Thursday, March 27, 2014

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More Highlights from Williamsburg and Jamestown

I was quite terrible (and busy) and didn't take a lot of photos, but here are a few more from the trip...

Day 1...

Maggie and I arrived, dropped our stuff at Abby's house, and despite being bone tired, walked the mile-or-so to the historic district, and mosied around the DeWitt Museum for several hours, catching up with Lauren M. and admiring the beautiful artifacts.

Maggie and Lauren M at the DeWitt.
"Costumers Gone Wild." Lauren M relaxes after walking back and forth between the Historic Area four times
Day 2...

We were up-and-at-'em the next morning, on our way to Jamestown for the "Military Through Time" event. It was cold, wet, and grey, so we all dressed in our sortof-kindof-warmest apparel, and had a wonderful time seeing the different units and Jamestown itself.

Maggie helping me tie my little cravat - photo by Lauren Marks
Lauren M, Napoleon, Maggie, and me, at Military Through Time, in front of the Burnley & Trowbridge tent, which we thoroughly ravaged. - photo by Lauren Marks
I enjoyed this interpreter's demonstration of the match lock gun. He was actually a she - Mary - but performed as a man very convincingly. I would never have known has she not told us.
The match lock "match," a long piece of rope burning at both ends, held perpetually by the soldier. Can you imagine? Ooops, it's raining, no battle today guys, sorry, can't keep my matches lit...
That evening we attended the welcoming/opening of the Millinery Through Time conference, at the DeWitt, and the Millinery Shop's birthday party afterwards. It was a pleasure to see everyone in costume, see some old friends and make some new, and enjoy the incredible fondant hat cakes made for the occasion...

Beautiful cakes made to look like hats
The second gorgeous hat cake. These weren't eaten, of course!
Cynthia and Lauren M rockin' the late 1780s in 1790s, with their perfect hedgehog hair styles
I love this photo of Cynthia, looking so elegant
I wore my LACMA Sacque-ma and high hair, with about 10 lbs of powder in it.
Day 3 & 4...

The morning's talks were fascinating, particularly the re-creation of the 1780s cartoon "The Morning Ramble," which featured the Milliner's Apprentices, Abby and Sarah, the Blacksmith's Apprentice, Aislinn, and the Tailor's Apprentice, Mike, all dressed to the nines. You can see more pictures at Two Nerdy History Girls.

Mike, the Tailor's Apprentice, as the "coxcomb."
We tried to tour around the city a little, but the weather was quite awful. We suffered through it and toured the Governor's Palace...

The Governor's Palace, seen from the back
One of the beautiful guns in the entry of the Palace
 After the tour, we invaded the Millinery Shop and squeed over the was also warm and dry in there.

Maggie went for warm an stylish in her Regency traveling attire, complete with the most badass shako ever, and an original Victorian paisley shawl, which was huge and warm and beautiful
Here we are representing tree different decades - 1780s, 1790s, and 1800s - at the Millinery Shop - photo by Lauren Marks
Lauren M trying on one of the calash bonnets. I think we've all decided most definitely that we need to make these and wear them and be awesome.
I was happy to wear my striped "Parisienne" Robe a l'Anglaise again - it doesn't get much love, but is my favorite 18th c. gown I've yet made. Photo by Maggie.
Day 5

At last, a gorgeous, sunny, warm day! We spent the morning at Jamestown, but the afternoon in costume in Williamsburg again, touring about the Historic Area.

Lauren M, me, and Maggie, our last day in CW, with nice weather
Can we talk about Maggie's bonnet? Black taffeta, perfectly made, I wanted to steal it off her head every time she wore it.
One of my highlights of the trip was meeting Mark Scheider, who portrays Lafayette and Napoleon (though not here). He intercepted us on our carriage ride, then followed us around for the rest of the ramble. Later, he showed us the stables and where all the carriage gubbins and tack are kept. What a treat!
I wore the red dress on our last day - my second-ever 18th c. gown, and still one of my favorites. I'd remodeled the neckline and adjusted the fit. The neckerchief was new, from B&T
That's it for my photos from CW, but soon I will show you the result of my photo shoot with Sammy, Maggie, and Lauren M., representing late Elizabethan, Directoire, and late Regeny, at Bacon's Castle.
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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

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Shoes for Jamestown, and Williamsburg, and Whoopi Goldberg

I have some exciting news to share with you all!

