Sunday, October 31, 2010

Design Sundays: "Holly Day Dress" on

I thought I'd try my hand at a dress, inspired by both the 18th century and the 1960s.  It's a winter party dress, heavy wine-colored satin with nice big pleats at the waist, a fitted and simple bodice, and 18th c. style quilting at the hem, about 12" wide all around.  I submitted the design to, and it's currently rockin' at 118 votes.  If you like this dress design, please vote for it, and we'll hope it makes it into prototyping and production!  Thank you for your support :-D

The inspiration - 18th c. quilted petticoats
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Friday, October 29, 2010

Costume Analytics: Katrina's Zone Front Ensemble, "Sleepy Hollow" (1999)

Better late than never!  And this week on Costume Analytics, we're taking a look at a great, spooky, Burton-y interpretation of 18th c. costume, from "Sleepy Hollow" (1999).  This costume belongs to Katrina Van Tassel, the heroine of the film, and features a zone-front pierrot jacket, worn over a petticoat, and with an "apron" of sorts.  Let's take a closer look...

The bodice is a zone-front pierrot (a short jacket most like a bodice with a "tail" on the back), closing at center front with hooks and eyes.  The lines of the zone-front sweep down to the side seams and hen into the skirt in back, which looks to be a basque sort of style, with one large box pleat at the center back seam.  The sleeves are tight fitting, and probably shaped with a subtle curve at the elbow (or would be if they were proper 18th c).  You can see the inspiration for this jacket in an extant example from the Kyoto Costume Institute (Fashion: The Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute):

Unfortunately, I have not found any patterns for pierrot style jackets, or zone front anythings.  The construction is not very different from regular bodices - there are no seams on the front pieces, and the back likely consists of a side back panel and a back panel, with a center back seam.  The back pieces flare into the basque, at the waist, with the extension at the center to be sewn together and pleated underneath, at the center back seam.  It appears that the basque and back are all of a piece together- no waist seams.

The skirt is taffeta, pleated into a waistband.  it is worn over a flounced petticoat, to give it fullness.  A final addition to the skirt, and a curious one, is the strip of "apron," a very narrow voile or gauze panel that falls from the center point, and is attached to the waistband of the skirt.

Fabrics & Trims
The pierrot jacket is made up of cut velvet in blue and grey stripes.  The edges of the zone front (the lines running away from the center front of the bodice to the side seams), and the hem of the skirt in back appear to be edges with blue velvet, along with the ends of the sleeves.

The skirt is a sky-blue slightly iridescent taffeta, fading to a lighter color at the bottom, starting about a foot up.  This is a common practice in Hollywood, to "age" the clothes to give them a lived-in feel, and Tim Burton takes the sullying of his film costumes even further.

The apron panel is also quite dirty in appearance.  It's very narrow, made of a very thin material like cotton lawn, voile, or gauze, and features embroidery at the hem, in a very modern pattern with flowers and a butterfly.  To me I can imagine the costume designer buying a curtain panel for a little girl's room, aging it, and adding it to the front of the dress!

Katrina is wearing either a thin chemise or a fichu tucked into the neckline of the bodice.  It's difficult to tell if the bodice is heavily boned or if she is wearing stays, but if this were a real 18th c. ensemble, it would the latter.

We also see some screenshots showing the flounced petticoat that supports the skirt, and she may be wearing a bum pillow as well, to puff out the skirt at the top.  Her hair is worn down, pulled up at the sides, and she also sports some blue, strangely Victorian boots, tied with silk ribbons.

Tips on Making This Costume

  • It's not about historical accuracy.  It's Tim Burton.  Get dirty and anachronistic!
  • For the zone-front jacket, try altering a bodice pattern for a Robe a l'Anglaise, or take a look at some other jacket patterns from JP Ryan.  If all else fails, don't be afraid to use a Victorian pattern instead.
  • Get creative with aging your costume - test out a swatch of taffeta in bleach or brown fabric dye.  Here are more tips on distressing and aging your costumes:
Dark Greeen high-low corduroy from Fashion Fabrics Club
  • Cut velvet can be hard to find.  Try wide-wale corduroy, or even striped jacquard instead.  You want a fabric with a solid weight, such as an upholstery fabric.
  • Try trimming with short fringe, such as we see on the inspiration jacket from the KCI.  Look in the home decor setion of your fabric store.  
  • Look for an embroidered, gauzey curtain panel at a store like Bed Bath & Beyond.  Give it a good aging and there's your weird little apron!  
*Screencaps and dress photos are from The Costumer's Guide to Movie Costumes.

