Friday, September 26, 2014


My 2014 Steampunk Ball Costume - Complete!

So the ball was ages ago, but I didn't have a good photo of my whole costume until today. As it stands, you can't see much detail in this, but I didn't want to leave you hanging after posting my progress earlier this month.

Though the corset was no great feat of waist reduction, I finished it, wore it, and felt good in it, so I count that as a win. Many others seemed to like it, too, because I somehow won the ladies' costume contest, a great honor!

Photography was done by Eric Marks of Backwards ME Photography
Here's another photo by Dana Lee Fruend:

There's really not much to be said about it, but there ya go. :-)
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Wednesday, September 24, 2014


1919 "Red Russian Doll" Coat Progress

It's looking like a coat! The belt around the middle is just there for mocking up, and is tighter than the final belt will be.
Things are going together really quite well on my "Red Russian Doll" project. I have the back and front pieces together, and it's starting to look like a coat, but there was a lot to be done before making it just this far.

I pulled out my Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing and followed the tailoring instructions. The first step was to cut interlining - cotton muslin - to flat-line all the wool pieces, giving the fairly thin wool structure. This worked beautifully for the soutache braid, which needed something to keep it from weighting the wool too much.

Pad stitching the collar, according to Gertie's book.
I stitched the lapel canvas (hair canvas) to the muslin, then basted the muslin to the front pieces of the coat, working the pad stitching on the lapel through both layers.  I also followed Gertie's instructions for pad stitching the collar (I'm still not sure the collar piece is the right shape - I'll test it one more time before stitching it on)

Then to the soutache! I wanted to do one continuous piece of braid for all the decoration on the front, but pulling the little interior cord to get the loops to lay flat turned out to be a pain for a long, unspecified length, so I did each design singularly. It was a little tedious, but didn't take as long as I thought it would.
I did the soutache design on my computer, printed it out, and pinned it up to see if it was a good scale.
Working the braid - I marked the design in chalk, the stitched the soutache on by hand. I did not pin this before working it, just shaped the loops and stitched it as I went.
One side of the soutache applied
Both side applied, and I just folded and pinned the jacket front pieces to mock up how it might look when finished.
I added pockets into the side seams when stitching the front and back pieces, and next I'll be working the facings and collar. I'm nervous about the faux fur - I've never really worked with it, and I'm not sure I even have enough, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it...

All-in-all, it's going well! Here's hoping it continues that way. :-)
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Friday, September 19, 2014

F/W Shoes: Re-Pre-Orders Now Open

It's that time of year, when we here at ADHQ are already getting ready for the big holiday rush.

No, I'm not playing Christmas music or slurping down eggnog lattes quite yet, but we *have* already put the order in for holiday inventory, which is one part new and exciting historical styles, and one part re-stocking our older, most-popular Fall/Winter styles. This year, the styles we've re-ordered are:

Some of these have been out for an age, like black Pompadours, so we've opened all of these up for Re-Pre-Orders (backorders) from today until delivery in mid-to-late November.

If your size is currently in stock, it will ship right away. If your size is out of stock, it will ship in mid-to-late November.

Please Note: We can not offer discounts on Re-Pre items, only new styles, but follow American Duchess on Facebook, or sign up for our newsletter, to be notified of upcoming sales, coupons, and special offers. We also offer EasyPay Layaway on all Re-Pre Items, which you can learn more about here

Place Re-Pre Orders at
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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

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New Project! Russian-Inspired Late Edwardian Suit

It feels like it's been ages since I embarked on a complex historical project, but with Winter coming, and photo shoots needing shooting, it's time to start (yes, already!) on a project that's been in my mind for awhile.

I need to come up with a clever name for it, because there are just too many descriptors - Late Edwardian/early 1920s-red-wool-Russian-inspired-winter-soutache-military-themed-furry-jacket-suit-thing just won't do. What should I call it?