While I was in Williamsburg, I had a couple meetings with the costume departments of Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown, both of which went very well. The result is that we're going to be developing some styles with both sites!

It's early days, but I can hint to you that the 18th century shoe will be made of wool, and the Jamestown shoe will be a slashed leather flat. Both shoes will be worked for maximum comfort and durability outdoors, for the interpreters who will be wearing them daily...and they both will be available to the general public to buy too. :-D

I've fallen down the rabbit hole of research already. Here are some inspirational pieces for the Jamestown shoe...

VandA, shoe, c. 1600, English
John de Critz the Elder, portrait of James I, 1606

Robert Peake, portrait of Prince Henry, son of James I, c. 1608

In other weird,wacky, and wonderful news, out of the blue, Whoopi Goldberg has asked us to make four pairs of the most richly decorated shoes I can dream up. My head is spinning in so many directions! I have no idea how she found us, or what she's planning for these, but I'm really excited to see what kind of stuff we can come up with. Brocades and embroidery and silver lace, oh my!

The Met, early 18th c.
VandA, Spitalfields silk shoes, c. 1735
Museum of London, shoes, c. 1760
I'll share more about these projects soon!
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Saturday, March 22, 2014


Colonial Williamsburg 2014 - Highlight Reel

I've been away for *ages,* so sorry! Some things happened - some good, some bad - and of course I've been in Colonial Williamsburg for the past week and without time/computer/sleep enough to post :-).

I have much to share with you, but first, a "highlight reel" ...

First, this happened....

Military Through Time at Jamestown Settlement, on Sunday afternoon. Maggie straddling a WWII motorbike, in appropriate 18th century dress, but of course!
And then this chicken.
Aislin, the CW blacksmith's apprentice, and Abby, one of the CW millinery apprentices, in their "Morning Ramble" costumes, during the coffee break, explaining their clothing and accessories. Abby's shoes (the blue ones) were hand-made on original late 1780s lasts - talk about "walking through history"
We had one really lovely day of weather, which our pod took advantage of with a carriage ride...
We picked up a couple stray dogs along the way. Oh Darn.
This happened.
And lambs, because reasons.
So I know that's totally not even remotely enough, but don't worry, I have lots more to show and tell. I *just* got back, though, and have a gazillion things to do (including adopting a new puppy), but I promise I won't leave you hanging long!
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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

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1740s Riding Habit Waistcoat and Shirt

It's been a flurry of sewing madness here, getting ready for Colonial Williamsburg next week.  I've ripped into a lot of garments, and made some pretty big changes to many - necklines needed lowering, waists needed letting out.

Of the items I made new, two were for one outfit, my 1740s riding habit from several years back. I've actually only worn the habit once, so I'm looking forward to sporting it in CW. However, it no longer buttons closed.
This isn't me in the photos, but you can see how the jacket originally fit, fully closed over the stays.
I expected that, since nothing else fit, but instead of altering the jacket, I decided to make a waistcoat to go underneath, so the jacket could be worn open. I thought it would be a simple project, but vests are deceptively hard! I wasted a bit of taffeta, being overconfident, and had to start over a couple times, but in the end, I won, and also ended up developing a basic historical doublet/jacket bodice pattern in the process.

The waistcoat, in ivory taffeta. The back pieces are just cotton, with lacing at the waist. The skirt is on the front only, doesn't extend around the back.
To go under the jacket and waistcoat, then, I needed a shirt. Luckily many fine bloggers have made habit shirts prior, so I could follow their posts to make my own version, which was based on this extant example:

"History of Underclothes" - from an article by Reconstructing History - click through to read.
Before the Automobile, Diary of a Mantua Maker, and Saltpetre and Pins each shed light on how this shirt was constructed and worn. It's like a combination shirt + chemisette, and is worn over the stays.

The habit shirt - short and gathered in back on a twill tape drawstring, which then ties in front. Buttons at the neck and wrists.
I used cotton voile (I like my shirts as light as possible), with antique lace at the cuffs and neck ruffle. I make my sleeves a bit too long, I see now, but overall the shirt works splendidly. The last detail will be the black silk cravat tied at the neckline.

The three layers together - I think it looks wonderfully complex and interesting worn this way. I absolutely love it!
So now that's at least ONE fully complete outfit for Williamsburg!
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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

"Nankeen" Regency Boots Giveaway WINNER!

Wow, with over 1000 entries, it was tough competition for the "Nankeen" Regency boots giveaway. Alas, a winner was selected, at random, and that winner is...

