Tuesday, October 31, 2017

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What I've Learned About the 1830s in 2.75 Days

Dress, c. 1835 - FIDM
Though I have less and less time to devote to making historical costumes these days (ironically, but such is running two footwear companies), I still love a good dive down a rabbit hole. This weekend past was spent pouring over any and all 1830s references on my bookcase (and some from Abby's library as well) in an effort to begin forming an idea of this new period of interest.

Spending so long in the 18th century has raised the bar for me, in terms of costume research, context, and construction. Gone are the days of throwing together something vaguely resembling an inspiring photo in the Kyoto Costume Institute book for a ball at the weekend. Now I want to know all I can about the material culture, current events, regional happenings, favored textiles, their manufacture, dress construction and by whom, and on and on. Context adds a richness to making and wearing the garment that I really enjoy to where I can no longer do without it...like Starbucks.

Dress, 1831-35, Cora Ginsburg
This weekend I learned so many things that will come into play as I consider, compile, cut, and construct my 1830s costume.

The insane silhouette we most associate with the 1830s was actually in fashion for quite a short time. The very end of the 1820s saw the ballooning of the gigot sleeves, which then deflated just a few years later by the middle of the 1830s. I'm tickled by this because we see its like throughout history. What outlandish fashions can you think of that have come to represent an entire period or decade?

The gigot sleeves were not all there was to the early 1830s silhouette, though. I see a combination of shapes that add up to a whole with a very particular effect. In my opinion women were, by these fashions, made to look like dolls. I am reminded of the Russian nesting dolls I had as a child - big round heads, sloping shoulders and full busts, and a dome-shaped skirt ending quite at or above the ankle. The effect is diminutive no matter the height of the woman. I can see that skipping just one elements of this ensemble will throw off the look entirely. Go big or go home!

A typical fashion print, c. 1830-35
That being said, these elements are:

  • A bodice cut wide across the shoulders and neckline.
  • Utterly enormous sleeves tapering and well-fitted from elbow to wrist.
  • A sloping pelerine, canezou, capelet, or falling collar. The slope and breadth over the shoulders is key, and the opportunities for fluff here are enticing.
  • A narrow waist with a straight-cut waistline and a wide belt.
  • A full, dome-shaped skirt, ankle-length.
  • A very large, very round hat or bonnet stacked with trimmings

Round round round. Everything is round and soft and sloped. So desirable was the roundness of form that the profile altogether was obscured by broad-brimmed bonnets in favor of a perfectly oval face. The only thing that isn't round seems to be the shoes, with their sharply squared toes (lol.)

Dargate Swatch Book, c. 1830. My gown will be made out of approximately zero of these fabrics, but it's incredible to see the variety available. Thanks, roller printing!
Additionally, cotton was king in the 1830s. Advancements in milling and textile printing technologies in the late 18th century, along with the slave-driven production of raw cotton lead to a boom in cotton production in the Northwest of England. Cotton was cheap, washable, could be brightly colored and patterned, and became the favored fabric for everything from underpinnings to gown linings to gowns themselves. While I personally plan to still use linen for my shift, I have some polished cotton ready to line whatever loud-and-proud cotton print I use for the fashion fabric of my gown.

Speaking of underpinnings, the only thing I get to carry over is my late 18th century shift. Though there were other designs popping up by the 1830s, the basic shift was still well in use. Hooray for that - at least I have one piece already! As for the rest, I need:
  • Stays/Corset - I've found reference to both terms being used. India rubber elastic was also being used in stays but I'm not sure how - references indicate use for straps.
  • Split drawers
  • Corded petticoat, starched to eternity.
  • Bustle - appears to be stacks of ruffles, maybe horsehair, worn over the corded petticoat.
  • Possibly/probably one other petticoat, maybe flounced.
  • Sleeve puffs - these are optional, but I want!
1830s Underpinnings - FIDM
Of course, I loathe...LOATHE...making underwear, especially an entire new set from a new period. So imagine my glee when I found the major pieces for sale on Etsy all at reasonable prices. I got a corded petticoat from HandStitchesInTime and a corset and sleeve pads from WorkshopKarinaFienn. Cheating? Maybe. Caring? No. I want to hurry up get to the tasty bits of making the gown and millinery! I have so little time as it is!

Okay, so that wasn't *everything* I learned this past weekend, but it was rather a lot. The plan is forming and I'm getting inspired and excited. Yay!

For those wishing to add to your libraries concerning the 1830s, here is my book list:

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Friday, October 27, 2017

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The American Duchess Guide: Behind the Scenes With The 1760s Sacque Gown {Video}

Our c. 1768 sacque gown created for The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking, made for and modeled by Abby Cox. You can create this or your own creative design with the instructions in the book!
Hi lovelies! We recently did a Facebook Livecast all about the 1760s sacque gown (robe a la Francaise) and its various accessories that we made for The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking.

In this video, we give a little preview of the elements of the gown, petticoat, trimmings, cap, hoops, and more, with a peek at the patterns, diagrams, and how-to parts in the book. We also share some behind-the-scenes stories, tidbits, and challenges.

Of all the projects in the book, the sacque is the most "spectacular," but actually wasn't the hardest to make! Even though robes a la Francaise seem intimidating, we try to break it down in tutorials for everyone.

The back pleats of the sacque, or robe a la Francaise, are iconic and so flattering. Learn how to easily pleat this style with the hidden 3rd pleat for perfectly crisp pleats.
Additionally, we have two new Simplicity patterns coming out this winter for this gown and the underpinnings to go with it. Those two pattern packs include shift, stays, side hoops, the gown (comperes front stomacher), and the petticoat. We encourage everyone to use the Simplicity patterns in partnership with the book to create your own hand-sewn ensemble.

