Friday, August 31, 2012


V244: Modeling Regency at the Nevada Museum of Art

Hi all!  A couple nights ago I modeled for the historical costume painting class at the Nevada Museum of Art.

I wore one of my favorite outfits, a Regency gown given to me by Maggie, and an open robe I made several Christmases ago.

I was happy to be able to do "easy" hair for the night, but my papillote curls didn't work!  More on that later - I have "special needs hair," haha.

Not much of a curl, there!
Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

What I'm Wearing:

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

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V243: Pompadour Heels At Last

I'm really excited to finally be taking delivery of the Pompadour heels tomorrow.  They've cleared customs and are truckin' their way over the Sierras this evening.  To celebrate, here are some extant shoes to salivate over...

Meg Andrews, early 1730s
V&A, early 18th c. This image rocked my silk stockings when I saw it - Pomps in black damask are SO similar!
VADS, London College of Fashion, 1730.  The applique down the vamp and toe of the shoe was a common decoration for this period, and is possibly a metallic trim.  This was known as "lacing" your shoes.  You could easily do this with Pompadours, with a piece of silver or gold metallic ribbon or lace.
Colonial Williamsburg, 1730-40.  The tabbed closure, with the tie, is very typical of early 18th c. and late 17th c. footwear.  No need for buckles!
Shoe-Icons, 1690-1720.  Beautiful green brocade with green binding.  You can easily dye white Pompadours this color, and either paint the leather heels green to match, or leave them white, also period correct
Manchester, 1715-20.  An English shoe of brocaded silk, with a white leather heel
The Met, early 18th c.  The red heel is leather, but has an applique on the back.
The Met, 1700-1720.  These are the shoes that Pompadour was most closely based upon.
I hope you've enjoyed this look at early 18th century tabbed shoes.  They're so splendid and special!  If you'd like your own pair of these, you can get them in black or white brocade with matching heels in leather.  The white is dyeable with RIT, iDye, or even leather dye, as is the white leather on its heel (use leather dye or leather paints).  You don't need buckles, just a pretty ribbon to lace through the tabs, and you can wear Pompadours for any costume from the mid-17th century through to about the 1760s:

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

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V242: 1790s Robe Royaliste: Almost Done!

I had intended to bust out this giant purple chemise style gown quickly, but then between being mad sick and then lazy, it's taken me *this* long to get it done!

Needs a bit of a press through the skirt, but otherwise...
 And it's still not done!

I still need to do the button loops and attach the self-covered buttons at the corners of the front piece.  I also need to make a proper sash and acquire one very large black hat, complete with very large black feathers.

The gathered front bust is *huge*, very puffy, very giant-1790s-puff.
Then it will be done. :-)
The design of the back came from the green/gold gaulle in The Duchess.
The construction of this gown wasn't so bad - at least it didn't come out horribly short-waisted this time.  I did have issue with my sleeves, as usual, and there was fiddlage with the center back seam and shoulder strap placement, also as usual.  For a first go at a gaulle, though, and a test for a future gown made in silk, I'm really quite happy with how this monstrosity has turned out.

The sleeves were troublesome - they didn't come out with the fullness like in The Duchess, but there is a little pleating.  I set them the 18th century way with the top-stitched shoulder strap.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

V241: September Call for Sponsors

Hello Ladies and Gents!  Are you an up-and-coming small business that might benefit from advertising here on American Duchess?  How about giving a nicely-placed banner ad a try here on the sidebar, and seeing how your website traffic increases?

There are lots of options to choose from, at varying price points, from $5 and up.  Your ad will run for 30 days from the time of purchase, even if you purchase in the middle of the month.  It's so easy to set up!

The American Duchess blog benefits from daily postings (yep, every single day!), great content, strong social connections, and an international audience.  Articles cover historical costuming, sewing, and re-enactment events of all periods, particularly Georgian, Victorian, and early 20th century.  If your business is a perfect fit for the readers of this blog, I encourage you to try an ad spot!

