Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Podcast Episode 4: What Did Napoleon Wear? featuring Mark Schneider

Mark as Napoleon (death stare optional)... (Photo by Luc Morel)
Hello All!

This week's episode of Fashion History with American Duchess is all about the big guy himself - Napoleon! While Abby was in Virginia in April, she sat down with Mark Schneider, one of the premiere living historians who portrays Napoleon all over the world.

Here is the real Napoleon for comparison:

The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries, by Jacques-Louis David, 1812, National Gallery of Art DC
As you can see, the resemblance is strong, just one of the reasons why it's such a treat to watch Mark become Napoleon. Below you will find more images of Mark, Napoleon, and artifacts linked to Napoleon (that we talk about in the podcast) as well as links to the different events around the world that Mark will be attending as Napoleon.

Mark as Napoleon at Malmaison (Photo by Joeri de Rocker)

General Napoleon Bonaparte during the Battle of Arcole in 1796, by Antoine-Jean Gros, 1801, via Waterloo200
Mark as Napoleon filming for a documentary about Napoleon's time in Northern Italy. (Photo by Michaela Wecker)
Photo of Napoleon's Hat and Greatcoat from Fontainbleau (via)

Mark in his hat and greatcoat at the reenactment of the Battle of Austerlitz in 2015 (Photo by Michaela Wecker)

Legion of Honor Medal (via)

Mark will be portraying Napoleon at these events this year:

Jane Austen Festival at Locust Grove in Louisville, Kentucky. (We'll be there, too!)

3rd Imperial Jubilee at Malmaison France

Austerlitz in Czech Republic
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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

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Podcast Episode 3: All About the Louis Exclusive c. 1660-1720

Hi All!

For this week's episode, Abby & Lauren sit down and chat about the newest Exclusive offering from American Duchess - The Louis (Pre-Order open until May 19th! $295)

Our Louis Exclusives come in a dark red and deep blue velveteen with silver embroidery.

Here's what we chat about -
  • Abby asks Lauren to explain how the exclusive process works for American Duchess.
  • Lauren discusses the evolution of the heeled shoe & why we named the shoes after King Louis XIV
  • Abby & Lauren chat about Lady Mary Stanhope Gell, who is rumored to have owned the original shoes we were inspired by for the exclusive. 
  • We giggle about our costuming choices and ideas for the Louis shoes & how we would costume around the shoes. 

Blue velvet shoes with silver embroidery c. 1660, rumored to have belonged to Lady Mary Stanhope (here)
Here's the namesake of our shoes, King Louis XIV, rocking some red heels & a hell of a wig -

King Louis XIV, 1701, by Hyacinthe Rigaud (here)
Thanks to research done by Kimberly of Silk Damask, below is a portrait of Mary Stanhope from sometime in the early 1600s (when she was still a Radclyffe!). Also, don't forget to check out Kim's post on Silk Damask about the shoes & Mary Stanhope, it's a great summary of what we talk about in the podcast! 

Mary Radclyffe by William Larkin, c. 1610-1613, Berger Collection

Lauren and Abby both agree that maybe experimenting with doing some costuming c. 1660 would be fun...something like this:

One of Charles II's favorite ladies, Barbara Villiers, Countess of Castlemaine & Duchess of Cleveland by Peter Lely (Here)
We also talk about making an early 1700s mantua, like these to go with the Louis shoe -

Portrait of a Family in an Interior, Nicolas Walraven van Haften, MFA Boston, 1982.139

This is the style of gown that Abby is talking about when she references looking like a Mrs. Potato Head. 
Henrietta Maria after Sir Anthony van Dyck, 1630s (NPG London)
We hope you enjoy the podcast & don't forget to order your Louis exclusives today! (Easy Pay Layaway & Returns are both possible with our exclusives!) 

Our Louis in a dark red with matching leather heel. 

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Monday, May 15, 2017

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Abby's Austen Fest Dinner Dress

Hey All!

Abby here! As some of you know, Lauren & I will be attending Jane Austen Festival in Louisville, KY this July (soo excited to go home for business! woo!). As a part of the festivities, Lauren and I are going to be guests at a dinner hosted by the HMS Acastas group, and while we're super excited to be participating in this fun bit of living history....I need a dinner dress to wear.

