Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Nankeen Regency Boots Giveaway!

It's time for another awesome giveaway for a pair of American Duchess shoes - this time it's our "Nankeen" Regency Half-Boots -OR- Store Credit equivalent!

Most of you are familiar with you giveaways these days. Post on your blog for 2 entry points, join the mailing list, "like" us on Facebook, etc. You can gain quite a few entries by sharing about the giveaway and the boots, increasing your chances of winning.

*Please feel free to use any photos of Nankeen that you like! You can find lots of photos here: http://www.american-duchess.com/shoes-18th-century/nankeen-fabric-regency-boots

The Prize:

1 pair of "Nankeen" Regency Boots in your size
Nankeens are a later Regency fabric boot with leather soles, adjustable lacing closure, and a soft, round toe. They are perfect for daywear, intended for outdoor use, and are even dyeable (purple, red, blue, oh my!) You can learn more about the boots here.

*If you've already pre-ordered a pair of Nankeen boots, your order will be refunded, or you can choose store credit, and put the value towards anything you like.

Good Luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Friday, February 21, 2014


Introducing and Celebrating Nankeen Regency Boots

Today is the day for our latest historical shoe - "Nankeen" Regency Boots!

Nankeen boots were an early 19th century fabric walking boots with adjustable lacing closure. Just like boots of old, our Nankeens have soft toes (no toe caps), leather soles, stitched eyelets, and bound edges.

The name "Nankeen" comes from the variety of cotton used to make these boots, originally a pale buff-colored cloth manufactured in Nanjing, China. Shortly after its rise in popularity, Nankeen cloth was "knocked off" in Europe, and made of just ordinary cotton dyed to the characteristic khaki color. Ironically, our modern Nankeen cloth is, in fact, made in China, which is entirely historically accurate!

First, I want to show you some historical examples:

Click this link for an in-depth description and many photos of these fabulous Nankeen boots.
From The Beau Mone Blog (defunct) - Ladies half boots, tied with cord, and with little rosettes on the vamps.
Museum of London - 1815 - Nankeen boots made by Miss Francis Burrow. I love that these are described as having traces of horse droppings still on the soles. Click through for more information and views.
And here is our version...

Nankeen Regency Boots

Regency Nankeen Boots
The material, seam placement, and silhouette all follow the originals. I've left off the silk bows and decorations, so you can customize them as you like. The specs:

  • Hand-made uppers are buff-colored, dyeable cotton
  • Lining is same, with a facing of leather around the top and opening
  • Lace closure is adjustable, through stitched eyelets
  • Leather soles, with a 1/2" stacked lift at the heel
  • Women's US sizes 6 - 11
  • Historically accurate for c. 1800 - 1820

Nankeens are also wonderfully dyeable. A quick test with the International Fabric Dye produced a vibrant and consistent finish, which means you can create a totally unique pair of boots to match your Regency wardrobe.

Not the best photo, but you can see how consistent and rich the color is.
If you like our Nankeens, you can pre-order your pair between February 21st and March 16th, and receive $20 off the regular price. We need to sell about 80 pairs of these to make the production minimum, so please help us reach the goal by sharing with your Regency-minded friends!

Place Your Pre-Order at

Edit: A question which has come up a couple times: What is the difference between "Hartfield" and "Nankeen?"

Nankeen boots are cotton, lined in cotton with a leather facing around the opening. They have a soft, round toe, stitched eyelets, and are dyeable with fabric dyes. They fit the dates 1800 - 1820 most accurately.

Hartfield boots are calf leather, fully lined in leather. They have a pointed toe with a toe box (stiffener to keep the shape), punched eyelets (no stitching). They fit the dates 1790 - 1815

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Thursday, February 20, 2014


Re-Fit ALL the Things!

The Met, 1774-93 - Evidence of a gown let out to accommodate wide shoulders.
As you all know, in our sewing journeys, no matter the years that have passed, things change.  Our skills increase, our tastes alter, our knowledge grows, and our bodies change.

My body recently underwent one of these changes, and rather quickly too. It's like my 30th birthday came, and the body gods laughed and sent me an extra two inches for my waist. THANKS!

This means that just about all of my costumes no longer fit, so when I pulled out the gowns I planned to take to Colonial Williamsburg in March, it's a good thing I tried them on, because all of them needed changes.

Photo is by Dogfish Briggins, pirate extraordinaire. You can see that the shoulders are very wide, and that the bodice has stress wrinkles where I coerced it to close. The neckline is also quite high and gapped over the top of my stays unattractively.
One dress, the red Revolution Dress from way back, needed quite a bit of work. After wearing it to an event the other night (above), and seeing a photo of myself practically popping out of it, I decided to re-work the shoulders in addition to cutting the neckline down quite a bit. Some of these flaws were leftovers from when I first made the dress, and didn't understand well-fitted shoulders, or that necklines should be lower, so it's not all to do with my body getting bigger.

