Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Why Sew with Nowhere to Go?


Why Sew When the World is Ending?

For so many of us, sewing is about so much more than producing clothing to be worn. Everyone has a different reason for pursuing this hobby, what outsiders might say is frivolous or superfluous. Some enjoy the historical research, learning about the textiles used or the people who wore such attire, and why they did. Some enjoy the craft of it, while others enjoy the design or problem-solving. The wearing of is just the final icing on this layer cake of creativity.

But why sew when all events are cancelled? It is a massive bummer, indeed, to not be able to attend fairs, picnics, historic sites, battles, balls, and parties - but we are quite lucky, in our modern online world, to be able to show our creations on social media. We've adapted as best we could - silhouette parties and costume gatherings on Zoom keep some of the magic alive, however small that sparkle may be right now.

Perhaps most importantly, historical costuming engages our brains. Curiosity and creation are vital to survival; that seems more apparent than ever. It's also harder than ever, with so much anxiety about the state of the world, followed by depression and malaise.

In our sewing, though, is there not resistance and rebellion? Continuing to create and do so looking towards a brighter future seems revolutionary right now, but we are holding out. The world may not "go back" to the way it was in the BeforeTimes, but when this storm is over and we can meet again, my what a fabulous choice of dress we shall each have.
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Friday, October 16, 2020


Meet the New Pompadour 18th Century Shoes

This season, we're proud to finally introduce the new and improved Pompadour 18th Century Court Shoes! We've made a few changes to this classic, curvaceous style.
The Pompadours have been one of our most popular designs since 2012, particularly with theaters. The pointed toes and curvy heels are just so iconic for the first half of the 18th century. Over the years we've received feedback on what we could do to improve them, particularly for dancers, so this year, with all of the re-tooling and redeveloping we've been doing with changing factories, we had the opportunity to implement these changes.

The major one is the new heel shape. Nicole carved the new heels by hand, referencing original heels, which have the most amazing curves on all sides, including the breast of the heel. We've never been able to achieve that inward curve on the inside of the heel before, but we made it happen this time, and the shoes are just *chef's kiss* with that little detail.

We've also greatly improved the last, which now has a better instep curve (the top of the foot), creating an elegant shape on the foot. The shoes are altogether more comfortable with this improved fit.

The last change is that we are finally offering Pompadours in leather! Now Pomps can and should be worn for all occasions indoors and out, and will withstand plenty of weather and terrain. The white leather Pompadours are dyeable and paintable as well.

I am personally very proud of the changes and updates we've made to these beautiful shoes. I hope you enjoy them too! Pompadours are currently in production and will be landing in our warehouse in late November. You can reserve your pair here
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Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Motivation to Sew in the Time of Coronavirus

A 1930s UFO - it's not made well, but it's made!

The year thus far has been a rollercoaster (understatement), and my sewing adventures have been rather manic-depressive - great big swings between "sew all the things" and "I haven't entered my sewing room in longer than I can remember."

A lot of us are feeling this way right now. I'm on a semi-upswing of sewing. I do about a good day's worth, then lose energy to continue, but even in that stripped-back way I'm getting things done, and drawing benefit from the creative time.

My "big" project of 2020 - pulling this 1760s sacque out of its plastic bag and pushing it through to completion.

I don't have tips for you on how to re-energize and get back to sewing. I'd just like to share the things I've made this year, and what I'm kindof working on right now...

Things I've Made/Finished...

Things I'm Working On/Intend to Finish...
1730s Robe Volante in progress - this is pretty much a hot mess at the moment.

I guess that's not so bad for this year! Most of my projects are UFOs. I enjoy "fixing" things, though finding the motivation to pick up and seam-rip into a roadblocked old project is challenging. I greatly enjoy seeing something rise from the dead and come to fruition.

1890s Shirtwaist. I look hopeful for the future. LOL.

If you too have lost your sewing mojo, I encourage you to make a list of everything and anything you've made this year. It doesn't even have to be sewing-related. I've cooked *a lot* this year, and I get the same creative buzz from cooking.

Have you grown a garden?
Made masks?
Gotten out of bed? (most mornings, some mornings?)
Put on makeup or done your hair?

Just surviving this year is accomplishment enough. <3

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Thursday, October 1, 2020

Pre-Order, Part Deux, Is Open!

Well, this is certainly a first! Due to popular demand, we're popping open another pre-order for the sold-out styles in the F/W2020 collection - Londoner, Bernadette, Gibson, and Tango Boots.

