Tuesday, December 4, 2018

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1833 Plaid Dickens Dress - Progress!

Abby and I think these gowns look rather like 1950s evening gowns before the sleeves go on and ruin everything!
More 1830s goodness! All the other Gigot Girl Gang members were working diligently on their ensembles while I was in Europe. By the time I got back, the design was all marinated in my brainbox and ready for the grill, so I jumped right in!

The top of the skirt is turned over, then stroke gathered (cartridge pleated) and whipped to the waistband.

Yummy finished stroke gathers of the skirt. With more experience, next time I'll just whip the skirt to the bottom edge of the bodice waistband instead. I did it this way because the original late '20s dress we have has a separate waistband.
I wanted a front-closing surplice bodice. Workwoman's Guide describes this type of bodice for older women (lol), used with a drop-front skirt. Initially I thought I could keep the skirt and bodice separate, so I whipped the stroked gathers of the skirt to two waistbands, 18th century style.

First bodice toile - looking alright, but I straightened out the neckline at top for the second version.
Bodice fitting was a bit tricky. I did a few toiles (me? toiles...inconceivable!), and fit these tricky darts on my own body. The darts are rather extreme, but the nice thing is that darts in this period could be fit from the outside, then just top-stitched down. Abby's original late 1820s gown has darts sewn this way, which really does make it easy to fit each side of the body specifically. So that's what I did too.

Wacky pattern! Look at that mega dart! We've discovered that grain lines are *very* important for these bodices.

First fitting! Not bad!
With bodice fitted and trying the whole thing on over all the underpinnings and skirt, I applied the waistband, just a straight-cut strip about 2 inches wide. I quickly found that the skirt was not going to stay put under the bodice, so I stitched it all together, leaving a sortof overlap placket zig-zag opening thing with a series of hooks and bars to keep everything in place.

This seems to be the dress of doing-everything-twice. It's a new period for me, and I haven't sewn really anything other than 18th c. in such a long time that I did a lot of stupid things. For example, I knew I ought to face the hem...then didn't...then had to go back and do it after the fact, eegads! I also made the waistband ever so slightly too wide so I got to go back and turn it under another 1/8" in the round...fun! Did sleeves twice. Did skirt panel twice. Did darts twice, lol! (oh dear!)

11 inches of organdy facing the hem. You see hem facings in original gowns and noticeably drawn in fashion illustrations from the period. Because the skirts were held aloft by starched petticoats, etc., my theory is that the skirts of gowns needed to be stiffened as well, but couldn't be starched (starched silk? no...), so stiff fabrics were employed to keep the hems from collapsing below the bottom of the underpetticoats.
Little by little the gown has come together. The polished cotton lining has been a great structural lining fabric for the bodice and waistband. The skirt is unlined except for the stiff organdy facing. Next...onto the sleeves.

Sleeves are a whole post of their own (and a video coming soon too), so we'll cover those next 'cuz they're CRAZY!....stay tuned!
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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

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An 1833-ish Dickens Fair Gown!

I have had an inexplicable love affair with the early 1830s for many years now, but it's never been satiated....until NOW!

This year, our Gigot Girl Gang™ is headed to Dickens Faire in San Francisco. I spent many of my college years playing at Dickens Faire, but it's been a good six years since I've visited. Abby and Nicole have never been at all, so I'm doubly excited for them. The dancing, the shopping, Cuthbert's Tea House, Naughty French Postcards ... it's going to be great!

It's always been on my costuming bucket list to do an absolutely mad 1830s gown for Dickens. Dickens' "The Pickwick Papers" was published in 1836, followed by "Oliver Twist" in '37 and "Nicholas Nickleby" in '38.

Our gowns are from the early 1830s, when sleeves were at their maximum ridiculous huge-ness. The early 1830s was Charles Dickens' world too, so I'm not too bothered by the early dates, though the time period of the faire, generally speaking, is 1842 - 1863. As visitors, we aren't held to costume guidelines...so 1830s sugar plump fairies shall we be. :-)

 Okay...deets and plans!

A big pile of materials - the plaid will be the dress. The green, pink, and black are for the bonnet (you can see the buckram form there). The whitework will make a lovely canezou.
I bought a gorgeous silk plaid at Costume College this year, made up of sage green, pink, olive green, and burgundy. It was immediately slated for 1830s, though to be honest, the design is not symmetrical and it's not the bestest for dressmaking. Whatevs. Pretty.

