Sunday, September 30, 2012

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V274: Steampunking at Piper's Opera House, Virginia City, NV

Last night was our 2nd Annual Victorian Steampunk Ball .  It was riotous and epic and wonderful, and despite running around like a chicken with my head cut off, I had a great time.  This is the poster I made for the event this year:

My dear friend Jenny came up from Sacramento.  We were floozies - she wore her adorable saloon girl outfit, and I wore my Nevada Flag Vaudevillian.  Here we are:

Even Chris dressed up - it was his first time in costume!  He was pretty stoked to wear a fez, and I was pretty stoked that he shaved his beard into a Victorian style, just for the event.

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Friday, September 28, 2012

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V272: Finished Indienne Print Curtain Gown, 1780

Finally I've got all the little bits n' bobs complete on my Indienne print Curtain-Along dress, and just in time too - we leave for Colonial Williamsburg this coming Wednesday!

I'm very pleased with how this gown turned out.  Everything...well...fits, which is never the case...there's always something pinching, pulling, or cutting.  Not this time, though! ///happy dance!///

I left the skirt very long on the gown, and it was a bit of experimentation to figure out how to pull it all up a la polonaise and have it look pleasing.  The typical two tapes and loops in back didn't pull the front edges up enough, so I added two more tapes and loops on the side fronts, to keep the skirt up off the ground.

The ruffs on the neck and cuffs are falsies.  I love this trick from Period Costume for Stage & Screen - it saves those of us who hate making chemises from having to do it, and it also means your "chemise" ruffles are always in the right place.  These are made from cotton voile, though originally I tried some vintage lace.  It didn't work - I looked like a bad Simplicity costume pattern from 1989!

So...I guess that's it.  I'll be wearing this gown in Williamsburg next week, and will post pictures of it on-person then.  Thanks for following!
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Thursday, September 27, 2012

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V271: First Look at "23Skidoo" 1920s Spectator T-Strap Shoes

Those of you who follow along on Facebook have already seen these, but I wanted to share them here on the blog too.  I'm *so* excited about the new "23Skidoo" 1920s t-strap spectator shoes - these are the sample photos from the factory, and they look splendid!

UPDATE: "23Skidoos" are now available to order at!

I'd like your opinions, please - originally we planned to release 23Skidoo for pre-order early next year, but how about now instead?  Please lend your opinion to this poll...

Some particulars about 23Skidoo -
  • Luxe quality calf leather uppers
  • 6 cm / 2.36 inch custom made heel - balanced in the center of your heel
  • Buckle closure - adjustable for high or low arches
  • Paint your own spectator colors on the white/white colorway, with Angelus leather paints
  • Women's US sizes 6 through 10, including half-sizes
  • Retail price - $120, with a nice discount for pre-ordering
The spectator styling came from requests from you lovely ladies.  The paint-your-own and brown/white colors were the most popular in the poll conducted a few weeks ago, but wouldn't these also look ace in black/white, navy/white, and red/white?  Spectator styling is just so cool - Coco Chanel certainly thought so...

Coco Chanel in 1928
Looks for more news about 23Skidoo soon!
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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

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V270: The "Robe Royaliste" at Nevada Museum of Art

Last night I had another opportunity to model for the costume painting class at the Nevada Museum of Art.  I wore my new "Robe Royaliste," a dress I made, erm, a couple months ago, but hadn't had the chance to wear.

One good thing about wearing a new gown to sit still in for three hours is that you learn very quickly what needs to be adjusted.  I'm really happy with how this test-dress turned out, *but* the armscyes are too small!  It felt like someone was sticking a butterknife in my armpits all night!  Easy fix, thank goodness, and certainly one to be made before wearing this gown for a full day.  The sleeves are also too tight through the elbows...not such an easy fix, but I'll see if i can fenagle any extra room out of the seam allowances..they only need about 1/4" extra to be far more comfortable.

