Monday, February 22, 2010

Inspirations {February 22,2010}

My inspirations today come from a juxtaposition of Spring and Winter.  It's been very odd weather lately: a sunny Springy day followed by a heavy snowfall, followed by another sunny day.

I am inspired by pink and white, and white on white.  The holdover from Valentine's day has me drooling over cakes and pink dresses still, while the foot of snow on the ground keeps me loving the bleak beauty of snowy landscapes.

A shabby-esque pink flower, makes me think of cherry blossoms in snow.

I've always had a soft spot of Kitchenaid mixers, and the beautiful things they can help create.

This piece of art continually makes me happy to look at.

This series of pictures was taken on a snowy day by photographer Chris Stowell, of Avi (that's my pup) dashing around chasing snowballs.  She was the happiest dog on earth that day.  Chris does great dog photography - please check out and "fan" his "Fidography" page on Facebook (click here).


The emtpiness of this photo is amazing.

 I'm reminded of a photo of Viona's that features her in a fabulous dress, with a rough collie at her side, in the snow.  Makes me want to sew furry winter coats with big muffs and long skirts :-)
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Thursday, February 18, 2010


:Ubersexlich - James' 18th c. Suit - Progress

Photos at last of progress on "The Suit." I've been working on the waistcoat, which to be honest is not at all interesting to look at right now. It wants for buttons and buttonholes, to follow. Pair it with the velvet frock coat, however, and it's looking really killer!

I need a man. No really, I need a guy shaped in generally the same way as my client, and I just don't know any around here! So my female dress form stands in and just doesn't do any of it justice. The really cool thing about men's clothing of this time period is that it was just as engineered and tailored for the man's body as women's clothing was for the female body.

At any rate, and with apologies for not-great photos, I present to you progress, PROGRESS!
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Wednesday, February 17, 2010


The 18th Century Dog

I watched a fascinating show last night, BBC 'Horizon: The Secret Life of the Dog,' and got to thinking about dogs of the past, and what is a "period correct" dog. I think this is a question that pops up in every dog-owning costumer's mind, at some point, when considering if his or her dog could attend faires and events...I suppose as a costume "prop?" I know I've thought about it...

So what are some dogs we'd see in the 18th century?

Hunting Dogs
Foxhounds and Beagles are the be expected, but many kinds of spaniels and setters were also popular. Many dogs were bred for specific kinds of hunting - for instance, standard poodles were for hunting bears, while terriers were for vermin, badgers, and rats. Greyhounds and whippets were used to course rabbits, and hounds to bring down stags and boars.

A small spaniel, maybe a Brittany

An English Spaniel or a Springer Spaniel, a hunting scene by Gainsborough

A hound, although looks a bit like a spaniel, with those ears.

A hound - a pack of these would have been used to run down this stag.
Foxhounds, by George Stubbs
Companion Dogs
One dog in particular kept popping up in portraits, a dog that looks like a samoyed, but is actually a Pomeranian. A far cry from what they've been reduced to today, the original Pomeranian was about 30 lbs., and was the favorite pet of Queen Charlotte, who brought the dogs from Siberia to England in 1761.The white pomeranian seems to show up quite a lot in Gainsborough's work
Here they are again...
This is Fino, the Prince of Wales' pomeranian.

Other breeds such as poodles and pugs were popular then as they are today, but some looked significantly different. Marie Antoinette's "Mops" we all know as the fat little pug from the 2006 movie, likely looked more like this...