The 2nd pre-order is open October 1 - 16, 2020.

The $20/pair discount applies through October 16th.

We're offering the full extended size range - US women's 5 - 12 - and ordering is fully and completely *unlimited* through October 16th.

ALL colors of Londoner, Bernadette, Gibson, and Tango are on offer again. This is the first time we've been able to offer such a selection, so we hope there's something to tickle your tootsies this season.

Estimated delivery is February 2021.

Check it all out on our glimmering new website at

Beautiful Bernadette Oxfords designed in collaboration with Bernadette Banner

Classic Gibson Edwardian Shoes - just so practical and comfortable, and now in more colors too

Tango Boots - the sexiest granny boots of all time.

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Thursday, August 27, 2020

American Duchess Shoes Made in Portugal

This season marks the first collection of American Duchess shoes made in Portugal! We're pretty excited about this and want to share a bit of behind the scenes.

In February, in The BeforeTimes, Nicole, Chris, Matt, and I traveled to Portugal to meet with several footwear factories and hopefully find a good fit (lol). Portugal has a long shoemaking tradition and is well-known for excellent quality, particularly with leather goods.

We met with three shoe factories and learned a lot. It's always fascinating to see into a working production facility and observe the many steps it takes to create just one pair of shoes. Factories can differ quite a lot, too - some have a lot of specialized machinery while others still do much of the work by hand.

These are leather cutting stamps for larger production runs.
Of course, it's no secret that Europe has been shut down for most of 2020. In our little world this has caused delays with sampling and getting ready for our first order, but we have teamed up with a fantastic factory, and we're so happy to present to you the first European-made American Duchess shoes:

Bernadette - Eyecatching Edwardian/1920s oxfords designed in collaboration with Bernadette Banner. These two-toned beauties have 2 inch French heels and come in five colorways, something for everyone!

Gibson - Our classic Edwardian/1920s teardrop tie design with 2 inch French heels. Now in four colors including oxblood red and green.

Tango - One of our vault styles, back by popular demand - the sexy lace-up Edwardian/1920s Tango boots with 3 inch French heels, available in black, red, green, and ocean blue.

Tango Boots in four gorgeous colors
The already infamous Bernadette Oxfords in five colors
Classic Gibsons - black, cognac, oxblood, and green available.
I've gotten quite a few questions from our European customers asking if shipping/customs will be easier when buying the new shoes made in Portugal. Currently we still have to import them to the United States and warehouse them here, but we are working towards a much better European fulfillment solution as fast as we can. We're hoping to make this big improvement sometime next year, pending world events.

Thank you for coming on this journey with us through all of these years. It's been quite a road, but we're pretty stoked about this next move. We can offer more colors and sizes than ever before. We hope you like these changes as well!

Partial Shoe Team doing Shoe Things in Shoe Places
A wall of heels at our heel manufacturer - of course none of these are ours! We have to make all our heels custom because oldey-timey-curvy shapes aren't en vogue.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Introducing the Bernadette Oxfords

The moment we've all been waiting for! We'd like to introduce to you the Bernadette Oxfords, in collaboration with the peerless Bernadette Banner!

Last Fall we started working with Bernadette to develop an Edwardian oxford in her particular, beautiful style. We went through several different designs and iterations, but the clear winner was these super-chic striped two-tones with wide ribbon laces and practical 2 inch French heels.

We then asked you guys what colors you liked and it was a pretty close race! We decided to, well, do more of the favorite colorways than limit it to just two or three, so we have FIVE color options this season!

Blue/Black - a dusty, desaturated grey-blue pair with black
Cognac/Black - we're kindof calling it the Pumpkin Spice Shoe ;-)
Ivory/Black - very classic Edwardian color combo, goes with everything!
Brown/Tan - for the adventurer in you. Pair with all tweeds forever.
Tan/Ivory - sporting and snazzy.

The Bernadettes are one of our first shoes made in Portugal. We've spent most of 2020 onboarding the new Portuguese factory, working on heel molds and patterns, and preparing for this pre-order. We've also extended the size range to US women's 5 - 10 (half sizes), 11, and 12.

We're really proud of these and thrilled to have been able to work with Bernadette on these. We hope you like them!

Pre-Order is open August 21 - September 4, 2020
with a $20/pair discount
only at

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Friday, August 21, 2020

Fall 2020 Pre-Order is OPEN!