Anywho, I hope you enjoy these photos, as much as I enjoyed watching the artists work :-)

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

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V269: A Baby Neckerchief from a Baby Gown

I'm a sucker for fancy embroideries, but I just plain suck at doing them myself, so I look for textiles that already have nice embroideries on them.  A tantalizing source is old baby baptism gowns.  Some are plain, but some are quite beautifully whiteworked.  I wanted to see if I could make an 18th century neckerchief out of one, so here goes...

Good places to find baptism gowns are at flea markets, antique shops, or thrift stores.  I got mine for about $15, and it wasn't the largest on the rack, but had the nicest embroidery.  I would highly recommend trying to find the largest you can...we're talkin' big babies have to get enough yardage to cut on the bias.

I cut open the one back seam, cut off the collar and sleeves, and laid the yardage (if you can call it that) out flat.  I wanted the embroidered edge as the point on my neckerchief, so that meant a mitered corner.  I used a gridded cutting board with bias lines (WalMart, JoAnns, Hancock) to mark out two triangles exactly the same size, on the same bias - this is why you need as much yardage as you can get.

From "18th Century Embroidery Techniques"

Then it was just up to finishing the edges.  The seam up the back is felled, the rest are just tiny-turned.  I used the pattern in 18th Century Embroidery Techniques showing a slice in the middle of the long edge.  It allows that long edge against the neck to "break" and lay more comfortably.

Teeny Tiny ... looks kindof like a napkin draped over the shoulders.  Maybe I will just use a napkin next time...
In the end, my neckerchief is pretty, but it's TINY.  I wish I had found a larger baby gown now, but lesson learned!

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Sunday, September 23, 2012


V267: Bomber Girl Pin-Up Photoshoot

Behind the Scenes at Junkee
Yesterday Stephanie and I went down to Junkee Clothing Exchange for a "Bomber Girl" photoshoot.  We don't find out if we'd made the Top 20 for the Bomber Girls Pageant until later, but we had a good time hamming it up for the camera anyway.
Stephanie rockin' the Rosie
We were to wear fun, flirty, pin-up clothes.  At a moment's notice, that can be hard to come up with, if you don't already have a lot of such things in your wardrobe.  My '40s wardrobe is...well, I have one dress, one pair of pants, one pair of heels, and a bandanna.  I snagged a pair of shorts from Plasticland on sale, and luckily they arrived a day or so ago.  I had to take them in to fit, but did manage to get them wearable for this photo shoot.

We had a great time! It was fun, silly really, and I always cherish the opportunity to play dress up. :-)  I'll share the official photos from the photographer later, when I get them. :-)

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Friday, September 21, 2012

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V265: Vintage Haul of Random Things

I should have known when I popped down to Junkee Clothing Exchange (one of the coolest stores in Reno-Land, choc full of all manner of sweet costumer swag, from hot pink ostrich plumes to marching band hats to '60s go-go boots...oh, and one whole half of the store is antiques) for *just* a length of vintage lace trim, to ruff out my Indienne gown, that I would come out with way...WAY more than I went in for.

Self-fulfilling prophecy!  I did find the lace trim, but also some really killer beaded, embroidered someday-going-to-be-something-probably-Victorian-and-awesome trim for a ridonculously low price.

Also, some obnoxious pink trim for perhaps a future 18th century hat; strawberry appliques for who knows what; a mink collar; a sweet '50s hat; and an heirloomly-sewn baby dress thing made of embroidered voile, soon to be a snazz 18th c. neckerchief.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

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V263:How To Find Original Image Sources on Google

Last week there was some talk about citing sources, particularly image sources, in blog posts, and how it's not being done enough.  On of the reasons is because it's so dang easy to re-pin and re-blog images on Pinterest and Tumblr, but it's not always easy to track down the original source for the image.

Until NOW!

Here's a magical secret that will change your lives!  Google has a function that allows you to knock in the URL of any image you find on the internet and it will try, and try mightily, to find where it came from.  Here's how to do it...

1. Here is an image from my 18th Century Shoes Pinterest board.  I pinned it from a Tumblr, but there was no additional information with it, and no link back to the original source.

2. Right click on the image and select "Copy Image URL."

3. Now in Google Images, the magic happens.  In the search box, on the right side, there is a little camera icon.  Click it...

