Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Shoe News from American Duchess

I've been deep in the Caverns of Business, carefully setting up lots of exciting new things for you guys - new collaborations, bunches of new styles for Summer and Fall, and re-ordering your favorites.

So here's a quick update to let you all know what's going on:

Nankeen Boots are nearing completion, along with the new Georgianas, and will be here soon.
Nankeen Regency Boots
New Georgianas? Yep! Our original flagship style is coming back, with a face-lift. The new Georgies are made from the awesomely-dyeable-and-durable sateen, lined in leather, with the Kensington shape and heel, and 4 mm thick leather soles.

On Order
Renoir and Tissot Civil War styles just went in for production, along with the new Gibsons in ivory, which will all be delivered in early July.
Renoir Civil War button boots
In the Pipeline
We've got lots of new projects! Many of you know of a few of them already - an Edwardian beaded pump, the Signature Collection "Seabury" shoe from the Newport Historical Society, the "Virginia" shoe developed with the help of Jamestown's costume design department, plus a few more. I'm always looking for new styles to develop, so if you have suggestions, don't be afraid to let us know!

Sneak-peek at "Savoy" in black - will also come in ivory.
That's all for now - I can't share *everything* (I say, as I sit over here twitching because I do want to tell you *everything*). Stay tuned!

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Saturday, April 26, 2014

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Ladies' Elizabethan Separates Explored

Last time, I was musing over trim styles on doublets, but towards the end of that post I realized that perhaps the design I had in mind was a "fair-ism," something that didn't actually exist (or that we have record of) in the period.

This Costume Chimera is the doublet + sleeves + single closed skirt, none of those pieces matching the others.

When I searched, I found plenty of doublets + matching, open overskirts; doublet + matching sleeves, worn under a loose gown; doublet + matching overskirt + separate sleeves...

... but I really had to dig for any evidence at all of what I wanted.  I did find some possible references, but with caveats.  Here they are:

Countess of Nottingham, Catherine Carey, attr. to John de Critz the Elder, 1600-1605. It's definitely a non-matching doublet, but the hanging sleeves appear to match the skirt. Also, the sleeves match the doublet, so it's not *really* what I'm looking for.
1575 - German? or possibly French? - the woman is wearing a loose open jacket, but underneath, she has on a doublet. The skirt is a single, closed petticoat. We can't tell if any of the colors match or not, so, again, this isn't definitive evidence.
Herzogin Dorothea ur, 1577 - this is not a doublet, BUT it exhibits sleeves, bodice, and single petticoat that do not match. It's a supposition to think that if it was done with bodices of this type it was surely done with's not proof.
The Village Feast (detail), Hans Bol - the woman on the right could be wearing a doublet, or she could be wearing a waistcoat. The women in the center are wearing doublets and single skirts, with open gowns over the top.
Habitus Variarum Orbis Gentium, Jean Jacques Boissard, 1581 - this series of French drawings is the closest I have to proof, but again there is a caveat - the coloration on these plates was done separately (we don't know when or by whom) and may not reflect what was reality. So the doublets shown may or may not match the skirts paired with them.
Habitus Variarum Orbis Gentium, Jean Jacques Boissard, 1581 - again, the lady on the right wears a single petticoat, but the sleeves are set into the doublet and match, if the colors can be believed (which they can't)
Habitus Variarum Orbis Gentium, Jean Jacques Boissard, 1581 - the woman at center definitely exhibits the three pieces - doublet, sleeves, and single petticoat. This is the best evidence I have so far.
People Dancing on the River Bank, Jan Brueghel the Elder, 1616 - the woman in the foreground, with the yellow skirt, is wearing a single petticoat and a non-matching bodice, but it's unclear whether that's a waistcoat, which would be common at this time, or a doublet. Many of the other women in the image are clearly wearing waistcoats.
Lady at the virginals, from the Stammbuch of Anton Weihenmayer (plate from Pattern of Fashion by Janet Arnold) - She wears a black doublet with a pink single petticoat, but she's in linen shirtsleeves - would she have had sleeves to tie on? would they have matched the doublet?
So as you can see, I don't have any "yes, definitely" evidence! I also don't have any yardage for making matching sleeves, a matching overskirt, or...any of that. So I suppose the question to myself, then, is, "is this evidence enough?"

I believe in the common-sense approach to costuming: we know that men mis-matched their doublets and slops all the time, so why wouldn't women, especially middling class and lower, do the same thing?

