Friday, June 30, 2017

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Podcast Episode 9: Early 17th Century Women's Dress with Samantha McCarty

Hello Lovelies!

Abby here! On this week's episode of Fashion History with American Duchess, I got to sit down with Samantha McCarty (Couture Courtesan) and chat with her about her other topic of expertise - Early 17th Century Women's Dress & Oorijzers (Ear Irons).

Samantha dressed in one of her 17th century outfits at Jamestown Settlement

Again, it's one of those topics where I will probably make a fool out of myself, but listening and chatting with Samantha about this particular subject was so very very interesting! Whenever you see someone who can make and dress in one of the more obscure time periods - it's just fascinating to be able to watch them wear the clothing & see it brought to life. Like I said in the interview, what I love about Samantha is she is able to take 1600-1625 and make it seem so very real and tangible - not like a costume at all!

Here's the breakdown of what we talk about:

- What was in the "average" woman's wardrobe when she arrived in Jamestown, Virginia in 1621.

-What is a petticoat, how is it worn, and what makes it different from a kirtle (or...not different...)

-We discuss the modern historian/costumer/reenactor's assumption that boned corsetry was used around this time period. (Turns out it's mostly found only with elite, aristocratic women...)
Another example of Samantha's work - the red is known as a gown....I have to be's still confusing me a bit. :/ 

- What are bodies or upper bodies and what where they made out of?!

-Samantha's success with making herself a petticoat with upper bodies.

-Coming to terms with bodice wrinkles and how they're accurate (even if they drive you bananas!)

- What in the blue blazes is a "gown" in the 17th century & how the 1600s is a confusing time period for terminology. :/

Gown, 1610-1620, worn by Electress Magdalena Sibylla, Here

- We discuss Samantha's success with making a more formal 1616 gown for Costume College last year...and nip slip, low necklines, and all that good stuff.

No words...just stunning! 

- Samantha explains what an oorijzer (or-eye-zer) is, how it is worn, how they are made, who wore them, and why they were worn. Turns out her version is copied off an ear iron that was found in Virginia! Pretty cool, if you ask me!
That's the oorijzer that Aislinn from the Blacksmith Shop at Colonial Williamsburg made for Samantha - it's so cool...

And here's the cap pinned into place - you can see the little nubs of the oorijzer poking out at her cheeks!

I loved re-listening to this episode, just as much as I enjoyed recording it with Samantha, and so I know you'll love it too! Makes me want to sit down and experiment with different types of support with canvas, buckram, and itty-bitty teeny-weeny eyelets!

NOTE: We mention the fabulous women of The Tudor Tailor quite a bit in this episode, and if you would like to know more about them, their books (if you haven't already - stop what you're doing and go buy their books now), check out their webpage and etsy store!

Also - we mention Burnley & Trowbridge's video on how to make your own buckram. You can watch it here. :)

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Tuesday, June 27, 2017


A Trip to England and Wales

Lauren here.... in Reno, and not in the UK where I have been and would like to still be. ;-)  For the first time in years (and for the first time *ever* without completely shutting down, Chris and I took a vacation, a proper vacation.

We went "home" to the UK where Chris is from. It was such a wonderful trip full of interesting, stimulating, and varied experiences. We ate Bakewell tarts in Bakewell, walked the city walls in Conwy, visited a race car factory, peeked into the Manchester Gallery of Costume, and relaxed in the Welsh hills with a lot of lambs.

I have specifics to share with you on some of the places we visited, but for now here's a general overview in pictures...

First stop - Dunston Hall. This place is a Victorian stately home that is also a hotel. They've built a number of additional hotel buildings that are in the same style, so it's a rather large complex. The service and grounds were lovely. If you're visiting Norfolk, this is a great place to stay.

I've been wanting to visit Revival Retro in London for about 6 years now. It was an absolute treat!