With fabric selected and motivating me, it was straight in to the underwear. This past summer I compiled all of the undies needed for an 1830s gown, thank goodness!

All underpinnings present and accounted for. Seen here - linen shift, 1830s corset, sleeve plumpers, and corded petticoat.
My corset is from RedThreaded and is the best thing ever. 1830s corsets exhibit some interesting cutting and clever use of bias that's really beyond me, along with cording and a curved busk (whhhaat). I left it to the professional and couldn't be happier at being able to just jump right in with a perfectly-fitting corset ready to go. The only thing I changed was to add fan-lacing, which enables me to lace myself up easily. (I'll share more about fan-lacing another time).

Fan lacing on my 1830s RedThreaded corset. This is actually very easy to do and is really wonderful for those wanting to dress themselves.
My corded petticoat is from HandStitchesInTime on Etsy. It's well-made and once starched it certainly holds its shape. I'm glad I ordered it in Summer because, as a custom-made item, it took a good three months to get to me. It was worth the wait to not have to sew that thing myself.

The ghost of petticoats past - starched corded petticoat standing up on its own!

Here is the resulting silhouette of the bum pad, starched corded petticoat, and organdy petticoat (see on top). Large, puffy, and bell-shaped is the goal.
For underpinnings, I am also wearing a simple bum pad (bustle), an organdy petticoat (make one, it's the best thing ever!), and sleeve plumpers (stay tuned for Abby's video about these). I initially ordered sleeve plumpers from WorkshopKarinaFienn on Etsy, and they're great, just not huge enough for my ridiculously ginormous sleeves. I ended up making new ones, which I'll share more about later.

The plumper in front is one made by WorkshopKarinaFienn. The two behind are made by me and are at least a third larger and stuffed with down feathers.
Other bits and bobs - my chemise is the same as I wear for 18th century. The design really didn't change much (or at all), so that remains my bottom-most layer. I'm planning to wear silk openwork stockings in ivory paired with "Bronte" slippers, an old style we made some years ago.

At the risk of going too long, I'm going to break up these posts. Next I'll share with you the bodice, skirt, and sleeve constructions...see you soon!

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Monday, November 26, 2018

The American Duchess Historical Holiday Gift Guide 2018

Happy Holidays! Welcome to our big mega huge list of holiday gifts for the historical costumers in your life (or yourself!). This year we have lots and lots of goodies to recommend to you. All of the links are numbered below each image. Enjoy!

American Duchess Historical Shoes, Boots, and Accessories (of course!)

*Receive a discount on all stockings and buckles when you order them with shoes.

Historical Costuming Books, Courses, and Classes 

Fabrics & Trims!


Undies Ready-Made

Millinery Goodies



Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links. We receive a small commission when you use these Amazon and Etsy links.

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Saturday, November 24, 2018

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Historical Reproduction Winter Boots For You

Camille Boots with French Heels by American Duchess

It's that time of year when the weather goes cold and you're wanting a nice pair of boots to slog around in...historically, of course. Ladies of the past had a broad assortment of winter footwear to choose from - tall boots, overshoes and carriage boots, side-buttoning and elastic-sided boots, and so on.

This season we focused on opening up our boot selection. We've done Regency, Victorian, and Edwardian boot styles perfect for each of these periods...

Mansfield Regency Riding Boots

Before the 1780s, women wore men's style boots for hunting and riding, but by the last two decades of the 18th century, feminine styles were coming in to fashion. Tall-lacing riding and walking boots with fashionable pointed toes and small Italian heels were all the rage and continued through the early 19th century.

Mansfield Regency Riding Boots in pine green trimmed in black
Our Mansfields come in black and dark pine green, trimmed with black grosgrain. The tiny 1 inch Italian heel is very comfortable and cute. These boots have been sized with enough width so your toes aren't smooshed to death in the point, plus the lacing is adjustable for a variety of ankle sizes.

Shop Mansfields in our Regency section.

Vienna and Renoir Civil War-to-Bustle Boots

Women in the mid-Victorian period loved their boots. A great variety became available in classic leathers but also in fun two-tones and with trims such fringe, tassels, bows, and rosettes. It is also in this period that the elastic-sided boot was invented and became hugely popular, allowing ladies to just slide their boots on and go about their business for the rest of the day without ever having to bend over in their corsets to re-tie their footwear.

Vienna Congress Boots - elastic-sided mid-Victorian slip-on boots with bows.

