Friday, June 24, 2016

, ,

Simplicity 18th Century Stays - Adding Boning

I've been MIA on the Simplicity 18th Century Pattern Hacks lately, due to moving, but I'm back! Time for more helpful hacks and hints for constructing Simplicity 8161 and 8162 in a more historically accurate way.

Today I've got a short video on inserting the boning into your stays.

To recap, I've cut and sewn the pieces of my Simplicity 8162 stays, have drawn a new boning pattern and stitched all the channels, and now I am inserting the boning.

I am using zip ties for my boning, but you can also use reed or steel. Please note that the method I'm showing in the video is for zip ties only.

At this point the only construction variation from the Simplicity pattern instructions is when I re-drew the boning pattern. We won't diverge from the pattern instructions until we get to the binding next.

In the video I demonstrate cutting the boning, sanding the ends, and inserting into the channel. It's straightforward. Two tips - use canine nail clippers to cut your boning, and cut your boning about 1/4 - 3/8" shorter than the channel on each end, to leave a bit to stitch the binding to.

Note - the strap is sewn on after the boning is all inserted.
Another Note - The seam allowances are tacked down after the boning is inserted.

If you have questions, please leave them in the comment below!
Read More

Thursday, June 23, 2016

, ,

An 1830s Day Dress for Dickens Fair 2016

Three 1830s gowns in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
You may be thinking, "Dickens Fair is in December, so long away!" and you would be right, but it never hurts to plan. We're making a lot of changes to the business of American Duchess / Royal Vintage this year, and one of them is attending more events. So far on the remaining 2016 calendar we have a trip to Oakland/San Francisco, Costume College in LA, Rufflecon in Connecticut, and Dickens Fair in San Francisco at year's end.

What to wear, what to wear? With Dickens, it's period-specific to c. 1830s - 1860s; place-specific to London, UK; and season-specific to Christmastime. A Victorian Summer dress just won't do!

Fashion Plate, 1834, La Belle Assemblee
As it happens, I acquired an obnoxious plaid silk that is perfect for Dickens, where obnoxious plaids are all part of the fun. It's primarily royal blue, but it's striped with yellow and fuschia, and just screams 1830s to me. With a tremendously wacky hat and a fun little chemisette, I'm already getting excited just musing on it.

I'm inspired by this wackadoodle plaid dress from The Met:

Dress, c. 1830, British, The Met
Dress, c. 1830, British, The Met - view of the side back
The challenge will be in that I don't have as much yardage as I would like, so the ridiculously fun gigot sleeves may not be a possibility (they really do take an extraordinary amount of fabric!). Gigot sleeves were popular for such a very brief period, though they became the iconic look of all the 1830s. The later part of decade still had some pretty interesting things going on with sleeves too, in various places and of varying sizes.

For this ensemble I will need:

  • Drawers
  • Chemise
  • Corset
  • Bum  Pad
  • Corded or Quilted Petticoat
  • Underpetticoat(s)
  • Chemisette
  • The Gown
  • Pelerine, Cape, or Outerwear of some sort
  • Bonnet
  • Gloves
  • Shoes and Stockings
  • Reticule
  • Muff
  • Jewelry
I already have a great lot of these things - hooray for a decade's worth of stuffing my closet with fluff! - so I can spend most of my time on the gown. Yay! Of course, I'll most likely start this project in November, a couple weeks before we go to Dickens. Isn't that always the way? ;-)
Read More

Monday, June 20, 2016

, , ,

The Original 1916 - 1921 Party Dress

Well, this is a topic I can genuinely say I haven't blogged about before. It's amazing what send us down what rabbit holes.

Metal thread embroidery with couched metal. These are all over the skirt of the dress, plus a different motif in the same materials on the bodice.
What were fashionable ladies wearing for soirees in the late 19teens? What, 100 years ago, was the latest, hottest thing? I ask this question because I've acquired an antique gown of this quite specific period, and I want to know more about it.

Straight out of the shipping box.
I am dating this gown myself. It has no provenance and no label, but the style is familiar in that "I swear I've seen something like this somewhere before" kind of way. I am tentatively dating the dress to about a 5 years span based on the side swags, length of skirt, construction of the interior bodice, the looseness of the top bodice, the position of the waist, and overall silhouette and trends I find for those years, primarily 1917/18.

Dress, 1916, The Met. This one shares some traits with mine, namely the side swags, the big bow at the back, the loose bodice (here shown is the back of the gown)

Dress, 1917-20, The Met - again with the side swags and the loose bodice with sheer straps.
Dress by Lucille, 1919, The Met
Wedding Gown by Lucile, 1916, OSU
Dress, 1915-18, Augusta Auctions
Dress, 1921, Wayne State University - this one has quite a few similarities
Dress, c. 1916,
My new old dress is silk with embroidery and couched metal thread bows. The chiffon sleeves mount to net straps, the silk bodice to a super-fine silk underbodice, and there is a considerable grosgrain staybelt. All closes with hooks and snaps at the center back.