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Monday, October 25, 2010


Three Vintage Hats and the American Duchess Boutique

Hello historically inspired ladies!  I thought you might be interested in three vintage hats I've listed in the new and improved American Duchess Boutique on Etsy.  Here they are (click the photos)):

1950s velvet and satin perching hat with veil and rhinestone brooch, PERFECT condition.  $55

1950s navy blue velvet perching hat, with cut velvet trim and blue veil.  $30

1960s Joseph Magnin shaped straw cloche style hat.  $25
I've decided to charge head on into developing The Boutique in terms of adding items that will appeal to "Rococo Girls" like us - vintage teacups and saucers, crafty kits, hats, my own costume pieces and screenprinted t-shirts, vintage clothing, bits and bobs, lovely things I find out on shopping excursion.  I kicked it off today with re-shooting the American Duchess t-shirt collection and updating the Etsy listings, for a more cohesive and professional look.  I photographed the hats at the same time, and will continue to add items as I find them!  Also on the docket are embroidery patterns, embroidered caul and cap kits, eBooks, cockade kits, who knows what else!

And finally, I can't believe this, but two of my jacket designs that I uploaded to a website called, about 2 weekends ago, are in the top voted spots!  "October Foxhunt" is #1 out of everybody else on the site, and "Raindrops" is #3!  I think this means that the jacket will go into production, be proto-typed, then made "for real," in all sizes, and sold in Europe.  I am utterly stunned and incredibly excited!  Thank you ALL for your support and your votes and your love!!!
"October Foxhunt" on

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Thursday, October 21, 2010


Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing = Tailoring Magic for the 18th c. Costumer

Do you guys know about Gertie's?  I don't remember how I found this blog, but it's absolutely fantastic.  She is doing a "sew along" on a retro-style winter coat, and each post has so many tips about proper tailoring techniques that I am simply *itching* to try on the dove grey riding habit coming up.

Tailoring - I mean proper bespoke-style tailoring - has long been a mysterious mystery to me, and something scary and unknown and insurmountable, but Gertie really breaks it down and shows us what it's all about, from doing proper lapel rolls, to pad-stitching with hair canvas.  These are things I knew nothing of before about 20 minutes ago when I started sifting through her blog posts.  Absolutely BRILLIANT.

We can learn much from Gertie's "Lady Grey" project (and don't you just love how that name ties in with our favorite century?), and apply these things to our own 18th c. jackets, redingotes, riding habits, and man clothes.  Have a look, and I'll be sure to post about these techniques as well, when I come to the use of them on my next project.
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Wednesday, October 20, 2010


What's All This About Casaquins?

Half a casaquin, the lovely and somewhat strange pleats in back.
You may have noticed I've been talking a lot about 18th c. jackets, particularly the casaquin, lately.  There's a good reason why!  I've been looking into this style of jacket in order to create one for my very own.

Those of you on Facebook already know all about this, have seen the in-progress photos, but I'll do a proper blog post about it.
The petticoat in progress, and the jacket fabric just draped on,
to see how it would all look together.
You see, there is this fabric I've had since I started costuming back in 2003.  I remember buying it, where I bought it, how much I paid for it, and that I intended to make it into a Robe a la Francaise.  Back then, there was plenty of it for that purpose, but over the years this fabric has been made into The Worst Victorian Dress of All Time, then re-made into The Ill-fitting Robe a l'Anglaise, and now it's been cannibalized again in order to make this little jacket.
The former Robe a l'Anglaise wasn't an ugly dress, but i was unwearable.
The bodice was made to go over a Victorian corset
(because I did not have stays at the time) and the neckline
was too wide and too low.
Originally I intended a pet en l'air, with the watteau pleats at back, to be worn over the green petticoat, but a little mathy-math showed that I did not have enough fabric, so I changed the design to Janet Arnold's short jacket, from Patterns of Fashion 1: 1660-1860:
I drafted the pattern on 1" square grid paper, expanded the waist a bit, shrunk the bust a smidge, then cut the stuff out.  The bodice pieces are interlined with canvas, the skirts are just lined with muslin.  I've gone with 3/4 sleeves instead of the full length.

The completed walking-length petticoat, in changeable taffeta,
dusky blue shot with pale gold.  I love this length of skirt but
have never made one - and the shoes sticking out the
bottom, love that!
The plan is for massive trimmings in the same fabric as the petticoat.  I'm going to gather long strips of green, with pinked edges, and carry it around the edges of the jacket, and add it to the sleeve cuffs as well.  There are also large ties across the front, for nice fatty bows down the stomacher, which will also feature bows in the yellow fabric.  The cool thing about the ties across the front is that this jacket will be adjustable for several sizes larger, although not so good for sizes smaller, as the bottom front edges meet at the waist.

