Saturday, March 31, 2012

, , , ,

V91: Edwardian Showgirls

It's another busy day for me - I'm off to the Auto Museum again to play a ditzy maid in my 1920s bathingsuit.  I'll give you a number of cool pictures today, then, of Edwardian showgirls.

Don't you just *love* these outfits?  They're curvy and sumptuous ladies, but not showing really very much at all...well, at least in these photographs :-).  I adore their short, gored skirts and big picture hats.  I hope you enjoy these images too!

Read More

Friday, March 30, 2012

, , ,

V90: 1920s Fashion Presentation at the National Automobile Museum, Reno

Last night Lady Carolyn and I co-presented "The Bee's Knees and the Cat's Meow: Fashionistas 1920s Style," a general survey of [mostly] women's clothing and fashion trends through the Roaring '20s.

Carolyn and I both brought all kinds of garments to show, extant and re-creations, as well as props like hats, a tennis racket, a ukelele, hair clips, shoes, etc.  We dressed a whole pile's worth of dress forms to display on stage, and also held up items during the presentation.

It went really well! The talk was part of a five day symposium called "Barnstormers to Bootleggers," hosted by The National Automobile Museum here in Reno.  Participants attended lectures on all aspects of the 1920s - jazz, prohibition, fashion (that's us), and of course the cars of the time, and how they fit into this unique period in history.

I didn't get many photos, but here are a few of our stage, and also a short clip of a bit of our presentation.

A stack of bodies, some arms, and our clothes rack of old rags
Items to pull out and show in the background, and a table full of accessories up front.
Two original, early frocks on the left
Underwear, and several dresses to pull out and who to the audience.
We showed a clip from Thoroughly Modern Millie, that I posted here a little while ago, and I embarrassed myself, lol.

Read More

Thursday, March 29, 2012

, , , , ,

V89: Fashion Face-Off - Hats of the 1780s and 1910s

As we all know, history repeats itself, and fashion especially.  Nothing is ever "new" on the runway (well, maybe if it's a suit made out of bubble wrap, etc.), and this was true of past designers as well.  Today in the Battle of Fashion we have headgear of the 1780s facing off against that of the c. 1910s (and a little earlier).

Fashion plate from Dames a La Mode; 1905 Hat from The Met
I noticed the similarities in these two periods while finding inspiration for a Titanic Day hat of my own.  The lampshade brims and the large "muffin top" crowns I was looking at for 1912 were so reminiscent of the monstro-bonnets of my favorite decade of dress, the 1780s.

Dames a la Mode; 1910 hat from The Met
Doesn't it seem logical that one hat could do both jobs?  The black silk on the right, above, with the addition of some tall feathers, could surely time travel back to the 1780s, especially with that giant, snazzy buckle and bow.

Dames a la Mode;
It's a well-known fact that the Edwardians took chapeau inspiration from the 18th century - the "Gainsborough," for instance - but I didn't realize the Merry Widow also derived from this period.

Dames a la Mode; 1910s hat by Hess
So what do you think?  Which period does it better?  It's hard to trump the outlandishly awesome style of the 1780s, but the Edwardians were pretty sharply dressed, too.  Which one has your vote?

*Fashion plates were found at Dames a la Mode on Tumblr - great resource!
Read More

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

, ,

V87: Period Piecery - Elizabethan Cabbage

I started on a new Elizabethan ladies' doublet the other night, and to make a long story short, it didn't fit.  I thought I had traced the pattern - Margo Anderson - out correctly, but when I put the thing together, all confidence and glee, it was clear there was no way in a million years that thing would fit me.  No. Way.

Franken-Doublet looks like it should in the front.  This is after achieving the basic fit.  Those front edges weren't even close to meeting at first...
What to do? Slice and Dice.  I hadn't sewn the side back seams, so I added a panel on each side, and when it *still* didn't fit, because clearly I can't do simple math, I added, erm, another panel to the sides.  Additional, well, additions to the shoulders have finally got Franken-Doublet fitting, but I have new problems to solve with the neckline and collar, as well as some nip n' tuck to do on the seams around the armscyes, which are now considerably larger than before.  Good thing it's not meant to have set-in sleeves.

Here you can see all the piecing.  The original had one back piece, no center seam, and one side back piece.   Not now!  I really like the way this all looks, although it will hardly be noticeable by the time all the trim is on there.
Despite all the addings-on being somewhat frustrating, this *is* a very period method of doing things.  Scraps of fabric were never thrown out, after cutting the pattern, but instead were kept for future piecing, the art of splicing bits of fabric to "fill in the gaps," if you will.  Elizabethan tailors were very economical with their cutting, and when working with far narrower widths of fabric than we have today, splicing bits together was a necessary task.  These "bits" were called "cabbage," and I like to think, completely un-related to history in any way, that the bin they kept them in was perhaps called "the cabbage patch."  Lol, at least that's what I call the box I keep my cabbage in.

