Monday, March 29, 2010


:Ubersexlich 18th c. Men's Suit - More Progress...Again...

 Please excuse the messiness of my room!

More progress on James' velvet and brocade suit.  The linings are being hand-stitched in and pleats adjusted...and....and....

 The right side in this photo still needs a line of trim and some hand stitching.

We've done two sets of buttons - the waistcoat buttons made from the same fabric, taking a floret from the brocade to make these buttons extra snazzy; and very large, hand-embroidered velvet buttons to add an extra touch of awesome to the frock coat.  More on the embroidered buttons later... :-)

Lots of little bits of finishing now, to wrap up all the raw edges and make it all nice and DONE.  All the buttons here are pinned on to show the full impact of the final products, with the embroidered buttons running down the front, on the cuffs, and the pocket flaps as well.

I'm quite proud of how this is looking.  That's a lot of POW!

Check out some of James' inspirations, from my personal favorite, Fashion: The Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute
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Friday, March 26, 2010

Five Senses Friday...

I find this cute and compelling, so I'm going to try it.  It makes us really think about the state of our own selves for a minute.  Got this from "Pink of Perfection," who got it from "Abby Try Again," two blogs that are inspirational to me.

Five Senses, Today, Friday, March 26, 2010...

Tasting: leftover cheesy pasta and banana yoghurt.  Not a lunch full of win, lol.

Hearing: One of the puppies gnawing on what used to be a nylabone, but now resembles a spikey shank.

Smelling: Nothing.  I smell nothing.  That's probably a good thing...

Seeing: the disappearance of dog hair from my bed, as I diligently vacuum it away.

Feeling: Pissed off, tired, and harried, but hoping for a better evening going to see "How To Train Your Dragon" with the incomparable Mr. C.

And there you have it, my honesty in all its glory!  Ask yourselves what you're tasting, hearing, smelling, seeing, and feeling - post it on your blogs or tell me in the comments below (I do love comments, and if you leave me comments chances are my "pissed off, tired and harried" mood will vastly improve!)
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Monday, March 22, 2010

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:Ubersexlich - Progres on Le Suit

Progress on James' 18th c. suit.  Actually, lots of progress, but on things that just aren't things you take pictures of for your blog: black buttonholes on black fabric, interior linings sewn together, bias tape finishings.  Blah.

However, due to photos of said progress being demanded, I've taken some for you, just a couple.  One - proof that the frock coat now has two (count 'em, TWO!) sleeves with cuffs on them, and also half of the lining sewn together.  Two - a pretty picture of my trusty Singer stitching on rows and rows of silver trim.

One more photo too, although not of James' suit.  These are new shelves!  Look at all those boxes full of patterns and notions, all those hats on blocks, and other nicely organized things :-)  It's made a huge difference in getting things more organized in this so-called sewing room!

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

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Happy St. Patricks Day, from Irish-American Duchess

Some bits and pieces to wish you a happy St. Patty's.  Firstly, some green.

I've been practicing my cockade-making and it's beginning to make a bit more sense.  I still haven't gotten my lazy self to the store to buy grosgrain or petersham ribbon, which I know will make this infinitely more easy, so scraps of satin ribbon have had to stand in.  Still working out how to finish the thing when I get around to meeting ends.  I think I might try one in paper to see if I can manage it better.

Next - things that makes me supremely happy.  Well, one thing I have a photo of at least.  You know when you walk into Target there are those shelves full of $1 items?  These glass tealight lanterns were $1 a piece, and they had them in three colors - clear, pink, and green.  I couldn't resist!  They also have garden lights ($12, not $1) on a string, which I found to be a charming way to light my all-too-dark bedroom, by stringing them on hooks from the ceiling.  Target wins!

Guess what arrived in the mail?  James' tricorn hat!  I ordered this hat for probably-too-much-money, from  It's a wool felt blocked hat with a nice petersham edging, and a leather band inside.  The quality is pretty alright, but not brilliant.  Now what to do with it?  I plan to make James a completely awesome navy blue and black double cockade, to be clipped on to the edge of the brim.  Do you think silver trim (the same as on the coat) would look good on the edge of the brim, or would that be too much?  The photos here show the hat on over my new hedgehog wig (looks nice, yeah?).

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

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Happenings: What's Going On?

My super-woman blogging abilities have been lacking lately, no?  So here's a bit to let you know what's been going on in the Wild World of Duchess...

1. I got another dog.  She is a Greyhound/Border Collie mix rescued from the Nevada Humane Society.  She's got some bad habits, but so far we're breaking them via squirt bottle and prong collar (disclaimer: these collars in no way hurts my dogs, but instead train them to not pull on the leash and strangle themselves.  I would wear one myself and often recommend them to everyone I see with an out-of-control dog)

2. I tried to make a cockade.  Tried.  It's either harder than it appears, or I'm missing grosgrain ribbon, for a start.  I'm going to work on it and make a tutorial for you guys.

