Thursday, September 29, 2016

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The Great China Adventure, Or, How Jet-Lag is Evil

Hello Lovelies!

Abby here - sort of...

Jet lag is evil & mean.

But I'm here in body, even if that means my circadian rhythms are still totally bananas and I now like to stay up until 3 am watching "The Profit" & Iliza Shlesinger (umm..can we all say "girlcrush" together? Cause I love her.) with Lauren eating Oreos & drinking 'Green Juice' (cause we're healthy, ya'll.)

Anyways -

China was amazing! Though I've lived abroad & travel quite a bit (both in & out of the USA - fun fact: I have traveled to a different country or US state every month this year! - guess who's tired...) I have never been to any country in Asia...I've always wanted to go, but it just never was something that seemed to work out timing wise. With that in mind, when Lauren dropped the "Hey! Guess WHAT WE'RE GOING TO CHINA IN SEPTEMBER!" I kind of freaked out...what do I pack? What will we do? What are the toilets like? How long is the flight? What is happening? Who am I? Is this real life? Is this just fantasty? Caught in a landslide."

Leading up to China I was a bit nervous, but when the time came for us to board our flight and cross the ocean, I felt prepared. I packed tissues (cause allergy season& I also learned that you need them everywhere you go in China...), we got melatonin to help sleep on the flight (guess what didn't work for Lauren...womp womp), headphones, iPad, underpants & an open mind. I was ready. Prepped. Prepared!

Nah, just kidding, I totally forgot one very important item.



Fun Fact - sometimes there are no sinks in the restrooms & sometimes the sinks seem nastier than the toilets. Let's just say I spent most of my time not touching my face - it was a good exercise in self-control.

So with that amateur mistake behind me (har!) China was great. It was 5 12- hour days back to back, but they were full of adventure, eduction, and interesting food! We went to Houije which is where almost all the shoes in the world are made, the shoe materials market, our factories, fabric shopping, the Silk Park museum, Starbucks (we needed caffeine something fierce.), the tea district in Shenzhen (my favorite!), and to countless restaurants. It was a blast!

Guys. We got travel swag bags! With tiny lip balms, lotions, ear plugs, eye masks, & slippers. I felt so classy. 
The view of our plane from the Taipei Airport. EVA air is the best.
Starbucks in Hong Kong was needed for it's medicinal caffeinated factors. Total travel time each was was about 24-30 hours. Things got weird folks. 
The juxtaposition from our window. 
Going over the samples for our new Fall products over pitchers of tea. (Who's got 2 thumbs and is excited for Londoner oxfords? This girl right here!)
Taiwanese style beef noodles with sausage & garlic & this magic herbal tea that we became obsessed with. Also, Lauren swears she's not flipping you off....really.....
One of us is from the desert & one of us is from a humid climate. Can you guess which one is which? 
Talk about a first! Never in my life would I have thought I would have been in a shoemaking factory in China! They were working on a different shoe brands products, but as you can see it's not crazy industrial, and it's not filled with children. I was actually pretty amazed by the whole thing..mostly by how much is still done entirely by hand. Those curved french heels of ours? Yeah. That leather is hand stretched over each heel. 
Looking over the Londoners at the factory talking about finishing details & heels. 
With everyone at the first factory (including the owners)
At the 2nd factory discussing & examining Pompadour fabric (that's what is in my hands)
Cantonese dinner of impossible prawns & fiery garlic.
Lauren doing her best pin up & I am doing my best photo bomb.
Getting interactive with the display in the Silk Museum
We're just a couple of nerds.
Bruce Lee all like, "LAUREN I NEED SOME SHOES!"
I think this is some sort of fable that may or may not be related to Buddha, but all I knew is that we got Prince Jingim riding a BMW, a pig who's obviously up to no good, and me just practicing my Kung Fu while blastin' some beats on my Beats.
The effect didn't quite work..did it...
Qipao museum
We had dinner at a special seafood restaurant where you go around and pick out live seafood and they cook & serve it fresh. We saw crabs, lobsters, prawns, sturgeon, clams, oysters, and things of nightmares. 
And bugs and 
We didn't know what this was at the time, other than it was a prawn with a 'harder shell' - turns out this hell beast from the ocean is a Mantis Shrimp and it's terrifying
Cause I'm mature. 
All the freshly deceased seafood. All the hunger. All the apprehension (for me).  Lauren, on the other hand .... zero apprehension there.
Despite my face, the Mantis Shrimp was freaking delicious!
Lauren on a mission
That claw though....
Lauren & I trying to figure out how to eat the biggest lobster of all time. 
A highlight of our trip - we went to the tea district & bought all the things! The owner of the shop made Gong Fu style tea for us, and asked to get our picture with him. It was awesome.
Lauren was trying to figure out if we could check them into our luggage. The answer was no.
Street lanterns in the dark, after a down pour at Splendid of China (If China, Colonial Williamsburg & Ziegfeld Follies had a baby it would be named Splendid of China)
After an intense negotiation, Lauren and I scored a fan each of these beauties & some other touristy stuff. #whenyougotoathemepark
That, ladies & gents, is the face of someone who really needed some of that yogurt. 
Welp, that's pretty much all the pictures we have from China! If you haven't seen our Facebook Livestreams about our trip (driving in China, bathrooms, fabric shopping, factories, etc) Check them out below! 