Here's the inspo:

Louis Vallet - 1916
1915 - via
1915 - via
For the soutache embroidery, I'm studying these, along with many more you can see on my Pinterest board for this project:

Alexandra;s tunic from her uniform as commander-in-chief of the 5th Aleksonariya Hussars - via
Jacket and skirt, c. 1890-1900 - via
The Met, c. 1899 - via
A few sketches I did for soutache ideas:

I went shopping for materials yesterday and found them quite easily, all in one place - wool, soutache braid, lining, buttons - which I'm going to believe means this project wants to be put together. :-)

For the jacket pattern, I am using Wearing History R109 - 1910s Jacket Pattern. This is one of the Resto-Vival ePatterns I printed out and taped together. It took a little time, but I didn't have to wait for it in the snail-mail. I do have to test it out thoroughly with a muslin, though, to make sure all the pieces line up nicely, as there's quite a lot of room for error when taping the pieces together.

Wearing History ePattern - click here to see the listing for it
For the jacket, I will be attempting to alter the collar so it can be turned up and buttoned around the neck - it will be faux fur, along with the cuffs and hem of the jacket.

For the skirt, I will be using Butterick 4092, which is an earlier, thinner skirt silhouette, more 1912, but I also found surprisingly narrow skirts in the 1919 section of Everyday Fashions of the Twenties: As Pictured in Sears and Other Catalogs (see in the photo above with the materials).

Butterick 4092 - I'll use View B with alterations.
I suppose now it's time to get started! Bring on the tailoring, the soutache embroidery, and the fur-sewing. These are all things I have very little or no experience with, so it'll be a good challenge, and hopefully will turn out to be something I'm proud of. :-)
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Friday, September 5, 2014

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Hard Lessons in Victorian Corset Making - My "Duh" Moments...

Left side - boning, strength additions, and padding. I still have wrinkling, but it's better than it was.
Right side - no boning, no strength layers, no padding.
I can make a mean pair of 18th century stays, but when it comes to Victorian corset making, I'm useless.

I don't even know how I ever made any of my previous Victorian corsets. I can only think that I just followed the directions, wore them with pain, and was happy with that. However, now I know about hip spring, bust gussets, and comfort needs...and now I can't seem to make a Victorian corset to save my life.

Which of course means practice, practice, practice.

First up, this coffee n' chocolate, Steampunk-intended, gusseted corset, made from one layer of pretty heavy twill, and a layer of muslin for lining, with bias tape as the boning channels, and a twill waist tape (the first time I've used a waist tape).

It's starting to look like a decent corset. I still have buckling on the waist, though. This sheds new light on the seaming used on Edwardian corsets with large hip gussets, and also on the corset "belt" you see on some originals.
Easy, right? I've made corsets and stays out of random materials before, with no problem.

Except this twill has some stretch, turns out, and that just messes everything up in a tightly-laced foundation garment.

The side without boning, padding, or the extra hip gusset added in yet. A wrinkled mess, and way worse on an actual body.
Trying the corset on last night I had some serious fit issues, and huge wrinkling problems. My solution to the fit issue was to cut another gusset in the hips, which were being restricted, inhibiting any further reduction to the waist, and skewing the back lacing.

My solution to the wrinkling problem was to add some strength to the waist and one of the side panels, by fusing two pieces of non-stretch twill in a "T" shape. This is an after-the-fact stab at the strength layer I didn't put in. It ain't pretty, but it's working. Next time...strength layer!

Left side - the "T" shaped strength additions, fused to the interior. The right side, just the stay tape.
Lessons learned:

  • Don't use a stretch fabric for any part of the corset unless it's mounted to a non-stretch fabric
  • Don't skip the strength layer
  • Spiral steel is your friend (learned this in an earlier battle with corsetry)
  • Gussets. No really (also learned in an earlier battle, but still need to make them bigger than I think)
  • Try Try Again
  • Keep trying
  • Try more
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