On the left side here is the new neckline and the shoulder strap set more onto the shoulder (not so visible in the photo, but quite a significant change). The right side is the "before." I often cut my necklines lower than the top of my corsets/stays now, and will fill the area with a ruffle or neckerchief. I find this more flattering on my form.

I also moved the buttons closer to the CF a little, to allow more room without opening seams. Similar changes were made on the Parisian gown - I let the side seams out a smidge, moved the hooks/bars, and lowered the neckline.

This is a good lesson to myself in leaving adjustability in a gown - let those seam allowance stay unclipped! - just in case things needs to be changed a bit in the future. :-)

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

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Elizabethan Costume Modeling at Nevada Museum of Art

This past weekend I modeled again for the painting class at the Nevada Museum of Art. It's quite an enjoyable experience, even though sitting still for 3 hours is difficult. I enjoy seeing how each artist interprets the pose, their technique and choice of composition and color. It's very satisfying. :-)

This time I wore some older Elizabethan things that don't get much play - a kirtle from a couple years back, last year's doublet, a *very* old shirt and hat. As you can see, nothing really fits anymore.

I mean...nothing at all. Not even the shirt! I guess my neck and wrists have gotten bigger? To be fair to the doublet, I wasn't wearing bodies - I relied on the kirtle's boned bodice to shape - but I would put money on the doublet not fitting over bodies either, because nothing fits anymore. So I wore the doublet open, which looked fine, I think.

I didn't get any of the artist's names (will make sure to next time, before they all dash out the door after class), but here are a few of the works from the day...

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Monday, February 17, 2014

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Behind the Scenes at the Antoinette/Highbury Photoshoot

Last week Chris and I worked on a new shoot for Antoinettes and Highbury. We wanted to create a ladies' boudoir space, similar to the interiors in these paintings:
Francois Boucher, La Toilette, 1742  
Young Woman at Her Toilette, attributed to Niklas Lafransen, c. 1780s
"Portrait en pied de la marquise de Pompadour," 1748-55, Maurice Quentin de La Tour
Leonard Defrance, "The Breakfast"
Elegant Lady at Her Toilette, by Michel Garnier

Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh

Out here in Nevada, we're a little - uh - lacking for Georgian and Regency interiors, so we decided to build one in our living room.  A quick analysis of the paintings pointed out a few commonalities - a chair, a table, a door/screen/mirror, a curtain, and brick-a-brack, paired with a healthy amount of chiaroscuro, and with the model being the main focus, of course.

While I had a few of the items that could be used (fabrics, letters, etc.), most of the set we rented from The Entertainer, the same company that dressed our wedding in shabby-antique-vintage-goodness. The chair, screen, table, firescreen, books, pitcher, and Neoclassical column all came from them..

Mr. Chris starts the build with a dark grey backdrop, and fabric swagged for a curtain look.
I fiddled and rearranged things until we got a good composition - takes longer than you might expect
The first version of the set, ready for the shoot the following day.
With the set built, the attention turned to lighting. Lighting plays a super important part in all photography, and can be especially challenging for interior shots. A quick look at the reference paintings indicated natural light from a large window off to one side, so this is what Mr. Chris re-created with artificial light:

Artificial light mimicking soft natural light.
And here is the result of all our effort...

Mandy represented the Regency in the same set, just re-arranged a little.
I'm representing the 18th c, with Historical Dog.
I have lots more photos to show you soon!

Photography: Chris Stowell
Set Decor: The Entertainer
Set Dressing and Art Direction: Lauren Stowell

Regency Model: Mandy Grosvenor
Regency Gown: Lauren, Lady of Portland House
Regency Spencer: Maggie, Undressing the Historical Lady

Regency Shoes: "Highbury" Regency Slippers, dyed to match the spencer.

Georgian Model: Lauren Stowell
Georgian Gown: Lauren Stowell
Georgian Shoes: "Antoinette" Mules in French Blue
Historical Dog: Avi, the Attention Hound.

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Friday, February 14, 2014


Happy Valentine's Day!

...here's a pink dress...

LACMA, 1830

It's a dress I'm madly in love with. It's the kind of painful sort of love that makes me want to attempt to make this, but then fear that my version will be lame and I will ruin my adoration of this gown. LE SIGH!

Detail of the beret sleeve
I already know I don't have the patience to do this kind of beadwork...(and about a fraction of the skill...)

Imitation pearl glass beads sewn onto silk organza. I love that you can see the pencil lines still...
A girl can dream, though, right?

Someday, Pink LACMA Dress, .... someday....

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Monday, February 10, 2014


LACMA Sacque - Done! And I Love It!

