Friday, August 30, 2013

Community Pride: Historical Sewing Online

Costume bloggers at Costume College 2012
I just want to take this moment to say how proud I am of the online historical sewing community.

This is a truly amazing group of international hobbyist and professionals that has grown so much over such a short time.  When I started following costuming blogs back in 2007-or-so, there were the few GREATS that paved the way - Harman Hay, Demode, Festive Attyre, and many others come to mind - and what has followed their example is truly inspiring: literally hundreds of costumer's blogs, with new seamsters joining the online community every day.

Bloggers Marja of "Before the Automobile," and Kendra of "Demode," worked together to make this moment of glory happen at Costume College, 2013
Through this community we have all been able to learn and improve our skills.  Just a day or two ago I received helpful tips on my wedding gown project, recommendations for books on tailoring, and assistance with pattern drafting, from incredibly knowledgeable artists willing to share their skills.  And, of course, without you guys, I would never have been able to open American Duchess Historical Footwear.

I have also been thrilled to see fellow bloggers working out patterning issues, conducting world-class research on Regency stays, and experimenting with original cosmetics recipes to re-create a completely authentic historical look.

Festive Attyre Curtain-Along members, and this wasn't even all of us at Costume College.  There are more world-wide, even.
In truth, this community is *AWESOME,* and growing in awesomeness every day.  Just this year we've seen The Historical Sew Fortnightly, The Festive Attyre Curtain-Along, and now, just springing to life, the 18th Century Court Ensembles and sister Robe de Style sew-a-long, all group projects stretching across the continents.

So just take this moment to pat yourself on the back and continue to enjoy being a part of this wonderful, world-wide group of talented, generous people.

With Much Love,

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

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Introducing New "Cavendish" 18th Century Shoe Buckles

I have a new shiny thing to share with you!  I've been working on a new style of buckle for a bit, fashioned after an original pair I found on eBay quite some time ago:

The original pair - left is polished, right is before polishing
The original pair, as you can see, weren't very refined even when they were made.  These were everyday-man's buckles, maybe townsman, who knows, but I thought they were charming nevertheless, and they even fit the Kensingtons quite nicely.

Jump ahead 200+ years, and here's our version:

The floral elements are much refined (and also similar to some other original examples), and according to your comments and votes on the AD Facebook page, we ran these in antiqued gold as well as antiqued silver.

On the left is the original Georgian buckle, and on the right is the patina'd antique gold "Cavendish" re-creation.
The patina is quite lovely - gives them an old look, of course, but also plants these nicely in the middle class, for those personas who wouldn't wear something so glimmery as Fleur, Dauphine, or Valois buckles.

Cavendish 18th Century Shoe Buckles fit a latchet about 1 1/4 inches wide, are made of white brass plated, and come in silver and gold.  You can find them on our website at:

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Weddingote: Starting and Progress

Pad stitching on the lapels.
After finding all the little flaws and tweaks in my test garment, I decided to not finish it (primarily because of the alarmingly short waist), but to go ahead and get started on the final creation for my wedding, coming up in just under two months.

It was brain-melter getting this thing cut out, due to my limited yardage, the back pieces being cut in one with the skirt, and my burning desire for a 60+ inch skirt (waist to hem).  I'm still a little nervous about the total yardage I have in the skirt, but in pinning it all roughshod on the dress form, I think it's going to work out just fine.
Does this train make my butt look long? Lol ... this was, like, 90+ inches from waist.  I trimmed it up to about 60 inches, still a nice trailing hem.
I've been picking my way through the construction little by little.  There's a weird order to everything because of the shawl collar.  Right now I have the front pieces all lined and faced, and attached to the back pieces at the neck and shoulders, but the back seam is just basted.  I like to do my closure first, then fit the back through the side back seams, and finally the center back seam, to make sure everything is as well fitted as can be.