Ugh. Ok. More sewing for me!

Luckily, I really am in love with the late 1790s, and all of the different influences that can be found in just a few years of fashion. While I have my "book" dress for one day, being that it's just a spotted linen (from Britex Fabrics, San Francisco) it's not really the best for a more formal dinner. So I have been doing research to come up with a fun late 1790s game plan for dinner, and I think I've come up with a plan!

Full Dress, May 1799, Claremont Colleges Digital Library
This print is my main inspiration. While I don't want to wear an entirely silk gown in the middle of July in Louisville (I know better...) I did want some silk to help make my appearance seem a bit more "formal" for dinner. This print dates from 1799 which is also the year I am aiming for, and is considered "full dress"! While my gown will be out of a light weight block printed cotton, my plan is that the blue tunic in the print will probably be in (hopefully!) an emerald green and I will make a turban to match. I'm still trying to figure out my jewelry options though. Currently, I'm lusting after some coral....

After I decided on this print, I wanted to see what else was out there in the internet to see if this little silk tunic thing was just a one off or was it actually trendy at the turn of the century. As it turns out, this look was definitely "in" c. 1799-1800. Hooray! Here are some other fashion prints I found while trolling the internet....

Costume de Bal, Year 8 (1799), Here
I really love the asymmetrical cut and the tassels on this leaves me strongly tempted to kind of blend the two prints together to create my look. I love me some tassels....

Full Dress, December 1798, Here
While the purple is really cool, I wasn't terribly fond of the more shapeless tunic in pink...

The Fatima Robe and 3 Bonnets, October 1798, Here
This "Fatima Robe" is different from the others I found, but I fell in love with the sleeve details...

Costume Parisien, 1799, Pinterest 
So... this is a lot of look... but again, asymmetrical & tassels! 

Costume de Bal, Costume Parisien, 1799, Pinterest

I love, love, love the ribbon detailing on this outfit. I would love to see this gown made up in person...I bet the colors would just pop! (Also - tassel.)

All of these prints are just fabulous in so many ways, but it has left me with quite a bit of sewing to do! I've already started on the gown (pictures to come later!), and now I just need to source the right color & weight of silk, and figure out the jewelry for the look. 

Only a couple of months left! 
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Thursday, May 11, 2017

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Oh Snap - A 1920s Photo Shoot

Back in April we did a photo shoot for the new "Deco Darlings" designs, showcasing two of our lovely 1920s and 30s shoes - Evelyn and Lillian.

Because the Deco Darlings work for two visually quite different decades, we wanted to show the versatility through two contrasting outfits. The first was the 1930s frock from this post. The second was an early 1920s ensemble.

This dress is one of the most special pieces in my meager collection of antique clothing. It's made of organdy and heavily decorated with embroidery and cutwork at the hem. There is also lace insertion, very fine lace trim on the collar and cuffs, and a subtle dropped waist with slight shaping. It's a stunning gown, and perfect for the stunning model, Rachel, who wears it here.

Royal Vintage Shoes "Lillian" Mary Janes with Original Vintage Dress

The hem detail on this original 1920s dress is fantastic.
We paired the frock with a peach slip (also original but not as old), a green tie (also original and older!), and "Lillian" Mary Janes in Sage and Ivory, named after Lillian Gish.

With Rachel's epicly waved hair, graceful figure, and fine ukelele skills, the overall effect was enchanting.

Ukelele Spring. The Ukelele is vintage too, but not nearly as old as the dress - it's been in my family since at least I was born (1983, harhar)

The green tie is actually a sash from a c. 1919 dinner gown in my collection. It was the perfect shade of green to tie in with the shoes.
The weather was cold but sunny, with the cherry trees just starting to bloom. We did the shoot at the University of Nevada, Reno, a rather pretty campus with several historic buildings from the 1920s and older.

