Friday, May 28, 2010

American Duchess' Monster List of Resources

Dear Readers,
   I've decided to move all my resource links off my sidebars, and onto this one page.  To get to this page in the future, just click the "RESOURCES" label to the left.  Here you will find everything I've found useful - links to wig websites, online costume collections, how-to sites, fabric stores, must-have books, and favourite movies.  I will add to this list again and again as I find new sites online that I find useful for us wacky 18th c. costumers!  Links in bold are those I have particularly useful.  Have at it!...

Fabric & Trim
Wigs & Hats
  • - large selection of wigs, pretty reasonable prices.
  • Wilshire Wigs - a bit higher end in headwear.
  • VogueWigs - my go-to source for costume wigs.  Great selection; great pricing.
18th c. General Stores, Costumiers, & Suttlers
18th c. Shoes & Accessories
Books on 18th c. Costume
Movies Set in the 18th c.
  • Marie Antoinette - a fantastic production starring Kirsten Dunst.  Uber-costume-win.
  • The Duchess - Kiera Knightly, Ralph Fiennes, beautiful costumes, heavy plot.
  • Dangerous Liaisons - the go-to costume movie of the 1980s, with John Malkovich, Glenn Close, Uma Thurman, Keanu Reeves (lol?), Michelle Pfeiffer.  A film about seduction.
  • Jefferson in Paris - interesting movie with some beautiful costumes, following Thomas Jefferson's ambassadorship in France at the end of the 18th c.
  • The Affair of the Necklace - bad plot, great late 18th c. costumes!
Sewing Patterns for 18th c. Costuming
  • The Recollections of JP Ryan - fairly solid patterns for men and women.  I used the men's frock coat and waistcoat patterns with success, but the breeches pattern was poo-poo.  The ladies patterns look divine, but I've not used them yet.  A little pricey, I find.
  • Kannik's Korner - I find this site hard to use, but they do offer men and women's patterns for simple thinks like caps, chemises, pockets and hose.  The men's patterns are a little more complete, with pants, waistcoats, and shirts.
  • Regency Reproductions - for Regency style of dress for ladies.  I have no used these patterns, but I like that they offer a wide selection, with options for the gowns, and patterns for jackets, stays, and children's clothing.
  • Simplicity - currently offers a pattern for a robe a la francaise, as well as a pattern for 18th c. underpinnings that includes stays, panniers, pockets, and a chemise.
  • Butterick - pattern #4254 for 18th c. stays.  I love this pattern.  The envelope also includes 19th c. corsets in two styles.
Useful Bits

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010


The Most Brilliant Shoes Known to Man...

...or at least known to me....or at least IN MY POSSESSION.

Last night I had the opportunity to "raid" Lady Carolyn's rack of costumes she's decided to get rid of.  There were so many amazing pieces, from the 1920s to the 1960s, and surprisingly nearly everything I tried on FIT, or can be taken in a bit to fit me perfectly.

Now, I won't reveal everything at once, but shall tease you along with little showcases of each dress I got, and to start, how about these SHOES!?

I can't even believe these.  I'm not exactly sure of the date - they look 20s, but could be 30s?  They're a beautiful french blue satin, with little turquoise frogs across the tops.  The heel is about 2".  Aren't they divine!  I can see these working for 17th c (could I wear these with my gunmetal 1660s dress?), definitely 18th c., possibly some 19th c., and of course 20th c.

They're a bit snug, but not uncomfortably so.  There is a little hotspot on the back of my left heel, where the heel comes up a bit too high and cuts, so I'm thinking I could stretch these possibly a bit, or just band-aid like crazy across there.

Best part? $10.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Depressionista's Guide to Cheap Frenchie Decorating

A bit about myself:

I live in a three bedroom apartment in a town you've never heard of, next to a city you don't really want to visit.  I've lived here for 6 months, spending the majority of my time in my bedroom and sewing room/office...and very seldom in the living room.  This "living room" has been a place for puppies to play, still-unpacked boxes to linger, and a smish-smash of various pieces of unloved furniture to reside with little purpose.  Eventually a girl of 18th century persuasion tires of this, as you might imagine.

