Thursday, April 28, 2011

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Revolution Dress - Undies!

This is just a quick post on underwear, in all its glory.  As you know, I've started this latest 18th c. gown project with the basics, a proper set of proper undies.

My usual mode was to wear stays over a tanktop, and pull the straps down if they would show.  I have my skirt supports, and one single full-length petticoat I wear for everything from 1560s to 1860s.  And this time I didn't even have stays, on account of selling the gold pair.  But never again!

This pair of stays fits my body much better than the green ones - they're higher in front, over the bust, and the strap tabs come up much higher on the sides and have a strip of boning in them to help with side-boob issues.  I'm trying out the ribbon straps to see how I like them.  I don't expect they'll lend the same kind of posture support as proper built-in straps, but we'll see how they feel, and if there are problems with slipping or cutting.

The petticoat is made of lightweight cotton muslin, but I can't believe how heavy it is!  It is 5 yards in the skirt itself, pleated up to two waistbands (front and back), with pocket openings at the side.  The flounce is 10 yards, gathered on a cord (MUCH easier than thread gathering), and rather painstakingly arranged onto the skirt.  In truth, I hated making it, but I love the result.  If you want to make a petticoat like this, I recommend following The Dreamstress' tutorial on making a flounce petticoat, mashed up with my tutorial on making an 18th c. petticoat.
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Tuesday, April 26, 2011


18th Century Figurines - Capodimonte and the Crown N Mark

Who doesn't love little Georgian figurines?  Visit an antiques fair and you'll see literally thousands of the little things, all in various degree of quality.  They became extremely popular in the 20th c. and were made in mass quantities in Germany and Japan, for the American giftware market, but they were also very popular in the 19th century as well, and even back to the time of their subject matter, the 18th c.

As delightful as the army of Georgian figurines, in my opinion I find that most of them individually suck.  They have ugly little faces, or crappy paint jobs, or weird crusty lace bits.  I have to look long and hard for "acceptable" porcelain Georgians, and I won't buy it for The Boutique unless it's something truly special.

Sometimes, though, the hunt results in serendipity.  The last time I bought goodies for my shop, I grabbed a nice-looking white porcelain Georgian couple, marked on the bottom, only to research that mark later and find them to be Capodimonte porcelain, with the Crown N of Naples, and dating from 1771-1834.  WHA?

This Crown N mark dates from 1771-1834
One caveat is that the Crown N was used quite a lot later on in its history, and because of this, the provenance of white porcelain figurines bearing the mark has been blurred.  As they say on Antiques Roadshow, "it's a fake."   Or it could be.  My own research into the subject turned up some history on the mark - - and - this figurine matching closest the 1771-1834, and 1782-1834 examples.  So it doesn't mean that is is, and it doesn't mean that it isn't.

On a more general note, I think they're delightful.  I'm happy to have something of value, but that's not why I picked it.  It's their charm, the quality of the sculpting, and their general prettiness that I like so much.  If you like them too, this couple is for sale in The Boutique on Etsy.  I have another set of Georgian musicians to show you, too, but that is for another post :-)

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Monday, April 25, 2011

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The Revolution Dress - Beginnings, Again

Last time, I wrote about a new 18th c. project concerning a Robe Retroussee dans les Poches, but since then the project has been morphing and smooshing around trying to define itself.

And I went fabric shopping.  Red and white stripes just seems to be one of those fabrics that isn't around when you want it.  I found thin stripes in too-light cotton, or fat stripes in too-heavy upholstery canvas, and nothing at all in taffetas, linens, or wools.  I know online sources have it, but I just won't pay that much for fabric, sorry.

Red silk-ish, and off-white sheer stripe.
So compromise.  I wanted RED, so I looked for that next, and came up with a rather delightful silk-ish with a lot of crispy body, important for poofage.  I also found a loose-weave striped cotton that just screamed out to be made into a petticoat.  And these are my two fabrics.

