Monday, October 31, 2011

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Madame X at Halloween Gaskells Victorian Ball

This weekend I went to visit friends and dance the night away at Gaskells, one of the most epic Victorian dance events in the West.  I took Madame X with me, and also "the big camera" (for lack of a better name), and snapped photos all night long, danced until my dress came apart, and followed the whole thing up with chili fries and laughs at Au Coquelet Cafe in Berkeley.

Loads of Photos Under The Cut >>
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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

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Shoe-How-To of the Week: Pretty Pretty Pink Princess Shoes

One of the coolest things about the Devonshire leather 18th century shoes is that you can paint them and decorate them easily, using leather paints, rhinestones, bias binding, trims, lace, anything really.

I thought I'd try my hand at creating a version of one of my favorite pairs of extant shoes, found in the Manchester City Galleries:
Manchester City Galleries - 1770, made of wool and silk

Want to follow along?  Here's how it went...
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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Shoe Shop Discounts - Opinion Please!

I love coupons, discounts, sales, and promotion, don't you?  We here at the Shoe Shop HQ are trying to decide which you would prefer.  Please give us your opinion....

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Monday, October 24, 2011


A 1908 Evening Gown, Beginnings

A little while ago I decided to try a gown from a period I love but have never sewn for, the Edwardian Era.  I flipped through my "Costume in Detail" book, admiring the ridiculously complicated-looking gowns of the first decade of the 20th century, and landed on a dinner dress I thought could be converted to an evening gown by just removing the sleeves.

The book's description, page 315:
"Soft mauve-blue silk crepe-de-chine dinner dress, high-waisted swathed bodice and fitting sleeves; back fastening.  Sewn to longer-waisted boned under-bodice, with mauve satin under-skirt sewn in at the waist.  Padded hem."
The drawings in the book show the interior, back, front, and little details of the trims, hem, sleeves, and more, and so, being quite excited by all this, off I went to make my own version, in buttercream satin-stuff, creme-colored chiffonishness for the drapery, metallic trims, dangle beads, and a bit of creme taffeta.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

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What Makes a Historically Accurate Regency Shoe?

The Met:  1790-1810.
Before I got into making historical shoes for costumers and reenactors, I spent a lot of time looking for modern shoes that would "make do."  I did things like tie bows around my mary janes, to try to make them look like 18th century shoes with latchets; I wore sequined slippers made in India with my Elizabethan gowns; I sported round-toed, metallic pleather, rubber-soled flats from Target with a Regency gown.

None of these things really worked.  I'm not super sticky about authenticity, but even these shortcuts were too shortcutty for me.

Now a days, when I'm looking at historical styles to recreate for the American Duchess line, I look for the things that make a historical shoe historical.  These are the hallmarks of a certain time period, the things that I will not compromise when it comes to prototyping and producing our shoes.

For instance, let's look at early Regency shoes, about 1790 into 1810.  This is a perfect example because many people think of these shoes as modern-looking, as something that can be found at Payless, or Walmart, or Target.

...but they can't, and here's why...

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Friday, October 14, 2011

FREE SHIPPING on Shoes and Etsy Goodies!

To celebrate the American Duchess facebook fan page collecting 2,000 followers, we're offering FREE Domestic Shipping on, well, EVERYTHING!

Get free domestic shipping on shoe and buckle orders at .  Also, international shipping is $25 anywhere in the world!

Also get free domestic shipping on any Etsy shop item, including vintage patterns, t-shirts, and shoes, at - enter coupon code "2000FANS" at the Etsy checkout.

The 2,000 Fans Free Shipping Celebration goes all weekend, but ends Monday, October 17, so don't wait!
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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Regency Shoes Pricing Poll - Please Vote!

Extant Regency shoes, used as reference for the Pemberlies.
I have a very important question to ask you, or rather a very important choice for you to make.

I want the "Pemberley" Regency shoes to be durable, comfortable, beautiful...but also affordable.  Your vote in this poll will help us decide if it is appropriate to substitute a man-made sole for the leather one, to achieve a more affordable price.

The synthetic soles are smooth, thicker than the leather, and extremely durable.  They are very similar in appearance, and in  my experience I was able to dance in them with no trouble at all.  They are obviously not historically accurate, but they are also on the bottoms of the feet. do you feel about the question?

