tiny 1" Italian heels. Mansfields are made of calf leather with leather facings and soles. The lining is canvas. They have a 3" wide tongue for adjustment and are historically accurate for c. 1785 - 1805.

Pre-Order for Mansfield Boots is
open until February 28th, 2018 at

Special thanks to our beautiful Maggie of Undressing the Historical Lady for modelling her amazing 1790s riding habit with the Mansfield boots in green. Her Etsy shop is here.
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Monday, February 12, 2018

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A Little History of "Eliza" Early Victorian Shoes

American Duchess "Eliza" Early Victorian Oxfords in brown
Today in our "little history" post I'll give you some background on our new split-vamp oxford "Eliza."

The idea for the "Eliza" shoes came from the growing interest in the 1830s and 1840s in the historic costuming community. We wanted to offer something that was delicate, interesting, yet sturdy - these juxtapositions were a challenge for shoes of this period, which were notorious for being particularly temporal and rather dull.

Transitioning from a previous period of bright, fun footwear, the shoes of the early Victorian period are quite boring. Skirts were long and full, obscuring the feet enough that not much attention was paid to pretty footwear. Shoes were cheaply made, often at home, with no heels, on straight lasts, and from scraps of fabric and leather. The only stiffening would be the heel counter, with toes being long, square, with no toe boxes. Men's, women's and children's shoes were essentially of the same design, with relatively little pizzaz in color, decoration, or form. This style of footwear stayed in fashion for a whopping 30 years before hems shortened and shoes gained more attention and interest.

Shoe Icons - 1830 - 40
As always with American Duchess shoes, we want to create something that will work with many ensembles but is still special. The Eliza oxfords offered this opportunity for the Early Victorian period, pairing houndstooth check wool with leather foxing, petersham ties and binding, and that adorable 1830-1860 shape.

The Elizas are based most closely on a pair of extant shoes in the Chester County Historical Society (unfortunately no record available online and our photos cannot be shared). A similar design can be seen in Shoe Icons, c. 1830 - 40 as well as The Met, 1840 - 49, and the Virtual Museum Canada, 1825 - 40.

The Met, 1840-49. 2009.300.1591a, b
Virtual Museum Canada, 1825 - 40. S85.153

Antique Dress - jazzy c. 1841 oxfords
Textile choice in this type of shoe varied but wool with some sort of pattern was a common and practical choice. The leather foxing differs from shoe to shoe and can be quite interesting - sometimes it is deep, covering most of the vamp; sometimes there is just a little bit on the toe; heels may or may not have foxing. There is a uniqueness, what may even be called creativity, in how shoes of this period were foxed.

American Duchess "Eliza" Early Victorian Shoes in Grey/Black
Our "Elizas" are made of houndstooth wool foxed in calf leather. We have stuck with the textile lining and insole with our historic trade stamp, and have bound the edges of the oxford with petersham ribbon, the same used for the lacing. There is a choice of colors between brown and grey/black.

Eliza Early Victorian Oxfords in grey/black and brown - 1830 - 1860 - American Duchess
So if you're going to try some 1830s, 40s, or 50s daywear, try a pair of "Elizas." Or if you're like me, just wear them with jeans and skirt because they're ridiculously cute and just weird enough. ;-)

Pre-Order for Eliza is open through February 28th at

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Friday, February 9, 2018

Podcast Episode 15: Jazz, Dandies, and Vintage Style with Dandy Wellington

Hi All!

We're back with the first of our "second season" of Fashion History with American Duchess! Our first episode is with our talented & well dressed friend, Dandy Wellington. Lauren and I sat down with him via Skype a couple weeks ago to chat about music, fashion, style, vintage clothing stews, and all sorts of wonderful things!

Dandy and Darlene hanging out with us at the Met Museum this December.

Dandy was also kind enough to allow us the use of his song, Greenhouse Stomp, as our new theme song! Hooray!

So if you want to know more about Dandy you can check him out on his websiteFacebook and Instagram. His music can also be found on iTunes, Spotify, and his music videos on Youtube.

Always dapper. Always the best dressed. 