I've been yearning for furniture, sweet, candy-like rococo, shabby, french-country, victorianesque furniture.  I read The Paris Apartment and Design Sponge, pining away for interesting old-world pieces and do-it-yourself projects.  The problem is...I have not much money at all, at least not much to spend on not-totally-achingly-necessary items such as food, toilet paper, and dog toys.  Another hindrance was my unpredictable future in terms of living situation - that is, who I could be living with in the future, and how much furniture (and of what style) that particular person may already have.  And my neck of the woods, that being the Westerly Coast of the still-young U.S. of A., this sort of furniture seems ridiculously hard to find and appallingly expensive when you do.  Time to get creative...

Here's What I've Got So Far
I purchased, completely on impulse, a wrought iron bench (outdoor furniture), from Costco, for $40, with the express intention of making some lovely jacquard cushions for it.  It's a small piece of furniture, but large enough for two people to sit on.  It is not a cuddling couch by any means, but more of a use to perch on and sip your morning tea.  I find it delightful and girl-sized.

Some rearranging of furniture last night dispatched those two unpacked boxes, hid away an ugly tv stand (not mine!), and created space for a seating area.  I pulled out oodles of prints, cards, photos, and other bits of art, and arranged them on the walls in clusters, like little tableaux - things on the walls always gives a space an instant lived-in feel, more than if you left them blank.

Today's Adventure
I took a trip to a shockingly charming used furniture store, full of interesting pieces, old suitcases, steamer trunks, and various knicknacks I had to resist snatching up.  I found there a small chest of drawers for a side/endtable ($40), and area rug ($40), and quite possibly the coolest little metal chair I've ever seen ($18).  These things I scrubbed up, steamed (the rug is still a bit rumpley, but much better), and placed around, feeling quite proud of myself, and charmed with how things are coming together.

The Plan
I'm still seeking some small shelves, and maybe some pretty fabric for a wall hanging.  I live in an apartment, so painting, though possible, is somewhat of a hassle.  I intend to paint the metal chair - white, or maybe a fun color like pink - and I will also be sanding down and painting my large armoire.  I'm sick of it having a parrot on it!

The nice thing about buying outdoor furniture for use indoors is that if I find something better - like a "real" couch - I can still use the little bench outdoors.  The metal chair can go outdoors as well.  However, for a total of $138 so far, it's a VAST improvement over the totally unlivable space prior.

It's not much to look at now, but look for future updates on Cheap Frenchie Decorating!
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Monday, May 17, 2010

Pogey Monday

This weekend I took a drive (in excellent company of man and dog) down to Grass Valley, CA, one of my favourite places ever.  I hadn't been in ages, years in fact, and the occasion was for the consumption of pasties...and also to poke my head into an antique shop or two.

I've been meaning to get a new vintage teacup and saucer, as a reward for leaving a bad old job and starting a new great job.  I'm very picky, so finding antique and vintage teacups that appeal is actually rather difficult, but the lovely thing about antique stalking is that when you see "the perfect one," you know it immediately.

I loved the interesting and unique shape of this little set, along with the color scheme.  It was made by Rosina China Co Ltd, Queen's Pottery, Longton Staffordshire Potteries, from about 1941 onwards.  I've not found my exact mark online, so I'm unsure of the year, but nevermind all that, it's a lovely addition to my little collection!
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Monday, May 10, 2010


Going Baroque: Mucho Progresso!

Much has been accomplished since last I posted.  For one, I worked on the skirt, cutting the front length and making the swooping curve that creates the train in back.  I sewed on 4 lines of silver lace, right down the front, and pleated up the whole thing, leaving the front straight, and bound the knife pleats with self bias.  Phew!