The skirt is gathered at the sides and creates that "butterfly" effect at the back, along with a large bow. It is hand and machine sewn, and some areas are finished nicely while others are left raw. There appears to have been a ruching stitch on the top part of each sleeve, now gone, but the tucks for the underside are still there.

The back is quite interesting with the swags and the bow, which needs tacking back into position. 
Was it a party dress? Was it a wedding dress? Oh the stories we wish these old clothes could tell...

I have a restoration plan for this dress. When I received it, there was quite a lot of staining around the upper part of the bodice, some of which lead to holes and tears in the silk. There was also the usual underarm damage and a few rust spots here and there. The gown certainly isn't flawless, but on the scale of disintegration of antique clothes, this one isn't very far gone. It can be conserved without endless tedious work, so conserve it I shall. Ultimately, of course, I hope to wear this dress for a special occasion or at least a photo shoot.

The staining ran horizontally across the front of the bodice. It hardened the silk and caused the hole and cracking along the edge. This appears to have rinsed out so at least it won't continue to deteriorate.
My action plan has started with cleaning. Thanks to Damask Raven, AKA The Silk Washing Guru, I determined that I could carefully soak this dress in cold water with a little Woolite, plus vinegar and a tiny amount of conditioner in the rinse water. I've laid it flat to dry and upon initial inspection I see that the majority of the staining, especially the large areas on the bodice, have come out.

My next step is to stabilize the holes and shattered bits with conservation mesh. Then I will create a "suspension system" that will allow the gown to be worn without stressing the chiffon shoulders. Lastly I will put protection materials in the underarms, replace a few missing beads, and tack any fallen bits back to where they should be.
Read More

Monday, June 13, 2016


And It Was All Yellow...

You're going to think I'm all-over-the-place right now, and you would be right. Projects here, projects there, moving house, moving business, omg! It's been stressy, for sure, but this is also the typical lead up to Costume College...SEW ALL THE THINGS!

This year I feel extra on the back foot with getting stuff done for Costume College. I have SIX classes to teach, three of them 18th century focused, and on top of that the decisions on what to wear for evening events, most notably the Gala.

At this point it's mostly a "what do I have that's closest to completion and Gala-appropriate?" That would be the yellow English gown I've been working on for way-the-heck-too-long, so that's what I'm going with. That's what I need to finish!

Latest progress (from April) - one sleeve basted on, but needs adjustment to the armscye. The robings here are just pinned on to see how it would look. Need to get the other sleeve assembled and on as well.
I *have* been working on it, I swear. There's one sleeve basted on; the other is ready to go on. I need to work out the robings, especially since the gown is, um, a bit too small for me now. Then it's petticoat, stomacher, and accessories. That doesn't seem like that much left to do...right?

I ran into a little conundrum, though.

Of course.

I wanted to do winged cuffs for this gown. I've always loved them and jumped at the chance to add them to this earlier style. In my research, though, I found that winged cuffs, found primarily in the 1740s and 50s, accompanied untrimmed gowns. The "fluff" was in the accessories - neckerchiefs, chemises, aprons, caps - but not on the gowns themselves.

Girl with a Tray, Philip Mercier, 1750
Girl with a Tray, 1750, by Philip Mercier - Typical gown of this period - the decoration is in the fabric, not added trimmings. I saw a lot of the bands or ties across the stomacher, sometimes with neckerchief tucked in, or sometimes the stomacher has a gathered lineny look, like here.
Portrait of a Lady - no date, but my estimate is 1740s - by George Beare, who died in 1749, so at least it's sometime before that. English Hertiage, Marble Hill House, Art UK (click through). This shows the bands across the stomacher - not entirely sure how these work, though - how and where are they attached? How do they open/close?
Portrait of Sir Edward Walpole's Children, 1747, by Stephen Slaughter. Minneapolis Institute of Arts. The girl in the pink dress has an untrimmed gown in a beautiful silk, again with the ties across the stomacher. The stomacher looks very stiff and is ivory, not the same fabric as the gown. It possibly has that gauzy appearance, too.
Portrait of Lucy Ebberton, 1745-50, by George Knapton. This is what I'm going for (except that my gown is a solid silk, not a broace). An untrimmed gown is a tie across the stomacher. Wonderfully fluffy accessories, including huge chemise flounces, a lacy neckerchief, sheer apron, and bergere hat. It looks like her petticoat is a coral pink rather than matching the gown. Stunning!
Fast forward to the 1760s, and we get English gowns with trimmed robings, fluffy stomachers, and decorated petticoats, but most commonly flounces on the sleeves. (also plain, untrimmed gowns with flounces) I found one example of winged cuffs being worn with a trimmed stomacher, from c. 1760. This cheerful lady:

Mrs James Otis, c. 1760, by John Singleton Copley - Wichita Art Museum. This gown has winged cuffs and untrimmed robings, but the stomacher, which is very wide and round at the bottom is trimmed in self fabric.