The red pinned around the form and pulled up in the "skirt" to see how it will drape.
Also on the list of materials are large tarnished silver buttons similar to those seen on the KCI red/white striped 1790 jacket.  I know they are not an exact match, but I rather like the French Revolution feel they have, and I want the buttons to stand out against the red fabric.

These are my buttons and I'm sticking to them.
I've been waffling on gown styles, but I figure the best thing to do is make a Robe a l'Anglaise and deal with the polonaising style later.  Now I am waffling on bodice style, but a visit to the 1780s section of Dames a la Mode has given me a better idea of what to do up top.

1789 - cool tied back detail on the skirt.
1784 - like the sleeves on this one, and the big bow at the front of the bodice.
1782 - again, cool sleeves.  You'll see all of these have lace around the neckline, flopped over like a collar, which seems distinctly 1780s, and might be a nice touch.
All the prettiness is compiled, but I've got undies to make first.  I cut the skirt off an old Regency frock and refashioned the voile into a simple short-sleeved chemise with a gathered neckline.  I *hate* making shirts/smocks/chemises, which is why I've not had one until now, but I'm really quite happy with how this one turned out.

Re-purposed voile from an old Regency frock.
Also, the green floral stays I showed last time turned out not to fit.  The front curve was about an inch too low on my bust, which made things, er, uncomfortable and weird.  Also, getting into them myself really was a pain in the neck, so the new pair is front and back lacing for convenience, and the pattern has been adjusted to (hopefully) fit me better.  They are also in the 1780s style with the prow-front.

New new stays, high in front, and also higher on the strap tabs.  I've made these strapless, but thinking of ribbon straps over the shoulders.  Front and back closing.
Next is a walking-length flounced petticoat, from a nice thin muslin.  One can never have too many petticoats, and I'm tired of safety pinning up the long one to wear under shorter skirts.

And that's the progress so far!  I have more boring stuff to do before I can cut into the red, but hopefully those foundations will make the final silhouette that much more correct :-).  Until next time...
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Friday, April 22, 2011

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Starting Small on a Big New 18th c. Project

I finally have a new 18th c. project in mind, yay!  I want to make a striped red Robe a l'Anglaise, but to be worn either polonaise'd (verb) or "dans le poches," which simply means "pulled through the pockets."  My inspiration is the Robe Retroussee Dans Le Poches from the Kyoto Costume Institute, a gown I've always loved:
Kyoto Costume Institute, 1780
This gown is a sack-back, as you see, but a nice in-depth discussion on the AD facebook page has decided me on the ability to wear any gown in this manner, as we've reasoned that it was due to utility first, fashion later.

I'll be starting from the inside out.  The only things I have are skirt supports, as I keep selling my stays, and never have had a proper chemise.  My deadline is June 18th/19th - the Vallejo Pirate Festival, CA - so I have the time to do this thing right, starting with new stays.

Ready for binding
I had a pair-in-progress laying around.  They're two layers, lightly stayed with 1/4" ties, and back-lacing only, which is a new thing for me.  The pattern is a prow-front 1770s-80s style, with horizontal stays sandwiched between the outer layer and the lining.  The rest is 3/4 boned, let's call it.

The first layer (left), sewn as one with the outer fabric, then a sandwiched layer with the horizontal channels (right)
It looks dreadful on this dressform, the Not-So-Uniquely-Me.  She is compressible through the middle, but wow what a lot of yanking on the laces to get it down to a more accurate measurement for my own body.  Also, the shoulders of this thing are not at all indicative of humanoid shoulders, which is why the straps look way too short (but actually aren't).

Showing the prow-front, and also the vertical channels. You can't see the horizontal interior channels, but they're there, working their magic.
It's about time I have a proper set of undies, so there will be a voile chemise/smocky-thing next, and a short-length petticoat with a flounced hem.  More updates soon!

