Friday, November 25, 2016

A Winter's Sale

It's that time, my dears! Welcome to the Holiday shopping season. We can't ignore it (nor do we wish to), but we want this to be a joyous time for you rather than a stressful one. So with that in mind, we've got specials for you....oh yes....

This year we have all sorts of goodies:

  • Look for the green "Freebies" banners on most of our shoes - these mean you get a choice of free accessories like silk stockings, 18th century shoes buckles, or button hooks on that product.
  • In addition, any non-freebies accessories purchased with shoes or in multiples gets a discount.
  • Victoria Carriage Boots and Dunmore 18th Century Shoes in White are on clearance - go get 'em because they won't be back.
  • We have a handful of Imperfects too. (these never last long)


Additionally, there's a sale on at We have a clearance sale section here, and will also be tempting you with FLASH SALES each day over the weekend. Friday through Monday there will be one of the Royal Vintage 1940s shoes on sale for $20 off for that day only. 

Follow @missroyalvintage on Instagram, Facebook, or sign up for the Royal Vintage newsletter to receive notifications of the flash sales (and coupons...and other stuff).

Happy Holidays, ladies! I hope you enjoy our sales and get some loverly things. Thank you for supporting our business. <3

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

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Finding Inspiration in the 1790s with Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun

Self Portrait by Vigee-Lebrun, 1791
Those of you who have been following for awhile will know I'm not a huge fan of, well, anything with an empire waist.

I just can't seem to find my groove with Regency attire. I see my gorgeous friends dressed in their early 19th century finery and I think they look fantastic, but when it comes time to wear it myself....not so much.

Part of this has to do with our own personal styles. When you're looking at pretty dresses on Pinterest, of course you will naturally gravitate to what fits your style, whether it's 2016, 1916, or 1816.

My style veers towards redingotes, pelisses, military overtones, menswear vibes, orientalism, and clean lines. Some eras seem like they offer more for my style than others - for instance, the 1780s are full of everything I love, but I feel the turn of the 19th century isn't.

Of course, I'm wrong! It's just a matter of finding those fashion plates, extant pieces, and paintings that speak to us.

When deciding on the chapters in our 18th century costuming book, coming out next year, Abby and I deliberated on whether to include the 1790s or not. The silhouette changed significantly in the 1790s, which we though was important to include. However, we want to *really* focus on the 1790s as a period aesthetically quite different from the fashions to follow, with particular attention paid to the cut of the gown and the accessories. We want to show a different 1790s than the typical, and explore a period of dress unique and interesting in itself.

Without telling you *too* much of what we've been working on, here are some of our inspiration images:

Atelier of the Artist (Madame Vigee Le Brun and her Pupil Marie Victoire Lemoine) by Vigee Lebrun, 1796 (The Met)
Portrait of Countess Catherine Skavronskaya by Vigee-Lebrun, 1790
Theresa, Countess Kinsky by Vigee-Lebrun, 1793
Portrait of Empress Elisabeth Alexeievna (Louise of Baden) by Vigee-Lebrun, 1795
Portrait of a Young Woman, by Vigee-Lebrun, c. 1797
Princess Belozersky by Vigee-Lebrun, 1798
These paintings are all by Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun. The fashions are both French and Russian, but you can see the clear interest this period had in Eastern dress. Some of the gowns are white, some rich colors. The accessories are many - turbans, whimples, shawls, chemisettes, long sashes, exotic colors. This is a side of the 1790s that, to me, is rich and interesting and full of lots of enticing details.

What do you think? Do you like these looks or prefer the more English style?
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Tuesday, November 8, 2016


What I Wore to the Election, November 1920

Day dress, c. 1920/1921. Silk with embroidery, paneled skirt, belt, and cotton underbodice.
In case you hadn't noticed.....

Today is election day. And for the first time, a woman is a real contender for President of the United States. Whether you support her or not, we can't deny that this is history in the making, which of course has got quite a lot of us women thinking about our right to vote.