It's all in the name - if you know what a Bakewell tart is, or a Bakewell pudding, then you'll want to visit Bakewell. There are a number of shops in the town claiming origination of the delicious sweet. We chose this one and this one was wonderful and cute-to-boot.

After nomming the tarts and puddings, we took a walk (hike) around Bakewell, a darling town built on hills. The quaintness of England just kills me - every street seemed to look just like this.

A stop for the night in Buxton, a Victorian spa town in Derbyshire built on a natural spring. Like Bath (but younger), Buxton was known for the water - this water right here in this photo, to be exact - and today you can actually buy bottled Buxton water. I drank it right out of the well. ;-) 

One of my favorite daytrips was to Quarry Bank Mill, a working cotton mill now run by The National Trust. I have a lot to share about this fascinating place in a future blog post. For now, here is my doodle.

If you're a disciple of Janet Arnold, you will recognize this dress. It was like meeting a famous person when I walked into the 18th century room at the Manchester Gallery of Fashion. I made some drawings and notes, which I'll share later.

The second half of our trip was spent in North Wales - Snowdonia - which was an incredible place of natural beauty. It has a goodly number of castles as well, such as Dolbadarn Castle, a Welsh fortification. Here's my doodle. It was peaceful and wild up on this hill.

For our week in Snowdonia, we stayed in a Landmark Trust property called Ty Uchaf, one of three cottages up a rather rough track in the mountains. Our was at the top of the hill (of course), but was a truly stunning, peaceful, and meditative place. I honestly don't feel we spent enough time here.

My doodle of Ty Uchaf. This cottage was originally built in 1685 (!!!)

From the tippy top of the tallest tower of Conwy Castle in Wales. SUCH a cool place. Before ascending the castle tower, we walked the entire length of the city walls and ate fresh fish and chips on the quayside. Heaven!

This is proof that Chris and I took a vacation together.

I have an obsession now. I ate 3/4 of this pie and since we can't get them in the US I've been rocking back and forth in a corner from withdrawals.

The nearest town to our wild Welsh cottage was Betws-y-coed, a tiny village of mostly outdoor/camping/hiking shops for all the Snowdonia tourists. There's a river running through the town with some waterfalls. An idyllic spot.

Back at Ty Uchaf - there were lambs everywhere. Some of them were quite bold, but as much as I wanted to snuggle one, this is as close at they ever got, haha. Cute AF little lamby lambs.

Snowdonia - quite a view.

Our last day in England (sadness, such sadness). We were back in the South and it was *HOT.* Uncomfortable though the heat was, it was a good day to wear one of the dresses I got at Revival.
So that's it for now, but I have more photos and reports on some of the places we visited and things we saw. Stay tuned!
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Friday, June 23, 2017

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Podcast Episode 8: It's not just One Direction: The Many Hairy Styles of 18th Century Women

Hi All!

Abby here with Episode 8 of Fashion History with American Duchess! This is Part 2 of our 18th Century Hair convo. Last week we talked about hygiene, hair care, and hair products of the 18th century, and now we've moved on to have a chat about different hair styles & their constant evolution through the century (especially the last quarter!)

Harry Styles...Hairy Styles...Get it? Get it?! :D (Apologies to Harry, you seem lovely and I adore your new album.)

Here's Our Talking Points:

- We have a pun filled giggle fest about One Direction and Ha(i)rry Styles (who is also Abby's current crush, btw...and she wants to steal some of his wardrobe, but that's beside the point...)

- Anglo & American women did not seem to use powder and pomade in the same way as the French women did (heavily powdered hair in the 1750s & 60s seemed to be predominately a French trend - but I am unsure about other European countries - Abby hasn't investigated it.)

One of our favorite portraits and favorite gowns, with what appears to be unpowdered or lightly powdered hair. (Portrait of a Lady, Francis Cotes, 1768, Tate Museum)
Madame Lalive de Jully, 1764, Joseph Ducreux (Here)

- The really tall vertical hair that we've come to associate with the 1700s is more nuanced than what we think.

