Friday, June 28, 2013

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Edwardian Elegance - "Gibson" Summer Photoshoot

A couple weekends ago, Chris and I ventured out with our gorgeous Edwardian model Liza, to shoot the new "Gibson" Edwardian shoes that have just come into stock.

Liza wore an antique chemise dress that fit her perfectly.  I couldn't believe it (and subsequently turned a dark shade of green) when she told me that a friend of hers had *given* it to her.  She also brought along the most beautiful antique parasol I've ever seen.  I turned even greener when she told me she found it for $23! (The Vintage-Find-Foo is strong with this one)

We shot on location in our favorite local park, Rancho San Rafael, which has served for our French countryside before.  This time it played the role of Edwardian Western ranch, or perhaps a central park promenade somewhere sophisticated.  You'll see Liza on our website, Facebook page, and also gracing the cover of our new Summer catalog.

Chris in the grass
We hope you enjoy these photos of Liza, and that they inspire Edwardian creations and dress-ups of your own.  If you've like a pair of Gibsons, they come in three colors (black, butterscotch, and dyeable ivory), and you can find them at

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

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1790s Chintz Gown - More Fiddling

I've been stitching along on this 1790s chintz gown, little by little, fiddle by fiddle.  My apologies for these terrible photos - someday I will find my camera's battery charger and stop having to use my phone!

The whole front is pinned on here, just to see how it will work.  The bodice and back skirt are complete, and now it's time to fiddle onto the bib and front skirt, with the three rows of cording.  My focus is on the bustline - it needs to be quite low to achieve the look and balance of the original design.  This will put the bodice neckline lower than the stays, which mean I will always have to wear this gown with the neckline filled with a neckerchief or chemisette. (I would anyway; it's a day dress, and the idea of different chemisettes is enticing)

Onward to completion, then....
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Monday, June 24, 2013


June Retro Picnic, with Vintage Advance 6643

This past weekend was The Weekend of Costume Picnics.  My Facebook feed has been exploding with the photographic evidence, and we here in Northern Nevada also partook.  Despite the weather being poor, our local costume club invaded the lawn of Bower's Mansion.

Ours was a multi-period picnic - no specific period was indicated, so we had costumes from 1890 through the 1950s.  Debbie (Vintage Dancer) and I represented the '50s contingent, she in a lovely vintage find, complete with vintage petticoat (I'm jealous of that petticoat!), and I in a quick project with one of the vintage patterns I picked up a couple years back.

'50s girls - me and Debbie.  Photo by Oscar Sessions
The pattern was Advance 6643, View 1 with the slim skirt.  I had some red, white, and blue cotton Debbie had given me, for the main portion of the dress, paired with a white cotton with red ribbon trim for the massive oh-so-'50s collar, and red cotton for the belt.  I was pleased with the fit - it was one of the only patterns in that bulk purchase that actually fit my measurements (the rest were a size too small).  For alterations, I moved the zipper from the side to the back, on account of yardage restrictions, and dropped the waist by 1/2", which turned out perfectly.

Advance 6643
Apparently this is called a "Florentine" collar.
I'm very happy with the result, particularly the fit.  My only gripe is that the big square collar is sortof droopy over the bust, and my corner-turning on the neckline wasn't very well-executed.  These things aren't enough to bug me into deconstructing the dress, though.

All in all, I'm chuffed with the pattern, with or without the big collar - it's a great basic sheath, simple to put together, with a great fit.

p.s. Please excuse my lack of photos - I still haven't found my camera charger.  These photos were taken by Debbie's husband Oscar.
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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Have a Flip Through the Summer Shoe Catalog...

After last week's photo shoot with our beautiful Gibson Girl, Liza, I thought it would be cool to share some of the photos in an interactive catalog, which took me entirely too long to figure out how to do, but here it is:

I hope you enjoy it! Please share it around as you like, and help spread the word about American Duchess Historical Footwear.

I'll share more photos of Liza in her original Edwardian gown soon.  :-)

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Friday, June 21, 2013

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1790s Chintz Gown - In Progress

A few days back I got the bee in my bonnet to start sewing on this 1790s chintz gown, inspired by the Museum of London gown everyone loves so much:

Museum of London Chintz Gown- this fabric is of course far lovelier and more subtle than the dark ground Indienne chintz I have.  I don't think my final product will do this gown justice, as my fabric is so big and loud...
I hacked up my Robe Royaliste pattern, shortening the waist up to the empire line, then added the sleeve pattern from my 1780s cream Indienne gown (the only sleeve I've ever drafted that actually fits), and there we go.