Now, I voted early, a couple weekends ago, and there was no fanfare, not even much of a line. In, Vote, Out. Easy. Today, however, I am seeing many of my historical costuming friends going to the polls with some nod, however small, to the women's suffrage movement. Some are wearing gold and purple ribbons or jewelry; some are wearing original, antique "Votes for Women" pins; and some are wearing full historic dress with yellow sashes. So, of course, even though I already voted, I wanted to show my support-remembrance-respect-pride not for any particular candidate, but for our nearly-and-only 100-year-old "right" to vote.

The nineteenth amendment, that which prohibited any US citizen from being denied the right to vote based on sex (but let's be real here, we're talking only white women still), was ratified on August 18, 1920.

Day Dress, c. 1920/21 - found on eBay, this dress was marked as plus size, but fits 34 bust / 29 waist perfectly. The loose lines of the 1920s can be deceiving.
The dress I am wearing today is an original frock I found on eBay. Made of brown silk with rather heavy turquoise and black embroidery, the dress has an interior strong cotton underbodice, and a bajillion hooks and eyes. It was labeled as "plus size," but fits my 34-29-38 measurements perfectly, like it was made for me. I'm proud that today, Election Day, is its first wear.

 When I got the dress, I was giddy about the condition and the fit. I wasn't sure of the date - late teens? early 20s? - so I leapt down the Research Rabbithole with gusto and found, as if by magic, this dress in Everyday Fashions of the Twenties: As Pictured in Sears and Other Catalogs for the year 1921.

Sears catalog, 1921 - The dress pictured in the middle bears an uncanny resemblance to my dress.
The dress in the illustration does differ - just by looking at it, the motifs are different, the belt is broader, the sleeves taper, the neckline shape is different. In the description, the differences increase. It says:
31F5155 - Navy Blue 
31F5156 - Black 
31F5157 - Taupe 
One material that ever figures in fashion's scheme of things, regardless of the season is all silk satin messaline. Youthful grace has been displayed in the lines of the divided panels, so artistically trimmed with iridescent bead motifs. The generous girdle is adjusted in a novel way - the long fringe trimmed streamer slips through a loop, having the appearance of a knot. The waist lining of good quality batiste, is neatly finished at the top with a lacy looking edging.
The parts I marked in bold are where the two dresses differ rather greatly. Still, the design is almost exactly the same. It does make me wonder...where did my dress come from? Perhaps a competing catalog retailer? Perhaps it was made by a dressmaker? Maybe it even is a Sears dress (the Dover book is a survey, not a complete catalog), but from a different season, or pictured later or earlier in the same catalog.

Putting on the dress starts with the cotton underbodice. This is a sturdy cotton that hooks closed at center front. It is attached at the back and around the armscyes. There are additional bars on the left side (here seen on the right) to then hook the front of the silk bodice to.

The skirt has a hook and bar closure on the left side, along with a horizontal hook to keep the waist of the skirt attached to the underbodice.

The inset panel then hook across the underbodice, and the left side of the dress hooks to the panel. The belt isn't tied, but snaps together on the left side.
Whatever the origin of this piece, it's fascinating, rather sturdy, kindof fun to put on (unless you're in a hurry), and easy to wear. I've not got a hat as befits it (yet), but I badly marceled my hair and have worn black stockings and Gibson shoes, along with a gold, purple, and white ribbon.

Worth it in every way, to pay homage to the women who courageously fought for our right to vote, and who wore their best dresses to the polls this day in 1920.

All put together. Notably, there is no staybelt in this dress. The underbodice is quite fitted but not tight (I don't think it is too large or too small; just right). The rest of the dress is loose, not restricting in any way. Even the belt is loose. It's quite wonderful to wear.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

How to Start Wearing Vintage/Retro Every Day

Lauren here --

As historic costumers, we all obviously love clothing, but many of us feel the divide between "costume" and "clothing." Most historic costumers do not wear historic pieces every day, although these modes of dress are our passions.

So what *do* we wear every day? What are our "normal" clothes?

Several weeks ago, we attended Rufflecon in Stamford, Connecticut. This event is an "alternative fashion conference" but focuses primarily on Lolita fashion and its offshoots. For those unfamiliar with Lolita, here are some examples:

In talking with many of these women, I found that a lot of them dress this way every day, despite the flack they get from muggles. This is their identity. This is what they are comfortable in and how they express themselves through dress. Their outfits ("coords") are not costumes, but clothing.