- Hair wasn't actually as tall as what we think too - here are some images that help visually explain what we mean with it comes to proportion and hair:

Looks huge, but it's actually not like what you think...those feathers do a lot of the work. (Marie Antoinette, 1778, Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, Met Museum via Kunsthistorisches Museum
Another of Marie Antoinette

- "Poufs" are not the hair styles - they are the the gauzy, feathered, bedazzled, and be-shipped bits that women would wear on top of their hair that helped get it to "enormous" heights.

- Abby confuses the man-milliner who is credited with created the pouf, Leonard, for Louis during the talk - like a damn professional....(guess who's annoyed at herself. Ha!)

-Abby has a moan about the "ship in the hair" trope while Lauren ponders the idea of putting a race car in a new pouf. (Abby supports the race car idea because it is funny.)

- Abby raves about Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell's book Fashion Victims: Dress at the Court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette and her research on Leonard, poufs, etc. (buy the book - seriously - it's so good!)

- Abby talks about the different cushions, shapes, and rollers that were made and used in the 18th century to create the crazy hair designs.

The Village Barber, 1778, Library of Congress

- Lauren laments trying to hack the "donut" hair cushion with a plastic swim wing thing.

- We chat about the frizzy hairstyles of the 1780s and how in the beginning they were done by "crapeing" the hair.

- Abby probably butchers the name "Plocacosmos" which is the title of one of her favorite hair-dressing and care manuals.

- We talk about how the instructions for the 1780 style hair in Plocacosmos: The Whole Art of Hair Dressing (1782) describes the styles and tools seen in the 1780s Encyclopédie méthodique.

This style, the combs, hair pieces, and cushions are all described in Plocacosmos - it was amazing! Plate is from a later Edition of Encyclopédie Méthodique (image)

- We also talk about how what we call the "hedgehog" hairstyle is more wide than it is tall.
Circle of Johann Ernst HEINSIUS, Portrait of Young Lady with Yellow Bow, 1780s-90s, Here 

As always, I've probably missed a bullet point from the post, but this should give you a good general idea of what we chat about. Hope you enjoy!!!

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A Very Vintage Trip to the UK

Hi! I'm Lauren - remember me? I've been away for awhile on a much-needed vacation to the UK. Hooray! Vacay!

It was a wonderful, restful and also stimulating trip. We did many wonderful things, and I have much to share, so just to start, here's a quick overview:

Our first full day in England was spend daytripping into London to visit the wonderful ladies of Revival Retro Boutique. I took my suitcase full of shoe samples, left with a back full of dresses and a new business relationship. :-) Royal Vintage Shoes will now be available from Revival both online and in store.

Testing, testing 1-2-3 - I wore the new "Claire" oxfords into London to check comfort and durability. A+. (Claires are coming for Fall 2017 - pre-order will open in August)

A moist hike around hilly Bakewell revelead idyllic laneways, cheese shops, and Bakewell tarts, oh yes!

Not gonna lie - this was primarily my "uniform" for most of the trip. It was chilly in the North and we did a lot of hoofin' it, so I lived in this Emmy Design cardigan, Freddies of Pinewood jeans, and Burnley and Trowbridge headscarf.

Not a bad view from the highest tower at Conwy Castle, eh?

Another to test, and more vigorously - I wore the new "Rosie" WWII Double Buckle boots for all of our days in North Wales, and really put them through strife. On this day we ascended the old city walls of Conwy and looped the town entirely.

Oh hey, lamb!

The last couple days were spent in the hot hot heat back in the South. I finally got to wear one of the fabulous dresses I'd bought at Revival Retro, and I cannot say enough good things about it. (More about this dress later)

It was hard to leave such a beautiful part of the world.
We had such a great time! I have more to share with you, including more information on the new Fall shoes I tested, so stay tuned, lovelies. <3

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Friday, June 16, 2017

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Podcast Episode 7: Did They Have BUGS in Their Hair?! 18th Century Hair & Hygiene

Hi All -

Abby here and I am very pleased to release this weeks episode of Fashion History with American Duchess - "Hair, Hygiene, and the 18th Century Woman" - as it is the first of a 2 part series devoted to my favorite research subject on hair, hairstyles, hair products, hair care, etc in the 18th century.