August 2012 Stats:

  • 62,645 Page Views
  • 12,027 Unique Visitors
  • 6929 combined Blog, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter followers
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Monday, August 27, 2012

Sunday, August 26, 2012

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V239: Cassell's Household Guide

There is something so -udderly- wonderful about household guides of the 19th century.  And what is even more wonderful is that they are all out of copyright and readily available to peruse on Google Books.
I first learned of Cassel's Household Guide while watching "Victorian Farm," an excellent UK show that followed a historian and two archaeologist as they lived the life of Victorian farmers for a full calendar year.  Cassell's was their go-to guide for all manner of things - cooking, cleaning, Christmas decorating, and also raising chickens, milking cows, right down to what mix of grasses to plant in the hay field, and when to harvest it.

The cool thing about Cassell's Household Guide is that it really is a window into the past.  Published in 1869 (at least the version I am reading), the book provides a crazy mix of information, everything from how to make paper flowers, to the various breeds of dog and what to feed them, to quite an in-depth look at creating and maintaining your own aquarium.  The one thing that is missing is dressmaking, unless you're making clothing for your children, then the reference is in no short supply.

An interesting thing about Cassell's is that it jumps around.  The information is split up throughout the book, so on one page you're reading about plum puddings, and on the next how to set a broken arm.  A few pages later, you're back to plum puddings, but you'll have covered the rules of bathing, basic skin care, and how to build a barn door in between.

I highly recommend downloading and looking through Cassell's - remember, it's free on Google Books! - and also check out any of the other 19th century beauty guides, domestic service manuals, and recipe books.

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Saturday, August 25, 2012

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V238: What Is This Style of 18th Century Jacket?

A beautiful image popped up on my Pinterest feed this morning:
1730-60, French manufacture, held in the Digitalt Museum
I find this extant ensemble really interesting because, well, it matches.  Matching gowns and petticoats we are all familiar with, but matching jackets and petticoats?  And how about those long, 2-piece, shaped sleeves?

This jacket is super-duper similar to these...
Meg Andrews, 1770s
Met, 1770s, English manufacture
National Trust, 1760-70, also found in Janet Arnold's "Patterns of Fashion 1" pg 26

This seems to have been a fairly common style, popular from the earlier part of the 18th century through the 1770s.  They are all made the same, with no waist seam, meeting center front, and with godets in the skirting.  The sleeve styles vary, but essentially the structure is the same.

Does this type of jacket have a specific name?  Do you think this style of jacket was often worn with a matching petticoat?  If that's the case, it begs the question...were those matching patterned petticoats worn with other jackets or gowns?
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Friday, August 24, 2012

Thursday, August 23, 2012

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V236: Please Vote - What's Your Favorite 1920s Spectator?

Spectator shoes are so cool, don't you think?  I want to add a 1920s t-strap spectator to the Historical Footwear collection next year -called "23Skidoo" - but what color style do you like best?  I love the idea of being able to paint your two-tones any two tones you like (or more!), but there is something so classic about a black and white or brown and white pair of specs.  Please lend your vote to the poll, to help me decide!


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Wednesday, August 22, 2012


V235: Pompadours and Kensingtons are On Their Way

Here's a behind-the-scenes look at what's now making its way across the Pacific to our warehouse...

White Pompadours, and more Red Kensingtons
White Kensingtons
Happy days!  We'll have black and white Pomps, black, red, and white Kensies, and new black and ivory Astorias in stock.  Clocked stockings should be finished any day now as well!
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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sunday, August 19, 2012

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V232: Velvet Patches for 18th Century Dress Up, by Ruby Raven

Hi Ladies! Whilst visiting Costume College, a lovely lady, The Ruby Raven, gifted me with a delightful little box of velvet patches, or "mouches," the kind ladies would stick to their faces in the 17th and 18th centuries.

I sometimes enhance facial moles I already have, but how much cooler would it be to stick a heart, star, or even a little bow on instead?

I'd have to be careful what was "said" with the mouches, though.  Like the Language of the Fan, where you placed your beauty spot meant different things.  For instance, near the eye means "irresistible," but under the eye means "dangerous."  On the corner of the mouth is "sexy," but on the nose is "shameless."

You can get one of these patch kits from Ruby Raven on Etsy.  It comes with a whole bunch of patches in different shapes and colors, along with a little bottle of spirit gum to attach them, and an information sheet about mouches.