Special Preview! Here's a look at the shift, stays, and side hoops in our next Simplicity pattern release. This packet is designed to be used with the sacque gown, also being released.
The Simplicity patterns are coming in December, just after our book is released. We'll post everywhere, don't worry!

If you'd like to pre-order The American Duchess Guide, you can get it here. We will also have signed copies available on AmericanDuchess.com on November 21st. <3
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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A Late Date with the 1830s

Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum, 1835.
Is it finally time to venture into the 1830s? I've talked about it for years; I've seen my friends do incredible 1830s gowns and even reproduce the wacky and wonderful 1830s hair. And all along the way I've been touched by a little jealousy....those 1830s ensembles sure look fun!

I've only ever made one 1830s dress and it, well, it really wasn't. I did a few things wrong, such as cutting the sleeves way too narrow and using a front closure (in my defense, I had no one to dress me at the time, so this was a necessary adjustment, but not historically accurate. I no longer have this dilemma).

But that weird red cotton dress was loads of fun to wear (plus I have a lot of fabric to make a new bodice proper) and I think it's time to revisit the experience.

2014 - My only 1830s dress could have been better...luckily I have enough fabric to make a new bodice, which will be a good mock-up for a version in silk later on.
What scares me a little is that I've spent *so* much time in the late 18th century that now I feel trepidation at taking on a new period. What intrigues me, though, is the similarities and differences to be discovered between the last quarter of the 18th c. and the 1830s. We still don't have the sewing machine in the Romantic Era, and there was only a generation or two between Georgian mantua-makers and those of the 1830s. How were skills potentially passed on, improved upon, and did any fall into disuse?

So. Here we are again.

Beret sleeve, why can't I quit you? LACMA, c. 1830

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Monday, October 23, 2017

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Please Vote! New Victorian/Edwardian Pumps in *Colors*

Shoes from J. Ferry, 1885-1890. The Met, 2009.300.1579a,b 
Ladies, for the first time *ever* we are able to offer a range of colors in one of our new styles for next Spring.

We've been working on perfecting a late Victorian/Edwardian evening shoe, c. 1880-1910. We've heard your cries for low-heeled evening shoes with options, so - thanks to Lauren's trip to China - our new "Amelie" pumps will come in 6 colors, each with our exclusive 1.75 inch French heel, and clip-on double bows (oh yes!)

...but we need your help. Besides black, the obvious choice, which other colors should we do? Here's a nifty poll to help us out. Please choose your top six (6) favorite colors. Thank you!

"Amelie" Pumps will be coming out around the beginning of next year, 2018. We are so excited to finally be able to offer this historic footwear staple in a range of colors. Thank you for your help, lovelies!
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Thursday, October 19, 2017


Podcast Episode 12: Chelsea G. Summers and the Birth of Vintage

Hey Y'all!

Abby here and I am so excited to share with you all the latest episode of Fashion History with American Duchess. We're really excited about these next couple of episodes because they feature some of the amazing authors from the online media website Racked, a fashion & shopping page that is a part of Vox Media.

Racked has published some fantastic articles relating to fashion history - particularly within the realm of vintage clothing - and Lauren and I were able to sit down with some of the authors of our favorite pieces to pick their brains about their topics.

First up is Chelsea G. Summers, we sat down with her to discuss her article and research on the birth of vintage clothing and its growing trendiness during the 20th century. It was fascinating to listen to Chelsea's experience buying and wearing vintage, and how it has evolved and changed over the years - even to what some of us consider vintage (or not...)

So if you're a fan of vintage clothing this is definitely up your alley!

**Note: This episode was recorded over a Skype call and while we did our best to control the sound volume and quality, there were some connectivity issues at times. This is just part of the fun that is recording over the internet! :) **

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

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The Robe a la Turque - Part 3 - Shalwar Puffy Pants

Before I forget about all the trials and tribulations (and sometimes fun) I had making my Turkish costume for Costume College 2017, I better tell you about one of the most enjoyable parts - the puffy pants!

Since Guimard's lower legs are not visible in the painting, I decided to do puffy pants - harem pants as you might know them, or "shalwar" as properly termed - based on these images:

Costume for Idamé, in the Orphan of China. (1779).jpg

Costume of the Sultana used in the Comédie Française in the Plays where there is a role for this Costume. (1779)
Sticking with the European-interpretation-of-Turkish-dress angle, I patterned, cut, and constructed the pants as I thought an 18th century mantua-maker might. My version certainly aren't like real shalwar at all, but I was very happy with the result.

My scribble-notes when planning how to make these pants. I ended up making them a bit long (because I didn't realize the cuff actually fastens under the knee, not at the ankle), so cut a good foot off the bottom before pleating.

I cut two very basic, super-wide legs (front and back) with a very low crotch point. The waist I pleated just like a petticoat, leaving it split on the sides, which worked just fine. The hems of each leg were roughly pleated into a a cuff band that snapped around my ankle.

Pleating and binding the top like an 18th century petticoat.
I still planned to wear the standard Western underpinnings, a shift and stays, but the shalwar negated the other usual underpinnings. I could not wear an underpetticoat or false bum, which gave the finished costume a long, loose, somewhat "deflated" look compared to the popular silhouette of 1790.

Swish, swish, swish - such good scroop with these pants. Not so good on the "so you have to go to the bathroom" part, though!

I left enough length in the legs to create a nice "bulb" when gathered into the ankle bands, which are barely visible. They snapped on the sides.
As I would later find out, it was also ridiculously hard to go to the bathroom! Word to anyone making shalwar to be worn under a gown...do some kind of snaps or ties or *something* in the crotch!

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