Royal Vintage Livestream:

American Duchess: 

Alright! That's it for now! <3 <3 
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Monday, September 12, 2016

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The Red Dress Project: Challenges

Lauren reporting >

I've been working on-and-off on The Red Dress, the Robe de Cour pattern for Simplicity. I am making the master pattern in paper, but I am also responsible for making the sample dress that will be worn for the pattern envelope photos.

So far, I've completed the side hoops and the skirt.

The side hoops are the simplest you'll ever make. It's a one-piece pattern! They went together very quickly with basic muslin, bias tape, hoop steel and ties.

Next, I made a Puffer. This is not part of the pattern (although you can use the skirt pattern to make it, or any other kind of petticoat, which I DO recommend, heartily), but I know Simplicity will need additional undergarments for styling this pattern correctly. We historical costumers all know the Rule of Petticoats, but if I don't supply Simplicity with one, they won't have one to use. Without a petticoat, the boning of the side hoops will show through the skirt. The most efficient way to get the most "oomph" was to make a quilted skirt support (and you should too - women of the 18th century certainly favored them for the same reasons). So that's this white monstrosity:

Now on to the skirt, finally!

The skirt is enormous. It's about a 170" hem, much more than a typical 18th century skirt, but such fullness was needed to create the correct look of the gown, and also because the top edge is cartridge pleated, which requires a lot of volume.

The cartridge pleating is not my usual choice for 18th century skirts, but it is the most efficient way to design a multi-size pattern without marking out a gazillion different lines for knife pleating for all sizes (insanity).

Cartridge pleats, though I despise them, are a far better choice than gathers, and can be squished flat in one direction for knife pleats, if you desire (which I usually do). So that's what I went with. In the end, I'm pretty happy with how they look.

But the greatest challenge of this ensemble so far? This f*%&@er:

Not even kidding.

I pulled the skirt off the mannequin to finish the hem over the weekend, laid the fabric out on the cutting table, began to smooth it, and was met with THIS BITCH making a web in the folds of the skirt!


Needless to say, she's not hanging out there anymore, but I'll have to be careful when leaving the gown on the dress form for more than a day or two. Gaaaaaaaaah.

So now, panniers made, skirt finished, spiders removed, I'm on to draping the bodice. More on this later!
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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

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Our Big Announcement!

Hello Lovelies!

As many of you know (but maybe some of you don't) we announced last Friday via our weekly Facebook LiveCast (2pm Pacific Time/5 pm Eastern) that American Duchess has signed a contract to write a book with Page Street Publishing!

We are suuuuuupperrrrrrrr excited (and frazzled/freaked/nervous/giddy/shocked/etcetcetc) about the whole shebang & are really looking forward to getting this book out there for public consumption! WOO! Hooray!

During the livecast we took questions from our viewers & have had a lot of questions afterwards regarding the book - so we thought it would be wise for us to give you a run down on the book here & also a bit of the FAQ that we've noticed from Facebook. Ok? Sound like a plan? Then read on my dears -

About the Book:

This book is going to focus on the "how-to" of 18th century women's fashion (no men. no babies. k? k.)

The book will be broken down in to 4 parts or large outfit based projects.

-A Robe a l'Anglaise (English gown)

Something kind of like this - from the Met 1750-75 34.108 

-Robe a la Francaise (Sacque)

The Met, c. 1760s, 1996.374a-c
-Italian Gown (the 4 pieced fitted back gown)

The Met, 1775-85, 2009.300.1340 
-1790s Round Gown (Changing Silhouette)

Gallery of Fashion 1790s, Bunka Gakuen Library

Each gown/outfit part will break down:
  • construction techniques
  • fitting issues
  • gown variations (like pleating of the back or skirts, zone front, long sleeves, etc)
  •  accessory related projects to help finish off your entire look (caps, bonnets, mitts, etc)

This book will not not not not not not not break down:

How to drape or pattern your gown.

Repeat: We will not be showing you how to create gown patterns. We will not demonstrate how to drape the gown on your dress form.

Why? ...funny you should ask...

Because there are enough books & purchasable paper patterns out there that show you these things already. This book is going to be your companion to those books & patterns.