We are familiar with other toy breeds from the 18th c., such as Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Bichon Frise, Pappilons, and various terriers (this last being a group of dogs that were bred for specific hunting, but became the pets of the aristocracy)

George Stubbs' portrait of a Spanish dog belonging to Mr. Cosway, 1775, my best guess is Pappilon
Queen Charlotte, with what looks like a King Charles' Spaniel
A delighful painting by Fragonard (if not a little voyeuristic?). Not sure of the breed, but looks like some kind of poodle?
Another interesting painting by Fragonard, the woman with an odd costume (maybe for theater?), with her lapdog, possibly a pappilon

Other Dogs of Note
Of course, many many other breeds were in England and throughout Europe in the 18th c. Greyhounds were ever popular with the upper classes, and large working breeds such as Newfoundlands, Collies, and Sheepdogs were useful to the lower classes and bourgeoise. Interesting breeds such as the Dalmatian were used to accompany carriages (this is where the ubiquitous Fire Engine Dog image comes from), while Mastiffs, bloodhounds, and bulldogs were employed by the police to help keep order.

Dalmatian, with the carriage in the background.
A Newfoundland, by Stubbs

For thousands of years dogs have been our companions and assistants. It's fascinating to see them appear in portraits, next to famous 18th c. figures, or all on their own. They were as beloved and essential to the people of the 18th c. as they are to us today (perhaps moreso), and ought not to be overlooked when we think back on and study this time in history.
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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Inspirations {February 16, 2010}

I have no couch in my apartment.
I want one that resembles THIS one, oh it's SO beautiful!

I know I have been fairly remiss in posting on a regular basis, so I have decided to give myself a bit of a schedule. Therefore, I decree, from now on the first of the week shall be "What Inspires You" day, wherein I encourage myself and all of you to post upon your blogs images, poems, bits, and pieces of whatever has been inspiring you lately.

So for this week, here are my inspirations (I'm not sure where I got these - I cruise around the web and save images that make me happy, so apologies for not crediting!):

I saw this photo on sfgirlbybay and liked the idea so much
I made one for myself, out of
hemp cord and some thumbtacks.

I want a shabby chic chandelier SO bad, to hang in the
corner of my bedroom. There's something so elegant yet fun about them.

cupcakes - see my Valentine's post. 'nuff said. I've been
eating them for breakfast, with tea, every day.

I saw these little bulb lights at Target. They're so charming (and affordable) - I think I want to string them across my ceiling, in my work room or in the living room, to get some extra light and style. If not, stringing them around the balcony (in all its syle-less glory) will be good too.

I love this lamp because it's something you can easily do
yourself - lampshade + fringies +trim at the top and bottom.
I think lampshades with fringe are wonderfully Victorian.

I'm not totally sure what kind of person Avi thinks I am.
Sometimes she glares at me, and often times she's a whole lot happier
when Mr. C comes over than when it's just me walking through the door.
However, we have been out for wonderful walks around the marina
(where we live), and to the dog park, for the past three days,
and I think that makes her and me both very happy.

So what inspires YOU. What is in your "scrap folder" or your favorites list? What are you thinking about right now? Repost your inspirations on your blogs and leave a link in the comments so I can go see!
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Monday, February 15, 2010

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Her Grace, The Duchess of Cupcakes - How and Why I Love Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day. Two words that strike joy, fear, hatred, giddiness, bitterness, or joviality into the heart-shaped-hearts of people everywhere. It seems like there are always two camps: those that like Valentine's Day, and those that despise it with the fury of a thousand angry prairie dogs.

I think many see it as a day of "have" or "have not," a day that will either be spent with someone, or spent alone. Others see it as a day manufactured by greeting card companies to guilt us all into buying cards, flowers, and chocolates.

But take a moment to consider - we have holidays that celebrate the birth of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, American independence, the turning of the new year, the passing and returning of souls, the patron saint of Ireland, dead presidents, etc., etc...and LOVE.

Valentine's Day is the celebration of LOVE, whether you have someone or don't, whether you're going out to an expensive dinner or not, whether you get cards and flowers or not. Love is a beautiful thing to celebrate. Just imagine the world without it! With all the madness, suffering, aggression, and hostility of people (on a world scale or in your every day commute!), we ought to be darn thankful for Love.