Olivia H.


Now, I know a few of you are probably a bit sad you didn't win, but to help soothe your disappointment, you can still pre-order your pair of Nankeens through March 16th, and get that sweet $20 off the regular price.

Did you know you can also use EasyPay Layaway for pre-ordering?

Yup, you can break the cost out into payments that wrap up over three months, which is about the same amount of time it takes for the new shoes to complete production and arrive here in our warehouse.

It is a great option if you're on a budget, but don't want to miss the sale price. More information here:
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Monday, March 3, 2014

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More On Nankeen Fabric and Boots in the Regency

Dames a la Mode, Lady's Museum, 1804
There have been a few questions about Nankeen fabric and its uses in the Regency, so here's a bit more information about it.

Special thanks goes to Sabine, who found these references in a couple German books, and translated for me...

From "Der Sammler," 1809:
"The nankeen is made quite far from here in the Chinese city of Nankeen (Nanking), precisely in the district of Fong-Kiang-Fu. The cotton, from which this fabric is made, is brown and it appears that it only grows in this part of the country.
The colour of the Nankeen is natural, and hence never fades. Most people in Europe do believe that the fabric is dyed, but this is a mistake. Due to the belief that the Nankeen is an artificial colour, Europe has sent an order to have the fabric dyed in a deeper brown, because lately the fabric became paler in colour, but that actually wasn’t related to any dye or lack of artificial colour pigments. When the Americans started to do business with China, the inquiries/orders for Nankeen almost doubled, but they weren’t able to produce that much, because they were lacking the brown cotton in such quantities. They decided to mix the brown cotton with the common white cotton and the colour naturally became paler. But when the demand for Nankeen recently dropped, they stopped mixing the white cotton in and went back for pure brown cotton, the fabric was dark like before. The colour is highly durable and it seems as if the fabric is in use for two or three years, it becomes even darker."
Powerhouse Museum, 1804.
Another mention of Nankeen comes from "The Mirror of the Graces; Or, The English Lady's Costume," 1811:

Again nankeen boots are mentioned in "Memorials of the Thackeray Family," written in 1879, but referring to 1808:

There are many references to the wider uses of Nankeen fabric, easily found with a quick search through Google Books. This cotton, whether produced in China or Europe, was used for waistcoats, trousers, traveling dress (as referenced above), and of course the shoes, gaiters, and boots, which were worn by both men an women.
Dames a la Mode, Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1813 - Nankeen (spelled "Nankin" here) gaiters worn over shoes.
To be sure, this variety of daywear boot was more fashionable than practical, but where ladies suffered getting their feet wet in the past, there are crafty ways of waterproofing our fabric boots today that means you can still wear them in the wet.

One of these ways, albeit quite space-age in nature, is to spray them with Rustoleum "NeverWet." This stuff is pretty mental - it creates a completely waterproof barrier, but it also means you can never dye the boots.

A period-accurate way to make your canvas shoes water resistant is to wax them. Thanks to Talia for this video:

There are a variety of spray-on waterproofing products, too.

So when it comes to outdoor use of Nankeens, don't be afraid! Ladies of the past wore them outdoors, in the streets, and tromping through the countryside, and so can you!

Dames a la Mode, La Belle Assemblee, 1815
Now all that being said, the pre-order for Nankeens is open until March 16. We've collected less than 20 orders so far, where we need to collect more like 70, so please consider helping our home-grown kickstarter for this style, and order your pair in advance (you also get $20 off). Place orders here:

Nankeen Regency Boots by American Duchess

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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Too Many Costumes, Not Enough Time!

Have you ever felt this way?

I've been diligently working out the kinks in my 18th century wardrobe for Colonial Williamsburg, in two weeks (eek!), but as I near the end of this period of intense stitchery, all I can think about is making other things.

These other things include three (yes, three) 1830s dresses...

LACMA, 1830
A pink/white version of this crazy puff pastry from The Young Victoria
Brown silk dress from Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum - c. 1835
I have acquired the Truly Victorian 1830s Romantic Era Dress pattern (TV455), and am just *itching* to get slicing on the mock-up.

Meanwhile, there's a big local event coming up - the 3rd Annual Titanic Tea:

...and of course I don't have a THING to wear! I have a design, though...just no pattern, fabric, or time. The tea is 2 weeks after I get back from Williamsburg. Think I can do it?
Met, 1911. Of course it will look nothing like this...maybe a little like this...something like this, but for tea.

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