4. Paste the URL into the box, and click Search.

5. Google will bring up a number of links for where our image appears.  Not all of them are good, but somewhere in there you may either find the original source directly, or a bread crumb to lead you to the original source.  In the case of this image, I found a bread crumb - "Historic Deerfield Museum."

6. When I searched "Historic Deerfield Museum" on Google, I found the collection and was able to search for "shoes," and bam, there they were...

7. The last thing to do is go back to my pin on Pinterest and edit the information to include what is on the original source listing, and also the link to get back to the original source.

That's all!  It's magic!
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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

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V262: Progress on the "Curtain-Along" 1780s Indienne Gown

So far so good - and sleeves that FIT!
This project might have been quick if I hadn't spend whole chunks of days not doing a darn thing.  At least when I do get my lazy arse moving, the Indienne gown seems to be going together rather nicely.

Yesterday I thought to finish it.  I fitted the sleeves over my mannequin's shoulders (a good indication that they will fit my shoulders), and applied the shoulder straps by hand.  I turned up the edge of the bodice, in preparation for the skirt, but the skirt has turned out to be harder than I thought.
Fitting the sleeve over the shoulder and basting in place
Applying the shoulder strap on-the-form.
I know, it's a skirt, it's not supposed to be hard.  I'm trying a new-to-me technique shown in Patterns of Fashion 1: 1660-1860 and Period Costume for Stage & Screen wherein the skirt is leveled at the hem by adjusting it at the top, using elastic tied around the waist.  It didn't work so great for me, but I did manage to scribble out something of a curve at the top edge, and compared it to one of the skirts on the Vandyked gown in POF, which is also shaped at the top:

From Patterns of Fashion, the shape of the skirt on the Vandyked dress (pg 42).
The shaped top of the skirt panels seems to be working, but working the pleats at the back, which has a squared-off tail instead of a point, was troublesome, and I ended up just ripping out the whole thing, and will re-pleat it tonight, using the method of pleating straight across the waist at back, then turning down the extra inside - it's shown on the inspiration dress schematic in Costume in Detail here:
Reference image in Costume in Detail, pg 69.  The bottom left sketch shows the inside of the bodice, with the extra fullness of the skirt turned down.
The back of my bodice, awaiting the skirt.
So maybe it will be done *tonight* !
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Monday, September 17, 2012

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V261: American Duchess For The Cure - Fundraising For Breast Cancer Research

Hi all!  Did you know it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month?  Many of us have been through or have loved ones who have battled breast cancer, myself included.  To help raise money for research in this area, 10% of purchases made at this week will be donated to the cancer research group of your choosing.

When you go through checkout, you will be able to choose one of several reputable charities, or enter your own choice.  We will donate 10% of your purchase on your behalf.  Please note that American Duchess Company is not affiliated with any charities, foundations, or non-profits - we are doing this to support research in this important field, not as any kind of political statement.

We have ivory and black Pompadours, white Kensingtons, new Valois shoe buckles, and the silk stockings will be in stock mid-week (but you can put your order in now).  Also to be found are new additions to the "Imperfect" section, which will be updated throughout the week with any slightly-scuffed Pompadours and Kensingtons we find.

To prepare for our week-of-pink, Chris and I had the honor of photographing Laurie of Daze of Laur, in one of her creations, an unbelievably stunning pink gown.  Here are a selection of photos, shot by Chris:

Model: Laurie Tavan
Gown & Hat/Styling: Daze of Laur
Shoes: American Duchess
Photography: Chris Stowell
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Sunday, September 16, 2012

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V260: Tasty 18th Century Pomatum For Your Hair

"Maybe she's born with it...maybe it's beef grease pomatum."  1775 (Reynolds) Jane detail
This year at Costume College, I attended a wonderful class given by Kendra of Demode, on the social history of 18th century hair, wherein we learned some original techniques for how stylists of the past created the over-the-top hair-do's of, particularly, the 1770s.

Along with cork pads and loads of human, goat, or horse hair extensions, hair styles were "set" with pomatum.
"Pardon me, but do you have any bear grease pomatum?"  1780 (Reynolds) Ladies Waldegrave 
What the heck is pomatum?  Do you really want to know?