I'll update you all again as the casaquin ensemble completes.  This will be worn to a Women In The Arts presentation and fundraiser, on November 6th, and will be part of a tableaux on drawing and painting in the past.
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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

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Costume Analytics: The American Redingote, 1791

This week on Costume Analytics we will take a trip across the Pond and look at a snazzy American fashion, depicted in Ralph Earl's 1791 portrait of Mrs. William Moseley.

This is a fascinating portrait because it not only depicts a Not-French and Not-English ensemble, but because this particular redingote ties in so acutely with American Revolutionary history.

Fabrics & Trims
The redingote, translating to "riding coat," was an outdoor garment designed to protect the wearing from the elements.  They were undoubtedly made of thick wool, often with wool flannel linings, and additional interior layers to keep the wearer dry and warm.  Our redingote appears to be made of navy blue wool, and is trimmed with gold piping and large, flat brass buttons.

Take note of Mrs William Moseley's color choices in this portrait - she is wearing navy blue, gold, and a buff colored hat and petticoat, the colors of the Continental Army.  Her son is in red, completing the trio of red, white, and blue.  The curious thing is that this portrait was done in 1791, a good 15 years after the Declaration of Independence: is this American patriotism 18th century style?

From what we can see in the painting, the bodice is tightly fitted over stays, and features a front closure that fastens edge-to-edge, with the three large buttons as non-functional decoration.  The neck is rather open, and flares into lapels, topped with a standing military-style collar, and swooping back into double capelets, reminiscent of men's greatcoats.  Notice the shaped and very fitted sleeves that taper at the wrists.  These sleeves would have been two pieces (top and under sleeve), with functional buttons at the wrists.

The skirt is pleated (cartridge pleats or large knife pleats) and attached to the waist, with the front left open to show the petticoat.  The front edges are trimmed with the gold piping, down to the ground, but not around the hem.  Also notice how the hem is above the ground, not trained as we often see in European redingote styles.  This coat-dress may have been worn not as a riding habit, but as a sort of uniform, or at the very least a travelling dress, or a walking and visiting dress.

Check out this spot-on re-recreation by "Lady Devereux" of Le Bon Ton, Oregon.  (I tried to track this lovely lady down, but I don't think she keeps a blog, but you can see her on The Lady of Portland House blog)

"The Duchess" also features an epic redingote, though in a totally different style than Mrs. William Moseley's.  Still, a good example of how to take this style in a more feminine direction:

Another similar style, with the dark color and the metallic piping, in this 1788 French portrait of Madame Le Couteulx de Molay:

Mrs. William Moseley's redingote is worn over stays, no doubt, and massive skirt supports that would have included a bump pad and several petticoats.  She is wearing a frothy neck scarf tucked into the front of her bodice, and bloused out.  This neck scarf is wrapped around her neck several times, then tied and tucked, in the men's fashion, to protect her neck from the high standing collar of her coat.

Mrs. Moseley is wearing a tall-crowned, buff colored hat that appears to be wool felt. atop her hedgehog hairstyle typical of the 1790s.  It is trimmed with four ostrich plumes and a curious hanging detail that appears to be two golden pinecones on ties.  I'm sure this has Revolutionary significance, but I haven't a clue what that is!

Tips on Making This Costume
Unfortunately I haven't found a pattern for a redingote, but there are some ways to go about creating one.

  • Extend the skirts of a riding habit full-length.
  • When patterning, or adjusting an existing pattern, look for menswear details around the collar.  You want lapels, a standing collar, a cape.  The redingote can be very feminine and still use these details.
  • You want wool - I am not an expert on wool, but look for something medium weight such as a melton.
  • Gold piping can be hard to find - make your own using cording, a suitable metallic fabric, and a zipper foot, or go for gold braid or trim instead.  You want something not-too-shiny, and with a brassy appearance.
  • If you really want those gold pinecones, try gilding real pinecones (from the craft store) with gold paint.
  • If you happen to have a little boy, I'm sure he would *not* appreciate being dressed in this silly little clown-like outfit.  Give him a proper suit in red!
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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Design Sundays: "Raindrops" Raincoat on

"Raindrops" coat design, by yours truly.  Give it a vote (click the picture)
This week on Design Sunday: a new jacket sketch inspired by an absolutely darling 18th c. pink, quilted, hooded jacket and petticoat, from Tidens Toj.