I did run into a bit of a problem, or more like a "learning experience," with the front of the skirt in tandem with the low point of the bodice.  For this period, the skirt goes on under the point of the bodice, and over the tabs, and where it crosses from under to over was causing a buckle in the center front of the skirt.  The bodice did not like the straight waist on the skirt, so I cut a slight V into the center front and that appears to have solved the problem.

Then on to the sleeves.  I had one pleated up already, and one completely in pieces, so I set to making the second sleeve, then hand-sewing on the four lines of lace trim to both seam sleeves.  And because I was curious (have been this whole time!) and couldn't stop myself, I added on the voile cuff (which I had pretty much NO idea how to do *right*), finished the bottom edge of the sleeve, and sewed it to the bodice.

Sewing these sleeves to this bodice, let me tell you, was and is no easy feat.  It's like 7 layers thick!  I had to do it by hand, with a decent running stitch, then make some adjustments where I hadn't taken a wide enough allowance, and I doubly-secured it with a tiny top stitch over the shoulder straps.  The thing is on there!  I will trim the crazy seam allowance on the inside and cover it with bias tape to finish it off, when the time comes.

I'm so pleased with it!  I put the bodice on, laced and pinned, and the sleeve just look fantastic!  It fits perfectly, I somehow have range of motion in my arm, and it looks good to boot :-).  Now what's left...?  Finish and add the other sleeve, do some interior finishings on the bodice, sew up the back of the skirt (add the gusset), and hem the skirt too, and add the hooks and bars that will keep the skirt attached securely to the bodice.  Yay, almost done!

Oh yeah, then TONS and TONS of beading...........
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Saturday, May 8, 2010

, ,

Hey, Whatever Happened To...

...that 1940 vintage summer dress?

Well, I've been bad.  I've worn this dress three or so times, but have only gotten pictures of it today! And not very many pictures of it either!  I wore it today to an afternoon tea at a private vintage clothing museum, and accessorized accordingly - curled hair, red lipstick, killer cute shoes!

Verdict:  I love love love this dress.  It's not perfect.  I messed up on the waistband a bit, and I need to find some magenta fabric to make a new waist tie out of.  I also have magenta ribbon that would like to be sewn to the sleeves, yoke, around the pockets, down the front, just to break up the massive florality of it all.  However, as it is right now, I still LOVE this dress.

As you can tell, I've been side-tracked by the 1660 silver gown, but it's shockingly nearing completion, and I'll be back to vintage summer dresses soon!

(apologies for the blurry and blown-out pictures!)
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Friday, May 7, 2010


Friday Review: Fugawee "Connie" Shoes

Okay, this is as much a post of excitement and *glee!* as a "review," but I wanted to show you my new Fugawee shoes, and talk a bit about them.

I've held off getting proper 18th c. style shoes for WAY too long.  I tried passing off my standard mary jane dance shoes, tying bows around the straps and whatnot, but they were just...not...right...ever.  So I gave in, made the investment, and got proper shoes.

I ordered Fugawee's "Connie" shoes in "rough," or suede-side out.  When they say rough, they mean it - the suede is not what we would consider high grade suede, and it's the only thing about the shoes that I'm not absolutely thrilled with.

I ordered a size 6.5, based on the measurements Fugawee sent, after I wrote to them to ask for a sizing chart.  Typically the sizes run the same as normal shoes you buy in the store.  I could have worn a size 7, as the 6.5s are a bit tight, but I also understand that these shoes have to conform to your feet.  They are straight-lasted, which means that there is no left and right shoe, so when you first put them on they are mighty uncomfortable, but after just a little bit of wear, they start to take shape.  You don't notice at first until you try switching feet, then it becomes REALLY obvious that they're already taking left and right shape.  I made a little "L" and "R" on the bottoms.

The really cool part is that you don't need to buy buckles right away.  Fugawee included four velcro tabs that allow you to turn back the latchets (the straps) and form loops to tie a ribbon through. (you can also stitch down the latchets if you're anti-velcro)  I love the look of big frou-frou bows anyhow, so this worked out perfectly.  I was afraid I wouldn't be able to wear them without buckles, so problem solved!