Renoir Civil War Side-Button Boots in classic black leather. Don't forget your button hook!
We've restocked a favorite - Renoir Button Boots - and added a new, super-cute style, Vienna Elastic-Sided Congress Boots. Both of these pretties are accurate for the late 1850s all the way to the 1880s, with the softly-square toe and 1.5 inch knock-on heels.

Shop both Renoir and the new Viennas in the Victorian section. Also find there Manhattans, Balmorals, and Colette boots...

Camille Edwardian Boots

By the end of the Victorian period, and into the early 20th century, boots became quite fanciful. Cutouts, two-tones, scallops, bows, appliques, and very tall and curvaceous French heels made this an exciting period of ladies' footwear.

Camille Edwardian Boots in black velveteen and leather. Ooh la la!

Camille Edwardian Boots in dark red velveteen and black leather. They really are all that and a bag of Edwardian chips.
The breakout star of this season's collection are the new "Camille" boots in velveteen and leather. These tall boots have a 3 inch French heel and almond-shaped toe. They fit excellently through the ankle and have adjustable laces.

Shop the hot new Camille Boots in the Edwardian section. Also find there the schmexy Colette boots... 

Tavistock Side-Button Boots

Side-buttoning boots continued in fashion into the late Victorian period all the way through the 1920s. These fashionable boots stayed securely fastened all day long and looked great all the while.

Tavistock Side-Button Edwardian Boots. New, improved, also less expensive. Aw yisssss. Don't forget that button hook!
Our most popular style, Tavistock, has returned with a few changes - leather soles and a better-fit through the ankle and leg make these beautiful boots a perennial favorite. Snag a pair of Tavistocks and enjoy a comfortable 2 inch French heel along with the unique experience of using a button hook.

Shop Tavistock Button Boots in the Edwardian section.


If you'd like to wear your boots in the ice and snow, we highly recommend having rubber half-soles put on at a shoe repair shop. We sole our shoes with leather, but while this is the historically accurate material it can be pretty slippy. We have adhesive rubber pads to help with grip, but a rubber half-sole is the safest option and will also extend the life of your soles. 

Not Quite What You're Looking For? 

Check out our vintage shop, Royal Vintage Shoes. This season we have "Aspen" 1940s booties in velveteen and leather, trimmed with sheepskin, plus the wonderful "Rosie" WW2 Double Buckle Boots are *on sale* !

Shop Royal Vintage Shoes here.

Aspen 1940s Winter Booties in velveteen, leather, and sheepskin. Aspens are also available in red/black

Rosie WW2 Double Buckle Boots - true reproductions, and just really flippin' cool.

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Friday, November 23, 2018

American Duchess Weekend SALE!

It's that wonderful time of year when things go on sale, like, everywhere. EVERYWHERE!

This year we have these goodies for you....

Dunmore 18th Century Shoes in Black Wool with Fleur Buckles - ON SALE for $120
Dunmore 18th Century Shoes in black wool - $120 ($155)

Dashwood Regency Slipps in tan/brown - also in black/black - ON SALE for $75
Dashwood Regency Slippers in black or tan - $75 ($99)

Amelie Edwardian Pumps in silver satin - also sky blue satin - ON SALE for $99
Amelie Edwardian Pumps in sky blue or silver satin - $99 ($120)

Stratford Renaissance Shoes in red - ON SALE for $160
Stratford Renaissance Shoes in red - $160 ($190)

Imperfects! - Shoes that don't meet our strict quality standards. We never have many of these, but they're a mad steal if we happen to have your size!

Combo Deals on Buckles, Stockings, Button Hooks, and other Accessories. Buy a pair of shoes with stockings or buckles and receive a nice discount. Also enjoy bundle-perks on sewing patterns and books, woo!

FREE Shipping, Returns*, and Exchanges on all USA orders. Shoes can be difficult to purchase online, especially as a gift, so don't worry - you can return and exchange shoes for free within 60 days.

Check out the SALE section and all the other goodies at

*Return your order for store credit for free, or return for a cash refund back to your card or paypal account for a $6.95 shipping fee.

I'm dreaming of a pair of beautiful pink 18th century shoes....
The sale lasts through Monday, November 26th
Don't miss it!

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Friday, November 16, 2018

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Vlog: The 1830s Bustle!

Howdy! We're deep, deep down the #1830s rabbit hole, working diligently on our gowns with much haste in preparation for our trip to Dickens Fair in San Francisco on December 15th.

Abby has been very responsibly recording her progress for our new vlog #SewingIsHard . Here is the most recent video on the 1830s bustle (yes, bustle!) and how she made hers. Enjoy!

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