I've adored this jacket (and the yellow one similar to it) for so long, and took it as my inspiration for a raincoat design.  I've put my sketches on, a website dedicated to supporting young (and poor) designers, by handling the production (prototyping, patterning, manufacturing, etc.), and then selling the finished piece in their shop.  It's a young website, but already quite popular, and if you like to design clothes, submit your drawings!

Here are my sketches for "Raindrops."  If you like this design, and would like to have this coat for your very own, please vote for it, "Like" it on Facebook, tweet about it, and leave me some feedback.  If the design gets into production, it will be made in all sizes!

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

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What Exactly IS a Tea Gown?

Pretty new teacup from Sacramento.
There is a tea coming up, to which my Lady Mother and I have been invited, and we're quibbling over what to wear.  In our modern-American-brains we both thought "tea gowns, of course," garments neither of us possess.  So I went off looking for references, just out of curiosity, and got a bit of an education on what a tea gown actually is.

I had thought a tea gown was a frothy-ish dress worn indoors, late in the day (teatime, of course).  What I learned is that tea gowns were actually a garment worn as "undress," in one's own home only, in order to receive visitors.  They were never worn *out* of the home, never worn for visiting, and were typically worn without corsets.  Tea gowns were literally really fancy, slightly fitted bathrobes.

Here is a selection of late Victorian tea gowns I collected from The Met online collections:

1891 - not my favorite design, but I like the tie around the waist, and the loose fit.

1875.  Beautiful, frothy, and not worn with a corset, but with a snug-fitting bodice.

1880.  Gorgeous.

1880 - the back.  Love the train, and the jacket-like fit to the back.

1885 - my absolute favorite.  It has a Chemise a la Reine feel to it. 

1890 - beautiful color and a lovely train out the back.  It almost looks 1870s, yeah?
 My conclusion is that I will need to wear a visiting dress (a day dress) to this tea up in Virginia City, not a tea gown.  Do I have a Victorian day dress?  Yes, yes I do...tea hee!
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Thursday, October 14, 2010


What Is the Difference Between a Caraco and a Casaquin? and Other 18th c. Jackets...

Countess Olympe asked the question, "what is the difference between a caraco and a casaquin?"  And what about those other jackets-with-mysterious-French-names too?  Well here we go...

Disclaimer:  The information in this post is what I have gleened from sources, but the lines seem very blurry between these styles, and so if I am wrong about something, please leave me a comment and correct me!

A Caraco
A caraco is a long-length jacket with a fitted back, like a robe a l'Anglaise.  The length of the skirt of these jackets seems to be about mid-thigh, and the skirts usually have inverted box pleats at the back, often pressed but sometimes left loose.  Caracos typically have 3/4 length sleeves with flounces.  Examples of caracos close severals ways, with lacings over a stomacher, pinned to a stomacher, with "flaps" that hook across a stomacher, or with a comperes front (a false front made to look like a stomacher, that closes at the center with hooks or buttons), or edge-to-edge by hooks.
The matching caraco and petticoat from the V&A
A interesting caraco with an extremely low-cut front
"Caraco," in English, means "camisole."

A Pet en l'ier
A pet en l'ier jacket is a garment of mid-thigh to mid-hip length, with a saque back, that is, watteau pleats at the back.  This jacket usually has 3/4 sleeves with flounces, and closes over a stomacher or with a comperes front.
A short-length pet-en-l'ier from KCI
A Pet-en-l'ier
Now get ready for this - "pet en l'ier" typed into Google translate comes out to "fart in the street."  Those dirty French!  If this is wrong, please correct me, my faithful French readers!!

A Pierrot 
A pierrot is a a very short jacket, actually more of a bodice with a ruffle or flounce added onto the back.  Pierrot jackets came into style later in the century, and often closed edge-to-edge with hooks or interior lacings.  They were most commonly long-sleeved, and worn with walking-length skirts, puffy fichus, and monster-sized hats.
A zone-front pierrot
A pierrot from KCI - notice the lack of jacket skirt in front
"Pierrot," in English, means "sparrow."

A Casaquin
A casaquin jacket is that of short length, about mid-hip, but still with a flared skirt and pleats at the back.  It has a fitted back, like a robe a l'anglaise, and may or may not have seams at the waist.  Casaquins may have 3/4 length of full-length sleeves, and close over a stomacher.  The hallmark of a casaquin appears to be the lacey trimmings.
The casaquin featured in this week's Costume Analytics
"Casaquin" appears to be a derivative of "casaque," the French word for "jacket."

So there you have it.  I did not cover the Polonaise, the Riding Habit, Redingote, or the Figaro, but hopefully this little primer has been helpful to you all!
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