Wednesday, November 25, 2009

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James' :Ubersexlich 18th c. Men's Suit: Sketches

The time has come to begin sketching and designing for James' 18th c. suit. The nice thing about men's fashion in the 18th c. is that while it was flamboyant, yes, the shapes stayed generally the same, with only moderate differences in length of frock coats, style of waistcoats, etc., up until everything went berzerk in the 1790s.

I'm partial to the later, shorter version of the waistcoat, and the lovely cut-away style of frock coat. Of course, this sketch will have to pass James' test of ":ubersexlich," that being some strange made-up German James-ism for "super hot," and what I am to achieve with this project. (lol!)

I'll be sourcing some broad metallic silver braid-trim-something for the front edges of the frock coat, and a thinner version for the waistcoat. The buttons will be self-covered navy blue velveteen with some hand embroidery in silver -- I'm thinking a starburst kind of pattern.

Patterns will be ordered from JP Ryan tonight, yay!

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

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James' Fantastic 18th Century Suit - Starting Line

Red wool suit with gold trimming, Kyoto Costume Institute, 1740s

It's about time I posted something, yeah? I have a good excuse: this little Duchie has finally found herself a new home, and this one with an entire room devoted to "work," half of that being graphic design/illustration, and the other half being costuming! However, this room is currently in utter chaos, complete with puppy. I'll be setting up this workspace to be full of win in the near future, but for now, here it is, in all its glory:

Now, to the good stuff. I've been commissioned to make a mid-18th century men's suit, from breeches, to waistcoat, to frock coat, to hat. James, the client, has done a wonderful job picking out his fabrics, a delicious navy blue velvet for the frock coat and breeches, and a fantastic metallic silver and black brocade for the waistcoat, very French. He is looking for a well-tailored look reminiscent of the trim ensembles in "Marie Antoinette." He'd also like a lot of trim work on the coat, which will likely involved metallic silver braids and trims, if not a little embroidery (I'm thinking about the buttons).

While James is drooling over his newly arrived 18th c costume books, I've done a little digging of my own, and here's what I've come up with for inspiration:

As for patterns, I've decided to go with JP Ryan. These patterns are reported to be accurate, nicely complex yet workable, and the go-to source for this century. I'll be working with these:

The last bit is the hat. I'll be creating the cockades and feather arrangements on a felt blank, like this one (which does come in navy, ooo!):

After I receive the patterns, I'll be mocking up each piece in muslin, and frolicking down to the Bay Area in later December, for a fitting. I'll then have until the end of January to finish it, as it's due for an early February costume ball.

This is American Duchess' FIRST commission, so let's make it a good one!!

(And if you are interested in commissioning a costume, or costume pieces, please e-mail me at [email protected])
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Friday, November 13, 2009


Birthday A La Francaise

Last weekend I celebrated my birthday by skipping down to Alameda for an evening of dancing with my favorite people.

When I returned on Sunday, my parents and I celebrated again, with pie, flowers, and a gift or two.

One of these gifts was CHEESE, and not just ANY cheese, but Le Delice de Bourgogne, the most brilliant creamy wonderful gooey tasty stinky cheese EVAR. Along with it were some beautiful pears and some sourdough bread, which made a delightful breakfast the next morning, along with a pot of tea. I felt so civilized :-)

Aside from the cheese, my non-edible gift was an antique Limoges teacup and saucer, date unknown as of yet, that has been in my family some very long time. Limoges porcelain goodies were produced in several factories in France from the late 18th century up through the 1930s. My guess is that my lil' teacup and saucer dates somewhere around the 1920s, given the sobre decoration and subtle design of the ware itself.

Limoges is a region in France, and Chambord a French commune.
I suspect that "Block" is one of the factories that held a Limoges license
and produced pieces with the "Limgoes" mark.

It's so lovely and delicate I'm afraid to use it, but what fun would that be? This is the perfect heirloom beginning to the mismatched tea service every modern 18th c. lady (read: addict) should have!
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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

70 Thank Yous to 70 Followers

Today I'm happy to celebrate 70 followers to this blog! Thank you to all my readers, and welcome to all the new readers!

2010 is fast approaching and I hope to fill it full of more helpful tutorials, articles, and dress diaries! As always, feel free to leave me comments (I do love your comments!), and suggestions.

I love you all, and thanks for making this blog a success! :-)
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Monday, November 9, 2009

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Time Travel: Le Bal Des Vampyres, 1840s

I promise you I have some delectable projects to begin updating about soon, including a fantastic 18th c. men's ensemble ripe with embroidery and velvet and goodies. However, I also need to report on recent Time Traveler activities!

Last weekend I celebrated my birthday by skipping down to my old, favorite "home town," Alameda, for the PEERS Bal Des Vampyres, the annual dance event full of Awesome and Win, held in the fantastic Edwardian Alameda Elk's Lodge (don't be fooled by the "lodge" part of that, it's a very elegant neo-classically influenced building).

After a wink of alterations, I wore the rose/cream striped 1840s ballgown. I'd forgotten how much I love this dress! The first time I wore it, back in the middle of the year, I had to be sewn into it because it was just WAY too big in the shoulders (that's what I get for using the Not-So-Uniquely me dress form without double checking on my Not-Quite-My-Double Dritz form). This time I took in the side seams a bit, which helped only marginally with the shoulder problem, but at least it wasn't falling off!

And, of course, the tall feather. I just can't go anywhere without tall feathers :-).

The lovely photos are by Neil Girling, a charming gentleman and pro-photographer I met at the dance. His website is
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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

American Duchess, Now Open For Business

American Duchess is now accepting costuming commissions, yay!

I am not solely an 18th century seamster - I also work in Elizabethan, Baroque, Regency, Victorian, Edwardian, and retro fashions from the 1920s-60s.

I am open to commissions from both ladies and gentlemen, and can provide a full wardrobe, from underpinnings to accessories. I am able to develop patterns through draping, drafting, or scaling historical examples (from Janet Arnold, for instance), as well as work with patterns you specify, such as Truly Victorian. I offer a full design service to help you visualize and develop your costume and character.

Costs will always depend on materials used and the complexity of your project. However, I always look for ways to reduce the cost of an ensemble, and make it a garment that is beautiful, wearable, and durable.  For custom creations, I only work with clients in my area, whom I can meet with in person, but do check in at the American Duchess Etsy shop for one-of-a-kind costume pieces that may be just right for you.

If you are interested in commissioning, please e-mail Lauren at [email protected]
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