Pad stitched collar looks pretty alright.
The pad stitching on the collar was quite fun and seems to be working.  This is the first time I have tailored a collar, and it probably wasn't the best to start on silk taffeta, but I can see what a wonderful effect it will have on more wooly textiles.  I steamed the thing like crazy last night, and I think it's laying pretty alright.  I can't expect perfection on something I've only done once, so I'll settled for pretty good.  I have to remember that before two weeks ago, I was perfectly happy with regular, non-tailored collars; this is just an improvement.

Attaching the back to the front was particularly difficult, but thanks to 18th century methodology, worked out alright and is laying smoothly.  Plus I like the look of prick stitch.
I'm realizing the difficulty with this gown is that it is so simple that any mistake or ill-fit will be painfully obviously.  I'm hand-stitching pretty much the whole thing, even the long seams on the skirt, because the taffeta is quite finicky, and even the most careful machine stitching is too much pucker.  I want maximum control.

It's beginning to look like...something.
Onward! The front closure and side back seams are next, followed by applying the rest of the skirt.  Sleeves will be last.
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Monday, August 26, 2013


Tavistock Button Boots: Re-Pre-Order!

Hi Ladies!

I've gone and ordered another run of Tavistock button boots in black leather, and would like to give you the opportunity to reserve your pair between now and when the shipment arrives in November.

And the best part?  Now we are offering up to size 11 (US), in both wide and regular calf.

The deal with the Re-Pre is that if your size is in stock now, it will ship right away, but if it isn't, your order will complete when the shipment arrives in November (basically "backorder," but we like "re-pre-order" better).  The boots are scheduled to arrive for Winter, and the Holiday season.

Size quantities are limited.  Place your order on the website:

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Friday, August 23, 2013

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2013 Costume College, Pt. 3 - The Gala

Merja's Baroque gown OMG.  This wasn't her Gala dress, but I needed to include a photo of it anyway.
Ready for the last set of pics from Costume College?  Well, I took quite a few, but the camera tends to get in the way, so I stowed it in my room, and thus did not capture the bulk of the Gala evening.

Cait of Curse Words & Crinolines, with her beau
The Gala is quite wonderful.  It starts with a "red carpet" amble down to the dining room, where one is then served quite a meal, followed by dancing, and lots of socializing.  It's the main event to which to wear your most fantastical, craziest, biggest, most beautiful creation.

Each year, there is a Costume College theme - this year it was "Baroque With a Touch of Pirate," so a great many of the Gala costumes were 17th century.  There are no rules to the Gala, though, so we saw gowns of all centuries and realms, including two fantastic Alien and Predator creations (of course, I didn't get a photo, boo).

Detail on Cait's Robe Battante
Alyxx in a "goldfish" fancy dress costume

Rebecca's utterly stunning 17th c.

Cathy re-created one of my favorite gowns from "Costume in Detail," a 1908 dinner gown
In addition to the Costume College theme, many groups like to create their own themes.  Last year the Northern Nevada ladies all dressed in silver and blue.  This year, there was a group of gorgeously attired nymphs and goddesses, as well as a collection of Natural Form beauties.

Detail on Cathy's 1908 gown
Tim and Claudia's daughter Vivienne

Ginger's incredibly 17th c. court gown.  Utter perfection, with unexpected details.
Lauren M's late 18th c. zone gown, inspired by one in KCI
Elizabeth's 17th c. gown was gorgeous, with metallic lace and pearls over gold.  Plus the mask is just awesome.
Natalie's beautiful "Gibson Girl" dress, with all those handmade ribbon flowers, and, of course, her perfect Edwardian figure.
My Gala gown for this year was the Green Acres bustle gown.  It qualified as my "biggest, craziest, and best," plus it was something I didn't have to feverishly finish just before the trip.  I had a fun time dragging the train around, and feeling generally quite fluffy.  I fiddled my hair up based on various images I pinned, though all my hair pieces are different colors, lol, and I finally got to wear the vintage Prince of Wales plume I purchased on Etsy last year.