I gave up feeling bad about Valentine's Day years ago, and instead decided to just enjoy the day. I enjoyed the day so much I started celebrating a WEEK of Valentine's, by wearing my favorite pink dress (or making one for the occasion), indulging in some of those chocolates (that are, by the way, NOT reserved for people in relationships!), and buying myself flowers to enjoy all week long. Occasionally ardent boys would give me valentines, shaking and sheepishly smiling as they handed them over. However, despite any bouquets or heart-shaped candles I may have received over the years, the best valentine I ever got was an orange. That's right, it was an orange, a HUGE first-of-the-season navel orange upon which a very good, dear friend of mine, with whom I was NOT romantically involved, had written "Happy Valentine's Day" in sharpie marker. I believe he had intended to eat this orange for his own snack, but as we sat there in our morning class, he felt compelled to give it to me, instead, and it was quite possibly one of the sweetest things anyone has ever done for me.

This year I have not been able to celebrate Valentine's Week. Circumstances have me housebound and I'm unable to travel for dances, and I seldom go anywhere to wear a pink dress - not to mention it's VERY cold outside. I've decided to celebrate in my own little domestic way by baking cupcakes. They happen to be pink with white frosting and sprinkles and win. How many of these cupcakes will survive to Valentine's Day (tomorrow)? No telling....but I do plan to share at least a couple with my sweetie :-)

My cupcakes, in all their glory!

So remember, ladies, Valentine's is about Love, about the existence of love, the joy of it, and that we have it in our lives. It is also about feeling good about yourself, and achieving that in any way you see fit - go to a spa (or make your own with some candles and bubblebath), wear pink eyelet dresses, make a new costume for a dance, or spend the evening singing to Ingrid Michaelson's "Everybody" and baking cupcakes! <3
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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Rockin' The Rococo

Today we've got reason to celebrate! Paper Moon, a local shop in Reno (where yours truly resides) has placed an order for American Duchess t-shirts! Now shabby-rococo-victoriana goodness will be available in a real honest-to-goodness, bricks-n-mortar boutique! I feel a strong need to throw a cupcakes n' champagne party to celebrate, at the end of March, when the tees will be available in the shop. Woo!

You can buy these graphic tees in the American Duchess Etsy shop (while supplies last!). Become a fan, shop, follow, and help support the Rococo lifestyle we all love!
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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

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Monster Head: Dealing With Problem Wigs

Once upon a time I cut my hair short. Really short. As a costumer, this presents certain challenges, which I decided could and would be solved by embarking on a journey into the world of wigs.

Wigs are lovely. They're like big furry hats that take care of looking period-accurate, covering any vestiges of your pixie-cut mop-top, and taking a costume from a-okay to awesome. They can also be a pain in the neck...especially when what arrives in the mail is *not* what you thought you ordered.

Such a thing happened to yours truly late last Summer, when I ordered this 19th century curly-ass wig, to wear with all my mid to late 19th century outfits. I ordered "dark brown," but instead ended up with BLACK (or very near it), which did not blend with my real hair at all, and also did not work with my skin tone, making it look like I was wearing a dead crow on my head. In addition to the bad color, the shape of the thing was so bizarre and unflattering. I did wear it...regrettably...and then shoved it into the back of a cabinet, feeling snarky for having wasted the money on it.

Yet even REALLY BAD wigs can be saved! This excessively curly wig happened to be perfect for late 18th century styles ("hedgehog"), and in a matter of minutes, I clipped it and teased it into the "Duchess"-style fro we all know and love, gathered the back into a curly ponytail with a temporary ribbon bow, and pinned a few stray bits up in the front.

The last bit to transform this wig from MONSTER to magic is to powder it (not shown). Powdering the wig will take it from way-too-dark to greyish brown. I will be able to blend my own reddish-brown hair (also powdered) into it, and achieve the wig glory we all dream of!