Good thing for cabbage, I was able to eek out just enough extra to add the panels on Franken-Doublet, although it seems kindof silly since I just went and bought more yardage today ... ah, modern world <3

If you'd like to read more about cabbage and Elizabethan seamstering, I highly recommend The Tudor Tailor: Reconstructing Sixteenth-Century Dress
Read More

Monday, March 26, 2012

, ,

V86: Marie Antoinette in Prison

Being sick is like feeling close to death, sometimes.  That is me, today, and I'm in a morbid mood, hence my blog post.  These are depictions of Marie Antoinette in prison, in mourning for her decapitated husband, and surely how far she'd fallen, too.

Marie Antoinette in 1791, painted by Alexandre Kucharski 
Marie Antoinette Imprisoned in the Conciergerie The Marquise de Bréhan c. 1793-95 
A modern wax figurine portrait, via
Alexandre Kucharski, portrait of Marie Antoinette in Prison 
Anonymous (French), Marie Antoinette in the Temple Prison in 1793, painting. Musée Carnavalet 
I thought this black gown by Aristocat stunning when I saw it the first time, then as I read more about the end of Marie Antoinette's life, her attire during that time, I find it haunting and beautiful.  So seldom do we see black gowns of this simplicity depicted in our world of costuming:
The Aristocat on Livejournal - via
Read More

Sunday, March 25, 2012

, , ,

V85: Elizabethan Pouf Hairstyles

Ha! Those Georgians thought they were being so clever and original with their pouf hairstyles, but they were just copying the late Elizabethans and early Jacobeans.  Just goes to show that fashion goes 'round and 'round.  Nothing is new!

I'm off to purchase more yardage for a new Elizabethan doublet I've been putting off for ages.  Another thing that "goes to show:" always buy, like, ten times more trim for an Elizabethan than you think you'll need.

Portrait of Diane d'Andouins, Countess of Guiche. Mistress of French King Henry IV from 1583 to about 1590
Catherine Henriette de Balzac d'Entragues, Marquise de Verneuil (1579–1633)
Read More

Saturday, March 24, 2012

, ,

V84: Vintage 1930s Brown Oxfords

If you follow along on Facebook, you will have seen a photo of this exquisite shoe.  I hunted these on eBay a little while ago and was overjoyed to have won them.  They're so perrrrrfect.

They're a size 5 1/2 A, completely unwearable, but these beauties are like little sculptures, and a very typical pair of shoes from the later 1930s.  I'm tickled to look in late '30s catalogs and see shoes so very similar, and one of these days I expect I'll find an ad for these precise ones.

Like the perforated sporty pumps from a few days ago, these oxfords will travel oversees to be sampled into a modern version we ladies will actually be able to get on our footsies.  (btw, no harm will come to the vintage shoes as they are being sampled; they are only there for study)

These shoes were never worn - they spent their life as store displays.
The original laces
These have quite a high heel - 2.75 inches, but I think a 2.5 inch heel would maintain the integrity of the design, while being just as period and more manageable to wear.
Read More

Friday, March 23, 2012

, , ,

V83: 1912 Titanic Day Wear Complete

Finally I've finished something.  It feels like it's been *weeks* since I've even picked up a pair of scissors.  I decided to throw together a slim wool skirt for a daytime Titanic tea party we're having here on The Centennial.  Mostly this was inspired by a shirtwaist I nabbed several weeks ago at Sacramento Antiques, and now I'm really glad I put together the skirt to go with it - looks sharp!

Read More

Thursday, March 22, 2012

, , , , , ,

V82: How To Decorate Pemberley Regency Shoes Like It's 1789

As of late I've been inspired by that interesting transitional period in women's dress, around the end of the 1780s and into the 1790s.  Many things changed - the waistline of gowns, the favored materials, hair styles, and also shoes.

This tutorial will show you how to decorate Pemberley Regency shoes to be of an earlier design, one befitting the late 1780s and early 1790s.

Read More

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

, , ,

V81: Vintage Early 1930s Sporty "Nurse" Shoes

I've been lurking around eBay, looking for vintage shoes.  I've fed my addiction recently with 3 pairs, all former shop displays from the 1930s.

These are my faves.  If only I could get my foot in them! They're a size 5.5 A width, absolutely teeny tiny, but gorgeous to look at.  I've been looking for perforated white "nurse" shoes for so long - I don't consider them dowdy, but rather sporty, don't you?

