Tuesday, June 29, 2010

And Now For A Shameless Plug...

Ladies (and Gentlemen), I want to tell you a little about myself.  I am a freelancer, a contract illustrator and designer who makes her living by taking commissions for various applications of artwork.  I have also begun, through this blog, taking costume commissions, and in addition to all that, I am constantly seeking internet-based ways to earn income.  Why?  Because the life of a freelancer is really...really...really hard.

So why am I telling you this?  Well, partially it's an explanation and partially an apology.  I am constantly looking for ways to earn money, and so I market various things online - t-shirts, Etsy listings I've put up, etc.  I am sorry if it has seemed like I've been trying to get you all to buy buy buy recently, as this is not my intention!  I never want to sacrifice the content of my blog in favour of trying to "make a buck," but I do want to let you know about my various businesses, in hopes that you will lend your support to them.

All that being said, in my quest to keep afloat, and for the love of puppies, I've started a new business.  Yes, it's a sewing business, but not for people :-).  It's called "SnugPuppy Custom Dog Coats & Collars," and the name says it all - I make totally custom winter coats, and also really cool, custom collars.  It being Summer currently, I'm focusing on the collars, and hosting a giveaway on the SnugPuppy blog as well as the SnugPuppy Facebook page.  In total, I will be giving away 3 handmade collars.  If you have a dog, or know of someone who does, this is just the kind of *free stuff* giveaway for you.

Dear ladies, I would absolutely be eternally grateful if you were to lend your support to this new little business.  Please visit the SnugPuppy blog, become a follower, leave a comment, and if you are so inclined, let your dog-loving friends know about my new little company.

Thank you forever,

Lauren R
American Duchess ....... and stitcher of dog collars.

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Monday, June 28, 2010

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Time Travel: The Baroque Gown at June Gaskells Ball

So what if Gaskell's Ball in Oakland, CA, has a Victorian theme!  I wore the Baroque, and loved every minute of it.  I'm continually surprised at how comfortable this costume is.  The only problems I had with it were people stepping on the train, causing the back hooks to pop off, and safety pins to be employed for the closure of the skirt.  Here are some photos from the dance:

Jenny brought me jelly bellies! my favourites!  Also, my hair was curled
at the front at the beginning of the evening, but didn't hold, so I ended up
pinning it back (as you see in later photos)

All of these photos were taken in the sitting/dressing room at Gaskells,
so the lighting conditions were a bit tough, and flash just looked
ug, so apologies for the slight blurriness!

In addition to jellybeans, I also received from Jenny S. a most delightful little gift of a teacup and saucer (but of course!).  I'm so thrilled with my growing collection, and this one is just perfect.  THANK YOU JENNY!  Here are some pogey bait photos of my new Jenny Teacup:

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Yay! Versatile Blogger Award!

Comtesse Olympe De La Tour d'Auvergne, whom due to that length of name hurting my head we shall refer to henceforth as The Comtesse, has awarded me the Versatile Blogger Award, yay!  I am glad it is not causing annoyance with you, my dear readers, that my "18th c. costume blog" seems to wander off in random, other-century directions!  I think I've achieved this versatility, then, by lack of focus, haha!

Now for 7  things about myself, and 5 outstanding blogs I wish to pass this award onto...

7 things about me:

1) In a battle between dark chocolate and milk chocolate, dark chocolate will always have my support.  Milk chocolate makes my throat itch.
2) Along those lines, I just discovered I'm allergic to sunscreen, or very common ingredients in sunscreen.  Good thing this costuming/historically-obsessed habit of mine supports and encourages pasty white skin.
3) Speaking of pasty white skin, my boyfriend is English, and he's lovely, and I love him.
4)  I work for The Trail of Painted Ponies.  I paint the ponies.
5) Hate the colour purple; love the color fuschia.  My favourite shoes are fuschia.
6) I love high desert thunderstorms in late Summer.  Secretly I get very excited about the fires.  No, I'm not a pyromaniac, but I do like candles..........
7) I'm a speed demon.  I always break the law.  I always go as fast as I can; I only think I'm being safe.  I pretend I'm driving on the Autobahn, and I push the pedal ALL the way down.  (haha, sorry, Dreamstress, I just HAD to!)