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

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1790s Wrap-Front Gown ... Finally Again

You know those projects that get postponed, only to pop back into your life and demand to be finished?  This 1790s voile gown is one of them.

I originally intended to wear it to the Jane Austen Festival in Kentucky, back in July, but I had to cancel my trip on account of the 18th century shoes being delivered, so the gown got buried on my couch, under other projects and occasionally a dog.

The other day I decided it needed some attention, especially since I'd like to wear it to a ball coming up in November, in Tennessee.  I have to make at least a feeble attempt to look good standing next to Maggie, so this is it.

You can read more about the start of this gown, including references and whatnot, here.  For the latest progress, I added the sleeves, and learned my lesson (again) about armscyes and why it's good to have small holes and not big holes for your arms.

I also put the hem in.  I have yet to add the last two ties, to keep the gown closed.

Lilly the dressform doesn't have stays on in this photo,
so she looks quite..well..that's not really flattering, is it... you know, "simply" finishing up a costume is never so simple.  My Regency stays, made way-the-heck-back-a-long-time-ago were literally fall apart, so I decided to make a pair of 1790s transitional stays, using a pattern developed for a friend, back in December of last year.  I'm using non-gathered bust gussets, and added tabs to the bottom of the stays, with the idea of attaching a petticoat to them, via buttons on the tabs.  Here's the basic shape:

Since this picture, I've got both layers together, and boning channels placed, and for some insane reason added some quilting, to add body, since these stays are so soft and scantily boned.

More photos to come, when I get the stays done and the whole costume put together :-)
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Monday, October 10, 2011

An Interview with Hallie Larkin, At the Sign of the Golden Scissors

A gown by Hallie, on display with the Southcoast
Historical Associates
Today's interview, and indeed our first interview here at American Duchess, is with Hallie Larkin, a dedicated and highly awesome historical costumer specializing in 18th century attire.  Hallie is the president of the Costume Society of America, Northeastern Region, as well as president of the Southcoast Historical Associates, two organizations dedicated to excellence in historical costuming.  Hallie is also the blogger responsible for both "At the Sign of the Golden Scissors," and "18th Century Stays," and if that's not enough to impress the bloomers off of you, she also makes caps, hats, and stays, offered in her "Sign of the Golden Scissors" shop.

So without further ado...

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Saturday, October 8, 2011

Duchie Awards for Excellence in Historical Costuming and Bloggery

I would like to give an award to my favorite three costume blogs right now, which is actually a really hard thing to do because I follow at least a hundred of you guys.

These blogs exhibit particularly awesome content, with thorough articles and regular updates on their costuming adventures, events attended, and research done.

When you receive a Duchie Award, post on your blog (in any order):
  • Five things you love about historical costuming/wearing vintage clothing
  • Three (or more) blogs to pass the Duchie Award onto
  • A link back to the blog who awarded you the Duchie
So...let's start it :-)  My top three historical costuming blogs right now:
  • Diary of a Vintage Girl - Fleur's vintage life in blog form, complete with great photos, amazing clothes, fun events.  Plus she looks just like Dovima. /jealous
  • The Couture Courtesan - Samantha's costumes are always stunning, and she attends so many cool events.
  • Wearing History - Lauren M creates stunning Victorian, Edwardian, and early 20th century clothing, plus has her own line of patterns.  Very impressive and inspiring!
Congratulations!  Please feel free to take the small image here, and the large image at the top, to use on your blog :

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

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Fashion Face-Off: Regency vs. 1960s

We all know history (and fashion) repeats itself, and designers of the past were as inspired to borrow from previous decades and centuries just as much as fashion labels are today.  This sartorial thievery extended to shoes too: check out the 1960s versus The Regency:

I'm showing you these cool comparisons to get you excited about the upcoming release of the "Pemberley," a leather pump based on 1790s-1805 extant examples, featuring a delicate 1 inch heel, and apointed toe. 

...but if you're not a Jane Austen kind of girl, maybe you are a Joan Holloway type, and the Pemberlies will also be appropriate for the late 1950s and 1960s!

The Pemberlies are currently in phase 2 of prototyping (refinement of design), so no photos yet...but soooooon!
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