These lovely ladies are going to take a little trip oversees, along with several others I will show you soon, and when they come back, they'll have friends. :-)

Read More

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

, , , , , ,

V80: Petersham vs. Grosgrain Ribbon

What is the difference between Petersham and Grosgrain ribbon?

Both ribbons are ribbed and have a matte finish, but there is one really big difference, the edge finish.

Grosgrain ribbon has a sealed edge, and Petersham has a scalloped edge that is woven in one with the rest of the ribbon.
Grosgrain ribbon - see the "sealed" edge?

Petersham - see the difference on the edge from grosgrain?

That scalloped edge on Petersham allows this type of ribbon to curve in a similar way as bias tape, especially when shaped with steam, making it ideal for hatbands, but also the binding on stays and shoes.  Grosgrain will not curve like this, making it more suited to ribbon trims with mitered corners, decorative bows and ties, or flat applied trimming.

Here are some examples of Petersham used historically:

Read More

Sunday, March 18, 2012

V79: ASTORIA Important Information - Please Read

My Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

Astoria, our latest shoe style and our most successful product to date, in the largest and most important order we’ve ever placed, was delivered to us this past weekend, and we have discovered that a large portion of the order has not met our quality expectations.

Basically, the factory didn’t use the materials we specified and while the construction of the shoes is fine, the quality of finish falls below the standard that we were promised and expect.

We’re afraid to say that we cannot in good conscience ship these shoes to our customers. Despite knowing that many of you depend on us for your footwear for upcoming events, these shoes do not represent what we sold to you, and we cannot say, hand on heart, that the Astoria represents an American Duchess shoe.

We’re very proud of our products and go to great lengths to make them the very best available in quality and price, and in this instance we feel that we’ve let both our customers and ourselves down. You cannot imagine how sorry we feel for breaking our promises on delivery dates and the inconvenience that this has caused our customers.

The long and short of it is: the entire shipment of both ivory and black Astorias is being remanufactured with an even higher quality calf leather than originally specified, and under a significantly tighter quality control regime than before. The quality of finish of these shoes will be everything that you expect.

The expedited remanufacturing process will take approximately 4 weeks plus shipping to the USA, so we will be expecting the remanufactured batch to arrive in the last week of April. This is the fastest that this can be done without cutting corners.

All of affected customers have been sent an email with more information about the situation. We continue to stand behind our 100% no questions asked money back guarantee, and will make every effort to continue to be available to our customers via email ([email protected]), telephone, and live chat, through

We thank you for your understanding, patience and support in these challenging times.

Most Sincerely,

Lauren & Chris
Read More
, , ,

V78: 1950s "Ladies Who Lunch" Outfit

I gave my presentation on hats, 1850-1960, yesterday, and wore something I thought was appropriate for an afternoon luncheon.

Dress: made from vintage Butterick 8154
Hat: vintage mink "caterpillar" toque found in Alameda
Gloves: vintage from Sacramento Antiques market
Shoes: Payless, oh yeah.

I got the amazing opportunity to examine some antique shoes, particularly button boots, and will be sharing a couple photos of those with you soon.

Special thanks to the Churchill County Museum in Fallon, Nevada, for having me for a speaker, and for housing such a wonderful collection of vintage and antique clothing and accessories.
Read More

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Friday, March 16, 2012

V76: A Late Elizabethan Portrait...with Shoes

It's busy times here at ADHQ, so I'll make today's post quick.

This is one of my favorite portraits, a lady thought to be Vere Egerton, Mrs William Booth, attributed to Robert Peake (1541-1619).

I love her mix of textures and colors - like, that jacket totally doesn't go with that skirt, but it does! The length of the jacket is also quite interesting, as well as the relatively narrow shape of the skirt, but what I find most intriguing about this image is her shoes.

I've got more for you on the (very brief) history of Elizabethan footwear, later.  For now, I'll leave you with Vere.

Read More

Thursday, March 15, 2012

, , ,

V75: The True Origin of "Mad as a Hatter"

Here's a random bit of trivia for you to pull out at your next Mad Men cocktail party...

The Mad Hatter, illustration by John Tenniel , 1865
Where Does the Phrase "Mad as a Hatter," or "Mad Hatter" come from?

Today we are most familiar with "The Mad Hatter" from Lewis Carroll's famous "Alice in Wonderland," but the saying goes back further than Carroll's 1865 publication, and potentially had nothing at all to do with the crafters of fine headwear.

