2015 Costuming Year in Review

I’m pretty late on getting my 2015 costuming year in review up, but here goes:

In January I talked a lot about making a Robe a la Turque, but never did. Instead, I made an elliptical hoop, and wore it with my late 1860s purple gown:

Late 1860s day dress made of purple silk taffeta with black velvet trimming, worn over an elliptical hoop

In February I started the Larkin & Smith English Gown pattern in yellow taffeta, but still haven’t finished it.

Half of my English gown, waiting patiently in a bag to be completed.

In March I did some vintage sewing – finally finished the Wearing History “Moderne” dress, and rather love it. I also made a quick 1940s rayon blouse:

Wearing History 1930s “Moderne” made sleeve-less for Summer
A 1940s rayon blouse made from a compilation of vintage patterns.

Come April, I started and finished some 18th century projects. On the “finished” list was a 1780s chintz pierrot jacket I’d been stashing for too long. I also completed a petticoat and altered an antique apron to go with it:

1780s pierrot jacket made from Williamsburg cotton chintz, paired with a taffeta petticoat and “Dunmore” 18th century shoes
I was thrilled with how this jacket came out, especially with the ruffle on the “tail.”

In May, all preparations were being made for a trip to Colonial Williamsburg. I didn’t complete anything, but worked diligently on trimming the 1770s pink Polonaise, and whipping up a quick 1780s Chemise a la Reine.

Then June – time for Williamsburg! All things completed! In our most sacred of costumer’s cities, I wore the 1780s chintz pierrot, the 1770s pink Polonaise, the 1780s Chemise a la Reine, and an old favorite, the 1770s Revolution Dress

The most comfortable and practical dress I wore in Williamsburg was this 1780s Chemise a la Reine, made from cotton voile, worn with a black silk sash, bow, and bonnet.
The pink polonaise is my favorite dress to wear just because it’s so puffy and pink and silly. I felt beautifully French the day we visited l’Hermione in Yorktown.
This is another outfit I feel very princessy in. It was rainy this day, so we stayed indoors as much as we could.

July is Costume College prep month. I intended to make a gigantic Robe a la Francaise for the gala, which I nicknamed “The Silver Ghost.” I spent all of July working on this gown, but did steal a couple days to make a pair of 1930s trousers:

White super wide-legged trousers. I made these with intent to wear for 1930s, but from a 1970s pattern. The white fabric was troublesomely see-through, so I had to fully line them in cotton. They’re quite heavy.

August is Costume College, at least the first weekend. The only new thing I made/wore was The Silver Ghost 1760s Francaise, which volumetrically is absolutely the largest costume I’ve ever made. It wasn’t perfect, but I was really proud of it.

The Silver Ghost, my largest achievement. This is the second sacque I’ve made and so incredibly different from the first. I learned a lot, and on the whole really enjoyed wearing this. Next time? EVEN BIGGER!

Later August I did a bit of hatmaking and vintage sewing, most notably starting my Miss Fisher Fall wardrobe with a pair of gabardine trousers and a deco silk blouse:

Practical vintage daywear. I got so many compliments on this outfit. It’s both comfortable and stylish.

September – Experiments in re-blocking old wool hats to make 1920s and 30s cloches. I also added a gabardine 1930s skirt to my Miss Fisher wardrobe, and whipped together the Wearing History “Smooth Sailing” blouse in novelty cotton:

A pretty straight-forward 1930s skirt. It’s another piece that’s casual, easy to wear, but gives such a polished look.
1930s/40s Wearing History “Smooth Sailing” blouse. This pattern is fantastic, easy to sew, and looks great.

October is the start of busy season in shoe company land, but I managed to grab some time to make a jersey 1940s dress. This was the first time I’d worked with jersey and though there was a learning curve (one I’m still on), I am really happy with the way the dress came out, and have worn it many times already. Super comfy!

My first jersey knit creation went very well. I love this dress!

In November I made another knit item, a 1930s sweater with matched chevron stripes and gaultlet sleeves.

A challenging piece. I didn’t have a pattern, and made a lot of mistakes. The ribbing was difficult, but it all worked out in the end.

