Saturday, June 30, 2012

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V182: The Lovely Bones: Reliquary Busts of Female Saints

Last night a beautiful image popped up on my Pinterest feed ... this one.

Her name is not known - a companion of, or a saint herself? What do you think her expression is saying?
I found her so striking, strange, expressive, and beautiful that I made her my profile pic on Facebook.  The Dreamstress then told me that this lady, and her matching sisters, house human their heads.
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Friday, June 29, 2012


V181: Small Biz Betties: The Small Biz Triple Crown - Blog, Facebook, and Storefront

Hello again, all you small biz betties out there.  This week we will start getting in to the nuts and bolts of how to start your business online, with something I call the "Small Business Triple Crown."

The Small Biz Triple Crown consists of three web presences that all baby businesses should create - a blog, a social page, and a storefront.  With these three entities, you cover three very important bases:
  • A place where you can show your personality and share your projects and products.
  • A high-traffic place where you and your customers can interact, and they can easily promote your brand.
  • The place where you actually sell your goods.
Just starting out, you don't need to have all three in place right away.  You can take time to build one, then another.  So which do you start with?

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Thursday, June 28, 2012


V180: A Little Georgian Humor

This delightful image popped up on my Pinterest feed the other day, and I just had to share it with you...
Henry Bunbury - "Me, my wife, and Daughter"
There are quite a lot of humorous, often scathing, cartoons from the 18th century, a good many of which can be found in the Lewis Walpole Library online collection.

As for these three, I'll gladly take the redingote and hat on the daughter, and also, where does one get a contraption like this for a horse? I'd love to see something like this walking around at a re-enactment, or in the streets of Colonial Williamsburg!
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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

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V179: More Georgian Jackets ... Decisions, Decisions

I certainly have a love affair with 18th c. jackets.  They're just so darned cute!  Now I get to decide, yet again, what kind of jacket to make from 2 yards of lampas brocade I found online, that should be arriving today.

I only have two yards, so it has to be a fairly little jacket.  I'm thinking something along the lines of a pierrot or suzanna style - a bodice with a flirty-skirty tail out the back, but then the casaquins and full-skirted jackets are earlier and fit with the "Prelude to Victory" 1780-81 event date better.  Hrm.../ponder...

Meg Andrews
Augusta Auctions
Duchess of Devonshire Gossip Guide:
Although a casaquin with a short-ish skirt might work too.

Galliera musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris 
Meg Andrews
Or maybe a swallow-tailed type of style, over a matching stomacher?
Colonial Williamsburg
Duran Textiles

Decisions, decisions!

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

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V178: 1770s Polonaise Jacket Progress

I haven't been in a super-sewing mood, but I have made a little progress on the polonaise jacket planned for our Colonial Williamsburg trip this coming October.

I draped the pattern for this back in March/April, and tested it out with some muslin, making a few changes.  The challenging part of the polonaise jackets is that they hang open in front, yet appear to be somewhat fitted.

I ended up carving away the front "sweep", and needing to add in a bust dart, like the one in the Snowshill Riding Habit jacket found in Patterns of Fashion 1 .  With the wide trim planned for the front edges of this jacket, most of the darts won't be seen, but they do make it fit over the front, whereas before it bowed out terribly.

I cut each piece individually, to match the patterns in the fabric, like on the inspiration jacket.  My sprigs were so far apart I ended up having to put a seam at the center back, where the skirting starts - not ideal, but necessary, to get the flowers on that part of the jacket.

More progress is to come! This is a challenging project, with much problem solving, but I'm determined to get a wearable piece out of it!
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Monday, June 25, 2012

Sunday, June 24, 2012

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V176: Lovely 1920s n' 30s Textiles

Yesterday Debbie (Vintage Dancer) and I attended a delightful show-n-tell of 1920s and 30s clothing.  The select pieces the presenter brought were goooorgeous.  Here are some detail photos of a handful of the amazing textiles from which these gowns were made.

The clothes rack was hung with goodness and care
An incredible puce-and-chartreuse Lamé, woven with metal threads - late 1920s
Hand-sewn printed chiffon with  delicate curved seams and hand-rolled fringey-hems, 1920s
A late 1930s sheath dress with a striped bodice, woven with gold, silver, and copper metal threads.

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Friday, June 22, 2012


V174: My First Costume Piece...Ever

Today I'm going to purposefully embarrass myself with a photo of my very first piece of costume ever.

I mean "very first piece of costume ever" as the first thing I sewed expressely for wearing to a fair, as an adult.  In's the first thing I ever did sew, back in year 2000/2001.

Oh the Horror, the Horror!!!
It was a Butterick "Renaissance Bodice," right!?  I was enthralled with the beautiful velvet gowns of the court ladies at Valhalla Renaissance Faire, and so insisted on sewing something velvet.  We went to the fabric shop to get a pattern and said velvet and the first thing I did when we got home was iron the two front pieces with steam, accidentally turning it into *crushed* velvet.  Generally speaking, the whole thing was a disaster.