Lovely Peoples, I present to you the first pre-order collection release of 2020! We have a lot of new to share with you this year...but first...

A bit of general news...

All of this season's pre-order designs are offered in US women's sizes 5 - 10 (half sizes), 11, and 12. You asked for an expanded size range, and we're finally able to offer it, but be sure to take advantage of the pre-order sale because we will only continue to offer the extended sizes if there is enough demand.

We also have a new website replete with all the modcons like sorting with filters, shopping on your phone, and easier checkout! If you're a size 5, 5.5, or 12 you can use the filters to see what's available in your size. You can also sort by heel height, color, and more.

Here's a quick rundown of all the lovely new things -

  • Bernadette - in collaboration with Bernadette Banner, we have a super-snazzy new oxford in lots of beautiful colors. These are your Fall/Winter shoes of glory! Made in Portugal.
  • Londoner - the new Londoners are now available in cherry, cognac, and slate blue. This is our most popular design, so don't miss Londoners! They sell out quickly!
  • Tango Boots - One of our vault styles returning in black, red, and new in green and ocean blue. Made in Portugal.
  • Gibson - Our classic teardrop tie returning in black, cognac, green, and oxblood. Made in Portugal
  • Astoria - One of our most beloved designs has been updated with new buttons and edge piping, and is offered in black, navy, and oxblood red.
  • Kensington - These premium 18th century latchet shoes will be restocked in black, ivory, and oxblood and this season we are also offering green.
  • Pompadour - The iconic earlier 18th century shoe returns with a new heel shape and now in all-leather in both ivory and black.
  • Special Edition 18th Century Buckles - show your pride or spooky side with fun rainbow plated Cavendish and Fleur buckles, and black plated Cavendish.

August 21 - September 4
$20/pair discount (aw yisss!)

We *do* have a couple more styles coming later this Fall - a beautiful Edwardian boot and a full restock of Marilyn 1940s pumps with new colors as well. We're sorry we couldn't get them out for this pre-order but 2020 has been challenging. Worry not! They'll be along shortly.

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Monday, August 10, 2020

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Belle Epoque Wardrobe - 1890s Linen Cycling Jacket

The finish 1890s linen cycling jacket
Like many of us during this lovely pandemic, I've been UFO-busting for the past several months. I've picked up and finished so many projects - two 1930s dresses, a Robe a la Francaise, an artistic dress bolero, and the subject of this post. (I've also created a few new UFOs, but those are posts for another day...)

I started Simplicity EA258101 Edwardian Dusters last year in July-ish and promptly got stuck on the pockets. It then became Fall and my squirrel-brain turned to sewing Autumnal things, not linen garments. I picked up the jacket again in June-ish of this year, determined to muscle through those double-welt-flap-bullshit pockets, and finish this jacket for at least *some* Summer wear.

Picking up this project again and doing a very quick try-on (sanity check), pinned together at shoulders and side seams.
  • Pattern - Simplicity EA258101 - print on demand from Simplicity's website now. This has both the women's and men's long coats as well as hats and scarves. I found the pattern true-to-size and very well-made, as I've come to expect from Simplicity's older costume patterns.
  • Materials - Medium weight linen, horsehair canvas, silk organza, silk charmeuse-ish (?) for the lining, flat tape, obnoxiously large mother of pearl buttons.
  • Extended lapels and re-drew top collar shapes.
  • Shortened hem.
  • Omitted the decorative back tab.
  • Different sleeves - I used the undersleeve that came with the pattern but draw a much more bodacious topsleeve with an enormous leg o' mutton arc. I referenced "59 Authentic Turn-of-the-Century Fashion Patternsfor the shape, but Truly Victorian also has a sleeve variations pattern pack with all the glorious 1890s options. What I adore about huge sleeves of this era is that they'll fit any armscye. Just pleat or gather that huge circle down until it fits the armscye. In my case, because I have le narrow shoulders and I wanted the sleeve heads way up on my shoulder and set narrowly in back too, my armscyes were quite large, particularly in back, but it didn't matter because the humongous sleeves are easily adjusted to fit.
  • The larger half of the 2-piece sleeves. My favorite thing about leg o' mutton and gigot sleeve designs is that the more of a circle you make for the sleeve top, the bigger your puff will be. To be honest, this is quite reserved!
  • Trim - this isn't really an alteration. The pattern comes with suggested trim placement but I, of course, did my own thing. I applied a design to the upper back from an original jacket I found in Edinburgh, but did not buy, last year. I'm not 100% happy with it and think a more geometric pattern would've probably looked better, but I like the sentiment of it.
Sketching out the trim placement. I got this a little too wide, to be honest - I underestimated how much I was going to cut away from the armscyes and how narrowly I was going to set the sleeves in back.