That's a lot of squeeze, but this dress form is stiffer than a real body.  Yes, those are metal grommets in the back.  Spiral lacing, and attached straps.
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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Back From the Dead , and Some Shoe News

I haven't been blogging, I'm sorry, but I've been SO ill.  I do have things to tell you guys about - the Madame X gown I didn't get to wear, the 1960s yellow dress I haven't finished, the soft straw bergere-type hat I haven't trimmed...

For now, in all my feable-ness, just a short post to say that almost all of you voted for either #2 or #4 strap styles on the Edwardian pumps I asked you about in the last post.

#2 and #4 were most popular
So now the question is ... the #2 straps are more typical, in that it was a very common style that lasted from the 1890s clear through the 1920s, whereas the double-crossing (haha) #4 straps are very unique, definitely Edwardian, but could be difficult to fit.  Many of you expressed that you already have or have seen shoes with straps like #2, while one of the concerns about #4 is that it's *so* unique that seeing them on all your friend's feet might take away some the special-ness of them.

What do you think?  I really can't decide.  Let's put it to a vote (yes, another vote, I'm sorry!).  Whichever wins this dual will be the Edwardian 1912 shoe for the 1812/1912/2012 release.

*Please note that both of these examples are museum pieces - the white from Shoe-Icons, and the black from the Met.  The American Duchess 1912s will be as close as possible, but not exact replicas.

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Thursday, April 14, 2011


Historical Footwear - News, and Looking at Edwardian Styles

Wishbone straps on a c. 1900 white kid pump
The results of the Historical Footwear poll are in, and the Edwardian pumps took first, followed by a foot-and-foot race between the 1860-80 evening shoes and Regency slippers.  Mules and Leather 18th c. shoes were not as popular, but many of you expressed a dire *need* for leather Georgianas.  Several others of you all independently asked for late Victorian button boots.  So let's talk about these results...

What's coming Next-Next?
Later this year, after everyone's silk Georgiana shoes have been delivered, we will be introducing their leather counterparts, "The Devonshires."  These will be the hard-wearing, mud-trudging, cobblestone clattering camp followers many of you are in need of.  Don't let those descriptors fool you, though: the leather will be high-grade, ivory colored that can be left their natural shade or colored to a wide variety of shades, including moroccan red, peacock blue, forest green, even metallics.  The Devonshires will have the same comfy fit, custom-designed French heel, and smooth leather sole for dancing.

Then What? Didn't the Edwardian Shoes Win?
The Edwardian shoes will be released simultaneously with the Regency slippers, for pre-sale on January 1, 2012.  This upcoming year marks the anniversaries of both the War of 1812, and the sinking of the Titanic, and with the dual-period project happening over at Your Wardrobe Unlocked, we'd like to supply the lovely shoes for you all to wear with your new Regency and Edwardian outfits in 2012.

Cute and also typical Regency slippers.
So *now* is the time to start developing the Edwardian shoes.  In my research I've found them to be quite complicated.  Ladies, I need your input - what do you want for straps?  I'd love to be able to do all four strap styles I've drawn here, but for now we have to choose just one.  Which ones do you like?

Click this image for a larger view, and please leave a comment!

But Wait...Will I Ever get my Late Victorian Boots?
Boots of all periods are a possibility for the future, but it comes down to two very important issues: fit, and price.  Button boots, in their original form, literally buttoned with a special tool (a boot hook), and these boots were often fitted to each individual wearer, which we unfortunately don't have the capability to do.  I'd be loathe to add zippers or other modern means of closure, but it may be the only way to create this style on a large scale for many different types of feet and ankles.  Also, with leather high-topped boots we would be looking at a much higher price than I could offer the Georgianas for, so this may be a style to look at in the future, when we're not in a recession!

These are for day, and actually c. 1910, but same idea.
I don't want to overload you guys with too much information right now, so look for more posts coming soon about 1912 pumps, 1812 slippers, leather Devonshires, later Victorian pumps, and more!
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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

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New Vintage Hat Finds

I love hats, didn't you know? I picked up three gorgeous vintage hats last weekend, for the Boutique on Etsy.

