Introducing Nicole Rudolph, Footwear Designer

We are beyond excited to officially announce the newest addition to the American Duchess / Royal Vintage team: Nicole Rudolph!

Many of you will know Nicole from her blog Diary of a Mantua Maker. Some of you will have also met her at Colonial Williamsburg and Costume College.

Nicole is not only an amazing mantua-maker and tailor, but an incredibly skilled historic shoemaker. Her research, know-how, and epic level of taste make her a real jewel in our tiara, and we could not be more excited to be working with her.

Here’s a bit more about Nicole in her own words…

Tell us about how you got into historical costuming.

I have been interested in historical costuming since I was very young, making my first “historical” piece when I was 12- a purple crushed velvet Medieval gown with gold trim. It sounds terrible, but we all start somewhere! My mother is also an avid seamstress and taught me so much about sewing from an early age. From there I became responsible for costuming many of our high school’s theatrical productions and went on to college for Technical Theatre at Ball State University. In designing a production of Cabaret I fell in love with researching historical costume and haven’t been able to stop since!

What is your favorite period of dress?

My favorite era is probably the 1890s. I love the tailored looks that were so fashionable, as well as the absurdity of the sleeve proportions! So much changes in that one decade. But, the details, trim, and finishing of some of those garments is simply breathtaking. While no costume is ever “perfect”, the closest I’ve come was with an 1890s jacket I made for steampunk a few years ago, so it’s a bit of a sentimental time period for me as well.

An insane pair of 1920s shoes made by Nicole.

Did you go to school for historic costuming/dress? Have you done any training?

After college I worked at Colonial Williamsburg for about 8 years, starting in their Costume Design Center. I was fortunate to spend time learning tailoring, gown making, tent making, and even shoemaking from the tradespeople in Williamsburg. At the moment, I’m mid-way through graduate school, studying Fashion History at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

What lead you to shoes and footwear? How did you learn how to make shoes?

While at Colonial Williamsburg, I was frustrated by the lack of 18th century shoe options that fit me (the dark, pre-American Duchess days) and signed up to take an 18th century shoemaking workshop from Brett Walker. It turns out I have unusually narrow feet and have a hard time fitting into many off-the-rack styles. The only way to solve this was to plunge into the world of shoemaking and six years later I’m now in process on my 26th pair of shoes (I may have lost count). It’s not an easy trade to learn, and in fact my first pair of shoes was two sizes too large for me and I’ve only suffered to wear them once! The second pair I wore through completely, however. And the third, and the fourth. Turns out I walk a lot!

What are your plans for the future?

I’ll be finishing up graduate school in a year or so, with my thesis focusing on mid-19th century shoes. I’ve had to take a break from producing shoes because of school (aside from a few exciting pairs this summer), so I look forward to opening the workshop up again. I was able to take a research trip up the East coast this summer to look at original shoes in a few museums, leaving me full of inspiration and technical ideas I want to experiment with. I can’t wait to start applying the research I’ve been doing!

If you’d like to follow Nicole more, check her out…


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