An oldey from my private Instagram account - a good shot of the 'before' and 'after' of pomade and powdering your hair
It's a subject I've been researching for about 4 years now, and while I've give some lectures at Costume Society of America, University of Alberta, and Costume College - this is really the first time I've been able to speak on this subject on such a public platform. I really hope you enjoy the episode & if you have any questions - please leave them in the comment section!

Here's the summary of what Lauren and I chat about -

- How long I've been studying 18th century hair on an academic level.

- The basics of the hair products that were used in the 18th century (Pomatum/Pomade and Hair Powder). I also lament the difficulties in studying 18th century hair pins - ugh - so frustrating!

- What these products were made of (animal fat, starch, and other fun goodies!) and how they smell (like cookies.)

- How were the products used & what are some challenges with them (hint - follow instructions and don't get your hair wet!)
Miss Rattle dressing for the Pantheon, March 28 1772, Lewis Walpole Digital Collection, 772.03.28.01

- How long I did my 'living experiment' (1 year or so - give or take - and while I don't use powder and pomade today in my hair care regime - I still only wash my hair about once or twice a week max.)

-How successful was powder and pomatum as a form of hair care/cleanliness. (Spoiler: I did not get lice, fleas, vermin, or suffer any scalp issues)

-We talk about how the use of powder and pomatum changes women's hair texture and is amazing for fine haired girls like Lauren and me.

My hair, dressed in a style from c. 1781 - You can see how much powder & pomatum (and backcombing!) I used for my side curls (or buckles). (From a post on my old blog Stay-ing Alive)

- We chat about why we think wigs are still so heavily associated with women in the 18th century though it seems that the standard practice was for men to wear full wigs, while women most commonly utilized pads, cushions, and false hair pieces. Wigs for women seemed to be used in very specific instances.

- Lauren and I have a massive giggle about the disaster that is getting your hair wet after pomatum and powder & my thoughts on the idea of washing hair in the 1700s -

- I rave about this PhD by Emma Markiweitz on Hair, Wigs, and the Hair Trade in the 18th century.

- I also address the myth about lice, fleas, vermin, etc from the 18th century. Let's just say, it's a pest peeve of mine (har har - see what I did there?) :D

The Lovely Sacarissa Dressing for the Pantheon, Feb 24, 1778, British Museum, J,1.150

So all sorts of fun stuff this week & don't forget to tune in next week when we talk about different hair styles of women in the 18th century!

A Selection of Citations

I prefer to do most of my research through primary sources and will supplement with secondary. Here is a small selection of documentation that I've used through the course of my research.

A Treatise on the Hair, David Ritchie, 1770, Book

The Art of Hair - Dressing, Alexander Stewart, 1788, Book

The Natural Production of Hair, Alexander Stewart, 1795, Book

A Treatise on the Hair, Peter Giltchrist, 1770, Book

Toilet de Flora, Anon, 1770s, Book (Link is to a free version on GoogleBooks!)

Hair, Wigs and Wig Wearing in Eighteenth-Century England, Emma Markiewicz, PhD Thesis for University of Warwick

Lice and Clean Hair 

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Friday, June 9, 2017

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Episode 6 - Enslaved People's Dress in the 18th & 19th Century with Cheyney McKnight

Hey Everyone!

Cheyney McKnight (Photo: LoomHappenings)
Today, we are very excited to share our newest episode for Fashion History with American Duchess! In April, Abby got a chance to sit down with her lovely friend, Cheyney McKnight of Not Your Momma's History, to discuss enslaved women (& men's) dress and clothing in the 18th and 19th century. Cheyney has been represented enslaved women in both centuries for a few years now, and has graciously shared her wealth of knowledge and experience in the field with us.