We know that people were pragmatic, so is it too much to assume that a Bourgeois woman going about her daily business would pair her clothing to compliment, but not necessarily to match?

We know that clothing was discarded by the upper classes and sold again and again down the social order, so wouldn't it make sense that a doublet from this vendor, and a petticoat from that one might be paired together?

I think so!
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Thursday, April 24, 2014

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Elizabethan Doublet Trimming Ideas

Diane d'Andouins by Etienne Dumonstier
Earlier this year, when I was feverishly sewing for Colonial Williamsburg, I put together a quick test bodice in some russet velveteen. It was just to test out the pattern I'd made for the riding habit waistcoat, but serendipitously, the shape and fit would also work for a ladies' late Elizabethan doublet.

So I didn't scrap the test bodice, and now I'm wanting to make it into the 1570s-90s outfit it so desperately wants to become.  Lucky for me, I have some black taffeta, black velvet ribbon, and reticella-ish lace in my stash, ready to be allotted to this costume.

I trimmed an Elizabethan bodice in black velvet ribbon before, and loved it to bits, but this time I want to try a different pattern.
A loooong time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...
So, naturally, to the research!

Saint Cecilia, 1550s-60s, by Ambrosius Benson
This is black trimmed in gold, and it has an overskirt, so it's a gown, not a doublet. Primarily I like the sleeve treatment here.

Mary Tudor, by Hans Holbein
I love the stark contrast on Mary's gown (a gown, not a doublet, yes, but this trim style could be extended), and those sleeves are KAPOW, but I don't think I could pull the linebacker look off!

Portrait of a Lady in Black, by Pieter Jansz. Pourbus. Click through for a super-huge version
A complex trim arrangement - would this look as good in russet and black, instead of black and metallic lace? On a random note, I love the little lion on her necklace.

Princess of Cleve and Berg, 1577
Though we can't see the rest of the Princess' ensemble, the horizontal trim is quite striking, as well as the shoulder treatment.

Marie de' Medici as a child
And here, of course, is the opposite of Cleve, above - vertical banding.
Extreme Costuming - a page with a whole bunch of doublet trimming ideas - this is just one - click through for all of them.
I like the chevron trim, though I might inverse it so it points down - this takes a lot of ribbon, though, which I may not have.

Something'll come to me. I used to know a lot about this period, but I've forgotten it all over the years. I suspect my doublet+sleeves+petticoat is a Fair-ism, but more research'll suss that one out. I don't have the yardage to do a matching overskirt, so it might just have to stay a Fair-ism. I'm okay with that - it's Renfaire, after all.
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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Spring Fever: Floral Shoes!

Okay, so maybe it blew a gale and was a bit nippy today, but on the whole it's been quite lovely here in Nevada, which has put me in mind of gardening. I'm a terrible gardener - I do try, though! - and since it was bad weather today, how about admiring some beautiful bloom-inspired shoes from history?

Museum of Applied Arts, 18th century (German)
MFA, 1780-85
LACMA, 1760s
Bata Shoe Museum (blog), 1780s-1790s
Eleanor Meriwether (blog), gaiter boots, c. 1840s
The Met, early 1840s
LACMA, 1849 - aren't these ADORBS!?
The Met, 19th century
Whitaker Auctions, 1870s
Manchester City Gallery, 1880s
The Met, 1891
LACMA, 1914-17
Vintage Textile, 1925
There are gobs and gobs more, of course - to find these and more floral shoes (and just more historical shoes in general), follow my "Shoes" boards on Pinterest.
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Saturday, April 19, 2014

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My Annual Sewing Rut

Once again, I have absolutely no motivation to make a single stitch of anything lately. I've learned that this is quite normal, and that if I force the issue I'll regret it. I do have inspirations, though, so here are some things I would *like* to sew, at some point when I'm into it again...

Something From The Borgias...

Regardless of what the Internet thought about The Borgias costumes, I absolutely *adored* them. Holliday Granger as Lucrezia Borgia was utterly enchanting, and I wanted pretty much all her gowns. And her hair. And her face. My goodness.

Lucrezia Borgia
I have nowhere to where such a thing, but that's never stopped me before! Here's my Pinterest board for The Borgias costumes.

Something From the Turn of the 17th Century...