I never did wear this hideous monstrosity to a Ren Faire, but I did wear it on Halloween, my first semester in college.  Boy, I thought I was hot stuff!  Now I'm just mortified to look at this picture!

So why am I posting this?  Well, because it is a reminder that we all start somewhere, and are constantly learning and improving.  In ten years time, I'm sure I'll look back on the costumes I'm making right now and gasp in horror.

What was your first costume?  And do you think you have come a long way since your first project? I'd love to hear your stories in the comments below. :-)

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

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V173: New "Coming Soon" Historical Accessories to Get Excited About

I can't help it - I get excited about new products I'm working on, and I want to share them with you!

There are cool things in the works.  I have dreams of not just introducing new historical shoes, but more accessories to go with them - namely buckles and stockings.

Firstly, we're working on a new buckle.  This one has taken so freaking long, it's ridiculous, but it's a difficult design and we've had to find a new manufacturer to make them.  There is (hopefully) just one more iteration to go before this one will be perfecto.

"Valois" buckle - easier said than done.
It seems logical to also create a simple round or square brass buckle for the middling and lower classes, camp followers, and less extravagant types.  Which would you prefer, round/oval or square?

Next in development for accessories is a line of silk clocked stockings.  Here is a preview from the factory, but I'm still waiting for the samples to arrive - maybe today! - so I can test them for stretch, wearability, sizing, etc.

These are 98% silk, 2% lycra/stretch material.  I know you purist won't be happy about the lycra, but it's there to keep these silk beauties from bagging out around the knees, ankles, and at the top of the knee.

We'll be having a pre-order for stockings, to help fund the run, near Fall, so watch here or on Facebook for news of that event.

Also, many of you have asked about "Tavistock," the button-up Victorian/Edwardian boot.  Tavistock is currently in development, and we're hoping to see the first sample here shortly.  We've got these lovelies planned for pre-order in September, and delivery by the end of November, in time for the Christmas shopping season.

Why can't I give definitive answers for when new things will be coming out?  Well, because often times things crop up in the development process that delay us.  For instance, having to switch factories for the buckles, or make multiple revisions and re-sample designs, or having to raise funding for sampling - all of these (and more) push back hopeful release dates.  It's one of the joys of being a microscopically small business!

If you have questions, shoot me an e-mail ([email protected]) or leave a comment below.
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Wednesday, June 20, 2012


V172: Vintage 1940s, 50s and 60s Patterns

Yesterday I received a wonderful gift from Beth - four gorgeous vintage sewing patterns!

I looooove vintage patterns.  There is something about them that just makes sewing with one a real treat, even if I always have to adjust for a size or two up.  Luckily, a great many 1950s and 60s patterns are so simply drafted that it is easy to scale them.

Thank you Beth!!  These are gorgeous!

I am also selling some vintage patterns on eBay.  I bought a bag of 40-some-odd awhile back, and kept about half of them, but there are quite a few that I would like to offer for sale.  Most of them are vintage size 12, some smaller, some larger.

I've started them at super-low prices on the auctions, so if you're looking for a steal, check these out - my store is HERE.
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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

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V171: A Vintage Button Hook

We've all seen these funny little tools.  What are they for, even?  We no longer wear button-up shoes these days, but back in the 1920s and prior, this was an essential tool for putting on your shoes!

It's a great illustration of how common button shoes and boots were by the shear volume of button hooks that survive today.  This example I found on eBay - it's a steel shank with a hollow handle.  I have no idea of the age, but thought the design quite pretty.

Fancy buttoning these babies up by hand? I don't think so.
Button hooks come in all manner of shapes and sizes.  Some are ornate, like this one.  Some look more like bottle openers.  Some are gold-plated and encrusted with gems.  They're a delightful testament to a lost style and technology.

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Monday, June 18, 2012


V170: What Is Inside an American Duchess Shoe?

All this mess makes up one Astoria shoe
Hi Ladies! Today I'd like to show you just what makes up a pair of American Duchess shoes.  It's good to know what you're wearing on your feet!  Chris and I ripped apart an Astoria to show you all the different layers of goodness that go in to making our shoes.  All of our shoes are made in a period style, but a modern way, so you won't experience the usual "joys" of "costume shoes".  So we're literally spilling our guts! ...

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

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V169: The Pony Express Re-Ride at Fort Churchill, NV

This past Thursday, my parents and I ventured out to Fort Churchill, Nevada, to see the Pony Express Association's annual re-ride event, in which riders travel the same route, in the same amount of time, as was done 152 years ago.