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Thursday, February 8, 2018

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A Little History of "Amelie" Satin Pumps

Amelie Victorian & Edwardian Satin Pumps with Clip-on Bows by American Duchess
It's that exciting time of year when we here at American Duchess present all the new Spring/Summer shoe styles for 2018. This year we have quite a few newbies, all of them gorgeous, fun, and filling a need in the historical costumer's footwear closet.

We've decided to do a quick series of "A little history of..." posts to give some background on where our new designs came from. These will have inspiration photos, reference and notes about the decisions we made. First up? Here's a little history of...."Amelie" Satin Pumps.

The idea for "Amelie" came from you guys asking us for low-heeled slip on shoes that could be worn with a variety of outfits from late bustle gowns through to 19teens era attire. Additionally, we've had requests for years for a broader range of colors.

In developing "Amelie" we looked at many surviving examples of late-19th century pumps. Luckily there are loads in museums and collections, including our own. We made note of the hallmarks: softly rounded or slightly square toe, a bow or rosette on the vamp, fairly low French or opera heels, fun colors in satin, grosgrain, and sometimes leather. Our version is made of satin, lined in leather, and bound in matching grosgrain. We used the 1.75" French heel and softly rounded toe of Astoria, and have included clip-on bows in matching satin with each pair.

An original pair of satin pumps with beaded bows and quilted lining. The American Duchess Collection, c. 1900-1920
J. Ferry, 1890-99, The Met. 2009.300.5587a,b
J. Ferry, 1885-85, The Met. 2009.300.1578a,b
Shoes, c. 1890, Manchester Art Gallery. 1949.205
Shoes 1905-1910, Shoe Icons. 

There were very small changes across our target time period. The earlier version, 1870s-1880s, has a more squarish toe without a toe box, but by the late 1880s the more almond-shape with a structured toe appears. Going through the 1890s and 1900s, the structured rounded toe is seen, contemporary with very sharply pointed toes. Listening again to our fans and followers, we opted for the rounder, shorter shape in the name of comfort and modern expectation of attractive silhouette while still maintaining a historically accurate profile.

American Duchess "Amelie" Victorian and Edwardian pumps
American Duchess "Amelie" Satin Pumps (1880s-1920s) - beautiful, elegant little shoes with clip-on bows.
Another choice made was to use clip-on bows rather than sewn-on. Versatility is everything in today's world! The bows can be worn, not worn, or replaced with other colors or styles as you like, plus extra bow clips in all six colors are available in our Accessories section too.

Pretty "Amelie" Victorian / Edwardian pumps with 1.75" French heels and leather soles.
Lastly, let's talk about the colors. For the first time we were able to negotiate a split quantity with the colorways...but which colors to choose? We held a vote for a broad selection of satin colors and thanks to you ladies we knew what was beloved: Berry, Sky Blue, Royal Blue, Candlelight Gold, and Soft Silver, in addition to classic Black. **We only have 80 pairs available for the colors, 200 in black. If you like the colors, don't wait to order, as we're running out quite quickly.

"Amelie" Victorian / Edwardian pumpsin black satin. These look amazing under your late 1880s - 1920s skirts.
"Amelie" Satin Pumps are a wonderful shoe that offers historical accuracy, beauty, and comfort across several time periods - late 1880s all the way to the 1920s. We're thrilled to offer them in six colors of gorgeous, luminous satin. Pre-order is open until February 28th at

American Duchess "Amelie" Victorian / Edwardian satin pumps in six glorious colors.

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Thursday, February 1, 2018

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PRE-ORDER! Spring Historic Shoes!

Ladies, it's time. It's February 1st. We promised you a pre-order and a pre-order you shall have!

We have four fresh new styles for you covering pretty much all of the 19th century (and a little of the 18th and a little of the 20th). The new pretties are...