This got me thinking about other modes of dress considered alternative. The one I connect with the most is vintage and retro fashion. I know plenty of men and women who dress in vintage or retro styles every day (Dandy Wellington, Terra, Rachel, Missi to name just a few), and I can finally include myself in this group, but only after....well, an effort.

An effort? Yes. I didn't just suddenly start dressing this way one day and never looked back. It took a conscious effort because I consistently felt "in costume" when I wore these clothes, not like I was wearing my normal, everyday attire. Not comfortable. Not relaxed. This is not to say that I do not feel comfortable in full 18th century regalia. What I mean is that we often feel we are"on" when in costume, whereas when we are just dressed, we wish to feel ourselves rather than a character we are portraying. One state is not superior to the other; they are just different.

My almost-everyday look - Freddies jeans, a t-shirt, round sunglasses, and a B&T headscarf.
So how does one go about transitioning to a mode of vintage or retro fashion every day? Here are some tips, based on the experiences I had (and still have) in back-dating my wardrobe and changing my psychology:

1. Recognize that it is OK to be different and that you want to be different. This is not about fitting into a certain group or dressing how you think someone else will like you - this is about you, being comfortable in your own skin, and expressing your true self to the world.

2. Get rid of everything in your closet that doesn't make you feel good. Try everything on, and donate or sell anything that doesn't fit. Donate or sell anything that you don't feel yourself in. Be brutal - don't allow yourself to say "oh, but if I just lose 10 lbs I'll fit into that." No. Dress for who you are now. It's amazing how good you feel, no matter your size or shape, when you wear clothes that fit you.

3. Now that you have a clean slate, purchase or make a few items you love. Really love. And that fit you well and make you feel great. Go for the types of clothing you like and wear the most - for example, I wear pants every day. I love dresses and skirts, but if I'm being really honest with myself, I only wear them when I'm "dressing up," not for my day-to-day clothing.

Simple looks are the easiest to start with - trousers made by me, blouse is from a thrift shop, wool beret is from Amazon. The most "vintagey" single part of my outfit is my shoes, oxfords from Restricted, but the whole effect is bohemian without being accurate 1930s head-to-toe.
4. Mix it up. With these first few items, mix them in to your existing wardrobe. This is the transition - ease into it. The idea is to train your brain to feel that these new clothes are everyday, normal clothes, not a costume. Get used to and comfortable with how you look to yourself, the attention you may get from other people, how you feel in your clothes, etc.

5. Support your key pieces. Something I found when I started wearing high-waisted trousers was that most of the rest of my clothing just didn't work with them. My sweaters were all too long, my t-shirts were all too tight, even my underwear wasn't the right shape anymore. This called for action - I shortened all of my sweaters, culled my shirts, and bought new undies. The result? Now ALL of my clothing works together, and it's easier than ever to choose a vintage look in the morning.

6. Realize that you may never go back and that's OK. Once you change your mode of dress completely, and you get used to it, you may find that putting on your old, modern clothes becomes detestable. Even if I wanted to wear modern low-rise skinny jeans, the feel of them squeezing my lower half to death is too much for me to bear. I'll never go back. And that's OK.

It gets easier, then it becomes the norm. The real you comes out and you feel at your best. The day I wore this outfit, a gentleman said he liked my costume. I said, "this isn't a costume! These are my clothes!"
At this point the journey is complete. The new "norm" is the vintage/retro and modern outfits no longer appeal. I now feel like a "poser" when I try to wear modern, "cool," expected clothing. And even though my everyday style gets attention, I don't feel like I'm wearing a costume. Instead I just feel myself. Mission accomplished.

The moral of the story is that you can and should dress any way you like, but it takes some getting used to. You don't have to "dress up," every day. You don't have to wear what you think is expected. You don't have to do a full, head-to-toe look every single day. Start small (a headscarf, for instance), ease into it, and find what's right for you.
Favorite Shops for Vintage/Retro Clothing:
Unique Vintage
Emmy Design Sweden
Vecona Vintage
Freddies of Pinewood
Vivien of Holloway
Fab Gabs on Etsy
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