So I've had to juggle my plan a bit, but because I like things to be as versatile as possible, I've decided to make a Double Period Dress (to use a term coined by Your Wardrobe Unlock'd).

My new plan:
  • 1 Gown - untrimmed, with winged cuffs
  • 1 1740s Stomacher - ivory taffeta with bands across to tuck the neckerchief into;
  • 1 1760s Stomacher - wider, rounder, and with lots of self trim
  • 1 Plain Petticoat - entirely of yellow taffeta (can be used for other outfits too, yay!)
  • 1 Trimmed Petticoat - the front of the petticoat in silk, the back in a cheaper fabric, probably cotton.
And for the Gala? I will wear the 1760s version, with the fluff........BUT.....I can ALSO wear the 1740s version for the 18th Century Accessories class. Yay, double duty!

Just have to...y'know...finish it. ;-)

Read More

Thursday, June 9, 2016

, ,

The Red Dress Project: 18th Century Robes de Cour

The next on my list of Big News to share with all of you is that, due to the popularity of the first 18th century patterns (8161 and 8162), Simplicity has asked me to do another 18th century pattern.

Infanta Maria Josefa de Borbon by Giusseppe Bonito, 1758-59. This is a Robe de Cour with a single skirt, back0lacing bodice, and 3/4 sleeves with flounces.
With Georgian and Rococo-inspired productions fueling pop-culture interest right now, it seemed the perfect time to do a bold, bright, fancy gown, something to contrast the more working-class designs we did last time.

A post shared by Jasmine Cephas Jones (@jazzy_joness) on

As usual, because it's me, I want to do something a bit more on the historical side, so I'm starting with primary sources for Robes de Cour, then merging this with the needed cosplay references. The plan is to make our dress pattern do-able in all colors - red, pink, yellow, teal - and not too-specific, so that sewists can decorate (or not) to their heart's content to emulate their favorite characters. Cosplay aside, the pattern will still be primarily drafted from original 18th century gowns. Made in metallic brocade with stacked lace on the sleeves, this pattern will make up into a gorgeous robe de cour too.

Here's what I'm thinking:

Jean-Marc Nattier (artist)
Duchess Maria Anna Josepha of Bavaria - this Robe de Cour has the 3/4 sleeves with flounces too, different from the tiered ruffle sleeves on many.
Marie Antoinette in court dress - fashion plate - this is from the 1770s, but you can see how this style of gown is quite "fossilized."
Infanta D. Barbara de Portugal, Princesa da Beira e Rainha da Espanha (1711 - 1758)
Originally I thought to make the gown front-closing, like most 18th century gowns, but when thinking about how to deal with the low neckline, especially if it's split down the CF, there was an issue with the stays showing.  The Robe de Cour, though, was a back-lacing, fully-boned bodice worn with a separate skirt over a broad foundation. Sometimes the ensemble had a separate train attached.

Queen Sofia Magdalena's wedding gown - bodice interior photo and drawing, researching by Janet Arnold. Scanned image from Isis' wardrobe.
These bodices had wide, slightly off-the-shoulder necklines, very low, and sometimes had tabs at the waist like stays. They were constructed like stays, with the decorative fabric mounted on the outside of a fully boned lining. For those with tabs, the skirt went on under the front and back points of the bodice, but over the tabs at the sides, like 17th century gowns.

Extant robe de cour of Sofia Magdalena of Sweden, 1766. The fluffy sleeves are still in tact on this one, and you can see the tabs at the waist.
Fascinating stuff,and completely doable, even though it looks complicated! My pattern will have very large pocket hoops, a single skirt, and the bodice.

Excited? Me too! Now I have *a lot* of work to do to get this all done by October, but I plan to share the progress along the way. Stay tuned!

Read More

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Oh, Hello Again...

Our temporary sign, lol
Darlings, I do apologize for being MIA lately, especially right as we started the Simplicity 18th c. Pattern Hacks series...

... but it's been for good reason! ...

We call it Toontown, but look at those windows!
The past several weeks, we've been moving - both house AND business. American Duchess / Royal Vintage now have their own home-that-isn't-our-garage, an official office and warehouse space that will allow us to hire employees, grow our offerings, and meet professionally with clients and mentors without the poor dears having to come to my house and be savaged by vicious poodles.

The warehouse is about 2200 square feet, which is triple the size of the garage and separate storage we were in before. You can see the car for scale.
It's not been easy, though! Finding commercial space is not like renting a house or apartment. It's *complicated* and something we've been seeking since February. Just finding the right place, then negotiating the lease, then doing the "build out" (we got new paint and nice floors), then actually moving everything in....what a huge job!

Fresh paint and lovely flooring in the "front of house" - the office and meeting space.
But how exciting for the future. This means big things, my dears. More on that later :-)

* Our new location is not a retail store, but if you happen to be in Reno and wish to try on shoes, you can make an appointment to come see us. :-)
Read More