Then finally to December. I threw together an 1880s wool skirt, which in the new year is getting a bodice and apron to go with. I also completed a velvet 1930s evening gown, another challenging project that came out quite well.

This skirt was originally just a throw-together to go with this jacket (not of my making), but I liked it so much I’m making a matching bodice and apron to create a full ensemble.
1930s velvet gown with rhinestone buckle


Looking back I feel that I both made a lot and didn’t make nearly as much as I used to. This year was big for our shoe companies, though – we added quite a few new designs to American Duchess, and worked on some fun collaborative projects, and beautiful “Exclusives.” Most notably, though, was the launch of our second footwear company, Royal Vintage Shoes, which took a herculean effort to get up and running. I’m most proud of that achievement (and now that it’s standing on its own two, well-shod feet, I can get back to more sewing in 2016….she says)

So here’s looking forward to 2016! Already there are projects brewing and bubbling. I have a number of things to finish, like that yellow English gown, and I intend to make quite a lot more vintage clothing to wear on an everyday basis. There will no doubt be mad preparation for Costume College (no idea on gala gown, yet!), but really, who knows where the sewing adventures will lead.

Happy New Year everyone!


  • Gina

    January 7, 2016 at 12:01 AM

    Huzzah! I love Year End Caps! Ok, so my favorites were your 1930s green velvet gown (swoon!) and all the green jersey dress…ok let's just go with all the vintage stuff! Can't wait to see what you do this year!

    • Lauren Stowell

      January 7, 2016 at 2:31 AM

      Thank you! I'm doing a lot more vintage sewing these days, as it ties in with photo shoots and promotion of Royal Vintage Shoes. Plus I love wearing vintage styles just all the time. So there will probably be quite a lot more of that!

  • Cathy Raymond

    January 7, 2016 at 2:11 AM

    I think you should be proud of your business. Face it–the fact that you have it means you simply don't have as much time for your own costuming than you used to. On the other hand, by existing you are helping LOTS of historical costumers have more complete and correct outfits–something to really be proud of! Have a peaceful, prosperous and costume-filled 2016!

    • Lauren Stowell

      January 7, 2016 at 2:32 AM

      Thank you so much! And I absolutely LOVE seeing other costumers wearing something I produced, or using a tutorial I wrote. It's a labor of love and hugely satisfying, even if I don't get as much time to sew as I used to.

  • Maggie

    January 7, 2016 at 5:52 AM

    Wow, you did so much gorgeous stuff this year! I think it's a lot! (Also, I want to steal that chevron 30s sweater from you!) Also, I haven't done my year in review yet, no time right now, so you aren't the last one to do it! 🙂 I think you should be really proud of all the business stuff you've accomplished too!

  • Erin T./Emelote of Calais

    January 7, 2016 at 12:28 PM

    I am loving the look back! I love the knit sweater! I so want one, maybe you could do a tutorial for us someday? I love all your clothes and especially your shoes. Thank you for all your amazing hard work. 🙂

    • Lauren Stowell

      January 7, 2016 at 7:30 PM

      Thank you! I don't feel quite knowledgeable yet to do a tutorial on sewing knits (I've gotten lucky on some things, like the neck band), but as I get better, I'll share more tips and tricks I found useful.

  • Danielle Fiore

    January 7, 2016 at 10:54 PM

    Can I say I love all of your creations? Your blog is really inspiring to me, I'm not expert about XVIII century costuming and every detail, every tutorial is extremely helpful! :3

  • vintagevisions27

    January 8, 2016 at 2:47 PM

    I very busy year indeed! So many great projects, well done. I posted a year in review as well. It's a great feeling to look back on everything we have done and feel a sense of accomplishment. It's been great watching your shoe business and blog grow! I've really enjoyed following along. Looking forward to what this year may bring for all us crazy sewing gals!

  • Caroline

    January 8, 2016 at 7:38 PM

    So many awesome things this year! I love the Moderne dress, the silver sacque, the pink polonaise! The pants! I love looking back on a year of great outfits 🙂

Leave a Reply

Discover more from American Duchess Blog

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading