Monday, September 30, 2013

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Vintage Halloween: Pierrot the Adorably Sad Clown

I seldom make costumes for Halloween, or even ever dress up, but this year I'm going out dancing with a friend, and I need, well, something.  I've been thinking about making a Pierrot costume for years, but the moment never came...until now!

So, sometime between the end of my wedding and Halloween, I need to acquire a bunch of white sateen or some such, and make a whole lot of black pom poms.  Here's the inspo...

Via eBay
from Etsy, but no longer available - etsy seller IrishandMore
Since we're going to a club, I think I'm going to make little shorts gathered at the legs, so they are puffy, then wear the pagliaccio shirt over them.
Traditional pagliaccio - via
I hope this is as easy as it seems.  Here's the pattern I plan to use:

via Etsy
I'll just cut the pants off short and gather them on elastic.  The rest should be pretty straight-forward :-)
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Friday, September 27, 2013

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Edwardian Beaded Shoes

Manchester, 1900, Austrian
The pinnacle of footwear styling in the Edwardian period was The Beaded Shoe.  Nothing is quite so lovely, so sparkly, so special, and so enticing.  Beads could be found on both shoes and boots, and accentuated the already gorgeous cut- and strap-work that was so popular at the time.  Here's a look at what's inspiring my grey matter today:

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Monday, September 23, 2013

8 Reasons to Love the New American Duchess Pompadour 18th Century French Court Shoes

Today is the day for the new Pompadours!  We managed to sell clean out of the old Pomps, so we took the opportunity to make some improvements that I know you'll love.

8 Reasons You'll Love the New American Duchess Pompadours

1. They're Historically Correct
Of course!  Period accuracy is our primary focus, and with each new development, we try to get closer to how original shoes looked, but without the pinchy, blistery, squeezy, pain of shoes that lacked rather important things like arch support.  A few of Pompadour's reference pieces can be found here, here, and here.

The Met, 1690-1709
2. They're Splendidly Pretty
When you've spent so much time on your gorgeous gown, why pair it with lackluster shoes? Ladies of the period certainly didn't - middling and upper class ladies' shoes were made of  brocade, embroidered silk, painted leather, and laced damask.  These shoes were jewels for the feet, which is exactly the point of Pompadours as well.

3. They're Dyeable
Don't believe me? Here's a Pompadour dyed ORANGE, using International Fabric Shoe Dyes, coming soon to our shop.  The brocade pattern takes the dye up strongly, while the background is a softer tone.

Orange creamsicle Pompadours? sure, why not!?
4. They Have The White Rand
The white rand is a piece of leather "piping" between the upper and sole, found on shoes prior to roughly the 1760s/70s.  It is a characteristic trait we felt was important to the historically accurate look of the shoe - plus it's snazzy.

Top - from the Met; Bottom - Pomps
5. They Have Bodacious Heels
Pompadour's heels were custom made just for us, and can only be found on American Duchess shoes.  They are curvaceous and thick, just like original Georgian heels.

Pompadour with an original shoe from Shoe Icons
6. We've Improved the Fit
Pompadours fit better than ever, with more accurate sizing, more ease over the arch, and a slightly-less-crazy-but-no-less-elegant pointed toe.

Pompadour's new toe shape is still elegantly pointed, and more comfortable to wear.
7. Leather, Leather, Leather
We've also improved materials - the lining, heel material, rand, and sole are all real leather, which means better comfort and accuracy all around.

8. They Are Beloved of Theaters and Studios
Pompadours have been sent to production companies all over the world, from Film Afrika in South Africa, to the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.  Our particular favorite was the appearance Pompadours made in NBC's "Smash," on the feet of lead actress Megan Hilty.

Smash, Season 2, Episode 6 - a pair of pink painted Pompadours makes a rather bold appearance on actress Megan Hilty
The new Pompadours are now available to pre-order at . Pompadours are already in production, so size quantities are limited.  Delivery is in January - a long time, but well worth the wait, as Pompadours are one of our most in-demand styles.

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Friday, September 20, 2013


Weddingote: It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Something...

The whole thing, with the skirt not yet trimmed up.  Plus dog.
I've been in a terrible sewing slump lately, but managed to get a bit done on the wedding gown, now due to be complete in about 1 month.  Others keep freaking out on my behalf when I tell them I'm just bimbling along on it, but I keep telling myself, "hey, I sew stuff like this in short periods of time all year long!" and then I don't feel rushed.

The finished back - the CB pieces don't have lining yet
At present, the skirt is on, the bodice is stitched.  I need to trim up the skirt - I cut each panel square at the bottom, thinking I'll round it off, but I realize that probably wasn't the best way to do it.  I had no extra fabric to spare, though, so I think it had to happen this way.  I'm sure it will work out fine (isn't that what I always say?)

Need to fix this gapping and add boning on the edges
I have some gaposis at the front.  I *hate* edge-to-edge closure, but I wanted to be true to the original gown. It's just a matter of moving hooks and eyes, everyone's favorite task.

The side back seams did not match up with the inverted box pleats, but both sides match, and are cleanly assembled, so I'm happy.  There will be a button at the junction here, besides.
I'm on to the sleeves next, and some interior gut-work.  My dear mother has embroidered the buttons, and we're getting together next week to put them over the molds.  There are twelve buttons total, embroidered with silver flowers and a pearl in the center of each one.

Because Chris and I already live together, this is how I am "hiding" my dress, until the big day.
Stay tuned!
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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

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The 3rd Annual Steampunk Ball of Piper's Opera House, 2013

Liza rockin' her Victorian tail bodice with shorts and amazing stockings
This past weekend Chris and I worked our tails off at the 3rd Annual Steampunk Ball up in Virginia City, Nevada.  We did the photography room again this year, and it's quite crazy all night long, but I did get a chance to walk around a bit, and take a few snaps.  Here are a collection of photos:

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Monday, September 16, 2013

Winner: "Claremont" 1930s Shoes Giveaway

The day has finally come to choose the winner of the 1930s "Claremont" oxford shoes. Yay!

I won't hold you in suspense any longer.  The winner is...

Beth Bradshaw

Alas, there could only be one winner, but never fear.  There's one more week to place your order for Claremonts, and get the nice $20 discount.  We're only running 200 of these, remember, so if you want to be assured you get a pair, dance on over to

Thank you so much for entering, and helping to spread the word about our shoes! Its you ladies and gents that make this all work, and I have immense love for you all. <3


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Friday, September 13, 2013


"Real" Late Victorian Steampunk Fashions for Women

The Met, 1897-99 (via) - an excellent start to a fabulous Steampunk ensemble.  My favorites are the original gowns that unknowingly have that Steampunk flavor.
I haven't been working on my wedding gown.  I'm quite terrible and maybe lazy, but I just haven't felt like it.  All I've been focused on lately is shoes, shoes, shoes (it's a good thing, though, being my employment!)

This weekend is the 3rd Annual Steampunk Ball in Virginia City, Nevada, an event our little costume club started three years ago, and has since grown into a big crazy thing.  I'm very excited! So I'd like to share some "original" Steampunk fashions - that is, extant ensembles that didn't know they were Steampunk over 100 years ago when they were first created.  These make excellent Steampunk gowns - just glue some gears on it, right?

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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Monday, September 9, 2013

Giveaway: "Claremont" 1930s Oxfords!

It's that time again, time for a GIVEAWAY! Whee!

What's up for grabs?
A pair of 1930s "Claremont" Oxfords -or- a gift certificate for the equivalent amount ($135 value).

How to enter?
There are *lots* of ways to enter, from a simple tweet to sharing on your blog.  Some entries are worth 2 entry points, and you can do ALL of them, to increase your chances of winning.

Who Can Enter?
Everyone.  If you've already shared about the Claremonts, go ahead and click the method by which you shared, enter the link if needed, and you're good to go.

If you've already pre-ordered Claremonts and then go on to win the giveaway, your Claremonts will be free, OR you can choose the gift certificate option, to use on anything in the shop.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
If you want to share the giveaway widget itself (just like the one above), here is the link to acquire the widget embed code:

If you need images for your posts, you can acquire them here, here, or below.  Don't worry about copyright - download and alter however you like:

The winner will be chosen Monday, September 16.
Good Luck!
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Saturday, September 7, 2013


Kodachrome Beauties

August 1942. Via
I have a bit of an obsession with old photography, and I particularly love pretty much anything cross-processed.  I've never chemically developed a photo myself, which is maybe sacrilege, but I enjoy trying to re-create the look of old pictures, and the processes that created them, in Photoshop.

October 1942 Via
Our "Claremont" shoot was one such project.  I wanted the photos to look like they came from the late 30s/early 40s, without being too Instagram.  Naturally, the best thing to do is refer back to the real thing, original vintage Kodachromes.

Chicago, April 1943. Via
Kodachrome was one of the first successful color films available, produced by Eastman Kodak starting in 1935.  It was a favorite of professional photographers for periodicals like Life and Time, but due to the skill required to develop it, Kodachrome was discontinued in 2009, much to the chagrin of the traditional photography community.

October 1942. Via
October 1942. Via
October 1942. Via
There's a particular quality to these old photos that I find incredibly appealing.  The color, both bold and desaturate at the same time; the grain, the lighting; of course, the subject matter.  Looking at my photos from the other day, versus these, now I think I didn't do a very good job!

Classic Las Vegas, 1958. via
August 1942. Via
October 1942. Via
If you are interested in old photos, I highly recommend
If you want to learn more about Kodachrome, click here.
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Friday, September 6, 2013

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Glam Your Gams with Claremont 1930s Oxfords

After tromping around the University of Nevada, Reno, campus for several hours, I'm more in love with these shoes than ever.  They're comfy, snazzy, and totally made the ensemble.

The inspiration for this shoot came from old color photos, particularly Kodachrome images, from the 1930s, 40s, and 50s.

Chris was the photographer, and I was the model.
Shoes: "Claremont" 1930s oxfords in chocolate brown suede
Stockings: Fully Fashioned "point" heel, in tan
Blouse: Modcloth "Fresh and Fluttery" top via Vintage Dancer
Skirt is my own make, and hat is vintage.

More particulars on the Claremonts:

  • 100% suede leather upper with patent leather trim
  • Leather lined
  • Lace-up closure is adjustable
  • Man-made, super-durable, campus-stompin' soles
  • Custom moulded, 2 3/8" / 6.03 cm heel

Pre-Ordering is open September 2 - 22, with a $20 discount over the regular retail price.  Delivery is estimated for late December.  Skip on over to to reserve your pair.

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Thursday, September 5, 2013


1860s Button Boots with Scalloped Fly

The boots, once stuffed and supported, were in surprisingly good condition.
Every once in awhile something particularly smashing comes up on eBay and I get all giddy about it.  These boots were one of those "moments."

Despite the flattened condition the boots were in, in the seller's photos, I knew from the hallmarks that these boots were somewhere around the 1870 date.  The square toe, scalloped fly, and shape of the heel made them particularly desirable, and when they finally arrived in the mail, I was even happier.
These boots are made of textile with leather facings just on the fly and at top, and leather covered heels.
Using Women's Shoes in America, 1795-1930 ,by Nancy Rexford, along with the plethora of Metropolitan Museum and VandA pins I've been collecting on Pinterest, to assist in dating, I've come up with a date range of 1865-1870, specifically, though for a general stylistic period, these work for the very late 1850s to about 1880.  They're not the *oldest* shoes in my meager collection, but they are possibly the most special, because of their rarity.

Ten white steel-shanked glass buttons are stitched on with strong thread, and pulled through wire-lined buttonholes
Naturally, I've sent one of these delicious boots off to our factory to be studied and reproduced for the modern foot, so you can expect to hear updates of Civil War and early Bustle Era footwear coming next year.
That is one very square toe, one of the strongest identifier for this period

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Monday, September 2, 2013

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Introducing "Claremont" 1930s Oxfords - Pre-Order Now Open

"Claremont" 1930s Oxfords
Pre-Order September 2 - 22, 2013
$115 ($135)

Today I'm excited to present to you a new 20th century vintage repro, "Claremont," a chocolate brown suede-and-patent ladies' oxford straight out of the 1930s.

Here are the specifics:

  • Claremont oxfords are made of suede leather with patent leather stripe trim
  • Lined in leather, too.
  • The lace-up closure is adjustable
  • Heels are 2 3/8 inches / 6.03 cm, custom-made and balanced.
  • Soles are man-made and extremely durable
  • B width

Claremont's original inspiration shoe is this one, from the London College of Fashion Shoe Collection.

The original shoe was made by Rosenthal and Doucette, dated to the late '30s.  We did our version in chocolate brown (though a maroon option is possible for the future, as well as black), with additional stripes at the back, and a lower heel - the original is 3 3/4 inch; ours is 2 3/8 inch.

"Claremont" is named for the collection of colleges in Claremont, California, founded in the 1920s, including the ladies' college Scripps.  They have a decidedly sophisticated style that works for both historical and modern outfits.  Just imagine your Clares paired with a tweed skirt and fitted blazer, perhaps something like this:

For those who are new to the Pre-Order process, here's how it works:

New American Duchess shoe styles are 100% crowdfunded.  The success of a new style depends on how many pre-orders are placed.

The new style will be available to order for three weeks, during which time you get a nice discount, and are able to reserve your pair(s) out of the production run, which is usually only 200 pairs spread over 11 sizes.  I highly recommend pre-ordering if you wear a smaller or larger size, such as a size 6 or a size 11.

After the pre-order ends, the order is placed with the factory.  Manufacture takes about 10 weeks.  You can still place an order during this period, but no longer for the sale price.

The sale of everything in our shop helps to fund a new shoe style, so a pre-order period is a great time to order those shoes, stockings, or buckles you've been eyeing, because it all helps us continue to offer more and more historical footwear and other goodies.  More information on the Pre-Order process can be found here:
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