5 blogs to pass this award onto:

1) Two Nerdy History Girls - random and completely entertaining information for history addicts like us.
2) The Lady of Portland House - you know what I love about Other Lauren's blog?  She not only makes outstanding 18th c. costumes, she shows us the finished products in action, and gives us the context of her life in which to admire them.
3) Isis' Wardrobe - my fellow 17th c. costumier internationale.  Anyone venturing into that dark and confusing century of fashion deserves a "Versatile Blogger" award.
4) The Couture Courtesan - beautiful costumes, beautiful girl, she even has a beautiful beau, I think I hate her. (which means "love her" in internet-land)
5) Adventures of a Costumer - such pretty costumes, and lovely photos of finished pieces.

So there you have it!  Thank you again to The Comtesse!  Cheers!
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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Monday, June 21, 2010


The Baroque, AT LAST

My lovely blog readers, you have been so patient in waiting for me to chug through a couple other costumes before returning to The Baroque, but at long last your wait is over!

It is not done, as you will see, it is missing some trim on one of the cuffs, and wants a hem to the skirt (you can't see that), as well as some interior finishings and hooks/bars on the waistband of the skirt, to secure it to the bodice, and hopefully help pull out that buckle on the bodice.

I bought this lovely hair piece a couple weekends back, and plan to curl the front of my hair and wear this ponytail thingy.  It's more Victorian than Baroque, but I think it looks pretty and will work quite well.  The stag pendant was given to me by a dear friend, Jenny S.

For anyone interested in how I took these photos (as if they're something special, lol), I hung a sheet from my uppermost shelf, letting it hand to the ground.  This is next to a window that lets in natural light, and I placed a large piece of white foam board opposite, to reflect the light into the darker areas of the subject (me.).  I brightened the exposure a bit as well.
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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Tiny Announcement a la Etsy

Ladies, I'm just posting this snippet to let you know that I will be selling off a handful of my past costumes, starting with these two.  They are listed in the American Duchess Etsy shop.

This, believe it or not, is THE first costume I EVER made, for The Gatsby Picnic in Oakland, CA.  It's based on a 1925/26 tennis dress I saw in Art Deco Fashion, a book I bought at an Art Deco exhibit at the San Francisco Legion of Honor.  The original is in the collection of the V&A, see it here.

And this is literally the SECOND costume I ever made.  It was for the very first ballroom costume dance I ever attended, the PEERS Mardi Gras de Vampyres, waaaaay back in 2004.  I still love this dress immensely, just doesn't fit anymore.  The contrasting coat is a kick too.

Don't laugh at my silly 19 year old self with my bleach blonde hair!  I like to think I'm getting better (at least more elegant) with age!
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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

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My Victorian Summer Bonnet by Maggie

As promised, here is an informational post with lots of pictures, all about my Victorian Summer Bonnet.

This bonnet was made for me by Maggie Waterman, a fabulous costumier and milliner.  Her skills of hat creation are outstanding, and she definitely has a knack for dressing hats.  I did not have time, patience, or mad skills enough to make my own bonnet before my event, so I commissioned one from Maggie.

How much did you pay?
I paid $50, which in hat-land is insanely well-priced.  This included all the materials, labor, and the shipping.  Straw bonnets like this are on the easier end of millinery, so please note that if you are planning on commissioning a hat from Maggie, her prices may vary depending on the difficulty, complexity, and materials of the hat.  Still, any headgear under $150 is awesome, as I find hats to be ridiculously expensive!

What is it made out of?
The bonnet form is nice rough straw, shaped into the characteristic curve.  It is all of a piece, with no seams between the brim and the crown.  The ribbons are sage green satin, and left long for easy tying under the chin.  They are set perfectly so that the bonnet does not fall off the back of my head.  The interior is decorated with pleated cream-colored lace, and the decorations on the back are silk flowers, a small bird (a personal touch just for me), and a feather.

How long did it take?
Maggie had this bonnet done in under one week.  She has a particular passion for making hats, so hops to it whenever she has one to create.  You can expect your hat to arrive in the mail in about two weeks, if Maggie is not booked out.