Here are some bullet points from our conversation:

- Shift in terminology among living historians from "slave" to "enslaved person/woman/man/people" as a way to give humanity to those held in bondage.

- How slavery in the USA was different than what has ever been seen before - "hereditary chattel slavery" & how it is passed down through the maternal line, even though the society at large was paternal.

Cheyney McKnight (Here)

- While slavery in the USA spanned approx. 250 years - the transatlantic slave trade ended in 1807- which then saw the rise of "natural increase".

- Around the Revolutionary War (1770s) there were estimated 400,000 enslaved people in the USA. By the Antebellum Period it was 3.9 million. This comes out to a 25 - 30% population increase per year, and enslaved women at this time were giving birth, on average, to 9-10 children in their lifetime.

- We discuss the historical significance of the term "Going down river"

- Slave owners are buying fabric in bulk from manufacturers in UK/Europe to provide clothing allotments.

- Hierarchy of dress in the enslaved community.

- The textile related "reward system" that existed for enslaved people by the master of the household (child birth, tattle telling, work production, etc)

The Old Plantation, by John Rose, c. 1785, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1935.301.3
-Dress as a form of Resistance within the enslaved community.

- Trading of clothing and textile within the enslaved family group in households.

-What were the common textiles that enslaved people wore. (You can find Osnaburg Linen Here)

- How dress of freedmen and women differed from those who were enslaved.

Miss Breme Jones, 1785-87, by John Rose, Beaufort County South Carolina, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2008.300.1

Finally, Cheyney has been doing a great deal of research on different types of headwraps seen in images of enslaved women, and has begun documenting her recreation of them. She was kind enough to share some pictures & her citations below:

Cheyney experimenting with different 18th century head wrap styles.

Head Wrap inspired by: Portrait of a Young Woman, St. Louis Art Museum

Not Your Momma's History Youtube Tutorial (Starts at 17:45)

Not Your Momma's History Youtube Tutorial (Around 19:00)


A Mississippi Planter. June 1851. "Management of Negroes Upon Southern Estates." De Bow's Southern journal and Western Review, 621-625.

Boturne, E. H. First Days Among the Contrabands. Boston: Lee and Shepard Publishers, 1893. Print

Olmstead, F. L. The Cotton Kingdom: A Travellers Observations on Cotton and Slavery in the American Slave States. N.Y: Mason Bros., 1861. Print

Kemble, F A. A Journal of a Residence on a Georgia Plantation, 1838-1839. N.Y: Harper & Brothers. 1863. Wares, L. J. 1981. "Dress of the African-American Woman in Slavery and Freedom: 1500- 1935." Dissertation: Purdue University.

Abrahams, Roger D. Singing the master: the emergence of African American culture in the plantation south. New York: Penguin , 1993. Print.

Genovese, Eugene D. Roll, Jordan, roll: the world the slaves made. S.I.: Paw Prints, 2008. Print.

White, Shane, and Graham J. White. Stylin: African American Expressive Culture from its Beginnings to the Zoot Suit. Ithaca, NY: Cornell U Press, 1999. Print.

Foster, Helen Bradley. New raiments of self African American clothing in the antebellum South. Oxford: Berg, 1997. Print.

Digital Databases for Runaway Slave adsThe Geography of Slavery in Virginia

North Carolina Runaway Slave Advertisements project

Documenting Runaway Slaves research project (Mississippi) 


The Old Plantation, attributed to John Rose (ca. 1785–90), Beaufort County, South Carolina.

Benjamin Henry Latrobe. Cultivating Tobacco, Sketchbook, III, 33, ca. 1797.

Agostino Brunias (Italian, ca. 1730-1796). Free Women of Color with Their Children and Servants in a Landscape, ca. 1770-1796. Oil on canvas Agostino Brunias (Italian, ca. 1730-1796). Linen Market, Dominica ca. 1780
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