The stuff was originally made of bear grease, but later used domestic animal fats.  One recipe calls for sheep fat, lilly root, benjamin, and storax (the last three are plant materials) mixed together over heat, along with almond paste, and rose water. (source) .

Another recipe, from 1840 (so you know this stuff was still being used!) calls for beef marrow *and* hog's lard, spermaceti, and oil of ben melted together, along with bergamot, rose oil, and nutmeg oil. (The New Perfume Handbook, 1997).

"Easy, Breezy, Beautiful...Pomatum"  1777 (Reynolds) Diana Sackville Detail
What effect did the pomatum have on the hair?  Well, the same as strong pomade does today.  Those sculpted, smooth curls and poufs we see in portraits were created using this stuff.  Another nice perk of beef-fat-hair-gel - the powder sticks to it rather remarkably.

So chances are you *don't* want to be wearing tallow in your hair.  Apparently the giant poufs and coifs smelled rather profoundly, with all that pomatum, sweat, and powder.  I know a few of you are just itching to try making your own authentic pomatum, but for those less adventurous, what are some modern alternatives?

How about this stuff?  This is Murrays Hair Dressing Pomade, found commonly in the ethnic hair section of any WalMart, Target, Walgreens, etc.  This stuff is thick and stiff and sculpty, unlike softer modern pomades.  Murray's has been around since 1925, and is made of petrolatum, mineral oil, and fragrance.  That's it.  So we've swapped out the bear/cow/pig/sheep grease for petrolatum, but at least you won't be going around smelling like an abattoir.


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Saturday, September 15, 2012

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V259: Starting on the Snowshill 1730-50 Riding Habit

You know when you have tons of stuff to get done for a major costume event or trip, and yet Costume ADD strikes and despite being ridiculously short on time, you simply must get into something totally new?

Yes, that.

Going into Autumn here in Northern Nevada, we sometimes have the rare opportunity to enjoy both blazing golden aspen trees *and* snowfall at the same time.  Usually the leaves are all gone by the time the snow comes, but maybe, just maybe, this year we will get a concurrent leaves+snow day, maybe even two days, and I aim to be ready for a potential American Duchess holiday photoshoot on that elusive day.

Enter the riding habit.  With most costume events taking place in the Summer months, I don't have much/any Winter gear.  I've had this fabric for more than a year, though, with the plan to make the well-known Snowshill riding habit jacket found in both Patterns of Fashion 1: 1660-1860 and Costume in Detail: Women's Dress 1730-1930.  Here is the original jacket in the National Trust collection:

Snowshill Manor © National Trust / Simon Harris - 1730-1750 
This is Janet Arnold's (Patterns of Fashion 1) rendition:

And these are Nancy Bradfield's (Costume in Detail):

There is also this gorgeous traveling outfit from Marie Antoinette, made up in blue-grey velvet with silver trim, and a matching taffeta skirt worn over side hoops:

One of the reasons I've been procrastinating for so long on making this jacket up is because I wanted to have the time to really niggle in on the tailoring.  I've never done any proper tailoring, but I would like to try, as I know it has a profound effect on the way a jacket hangs and fits, particularly around the shoulders.  I've acquired some hair canvas, and have been reading up on Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing, in Couture Sewing Techniques, and The Practical Work of Dressmaking & Tailoring, the last written in 1902 and available for free on Google Books.  I would also like to try The Victorian Tailor: An Introduction to Period Tailoring, and apply the techniques to women's coats and jackets like this one.

The original jacket bodice is lined with stiff linen, with additional canvas stiffening the front edges of the jacket.  The skirts of the jacket and the CF facings are pink silk.  No other mention of tailoring techniques is made, although from what I perused last night, these "guts" are right in line with those interfacings used in contemporary men's frock coats.

My velveteen is fairly thin and actually has some funky stretch in it, so I plan to start off by interfacing the bodice pieces completely with the hair canvas, then going from there with stiffening the front edges further, and applying all the linings by hand.

The tailoring is a new thing for me, so I will blog along on anything good/bad/ugly!
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