To help them conform to my feet, I put them on with wet socks, and also sprayed the exteriors with water.  It did not discolor or spot the suede at all, but helps it stretch.  "Leather stretch" from the shoe department would also work, and I may give that a try.  However, after only 4 or 5 hours of wear - some walking about, sitting around, etc. - they've stretched quite a bit and are pretty darn comfortable.  I imagine these shoes will become a second skin, and be perfect for, well, just about everything!

The shoes are engineered wonderfully.  They are very attractive to look at, and just high enough in the heel to make for a graceful look on the foot.  There is no question these are 18th c. style shoes, but I would not be hesitant to wear them with a modern dress too.  Depending on the decoration, you could also use them for other periods - I fully plan to wear them with the 1660 gunmetal gown, and I've seen others wear them with victorian outfits, and I imagine they could also be used for Elizabethan if you dress them right.

All-in-all, I highly recommend these shoes for anyone dressing in costume on a regular basis.  They are very comfortable, super versatile, and well-crafted.  Worth the money, for sure.  Here is the link to Fugawee's website, and also the link to Ladies' Colonial shoes:

Fugawee Home Page
Fugawee Ladies' Colonial Shoes
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Wednesday, May 5, 2010


The Baroque-o-Files: Tidbits and The Backs of Things

Please forgive the messy messy room!  However,
dogs are always included :-)  The tabs will be *under* the
skirt when it's worn. 

I've cut the skirt to length, with a big swooping curve to make the train but keep it floor length in the front.

From the excess cut off the bottom of the skirt, I made lots of bias for binding the bottom edge of the bodice, all those tabs.  I have to admit that I've not done the best job on these.  Maybe a good press with the iron will help it, but it's not pulled as tautly as I wanted.  Luckily all those tabs will be under the waist of the skirt!

Also, here's a shot of the back of the bodice (tabs not bound) with the sleeve pinned on.  I obviously didn't take this photo in the bathroom mirror (lol!), so it gives you a much better idea of how these gorgeous sleeves are going to look, yay!
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Sunday, May 2, 2010


Baroque-Orama: Lace Reform, Etc.

I've done so much hand-sewing today that my wrist hurts and I have to stop! I don't wanna stop!!

This morning, being clear, bright, and only minorly breezy, I undertook The Spray Painting of The Lace.  In a discreet corner of my apartment complex, on a half-green slice of grass, I let 'er rip, spraying down the 10 yards of lace, both sides, as best I could before running out of paint.  I will admit that the coverage isn't 100% in all places - there is a reddish tinge that comes through here and there, but it really doesn't bother me.  It'll never be noticed on a galloping (or waltzing) horse.

Before I could start sewing on the trim, I had to finish the satin cover, hand stitching into place each seam.  Here's it is complete, still with the tabs uncut, so there is some buckling in the sides.

Then on to the trim, or at least the start of it.  I've done the back first, since now I've come upon the necessity of an order of operations
 for some reason I didn't match the center scallops perfectly,
which bothers me slightly, but at least this is only the back.

Delicate Order of Operations:
- stitch on the back trim
- cut the length of the skirt, and use the excess to make self-bias
- bind the bottom edge of the bodice
- stitch on the front trims
- set the sleeves
I've cut the tabs in this photo, so everything is
laying down niiiiiice and smoothly.
I'm happy with my decision to go with the painted lace trim instead of the heavy silver GOBS I tested earlier in this project.  I'm planning some tiny pearls and silver spangles all up the front (not on the back though), so there will be even more glitz and ge-gaws.  The only thing bothering me is the rumplets at the sharp curve of the bust seams.  I'm going to try stuffing those areas (lol) to round them out, and I may do some kind of fichu-like scarfy thing around the neckline, as I've seen in a number of portraits.  More on all this later!
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