Does it match your dress?
It matches exactly!  I told Maggie the color scheme I wanted, and she had seen pictures of my dress in progress.  I told her I wanted a middle class, understated bonnet with not-too-big a brim, done in sage green, tans, creams, and brown.

How do I commission her?
E-mail Maggie directly at [email protected].  She will take a look at your specs and quote you a price.  She takes PayPal, and check.

And now for the good stuff:

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Monday, June 14, 2010

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Time Travel: Mark Twain at Lake Tahoe, and Rendezvous in Carson City

So for all my complaining, I love this dress (now).  It wore really quite well!

The events of the day included a trip up to Zephyr Cove, Lake Tahoe, to scout a new event called "Mark Twain Western Days."  It was SO tiny, with just a couple craft booths, a stage, a band, a cowboy poet, and some gunslingers, but it was such a lovely little place to be.  About 7-10 of us GBCS ladies (and our one gentleman), spread out on the lawn, listened to the band, and had a picnic lunch.  We then flounced around taking photos, looking pretty, gathering strange looks for the "normal" people there to ride the Tahoe Dixie and play volleyball.

After our lunch we all piled into our automobiles, hoops and all!, and drove back down the hill to Carson City, to check out the Rendezvous.  I had never been to a Rendezvous, and I am SO impressed!  It might become my new "thing," (like Renaissance Faire was years ago), and I'll have to change the name of my blog! (never!).  We shopped - both my mother and I bought hair - we slurped lemonade, we watched the battle, which was really quite riveting, cannon and all.

What a lovely day.  The weather was nice (thank goodness), and the entertainments were many.  There were no major problems with the dress, save that it wants some hooks and bars on the waistband, to keep the bodice and skirt together, and I need to hem the skirt up a bit, as I was stepping on it all day.

My mom and I on the beach at Tahoe,
 planning something mischievous, I'm sure.

My mom in a "tin type" I tried to make a la Photoshop

I'm going to do a full-on informational post about the bonnet next, but I want to let you all know a bit about it first.  I did NOT make this bonnet, but instead commissioned it from a friend, Maggie, who has a magical way with hats.  I paid $50, which included all supplies and shipping, and she made the thing super-fast, and got it to me by the next weekend.  It's exquisite, fits perfectly, and is exactly what I asked for - a straw day bonnet, with a palette of sage green, creams, and browns, rather understated, and with some flowers.  She had never seen my dress in person, and the bonnet matched EXACTLY.

This is an ad I made for Maggie, just for fun - she doesn't actually run
a "shoppe" but she ought to!  

Maggie is open to taking more commissions, and I encourage you to take advantage of her skills while her prices are still so low!  Her e-mail is [email protected].  She also runs a blog: http://serendipitousstitchery.blogspot.com/, though not often updated, but you can contact her there too.
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Friday, June 11, 2010

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Hey, Whatever Happened To...[1840s-50s-whatever dress]

It's one of the many other things I haven't been showing you.  It's not the Baroque gown, I know, but I had to get this one done for events tomorrow! Don't hurt me!!!

I started this gown last December, when I decided I needed something new to wear to Dickens Fair in San Francisco.  It didn't get done, of course, and I didn't even look at it (except to toss it out of my way) until about two weeks ago, when I realised I did not have a Victorian daydress of any kind, and with the highly Victorian/Western calendar of events exploding upon me for the next couple months, this sort of mid-19th c. frippery has become, well, completely and totally necessary.

I think dresses have memories.  If you've tossed them about and not given them any attention and love, in their childhoods, they WILL come back and take REVENGE on you later!!!  How many times did I re-do the front closure for this freak of dress!?  And how many times did I say to myself, "Duchess, why the hell did you not just stick to the original pattern, you noob!?"

I still have snaps to sew onto the front placket, and the skirt to seam up the back.  I want to add a dark brown guard to the bottom of the skirt, but I'm so over it right now that I think I'll wait until later, after Saturday, some other day, before some other Victorian event...