This book is for that moment when you're like... "Alright! I have/made my pattern! I'm ready to make this gown and look hotter than Claire Fraser after a romp in the heather with Jamie! Yeah! the hell do I start? What did I do? What am I doing? Should I do this? What if I mis-cut? What if it doesn't fit? Why does this fabric hate me and my unborn child? What have I gotten myself into?" ...and then you end up eating your weight in pizza & ice cream, ugly crying while watching re-runs of "Downton Abbey" because you're overwhelmed and freaked out not knowing what you should do. #bagpizza

That's what our book is here for - to hold your hand and help you through those moments. Sewing is scary. Sewing is hard. We want to try and help make it easier & enjoyable. Make sense? Jazzy.

Now a few more Q&A's:

Q: When will the book be published?
A: Our manuscript deadline is the end of February (pray for us.....) and our publishers estimate sometime that Fall/Winter. (Should be able to purchase on Amazon in time for Christmas 2017 but probably wont be in brick & mortar stores) Don't hold us to that date; it is just an estimation. The only hard and fast date that we have is the end of February...the rest is up to the publishers.

Q: Will there be a Pre-Order?
A: Yes, you should be able to pre-order the book on Amazon/Barnes&Noble online. We don't know when that will be yet but trust us we'll let you know!

Q: Will it be e-book or printed?
A: Both! :D

Q:Will it be available worldwide?
A: We are anticipating worldwide distribution via our publisher, but we're not 100% sure.

Q:Are you going to include hacks for OL/Poldark/Hamilton/etc etc. ?
A: Short answer is no, but to elaborate - this book will help you put together 18th century women's gowns in historically accurate ways, so you should be able to take the information we give you and adapt it to suit your cosplay needs.

Q: Will this affect the blog?
A: Yes & no. We will not be blogging about the projects/sewing/etc related to the book, per our contract with the publishers. We are going to try and work on other projects that are blog-able at the same time, so that way we can keep all of our engines runnin'.

Q:How much will the book cost?
A: About $30 USD

Q: Will this book be hand-sewing or machine?
A: Mostly hand-sewing, but we will note where you can use a machine to make your life easier (and other modern hacks where they are applicable)

Q: Will there be gridded patterns?
A: Not of the gowns, no. BUT we will be including grid diagrams/patterns of the smaller accessory projects to go with your gown. Some will be exact patterns and some will be cutting guides/recommendations (sometimes things are squidgy like that). We'll try to keep things as simple and straightforward as possible, because we are both women who hate wasting time & trying to translate wacky instructions.

Ok - I think that's all the FAQ's I can find/come up with/remember. If you have anymore questions please leave them in the comments below and we'll do our best to answer them! (To be honest, we don't know a lot regarding publication stuff, design, etc, what we know is that we have a lot to do & not a lot of time to do it- so wish us luck!)

<3 <3

And now all of that in video form:

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Friday, September 2, 2016

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1960s Emma Peel - My First Cosplay Ever

Lauren here -

I've never considered myself a "cosplayer." I have trouble reproducing costume and clothing, by which I mean I don't stick to a given design very well. I wander off and do my own thing and add my own touches, both with historical dress and vintage inspired outfits. I'm also not a big comic book fan, anime fan, or Disney fan, so cosplay rather eluded me....

....until now.

This year's pool party theme at Costume College was "It's a Mod Mod Mod Mod World." 1960s. Groovy. I have a few vintage 1960s pieces that would've been perfect, but I knew there was one thing and one thing only that I would wear.


A couple years ago, for some reason (Halloween? Racecars?) I bought a leather jumpsuit off eBay. Real leather! It was way too baggy, so I ripped the lining out and had a go at it on my trusty home Singer, and turned it into the tighter-than-skin-tight catsuit I had imagined.

And then never wore it.

Two years later, I pulled it out for the CoCo party, intending to go as Emma Peel, from the 1960s UK television show "The Avengers." Diana Rigg, being the bombshell she was (and still is) has always been an inspiration to me (married James Bond, drove a Lotus, killed Joffrey), and I just loved her funky leather spy-suit in The Avengers, before her costumier took her more mod in polyester and color blocking.

eeeeegads! Diana Rigg wanted to differentiate herself from Honour Blackman, the previous female lead in The Avengers, and the first to wear the leather jumpsuit, so as the series and the '60s went on, Emma Peel wore less leather and more of.....this....
Hell, I already had the jumpsuit, so why not? I teased a red wig from Arda Wigs into shape, found some tight, pointed-toe boots with a low heel on eBay, and applied a sinful amount of black eyeliner. DONE!

Will I ever wear this again? Maaaaaybe :-). It was surprisingly comfortable (thank goodness for real leather) and even if I don't have the best body for it, I felt pretty schmexy. <3

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