The hardest thing about this "job," this acquiring of vintage hats for the purpose of selling them, is that I then have to sell them.  I wouldn't be much of a vintage seller if I just kept everything I bought, and believe me, enough of that already happens!

I have become very picky about the hats I select - good condition, fit the head, definitely vintage, good materials.  I'm quite proud of these three.  I've retrimmed the black cloche, as all that was left of its original frippery was a piece of unidentified fur and one sad-looking feather.  I added two more rooster feathers, the satin bow, and the rhinestone pin.  For the ochre pillbox, I clipped on a black ribbon cockade to a pearl-headed pin that came with the hat.  It's not necessary, and is removable, but I think it adds snazz :-)  As for the mushroom cloche, well, I think I'm now in love with this style.  So elegant!  I can see this on the head of a retro bride.

This was Creepy Chloe's first real gig.  She looks nice!  So much better than the white styrofoam heads - ugh! - and Chloe's head is actually head sized, so you can tell how these hats fit and should be worn.  Good job, Chloe :-).

All of these are on Etsy as of right-now, in the Boutique. :-)
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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Historical Shoes ... So, What's Next, Ladies?

My particular fave.  This is from Shoe Icons (
With the success of the "Georgiana" shoes (and it's only been a week!), this means that more styles of period-accurate shoes *will* be on their way, but I need your help in deciding what these shoes will be!

As with the Georgies, your input is incredibly important.  You all literally helped shape those shoes to become exactly what was wanted and needed, by giving me your input on everything from what decade of the 18th c., to what material, to what sizes, to what kind of stitching.  So I ask you once again to add your two cents, and vote for what style of shoe you want to see next.  Choose from the list or enter your own answer.  Thank you!:

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Friday, April 8, 2011


Vintage Summer Dress - Yellow Dots and Lollipops

Okay, so really this has *nothing* to do with lollipops, except a vague idea that lollipops and fluffy girly dresses go together....?


Butterick 6582
The other night I thought, "hey, I have all kinds of modern reproduction patterns for vintage dresses, why don't I make one?"  So I cut out Butterick 6582, a "vintage" 1960s dress with two views - I went for the poofy skirt one.

What a horrible pattern.  It was ill-fated from the start.  The neck was too high, as was the waist, and it just....didn''s just didn't work at all, not to mention it was too small despite cutting it to my measurements.  The difference between the drawing and what you actually end up making is quite huge, and don't we all wish we looked more like the drawing.  Not only is the neckline unflattering and just plain weird, the skirt is disappointingly un-poofy, even with a crinoline underneath.  I can only imagine that the patternmakers at Butterick looked at the vintage drawing and then didn't get it right at all.
Avi agrees.  "That looks stupid, Lauren, fix it, you noob"
Plan B.  I ripped the bodice off the skirt and threw it away.  I figured I could keep the skirt for the re-make.  I used a simple bodice pattern I draped last December.  Here it is:

Simples.  Back piece and front, three darts.
Originally this bodice, plus sleeves, was used on the gold brocade Christmas dress, but it's such a nice, simple block that it can be easily adapted for many different styles just by cutting the neckline into different shapes.  For this summer dress, I scooped the back more, and made a little "V" cut at the front.

Same bodice, but with sleeves.
The back, nice big scoop.  It's summer, afterall.
The bodice is lined in a stability+modesty layer of unbleached muslin.  The skirt is unlined, and I'm still not gleeful about its un-puff-itude, but I'll wait until I have the hem in for the final verdict.  Simple dress though it may be, I'm thinking of adding a big white sash, or a white belt with a bow, maybe white bows at the shoulders.  More to come...
Here's the progress.  That bow is just stuck on there - exploring waist finishing options.
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Thursday, April 7, 2011

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The Victorian Steampunk Ball ... (If You're In The Reno Area)

If you happen to be in the Northern California or Northern Nevada areas, check out this event.  It's going to be *awesome,* and I know that, because I'm part of the club putting it on :-)

RSVP on Facebook

Come join The Great Basin Costume Society, High Desert Steam, the Reno Steampunk Club, and the Sacramento Steampunk Society at our first annual "Victorian Steampunk Ball," an evening of dancing and entertainments at the historic Piper's Opera House in Virginia City, Nevada.