Have fun!
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Saturday, August 18, 2012

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V231: Indienne Chintz a la Waverly Window Curtains, 1780s

Good 18th century style Indienne print chintz can be hard to find.  For some reason, rambling, graphic florals, in a limited color palette, on a white or light ground aren't so much in fashion these days.  I long for the day when the quilting cotton section is crammed with Georgian textile prints!

That being said, it's so refreshing to walk into a hardware store and see a perfect - or THREE perfect - 18th century Indienne prints staring you in the face.  I recall that Jen, of Festive Attyre, mentioned the curtains at Lowes - good find, Jen!

I bought two big panels - they were about $20 each - and I think I can just eek out a Robe a l'Anglaise.  Here are a couple from Kyoto that are inspiring me:

Robe a l'Anglaise, 1780s, fabric is from the 1740s.  I love the long sleeves and especially the awesomely huge and bold print.
This is not an Indienne textile, but instead Chinese hand-painted silk.  The designs are similar, however.  I like the trimming on the bodice particularly.

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Friday, August 17, 2012


V230: Small Biz Betties: When Are You a "Professional?"

Hi again! Welcome to this week's Small Biz Betties, where I'll be waxing poetical on how to know when you have taken the leap and become a "professional" in your field.

It's a hard question to answer, because we often downplay our skills, knowledge, and accomplishments, or use personal measuring sticks that may have nothing at all to do with how others view us.  We also don't want to seem like we're bragging, or trying to "talk the talk without walking the walk."

So when are you a professional?  Ask yourself this question...

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

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V229: Analyzing Hedgehog Hairstyles

I am always on a quest to achieve bigger, better 18th century hair styles.  Some hairstyles are super complicated, like the poufs of the 1770s.  Some appear to be more simple, like the hedgehogs of the 1780s and 90s.  What I've learned over the past several years of doing this, though...?

None of it is "simple."

Take the hedgehog, for instance.  It *looks* like just a big frizzy fro-poof-madness on your head, with a long tail down the back...but upon taking a closer look at period portraits, fashion plates, and particularly well-done movie renditions (hello, "The Duchess"), there are all sorts of other things going on.  Here are my notes...

Some things to keep in mind about The Hedgehog:

  • It is wider than it is tall
  • The fro-poof curls come down around the ears, or cover the ears
  • Longer, thicker curls or rolls accompany the sides, below the ears.  Sometimes these are sausage curls, sometimes they are the more sculpted rolls, hanging down the neck.
  • Very often there is an extremely long cadogan loop or ponytail down the back - sometimes curled, but very often straight.

I had an old wig I turned into a hedgehog some years ago, but have never really been happy with. I decided to give it a makeover, so I used a hair straightener to relax the too-tight curls I had gathered into a ponytail at the back.  I then separated the now mullet-like, limp, fuzzy hair into three sections - back, left side, and right side - tying the back off in a ponytail, and creating two large loops on each side.  The back ponytail is far too short for what I want, but luckily it's easy to add super-long, super-cheap braid hair, just sewn to the base at the back, to create the long, puffy ponytail so popular in the late 1780s.

Here is my quick throw-together from this morning, to show the re-styled wig.  To style this correctly, I would curl the front of my hair tightly, then tease it and blend it into the curls of the wig.  Because my hair and my wig are obviously two different colors, I would then powder the whole thing (either with corn starch, or a spray-on white/silver hair coloring), to blend it all in as one.

For more hair inspiration, and 18th century everything, check out my 18th century costume Pinterest board.
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Wednesday, August 15, 2012


V228: New "Valois" Shoe Buckles

Finally, after forever in development, we've got the Valois buckles for your Kensington shoes.  Chris is doing official product photos right now, so here's a preview of how the new buckles look on the red Kensies...

You'll be able to get these in the American Duchess store tomorrow.  They are in stock right now, so no waiting!  Some more info:

  • Valois buckles are based on these knee buckles from the V&A
  • Valois buckles are designed and sold exclusively by American Duchess Company.
  • Fit 1.25" / 3.175 cm wide latchets, approx 2 mm thick - designed specifically to fit American Duchess shoes.
  • Approx. 2.25" x 1.5" (5.715 cm x 3.81 cm) - sized and domed for ladies' shoes.
  • 100% white brass with silver plating
  • Sold in pairs, with their own velveteen bag for safe keeping.
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