After visiting Jamestown and then receiving Seventeenth-Century Women's Dress Patterns: Book 1, I've had the itch to make a complex ensemble from this transitional period in English dress. This one below is really interesting and different, and I love it to pieces, though there are plenty of more "expected" examples I lust for too.
Portrait of a lady thought to be Vere Egerton, Mrs William Booth, attributed to Robert Peake (1541-1619)
I haven't had a really good Renfaire outfit in years, so it's time for something new - won't happen in time for this year's Valhalla Renaissance Faire, but maybe next year's...

This Late 18th Century Pierrot Jacket...

I didn't get this one done for Williamsburg a month ago, but it's still on my hit list. I have the fabric I want to use (one of the Williamsburg prints), I just need to get to it...

Part of my "problem" recently, though, is that all my pattern are now too small (yay, amazing expanding body!). I need to let the waists out in everything, and that's a lot of work...

Two...or Three...1830s Dresses

Yep, I'm still going on about these. I cut out some piece for a test-dress, and I have fabric for the brown, but that's about it so far.
Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum, 1835
LACMA, 1830
Luckily Chrissy is already on-the-ball with how the beret sleeves work on the pink gown - apparently they're harder than they appear, so I'm glad she's figuring it out, because I'd make a mockery of it.

Something Edwardian...

I forget how much I love the Edwardian period. The blouse I found on eBay arrived and is splendid (I'll show you photos later), and now I want a little mini-wardrobe to accompany my original pieces (all two of them...for now).

I adore the costumes from both seasons of Mr. Selfridge, particularly a suit that Ellen Love wears in Season 1. I can't find many photos of it online, so I'll have to track down which episode it appeared in, and take some screenshots.  Anywho...something like THAT.

I guess that's all for now...I mean, there are 100 things I'd like to make/have, at any given moment, but they won't just magically appear! I hope my sewing inspiration returns soon!
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Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Please Vote: Newport Historical Society "Signature Shoe" Development Poll

I'm excited to announce that American Duchess and the Newport Historical Society are teaming up to re-create one of the gorgeous Edwardian shoes in their collection, a splendid satin and metallic brocade evening shoe that'll be called "Seabury." These'll be a limited edition "Signature Collection" shoe, which will benefit the Newport Historical Society directly.

Here's an image of the original shoes:

Thanks to so much fantastic feedback on our Facebook page, we've narrowed the color choices down to three:

Ivory - a warm off-white hue.

Ivory - concept sketch
Dove Grey - a warm grey tone

Dove Grey - concept sketch
Black - concept sketch
The brocade has a few different tones in it, but the outstanding feature is the metallic brocading in the flowers, which has tarnished on the original shoe. We don't want our version to look cheap/garish, so we think a dark silver/pewter metallic thread will look splendid.

Please vote for your top 2 choices out of these three, or choose the "none of these" option if you wouldn't be interested in any of these shoes at any point.  Thank you again for your help!

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014


A Few Snaps from Our 3rd Annual Titanic Tea

Last weekend was our local costuming club's first event of the year - our 3rd Annual Titanic Memorial Tea - and what a nice kick-off to "the season" it was.

Due to the tea's attendance, we held it at Chez Louie at the Nevada Museum of Art, this year, which was spacious, public, and full of art exhibits to admire while we paraded around in our finery.

I only got a few photos. I didn't have anything new to wear, and just *barely* squeezed into my old blue wool hobble skirt from a few years ago. Thank goodness for darts (though I should've tried the thing on before the morning of the event), as I quite like the skirt and want to keep it!

My mom and dad, always well-dressed.

Hats! It wouldn't be 1912 without splendid hats!
My mom's new skirt and blouse. Snazzy!
Liz, in her original Edwardian linen suit
Liza is the mistress of re-fashioning - her gown was made from a 1930s dress and a bridesmaid's gown
Gina in action
Photo by Dana Reeser - my same-ole-same-ole, blue wool hobbleskirt and antique blouse.
I love wearing originals, but I don't own many. I got so inspired by Liza and Lisa's incredible antique finds (Liza was wearing original combinations, and had an antique purse and parasol to die for; Lisa brought a stunning 1890s/1900s wedding gown she'd found for, like, $20) that I came home and surfed eBay for way too long, and bought this shirt:
Silk Pongee - eBay seller shastasvintage
I think it's a bit later than 1912, and obviously needs to be cleaned and well-looked-after, but I'm happy to own another original I can wear on occasion, and study, perhaps take a pattern from. :-)

That's all for now! Perhaps next year I'll get off my duff and make something new. :-)
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