The ball will feature Victorian ballroom music, to include waltzes, polkas, mazurkas, and the Congress of Vienna. All manner of fantastical costume is admired (but not required) - Steampunks, Victorian ladies and gentlemen, soldiers and cavalrymen, Neo-Victorians, explorers, miners, and "doves."

Don't miss the other Steam events throughout the weekend! Ride the fully restored steam train from Carson City to Virginia City (or from Virginia City to Gold Hill and back), tour mines and haunted saloons, go ghost hunting in the Virginia City Graveyard, have a sarsparilla at the Bucket of Blood Saloon, even stay overnight in one of the many haunted (or not haunted) historic hotels and B&Bs.

The Steam Ball starts at 7:00 pm at Piper's Opera House
Tickets are $20 when you pre-pay (using Paypal), or $25 at the door

All proceeds from this event go to benefit the restoration of Piper's, and to support the Great Basin Costume Society.

Please help us raise money by telling your friends, and attending any of the fundraising tea parties, costume shows, and other events put on by the Great Basin Costume Society between April and September.

Buy Tickets by clicking this link:

Donate by clicking this link:
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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

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Bits and Bobs ... and Life After Those Shoes

So what the heck do I post about after all that craziness with the Georgiana shoes?  Life's returning to normal, but I'm still quite excited:

We met the 100 shoe order minimum within 24 hours!  We currently have 126 orders, and the pre-order period will remain open until April 22nd.  Thank you a million times over to everyone who bought shoes and talked about it all over the internet, you wonderful people!!

You lookin' at me?  Are YOU lookin' at ME?
So what else is going on?  Well, I've been dreaming about hats, after having bought Vintage Hats & Bonnets 1770-1970 Second Edition, and I purchased several toppers to play with, along with a new hat mannequin.  Aside from modelling hats myself, the only other way I had to really show them was on one of those horrid white styrofoam heads.  The beautiful mannequins in Vintage Hats & Bonnets 1770-1970 Second Edition were so inspiring, I had a look around internet-land and found this 1920s cheeky-looking girl on eBay for a good price.  And now she's mine, mwahaha!  Honestly she kinda creeps me out....

She needs a name...?
I have some other things to show you, like these awesome retro "sporty" shoes from ModCloth.  I thought they looked kindof like 1930s-ish to wear with tennis dresses and snappy panama hats.  ModCloth has a nice selection of vintage-inspired footwear on right now. (no, this is not an affiliate link, I'm just excited about my new shoes).

Mmm, sporty! and comfy too.
Other news - it's time for Vintage Summer Dresses (VSDs), as the weather is fast improving.  I have this one in the works, in a baby yellow batiste with white micro-dots.  Has anybody else used this pattern - Butterick 6582?

Butterick 6582
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Friday, April 1, 2011

"Georgiana" 18th c. Shoes - Pre-Order Now Open!

Well this is it!  The pre-order period for the new Georgiana 18th c. shoes is now open.  It will run for 3 weeks:  April 1st - April 22nd.  We're looking at a late May delivery date, so you should all be receiving your shoes in June, barring any funky delays with shipping or customs.

I want to thank each and every one of you who blogged, tweeted, and shared the news.  The blogroll looked amazing!  I will keep you guys appraised of the progress in our quest to get to 100 orders.

If you're new to this blog and the whole 18th c. shoes story, check out the shoes on the new, official American Duchess Boutique website, and read past posts of how this all came to be.

Read More About and Order Your Georgianas by Clicking Here
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