The common belief is that the name "Mad Hatter" references the fate of hatmakers who suffered from consistent inhalation of mercury, a chemical commonly used in the curing of hat felts. The long term effects of breathing mercury everyday included uncontrollable twitching, trembling, and demented behavior. It makes perfect sense to us today, when we imagine the illustrative renditions of Carroll's famous character.

The Depp-Burton version of the character, entirely obnoxious, but creative. For the record, his hat is really quite spectacular, though doesn't appear to be made of fur felt...
However, the phrase "Mad as a Hatter" was not invented by Carroll, and was in use in literature as far back as 1829. Even prior, the phrase was in common use in England and is very possibly an evolution of a phrase of an entirely different meaning, "mad as an atter," with the meaning "as venomous as a snake," rather than as kooky as a hat maker, "atter being the original Anglo-Saxon form of "adder," and "mad" being synonymous with "venomous," as well as crazy and angry.

I bite you!
Of course, mercury-poisoned hatters makes for a far more interesting story, and is not at all untrue. Vaporized mercury was indeed used to remove the fur used in fur felt hats, such as beaver hats, from the pelts, to then matt into the felts. Steaming and ironing fur felts into shape kept all that mercury in the air, and on the skin, and lead to all kinds of horrible side effects.
A beaver felt hat, all the rage for particularly men's headwear in the 19th and early 20th c.
So there you have it.  Amaze your friends and impress your boss over the miniature franks and martini olives. :-)
Read More

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

, , , ,

V73: A Brief History of Feathers-on-Hats

I've been researching hats lately, and came across some fascinating information concerning feathers.

We all know the iconic mega-feathered hats of the Edwardian era.  The Edwardians were particularly enamored with plumage, but unlike their be-feathered predecessors, the Victorians and the Georgians, many a fine species of bird was taken to the brink of extinction by the incredible demand for ladies be-feathered hats.

Throughout history, hats have played a big role in indicating one's status.  We all know the famous scene in "The Duchess," where Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, sports giant ostrich plumes in her giant hair, and starts a craze that would last decades.  For the Edwardians, they took this to a new level, and often added entire birds to their heads, and sometimes these birds were fantastical creations cobbled together from several varying bird parts!

Popular plumage for hats extended beyond ostrich, to include heron, peacock, egret, osprey, bird of paradise, pheasant...even vulture.  The more "common" feathers for adornment were garden fowl, pigeon, turkey, goose, and coque/rooster.  These feathers were made into plumes, pompoms, aigrettes, wings, pads, bands, breasts, and quills, and not by marchandes, milliners, and craftsmen in quaint little shops, oh no, by massive factories employing thousands of women and children, and dealing in hundreds of thousands of feathers per day.  In 1900, in North America, the millinery industry employed 83,000 people!

Chapeau, Esther Meyer, France, 1905-1910 Minoche de grèbe, plume de coq teinte, velours de soie
Unfortunately, the demand for feathers began to damage the migratory bird population, and by 1918, lobbying groups such as the Audubon Society had succeeded in a federal ban on certain types of feathers, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.  Birds excluded from this law are still feathers available to us today - ostrich, turkey, goose, peacock, rooster, garden fowl, and pheasant, to name a few.

And ostrich is still expensive, though not quite as these feathers were in 1880, when their value per pound was almost equal to that of diamonds.

French plumes, which just means they've been curled on the end, adorn this Merry Widow hat  - these are comprised of multiple ostrich feathers sewn together to get the full, drapey look.
During The Great War, the fashion for massive plumed hats fell out of favor.  They just weren't practical anymore, not to mention the excess and expense of these chapeaus, and the preference didn't come back after the War either.  Cloche hats became the rage, and still featured many a fine feather, but not anywhere in the realm of what was being worn before 1914.

Still, you and I are easily seduced by the pretty pretty of plumes, poms, and pads, especially as 18th century and Titanic Era costumers.  Nothing is so naked as a bonnet without a feather. :-)

You can buy various types of feathers online, at craft stores, costume stores, and in the secret floral section of places like Michaels and JoAnns.  Even a little feather goes a long way. :-)

Read More

Monday, March 12, 2012


V72: Kensington/Courage 18th Century Shoes & Movie Giveaway WINNER

Congratulations to Rebecca Abram!  Rebecca, you won your choice of red or black Kensington 18th century leather shoes, and a DVD set of "Courage, New Hampshire."

Please contact me at [email protected] to claim your historical swag.  That is Lauren (at) American (dash) Duchess (dot)(com).

For all you very sad and disappointed lovelies, you still have a week to get your Kensingtons on pre-order for the special $99, for delivery in May. <3
Read More