Lillians in sage and ivory leather with a button strap and 2 3/8" reproduction heel.
{nerd} I'm very proud of these photos from a photog perspective. It was my first time shooting with the "Nifty Fifty" lens, an excellent 58 mm fixed lens with a stunning f/1.4 which makes for incredible bokeh and shallow depth of field, not unlike original autochromes, and particularly well-suited to fashion photography. I'm no expert with this lens yet but I really enjoyed working with it. {/nerd}

The wild photographer captured in her natural environment.
We hope you enjoy these shots!

If you'd like your own pair of Lillians in sage/ivory or navy/ivory, you can find them here.

Model: Rachel Huffman
Dress, Tie, Slip, Ukelele: vintage

Styling: Abby Cox
Photography: Lauren Stowell
Location: University of Nevada, Reno
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Podcast Episode 2: Civil War Mourning with Samantha McCarty

Hello All!

We're excited to announce our "second" episode of Fashion History with American Duchess! Today, we are chatting with the lovely Samantha McCarty of The Couture Courtesan all about mourning dress during the American Civil War. I (Abby) have been lucky enough to listen to Samantha lecture on this subject on two separate occasions, and I still was completely enthralled by the wealth of knowledge that Samantha shared on the subject for the podcast.

Samantha in Half-Mourning while attending Gettysburg Remembrance Day

Here are some example images & links to fabrics so you can make your own mourning attire:

Click Here to buy a modern (silk) crape substitute that Samantha recommends.

For worsted wool you can check out - Burnley & Trowbridge & Mood Fabrics

Full or Deep Mourning

Woman in Full Mourning. Courtesy of Samantha
Woman in Full Mourning with widow's cap and lappets (Courtesy of Samantha)

Woman in Full Mourning from New York. (Ebay)
English woman wearing a widow's cap with crape "folds" around the skirt of her dress, you can also see her white collar like what Samantha mentions! (Here)

Samantha wearing Full Mourning with her veil pulled down.

Examples of Half or Light Mourning

Samantha in a cotton Half Mourning Dress

Half Mourning Dress from North Carolina Museum of History

Black and Purple Silk Dress, 1860, MFA Boston

Samantha in a silk taffeta half-mourning dress (Here)

Mourning Accessories

Mourning Corsage of Abraham Lincoln, April 1865, Met Museum

Framed in Memorial Hair Art, 1850, French, Etsy

1880 Black Enamel & 18k Gold Memorial Ring, Erstwhile Jewelry

Victorian Gutta-Percha & Gold Mourning Earrings, Ruby Lane

Victorian Mourning Brooch with Acorn Motif, Whitby Jet, Amazing Adornments
We hope you enjoy the episode! 

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Monday, May 8, 2017

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EXCLUSIVE! "Louis" Velveteen & Embroidered Baroque Shoes

OK, I know, it's taken us half a year to get the new Exclusives going, but now that we're here....

Meet "Louis," the new velveteen, leather, and silver embroidered shoes now available for pre-order at

Way back we did a vote on our Facebook page, pitting a selection of drool-worthy historic shoes from all periods against one another in an epic battle to find a winner. That winner was this pair of incredible women's pumps from c. 1660, attributed to Lady Mary Stanhope, held in the Northampton Museum:

Velvet and silver embroidered shoes with leather heels, attributed to Lady Mary Stanhope, c. 1660. Northamption Museum.
Next we asked you all to vote on your favorite potential colors for our version of these shoes. The results were the original dark blue as well as a rich deep red wine, another excellent color choice for the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

Museum of London, c. 1651 (orphaned work)

Our version of these swanky shoes is made on the Pompadour last and heel. We've used a lovely short-pile velveteen paired with matching leather on the curvy French heels. The vamp and quarters are heavily embroidered in silver threads, matched with a silver ribbon tie, and picked out with the white leather rand, a hallmark of shoes of this time.

American Duchess Exclusive - "Louis" Court Shoes in Blue

American Duchess Exclusive - "Louis" Court Shoes in Wine
For those new to the Exclusives, these are short-run, made-to order shoes that are available by pre-order only. As they are not part of our regular line due to the posh materials and fanciful designs, each pair is made by hand by the master shoemaker at our workshop. They are truly special, extremely limited, and achingly gorgeous.

Exclusives do qualify for EasyPay, coupons codes, Free USA shipping, and any credits and discounts you may have.

Pre-Order May 5 - 19, 2017
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