The back of the bodice with the skirt just haphazardly pinned on, so I can see how it will sortof look.  This fabric doesn't mirror patterns, so I tried to cut the pieces so that there would not be any obvious repeats, especially in the center back (had this problem on my ivory version, and it bugs me to this day).

I decided to deal with the drop-front portion of the gown after completing the back and underbodice on the front, since it will take some mocking up to get the neckline.  In the process I was tickled to find that without the bib and front skirt panel, you just have an open robe.

Fitting the under-bodice over my new Regency stays.  The bib will lap over the top, covering the boobular region, but only just...
There must be something magical about this fabric, because it just goes together so nicely.  (famous last words?).  I have the other sleeve to put on, then the trained back skirt.  After that, I get to deal with the bib and front skirt, but I'm hoping with a little experimentation, this will go together nicely too. :-)
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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

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Chopines - Platforms of the Past

Chopines are so cool, especially when you compare them to the oh-so-modern heel-less shoes that are currently in fashion.  I guess they're not as modern as they think. :-)

How do you gals feel about chopines, then?  Would you like to see chopines added to our shop?  A seedling of an idea - velvet, moderate platform, without heavy trims, so you can decorate your own.  Thoughts?

Here are some originals that are quite inspiring...

Bata Shoe Museum - late 16th c.
The Met - 1590 - 1610
The Met - 1550-1650
MFA - possibly 1740s

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

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Victorian & Edwardian Stockings

Via - I'll take any of these, please.
Throughout history, people have worn some pretty spectacular hosiery.  I'm tickled today when I see fantastic socks for sale (and I often buy them, too), because it's really nothing new.  We are all familiar with 18th century clocked stockings, but things didn't get mundane after that century's passing.  On the contrary!  Check out what the Victorians and Edwardians were wearing...

Lace Inserts - c. 1900-1910
The Met - lace inset stockings, 1900-1910
Via eBay - chantilly lace inserts, typical of Late Victorian/Edwardian
The Met - another pair with lace inserts, 1900-1910
Eye-bursting Patterns - 1870s
The Met - Bold patterns were popular in the 1870s
The Met - 1873 - two different patterns in the same colors.  Zowy!
The Met - 1870. My particular Victorian favorite, because you can still find these in stores today
"Old-Fashioned" Clocks - 1800-1860s
The Met - labeled "19th century"
The Met - 1865. These look 18th century, but are 100 years younger
The Met - 1859
Geometrics - 1890s-1900
The Met - 1900
The Met - 1890s
The Met - 1890s, and another style still available today
Repeated Pattern - 1800-early 20th c. (into 1920s too)
The Met - 1887
The Met - 1890s
The Met - 1900
So when you're out shopping for period socks, keep these ideas in mind.  Occasionally you'll run into some surprisingly historical hosiery out there, like these examples...

Sock Dreams - striped socks, similar to 1890s
Sock Dreams - a bold design, similar to 1870s styles
Modcloth - similar to 1900-1910 styles
There's also the American Duchess range, which will be expanding from 18th c. and early 19th c. into Victorian and Edwardian for this Holiday Season. :-)

American Duchess Edwardian/1920s silk stockings - coming soon.

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Monday, June 17, 2013


Rat Rods & Rockabillies - Reno Rockabilly Riot

....that was a lot of 'R's, lol.

Hot Rod at Reno Rockabilly Riot

This past weekend, my friend Stephanie and I visiting Reno Rockabilly Riot, a cute little event with a few vendors and a lot of cool cars.

Reno has a lot of car stuff going on - Hot August Nights is our annual city-wide classic car celebration.  We also have the National Automobile Museum; a large, private collection of vintage military vehicles; the Barrett-Jackson supercar auctions; and even Keke Rosburg's Formula1 race car chillin' in a hidden bunker in the middle of town.  On top of those crazy things, we've Reno Rockabilly Riot, which I consider an art show, really.
Rat Rad at Reno Rockabilly Riot

Rat Rods are like the Steampunks of the car world - cobbled together, tinkered with, boosted, frankensteined, chopped, all of it, and nothing at all to do with historical accuracy - it's the creation of fantastical automobiles by whatever means possible, not unlike the way Carol Shelby brought the infamous Shelby AC Cobra to life back in 1962.