So, next time you've got MONSTER HEAD lurking in the back of your cabinet, think about how to turn it into something completely different! Pull out your curling iron, your teasing comb, and your talc powder, and give it a go. Even monsters deserve to be loved...:-)
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Saturday, February 6, 2010

American Duchess on Etsy

I haven't yet posted about the new American Duchess shop on Etsy. This is a combination of yummy things readers of this blog may be interested in, and the online shop for American Duchess t-shirts, the rococo-inspired clothing line. I'm just beginning to add more than just graphic tees, and have put up a couple scrappy-ephemera greeting cards that you can print at home.

Other goodies I hope to add to the AD Etsy shop include sewing patterns, embroidery patterns and kits, ribbon and feather cockades, more graphic tees, and maybe even vintage teacups and saucers (a reason to hit the flea markets!).

Go and have a look, and if you have any suggestions, just let me know by leaving a comment. Thanks!

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Great Basin Costume Society - Events Plug

What: GBCS Chit-Chat Tea and Cakes
When: Sunday, February 28, 2010 - 11am to 2pm (or later)
Where: Josef's Vienna Bakery & Cafe - 933 W Moana Lane - Reno, NV

Interested in joining or learning more about the Great Basin Costume Society? Come have a chat with us, and learn more about the upcoming events this Summer and Fall. Plus there's CAKE!

Costume is admired but never required. If you would like to dress up, casual attire from the 1930s to the 1960s is suggested.

This event is not catered, so if you'd like tea and CAKE, come prepared. We will supply you with exciting news and information on costuming and silliness!

Not sure about any of this nonesense? Just come and see! The GBCS is *NEW* to Reno and always open to suggestions, input, and ideas. Invite your friends, your sisters, your mothers, and come see what it is all about.

If you are on Facebook, join the group by clicking HERE, and RSVP to this event by clicking HERE.
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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Why We Costume, Part 3: A Dream of The Past

There seems to be a fading of memories, after about thirty years, that turns otherwise horrible decades of fashion into inspiring vintage goodness, causing the fashion industry to launch revivals and thrift stores to become meccas. This is a late 20th and 21st century phenomenon - we look backwards for our trends, and somehow then twist these fashions of the past into completely new ones that define our current mode.

Remember when 1950s style dresses were all the rage (2005-ish)? Remember when bell-bottoms were back in (1998)? How about the 1980s revival that's splashed all over strip-malls right now? These are our Dreams of The Past.

Simply put, it's "Romanticism of Fashion," or "Fashion through Rose-Colored Glasses." Costumers take this to the extreme. We not only want to wear the clothing, we want to feel what it *might* have felt like to live a day in the life of a woman of the distant past. However, many fabrics that were used in the past are no longer manufactured today, or they have changed considerably. We do not have the same constrained and deformed bodies of women who were made to wear corsets every single day from a young age. We have neither the carriage, the bearing, nor the poise (no offense, ladies!), and our societal infrastructure does not support this type of dress anymore. Despite all our knowledge, learning, experimenting, and portraying, we are simply incapable of fathoming how women in the past lived in these clothes.

So we are left to our dreams. BBC productions of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens novels provide us with a visual smorgasbord to base our dreams upon, while literature, fashion plates, and history fill in the gaps. What we create with these sources is a far more enjoyable experience than the *actual* past. It is an amalgamation of modern convenience and antique style, creating a pleasurable experience to be looked back upon the next day as we lounge in jeans and t-shirts.

Our Dreams of The Past involve things that seems lost to our modern society: chivalry, romance, always being beautifully attired, a grace of behavior we no longer see today, a slower speed to life, and an appreciation of nature, philosophy, poetry, and calmness. We seek to revive these things by dressing in the manner that inspired them. And, indeed, they ARE revived! Gentlemen seem to act much more like gentlemen; romance (or at least harmless flirtation) crackles in the air, and a picnic with friends becomes the best possible use of a Sunday afternoon.

Perhaps our dreaming all together is what keeps us sane in our fast-paced, ruthless, modern world; it allows us to believe that beauty, grace, and good manners are not completely dead, and that there is hope afterall, that doors may still be opened for ladies, that gentlemen will still offer their coats, that men are still men and women are still women.
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