We decided to go in costume - and were the only ones - to lend some 1860s flavor to the gathering.  Here are some photos from the evening:

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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Friday, June 15, 2012


V167: Small Biz Betties: Discovering What the Market Needs

Welcome back to Small Biz Betties, where we'll be talking about starting and maintaining your own small, niche business.

Today let's discuss the most important thing, your IDEA. Every small business starts with this, with the idea, and grows (or doesn't) from there.  However, not every idea is a good idea, even though it may seem brilliant at the time.  Your job as a budding entrepreneur is to discover what the market needs, and then serve it.  So ask yourself these questions...
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Thursday, June 14, 2012

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V166: Book Review: "The Art of Finger Waving" by Paul Compan

Art of Finger Waving -- Recreating Vintage 1920s and 1930s Hairstyles
Paul Compan
(c) 2007 by Bramcost Publications
ISBN 978-1-934268-34-6

There are few techniques in the world of vintage fashion that inspire such confusion as finger waving.  The go-to hair setting technique of the 1920s, finger waving, sometimes called water waving, seems to be a lost art.  Though cosmotology students are taught the art of finger waving these days, it is not an often used or requested style in the salon, and the practice slips away into obscurity.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

V165: Costumer's Link Love {2}

Here are some costume blogs I've found recently, and really enjoy.  I hope you enjoy them too!:
For more awesome costume and fashion blogs, check out the two blogroll lists on the sidebar to the right.  I will add these and more as I find them. :-)
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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

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V164: Vintage Shoe Ads of 1939-1941

Oh how I love shoes, particularly vintage 20th century shoes.  They make me swoon!  Some of you already know I'm working on a couple 1920s and 30s designs for next year's American Duchess historical footwear lineup (don't worry, there will be "oldiers" in there too), and I wanted to share with you some of the reference images that are inspiring me lately...

These are from Sears Catalog and Chicago Mail Order Catalog, 1939, '40, and '41, the entireties of which were given to me by a friend and local vintage enthusiast. Enjoy!

(lots of images under the cut...)
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Monday, June 11, 2012

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V163: The Carson City Rendezvous, 1860

Mums on the left, me on the right, in our plaid hoop dresses, and bonnets made by dear friend Maggie
This past weekend Mummsies and I attended the Carson City Rendezvous, a wonderful historical fair celebrating the history of Nevada in the 1860s.  There are Union and Confederate soldiers (and the accompanying battles), sutlers, an original stagecoach, the Pony Express, and ladies tending encampments.  It's one of the only mid-Victorian events we have out here, oddly enough, and is always a treat to go to each year.

More photos under the cut...

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Sunday, June 10, 2012

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V162: My First Re-covered Victorian Parasol

Yesterday I showed you some lovely extant Victorian parasols that I looked at for inspiration in re-covering a long-handled polyester parasol I bought at Valhalla last weekend.

This is the original:

Here's what I did with it.

I have one thing to say about covering parasols - it's harder than it looks!

I took the black cover off and used one of the triangles as a pattern, and cut my triangles from some changeable taffeta scraps I had in the cabbage patch.  All was going well, but getting the cover on the wire frame was rather a pain, and then the top was all baggy.  Now that I think about it, I'm sure my mistake was with the placement of the edges of my cover - my triangles were slightly longer, but my placement of them was right on the edge.  This caused the tension at the top to be incorrect.

In the manner of Tim Gunn, though, I just made it work and I'm pretty happy with it, even if it is not the beautiful, taught masterpiece it was intended to be!

We saw these long-handled parasols everywhere at the Carson Rendezvous yesterday, for about $11-$12.  You can order one online, in a variety of colors, from Vintage Dancer, for about the same.

If I had this to do again, I would probably leave the polyester cover on, and apply my decoration over it...or maybe just be more diligent about the cutting, seaming, and stretching!
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Saturday, June 9, 2012

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V161: Pretty Victorian Parasols

Happy Saturday.  I'm a bit late with this entry because I was away at the Carson City Rendezvous for most of the day, but better late than never.  These are some inspirational parasols from the mid-Victorian period.  I collected these to help with a design for my first parasol covering, which I will show you tomorrow.  You have to wait! ...but in the meantime, enjoy the pretties. :-)

The Met, 1835
The Met, 19th c. I love the pinked scalloped edge on this one
One of my faves, from the Met, 1886. Red silk with another scalloped and pinked edge that ruffles.  So chic.
The Met, 1850-69. I love that this example is so simple, but the addition of the tassels add just enough pizzaz
The Met, 1870, another beautiful example with an applied trim in scalloped, pinked ruffles.  This would be an easy way to spice up one of the little long-handled black parasols all the sutlers have this season
The Met, 1868. Again with a pinked edge.  This seams to have been quite popular, or perhaps practical too, in Victorian parasols
The Met, 1850-59. Lastly, another very simple black silk parasol, American.  This is so similar to the long-handled examples available for a few bucks, just cover it with silk instead of polyester. :-)

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