3. Breakfast a la Limoges.  It's the first time I've used this teacup, and I'm quite pleased about it.  I never had tea parties as a little girls, not one single time, so having real tea parties every morning as an adult fills me with a glee, and the sense that the rest of the day will be good (let's hope).

4. Flat-lining James' Breeches.  Have any of you ever tried to flat-line pants?  It's mental.  Don't do it!  I ended up sticking them on my own legs, inside out, just to sew in the last bit of lining.  Good news though, they're not far from done.
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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Happy Birthday, American Duchess

Yay, this blog is a year old! (well, belated 2 days, but close enough!).

Once upon a time it was "The Barn Owl Gown," a blog dedicated to nothing more than chronicling my journey through making that insane feather monstrosity I wore for Halloween.  Not too long after that I realised I was writing much more about all kinds of *other* 18th c. things, and that I ought to expand the blog to be more general, cover more topics, and reach out to more people.

A year later, American Duchess has 125 followers (whee!), gets well over 100 unique hits per day (whee!), and even has its own clothing line and Etsy shop (yay!).  The main goal is still and will always be to write good, useful articles and help out fellow costumers who may be stumped by things I am also stumped by (wigs, hatmaking, etc.).  I like to add my insights (two cents, or pence for my UK lot), what's inspiring me, and other random bits that hopefully make American Duchess a well-rounded blog.

Thank you all for reading and returning, for leaving me comments (love!), and for helping create this amazing international group of historical costumiers!
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Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Hatting: My New Obsession

Sometimes there are things so beautiful that we cannot help, as craftspeople, to want to make them ourselves.  We become afflicted with this syndrome, and run off to learn how to do these things, sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing.

I would consider historical sewing one of these things, in a large way.  How many of you can recall the first time you saw a historical gown (at a faire, a dance, some event), and felt the salivatory glands in your mouth go into overdrive and your heart begin to thump, and some insane part of your brain begin to exude dopamine and lock into place an overwhelming, primal urge to MAKE THAT DRESS?  Yesssss....

I have recently experienced that special craving in relation to another area of costuming: hats.  We all love hats, but I'm sure we can agree that they're HARD to MAKE!  There are two ways to make a hat; sewing it, or blocking it.  Sewing hats seems the most comprehensible to people who regularly sew.  We get some pieces, we sew them together, out pops a hat.  It is by no means simple, though, takes many experiments, materials, and lots of time.  I'm proud of the couple of hats I've made in the past, but something has always been missing, and that is the beautiful, curvaceous design of a perfectly blocked felt hat.

Not too long ago I came across House of Nines Design, a blog about hatting.  Tricia makes the most INCREDIBLE hats I've ever seen!  I can't afford one to save my life, though I'd buy them all tomorrow if I could!  In addition to the blocked hats, she makes insane ribbon cockades, with feathers too, and lace, and veils, and oh it just almost HURTS to look at them!

I never quite know what switch in the brain it is that turns on (or off?) and causes me to want to MAKE MY OWN instead of buy.  Surely the cost of learning to make these kinds of hats will greatly exceed the cost of buying a perfect one, already made.  Still, I am so intrigued that I must try it in some way, at least, especially after reading Two Nerdy History Girls' article on What Made the Mad Hatter Mad.  Anything to do with fur and dead things always excites me anyway :-)

At any rate, I shall keep you updated on my adventures in hatting (and failures, of course!).  And hey, maybe some mini tricorn hats and ribbon cockades will come out this!
All of these hat images are from House of Nines Design - view her blog, and visit her Etsy shop.  Brilliance!
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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Extra Foxy Thursday

This has nothing to do with anything, but I was so inspired by my "inspirations" this week that I went off and drew it (for a certain Mr. C, it was a gift), and am so very tickled by it that I thought I'd post it here.  I guess, for some reason, foxes are associated with the 18th c. for me, whether it's because of fox hunting and riding habits, or "The Fox" costume from "The Duchess," or a little fox pendant I bought and wore with various 18th c. gowns...
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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Inspirations {March 2. 2010}

What's inspiring me this week - warm tones, peaches, auburns, siennas, creams - but in a desaturated, antique, faded sort of way.  I have a strong desire to make floaty voile dresses with little details like pin tucks and pleating, with inset lace maybe, and wooden buttons.  Spring is coming on, and the goldfinches, my favorite birdies, are passing through.  It's still cold, but tiny green shoots of bulb flowers are peeking through the ground.  Time to start on an Early Summer wardrobe.

 Many of these images are from a blog called "Abby Try Again."  Absolutely beautiful; have a look.
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Monday, March 1, 2010


:Ubersexlich Breeches - James' 18th c. Suit

Do you know how uninteresting and even weird pictures of pants are?  You can't put them on a dress form...they look odd on the hanger...the best I could do was to put them on myself.  They don't fit, of course, since I am not James, but it's better than nothing!

They want for finishing at the cuffs (you can see), and the trim and buttons.  They are fully lined (yay!), and drop-front, with triple-stitching on all seams so they will be extra sturdy for all the dancing and acrobatic James is going to be doing!
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