I will post photos after the event tomorrow (Mark Twain Western Days at Zephyr Cove, Lake Tahoe; then Carson Rendezvous in Carson City, NV), and tell you all about the coolest part of this costume, the part I did NOT make, the bonnet :-).
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Thursday, June 10, 2010

"Velvet Revolution" New TShirt Release

Shocking though it may be, this is what I look
like "normally," not wearing a costume.  Boring, right?

I know you are all chomping at the bit for updates to the Baroque Gown, but I'm going to throw you a little bone to keep you at bay!

In order to celebrate the American Duchess brand of graphic tees being carried in Paper Moon, a local Reno boutique, I have released a new t-shirt, "Velvet Revolution," and would look to make a special offer to you, my loyal blog followers.

My line o' t-shirts "on the shelf" at Paper Moon

This is actually my favourite design of the bunch. I simply love this shirt, and it seems to go with everything. I had the design printed on ivory and khaki, sizes Small, Medium, and Large. The quantities are SUPER limited, so order yours NOW, as this t-shirt will NOT be reprinted (ever!).

"Velvet Revolution" is listed in the American Duchess Etsy shop, but for readers of this blog, you can get yours for $15, a $2 discount over the Etsy listing. Click the PAYPAL button below to order:


Sizing (shirts have stretch):

Small - bust 30-32" / waist 24-26"
Medium - bust 33-35" / waist 27-29"
Large - bust 36-38" / waist 30-32"
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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

17th c. Costuming

I have taken on a commission (actually 2) for a lovely lady in New Hampshire, who is a 17th century reenactress, and greatly in need of both a shift/shirt/smock, and a jacket.

Lucky me for two things - one is that I *just* made this jacket, the exact same jacket she is wanting.  Also, she is almost exactly my own measurements!

I'm starting with the shift.  It's a basic shirt made of rectangular panels, with under-arm gussets, and a high collar. The interesting thing that makes it more 17th c. than Elizabethan is it has a built-in "ruff," a floppy, pleated collar attached to the neck band.  This can be worn out over the bodices or jackets, or tucked inside the shirt and a separate ruff worn.  Crafty!

Here are some reference images for the doublet and/or shirt, from various Plimoth Plantation websites and articles (links only):
(c) Wolfgang Wander - linked to from his webpage. This
shows the falling band collar nicely.
(c) Tom Brosnahan - this is a link to his image on
(c) Wolfgang Wander - linked to from his webpage
Here's another great example of the jacket construction, from Extreme Costuming:

I've also made a quick sketch of the shirt:
We've changed the collar to 2.5" wide instead of 3" wide.

The fabric will be 100% linen, from Dharma Trading Co., in white.  It needs multiple washings and some fabric softener, as it's rather crispy now (the nature of linen), but as soon as that's done, I'll be on to the shirt!  This will actually be the very first time in the history of American Duchess that I have worked with 100% linen.  Don't I feel period accurate! :-D

More and more and more to come on this project.  Also, do not be hurt, I will post updates to the Baroque gown soon, as I will be finishing it for a ball the last weekend of June.
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Monday, June 7, 2010

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Evidence of Time Travelled and Costume Worn

Here are some photos from Saturday, our trip up to Valhalla Renaissance Faire at South Lake Tahoe.

I'm ever so pleased with this 1570s Elizabethan jacket.  I've wanted to make it for ages, and finally have.  I had no problems with wear - nothing came apart, undone, or unstitched!  The only problem was with fit through the shoulder s- I  need to pinch the shoulder seams at the neck, as they stood up in a strange way.  I flatlined the jacket, so this will be an easy fix.

I was going for a middle class townswoman look, so I paired the jacket and lineny-ish skirt with a high-collared blackworked shirt, my surprisingly Elizabethan Fugawee shoes, and that ridiculously tall hat I made last year.  The cool thing about this costume is that I could take it down in class with a different shirt, rougher shoes, and a straw hat.

So there you have it!  The coolest thing of all?  This ensemble cost me not one red cent to make.  It was compiled from fabrics and hardware I already had in my stash, and costume pieces I already had in my closet!  Now on to another thing I haven't been showing you, but you'll have to wait for the next post to see it :-)...
Me with my illustrious Lady Mother, 
who greatly outranks me at fair and in life!
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