This braid doesn't like to curve!
Tailoring Techniques
  • Pad-stitched lapels and top collar.
  • Horsehair canvas interfacing on the fronts.
  • Organza-reinforced hem.
  • Bound buttonholes.
  • Hand-set lining.
I'm not great tailor, that's for sure. I've only done a handful of tailoring techniques a handful of times and in general have made as many collared garments or jacket-like things than I can count on one hand. This was a big project for me!

There are three books I use to guide my feeble tailoring attempts, and I can't recommend them enough, in this order:

Vintage Couture Tailoring by Thomas von Nordheim
Couture Sewing Techniques by Claire B. Shaeffer
Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing
Some guts on the front - hair canvas, bound button holes, pad-stitched and taped lapels. There's a lot going on here!
Vintage Couture Tailoring, in particular, walks you through step-by-step and with a *lot* of photos, though it is definitely on the advanced side. Gerti'es book is kindof "tailoring lite" but has the most vital info in it.

Watch Points
  • Pocketses - I had a really hard time with the pockets on this jacket. They're double-welt-flap pockets, which I've never done, and I found them unusually difficult for a Simplicity pattern. Nice, I guess, but also kindof pointless...I would've been just as happy with something more like an 18th century pocket with a top-stitched flap.
  • Lining - To line or not to line? I went back and forth for quite some time on this question, it being a linen Summer jacket, but I ended up not having a choice in the end because of how it was constructed and the tailoring I chose to do. Generally, unlined garments of this period have no structural tailoring except maybe in the lapels, top collar, and possibly the facings. Pockets are usually patch-pockets applied to the outside, and I don't know what would've been done about the leg o' mutton sleeves. I have all sorts of madness going on inside this, so I *had* to line. With some research and asking of The Instagram, I learned that cotton sateen was a common lightweight, breathable lining, but I didn't have any, so I went ahead and used the very lightweight silk I got for the job. Yes, the hottest option, I know, but I was so far past the point of believing this was going to be a hot-weather garment that I went on and lined it for Spring and Fall and will use what I learned about unlined jackets on the next project.
  • Sleeve Structure - if you decide to switch out the sleeves and go for the bigguns, they'll need supports. I have a flat-lining of cotton organdy in the tops and also an organdy ruffle stitched to the seam allowance around the top of the shoulder. This made it a real challenge to line the sleeves! I used the original, much smaller sleeve pattern, so the organdy puffs and ruffles are between the outer fabric and the more fitted lining. This means I can't access them, but they also don't scratch me when the jacket is worn.
Here's what's lurking between the outer sleeve and the inner sleeve lining. I added an additional round-cut ruffle in stiff organdy just around the top of the armscye too.

Sleeve supports make a big difference! On the left is with the organdy flat-lined support (shown above). The right is without any sort of support.
The Finished Piece 

Done! For such a "floppy, wibbly" fabric, the soft tailoring really goes a *long* way on the jacket fronts, lapels, and hem.

Inspirated by "Howard's End," I used enormous mother of pearl buttons, found at Costume College 2019.

The jacket has a double vent in the back - not gonna lie, this was really tricky to line, but Vintage Couture Tailoring has a section specifically detailing how to do it.
The only part of my jacket I'm not that pleased with - my angel braid design, based on an original jacket in Edinburgh. My braid was much narrower than the original. I don't hate it, though, and it does remind me of Edinburgh, so it's a positive feeling overall. On a better note, I didn't intend for the collar to be able to stand like this but it's a serendipitous detail I absolutely love. Next time I'll padstitch the collar to do this properly.

I made the jacket from the same linen as this vest, so I'm 2/3 to a three-piece suit. I have enough of this linen left for some sort of bottoms...what shall it be? bloomers? jodhpurs? wide-leg trousers? full or short skirt? I'm wearing the split skirt from HistoricalEmporium in this photo.

Can't forget the topper - a vintage boater found on Etsy from MountainMammaVintage. I've been wanting a boater for ages and was surprised at how rare and expensive they are. I found this one for a really good price, cleaned it up a little, and now I'm madly in love with it. 

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