Sometimes it's really does pay off to just press through the rough patches and finish a costume, even if you hate every stitch along the way.

I'm glad I finished this one. I spent a lot of time fixing mistakes (and some I had to just live with). This gown is by no means constructed how it should be, but after all has been said and done, it does fit me, and it looks pretty darn good!

The fabric is very drapey. I can see that taffeta would be the better choice for my next Francaise
This past weekend, I finished adding the silver trim, made engageantes, and reworked the sleeves:

Two kinds of antique lace make up the engageantes
The engageantes, or sleeve ruffles, are made from two different antique laces. The bottom tier needed an extension to allow it to fall below both the second tier of lace and the flounces on the gown itself. I did this in just plain muslin, which worked very well. I'm very happy with how the fluffles came out...

The bottom tier of lace was mounted on the edge of this crescent-shaped piece of muslin. The second tier of lace just above it, and overlapping, the the straight top edge of the muslin was gathered into the band.

The finished engageantes are independent of the gown - they're just tacked in and can be removed to be used on other gowns in the future.
In my last post, the sleeves were too tight, and made my arms look like sausages. I had constructed the sleeves incorrectly, using a sleeve pattern with a front seam, from an Anglaise, and set them with a later method as well. All this made me particularly unhappy with this part of the gown, so I ripped the sleeves off, and cut some rather large gussets in.

The large gusset set in by hand, under each arm. HUGE difference in fit and look, and you can't see it at all when the dress is on.
Re-setting was tricky, but came out pretty okay. They look at least a little more like they're supposed to, and most importantly they fit nice and loose.

There are still some things I can add to this dress to take it even further - bows on the sleeves, and a flounce on the petticoat. I have just barely enough fabric left to make a self-fabric flounce (if I piece it), or I might continue to quest on Etsy for the perfect piece of silver net lace that won't break the bank. For today, though, and for the photo shoot on Wednesday, this piece is done!
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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Please Vote for the New February Shoe...

It's that time again, dears! What shall be the next offering from AD? Up for consideration are:

Georgiana 18th century shoes
The new Georgiana
Georgiana (est. $120 - $140 retail)
Made of improved fabric, on Kensington's last, the new Georgiana features a pointier toe, improved construction and comfort, and the same great 1.75 inch French heel and customizability.
  • Dyeable Satin upper (white)
  • Leather Lining
  • Leather Sole
Nankeen Regency boots
Nankeen - fabric Regency boots
Nankeen (est. $145 - 155 retail)
Developed from original Regency examples, these buff-colored twill boots feature a soft, rounded toe, and adjustable lace-up closure, perfect for c. 1800 - 1815
  • "Nankeen" Colored Twill Upper
  • Fabric Lined
  • Leather Sole
18th century shoes
"Madison" - Also available in dyeable ivory
Madison (est. $145 retail)
A hard-wearing leather shoe with a thick and sturdy 2 inch French heel, Madison spans c. 1700 - 1760s. This is an earlier style than Kensington, perfect for French and Indian War. Available in black or ivory (dyeable).
  • Leather Upper
  • Leather Lining
  • Leather Sole
  • White Rand and Dog-Leg Seam Construction

Please vote for the shoe you would most likely purchase next. If you wouldn't purchase any of these, please refrain from voting. Other styles that have been previewed, such as Savoy, Tissot, and Renoir, are still in development and will be coming out later this year.

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014


LACMA Sacque - The Home Stretch (Maybe?)

I have been working on this gown on-and-off for, gosh, a year?  I'm ready for it to be done, but not willing to put in the effort to get it there, lol. Do you ever feel that way?

Basically, it's the dress upon which I did everything wrong.


Frankly I'm amazed that it even fits at all, or looks halfway decent. Let's just ignore all those little sins. When the whole crazy everything is on - gown, flounces, hair, jewelry, shoes - it might just look pretty good.

So here's where I am so far. I need to finish up the trimmings by next week, for a photo shoot. It's a lot of handwork, but I am undaunted (even though I would much rather be working on the waistcoat, or, gosh, anything else)

Sleeve flounces - I just sewed the trim onto the pinked edges, which would have worked better if the fabric had been taffeta and not brocade, which is shreddy as all else. Fray-check to the rescue!

It really doesn't look that bad...does it? I have two tiers of vintage lace for the mega-flounces at the elbows, and a goodly bit of lace around the neckline, over a proper chemise (and not a tank top), will fill in the neckline.  I'm not decided on the petticoat trims yet - the silver flounce proved difficult to find, and more expensive than I was comfortable with - so I'm thinking something more like this, though remaining fabric is precious:

from Costume Closeup - I also use this example, and the pattern, to "fix" the petticoat over the panniers.
I'll reserve final judgement for when it's all fully complete, but I'll just whisper here and now, "gosh there are a hundred things I'll do differently next time!"

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