By the way.......I like cars.  A lot.

Anywho, it was a fun day.  I wore my old sailor pants and a red bandanna, and lots of sunscreen.  Good times. :-)
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Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Your Opinions Please - Fully Fashioned Stockings

Hi Ladies! Today I need your votes to help decide some things about the future line of vintage-style seamed stockings I'm working for the shop.

Before you vote, here are some definitions:

These stockings are knitted to fit the leg size, as opposed to using just stretchiness to fit.  The seams are functional, and the heels feature an attractive reinforcement, such as a "point" or "cuban" style.  Fully-Fashioned stockings are the top-of-the-line in vintage legwear, and while gorgeous, are the most expensive option.
Examples of heels styles in Fully Fashioned Stockings

Reinforced Heel & Toe
These stockings have a mock back seam, no decorative heel style, but a reinforced heel & toe.  They fit the leg by stretch.  They are also well-made, but are about half to price of the Fully-Fashioned.  They are also more readily available.
Example of Reinforced Heel & Toe with back seam
American Duchess seamed stockings will be closely based on 1920s and 1930s examples, and offered in several sizes.  Colors will be true to the times, with tone-on-tone seams, welts, and reinforcements, not black, red, or anything risque.  Straight-up vintage.

So, if you will, your opinions please...

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Monday, June 10, 2013

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Curtain-Along Dress #2: 1790s

Last year, I joined Festive Attyre's "Curtain-Along" sewing event, when I fell in love with the Waverly "Felicite" curtains from Lowes, and made my favorite dress ever, the 1780 Indienne Robe a l'Anglaise.

Oodles of other amazing costumers have used the curtains as well, and with seeing everyone else's projects, I just haven't been able to stop thinking about the black colorway of this fabric - it's so striking!  (And if I'm honest, I'll probably make something out of the red ones in the future too).  So while Mr. C was selecting his new barbeque at Lowes this past weekend, I took the opportunity to snatch up a couple panels of curtains, with the idea of this dress dancing through my mind:

The gown is from the Museum of London.  You won't find it on their site - this photo came from an image directory on the University of Vermont's website.  No date, but it's round about 1790s/1800s.  I adore the low, scooped next, the simple sleeves, and...of course...the fabric.

The original fabric has a dark teal ground, and a smaller chintz print than the black curtains I'll be working with, but I'm hoping to achieve the overall effect.  Thanks to several comments on Facebook, I know this dress is a bib-front, and the decoration at the neckline is cording.  I am thinking of messing around with my Robe Royaliste pattern, to raise the waistline, or perhaps just draping a new pattern altogether.  Wish me luck!

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Friday, June 7, 2013

Spring Sale - Pompadours & Imperfects on Sale

It's the magical time of year when we make space in the garage-turned-warehouse, and have a big crackin' sale!

Pompadours are on clearance, to make room for the new version.  We've also sorted through the stock and found a handful of Gibsons, 23Skidoos, and ivory Tavistock boots that have minor cosmetic flaws, so those are on sale for silly prices.

Imperfects tend to go out the door quite quickly, so if you've been yearning for a pair of AD shoes, here's your chance to snag some for a greatly reduced price.  This is "first-come-first-served," and when they're gone, that's it.

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Thursday, June 6, 2013


Mme Demorest's Illustrated Portfolio of the Fashions for 1880

Last weekend a dear friend, Jenny, gave me an incredible gift - a complete pattern catalog from 1880.  I've been studying it with great interest and costume lust, careful to keep the drool from dripping on the fragile pages, and now, of course, I am enamored with 1880 and want to make about 16 of the pieces shown in the catalog.

I've decided to digitize the whole thing for you, wrapped up into a lovely PDF, but I've never done this before, so while I sort the whole thing out, here are a few choice pages:

I'm still working on cleaning up, cropping, and correcting the images.  The original catalog is approx. 14" x 10", with *tiny* print, barely readable on the original.  I'm afraid the descriptions of the images, in both French and English, may not survive digitizing, but the pictures, at least, are lovely and telling.  This was, like, the Vogue pattern catalog of 1880!
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