My one "official" Costume College photo
(c) Roger Weeks
Well, that does it for Costume College 2013! Next year....? But of course!  Who knows who will wear what (or what I will wear, too), but there's a whole year of costuming ahead of us.  Onward!

If you'd like to learn more about Costume College, please visit the website - - for information on next year's event.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013


1930s Oxfords: Your Vote, Please!

Ladies, I have so many exciting new shoes to share with you, but first I need your opinions.

I had "Claremont," our 1930s reproduction oxfords, sampled in both black suede and brown.  Because we have so many things to order this Fall, including re-stocks of your faves, we can only choose one colorway for the first pre-order of this '30s beauty.  Which do you prefer?

Please vote in the poll below.  The winner of this poll will be the first colorway made.  Success of Claremont means more colors in the future, so if you don't fancy the winner, never fear.  Thank you!

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

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Weddingote: Draping and Testing

Now that Costume College has come and gone, it's time to focus seriously on my wedding gown, which is to be worn in two months time.  I'm going to share my progress here (I've told Mr. C he's forbidden to read my blog, not like he does anyway), starting from the very beginning...draping/patterning/testing.
Marie Antoinette redingote gown, photo by Yve Fontilea, via Costumer's Guide
I set to work on recreating my favorite gown from Marie Antoinette, starting with my basic I-know-it-fits Robe a l'Anglaise pattern.  I smooshed it together with a basic modern blazer pattern, to get the neckline for the collar somewhat in the ballpark.  I'm very unfamiliar with collars - they scare me to death - especially a shawl collar, which has a funny extension piece that goes around the back of the neck, all in one with the front piece.

The tail off the back will be a full extension into the skirt.  For the test piece, it's going to be the tail of a pierrot.
With a combination of flat patterning and draping, I arrived at something that looked right-ish, but instead of jumping right in to the silk taffeta (like I normally do), I've decided to make a test garment out of some faille-like medium-weight stuff I've had for ages, asking to something inspired by this KCI jacket:

Kyoto Costume Institute - Jacket (pierrot) 1790
I'm *so glad* I've been noodling away on this test garment, because I've already learned quite a lot of things.

The button cuffs are stupid and on the final version won't be functional. After this photo, I promptly wacked them off and the sleeves for the test jacket will be 3/4, thankyouverymuch.

Putting together the collar has been eye-opening.  I'm following the instructions in Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing , for taping the roll lines and pad stitching the lapels.  I'm also referencing The Victorian Tailor, for help with, uh, everything collar-related.  I didn't use hair canvas on my test collar here, but will be on the final gown.

So I've arrived at something that looks like it's working now.  I need to extend the waistline about a 1/2", as is usual for me, but otherwise I think the bodice is going to work out nicely.  Yay! I plan to finish this jacket before starting on the final gown, just in case there are any more surprises, and also because it'll be nice to have a new 18th c. thing. :-)

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Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Lake Tahoe Gatsby Picnic, 2013

You already espied a few photos from last weekend's Gatsby picnic at Lake Tahoe, but here are a few more just for jollies...

A picnic set up with a fair few original magazines
A boy on stilts, because.
Mum in her early '20s bathing costume
Liza and me.  Liza's dress is upcycled from a Forever 21 find.
The Lake Tahoe Gatsby is like the Oakland Gatsby, but in miniature.  It's quite a charming little event, taking place at the Pope Mansion in Tallac park, South Shore of Tahoe, every August.  There are vendors selling vintage clothes and knicknackery, music (this year by a ukelele band), a car club (this year it was Dodges, last year Fords), a fashion show and tea, house tours, and the ever present Big Blue.  It is one of our favorite events of the season.

Dodge, oh yeah
Oscar always looks dapper
Liza's grandparents, her grandmother wearing a dress very similar to the one Liza created
Lil' Autumn in her matching-mom dress
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