Mansfield Regency Riding Boots in green leather trimmed with black

Mansfield Regency Riding Boots in black leather

Based on several original late 18th century riding boots, we've done our version in black leather and also a wonderful pine green with black trim. Mansfields are accurate for c. 1785 - 1805 and are on sale for $179 ($199).
Eliza Early Victorian Shoes in brown (omg cute)

Eliza Early Victorian Shoes in grey/black

The cutest little early Victorian shoes you'll ever see, the Eliza split-vamp "slipoxfords" (we just made that up) are the classic wool-and-leather style so popular from the 1830s-1860. We've used an adorable houndstooth check for the wool, seen on multiple extant examples, and paired it with deep leather foxing on the toe and heel, flat leather soles, and petersham laces. Elizas are available in brown and grey/black and are on sale for $125 ($145).
Tissot Victorian Pumps in black with black satin rosettes

Tissot Victorian Pumps in ivory leather with ivory satin rosettes

Meet Tissot 2.0, our new and improved mid-Victorian pump. The new Tissots are leather lined in textile and come with the most bodacious clip-on rosettes. Softly-squared toes and 1.5 inch knock-on heels designed from originals, the Tissots are epic for the 1850s all the way through the mid-1880s. Tissots come in black or ivory and are on pre-order sale for $135 ($155).

Amelie Satin Pumps with clip-on bows - size luminous colors available!

For the first time we are able to offer a selection of colorways in our new Amelie evening pumps! These adorable court pumps are made in luminous satin, lined in leather, and come with matching clip-on bows. Leather soles and our classic 1.75" French heel complete the design. *We only have 80 pairs of berry, candlelight, royal blue, silver, and sky blue so don't wait to order!* (Black are our regular full stock of 200) Amelies are excellent for c. 1880 - 1920 and are on sale for $100 ($120).
Clip-on double bows in size colors (sold in pairs) - add these satin bows to just about any shoes for a new look.

Large satin clip-on rosettes in black or ivory (sold in pairs). Clip these on to pumps or flats for instant Victoriana.
Bow Clips & Rosettes

Who doesn't like a little mix-and-match? We have all six colors of the Amelie satin double-bow clips available as well as the ivory and black Tissot satin rosette clips. Easily clip these adornments onto just about any pump or flat for insta-historical-cuteness. The clips and rosettes are available in the Accessories section.


We would like to congratulate Nicole Rudolph on her first collection release with American Duchess. It was a pleasure to work with Nicole and we look forward to many more beautiful styles in the future!
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Monday, January 15, 2018

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How to Lengthen/Shorten 18th Century Stays

The #1 question we receive about Simplicity 8162 (and will with Simplicity 8579 as well) is how to lengthen or shorten the stays. Particularly with Simplicity 8162, the body block used came up a little short and most seamstresses are needing to lengthen the body of the stays a bit (I know I needed to).

So how do you do it?

Don't worry! The alteration is really easy.

The proper fit for stays should have the tabs "breaking" right at your natural waistline. The very top of those cuts/splits for the tabs should be at your waist - too high and you don't get a nice shape; too low and you'll have pinching.

{As always, make a quick mockup to test the fit on your body. For stays, lightweight cardboard and masking tape can do the job, or you can use a heavyweight fabric and just tape some of the bones in place to check the fit. Make a note of how much the stays need to be lengthened, then make the adjustment on your paper pattern.}

If your stays are too short, measure up about 1 inch from each of the tops of those tab cuts. Then "connect the dots" to draw the adjustment line. This line will be on an angle for most pieces.

Then just cut along that line and move the pieces apart as much as you need to lengthen the stays. Make sure the distance is the same on all pieces (example - 1/2 inch for all pieces). Tape the pieces to a new piece of paper and "true up" the seamlines by re-drawing the line with a ruler (this is particularly necessary when altering angled lines or curves).

Also check that your seams still match up.

See how the tabs flare over the hips? Special thanks to Maggie for this photo

You can also use that adjustment line to shorten your stays, but and easier way is to just cut the tabs a little bit higher. Remember, the tabs should break just at your waist. If they are too low, a little clipping up on those lines on-the-body will set it to rights.


See? That wasn't so bad!

Extra Tip: Now when cutting out your new, adjusted pattern, give yourself some contingency and cut all pieces with extra seam allowance, particularly on the neckline edge. This gives you wiggle room for re-marking the neckline should you feel it's still too low.

Happy sewing!
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