Friday, July 19, 2019


A Quick Ladies' Waistcoat

A very simple ladies' waistcoat in linen, lined with silk - linen shirt, Walker Slater tweed trousers, a silk floppy bow tie, and saddle shoes from
When I was in Scotland, there was a Walker Slater ladies' shop right down the steps from our rooms. For those who don't know Walker Slater, they're purveyors of tweeds and waistcoats and trousers and flatcaps and cardis and all things wonderfully, wonderfully dapper. I've been following them on Instagram for years, so of course I partook of the splendor when in Edinburgh.

But coming back, I got off the plane to 90 degree Nevada heat. So my tweedy things have gone in the closet until the 'Ember months and I turn back to linen, linen, and linen.

I bought a large quantity of sand-colored suit-weight linen in LA last year, intending it for lady-menswear pieces of a Regency bend (inspired by Zack Pinsent), but the fabric is so versatile and gorgeous that I can't decide fully what summer togs of what era it should be. An easy first step, though, was a summer waistcoat.

Laying out SImplicity 7376. Waistcoats are a great way to use small scraps of fabric.
I used Simplicity 7376 from 1976 for this very simple design. It's just two pieces - front and back - shaped with darts. I did a little customization with a silk lining, false pocket tabs (I'm lazy), and fashion fabric facings to give it a more professional appearance and I'm very happy with how that came out.

The pattern did not have facings like this, so I created them myself. The lining silk here had been cut into a blouse pattern that I never made, so I repurposed and re-cut for the linings. I just love this deco pattern on the silk!

The waistcoat in progress, after bag lining it, which was not a great method tbh - next time I'll just set it in by hand like with 18th century construction.
I bag-lined the vest, which I realized again was a mistake. In proper tailoring, linings are set in my hand, and I really should have done so this time too. It was honestly more of a struggle to bag line even this simple garment, and I ended up going back and prick stitching the bottom and armscye edges just to get things to lay right. Note to self for the future.

Turning up the lining and hemming it at the bottom - I later went back and redid this because I did not make the ease fold and the outer fabric hung oddly. It's a tailoring trick, hard to explain, but I'll try to show it and other bits in my next tailoring project coming up.

Test fit - everything seemed fine at this point, but the waistcoat actually came out a little too tight once the buttons were on, so I let it out an inch.
I also thought I'd do some lovely hand-worked, contrast button holes, but they turned out terribly! I have very little hand button hole experience and my goodness, they were truly an abomination! Along with those horrors, the waistcoat came out a little bit too tight, so the following morning I ripped out and re-did the button holes on the machine, and let the side seams out a half inch each side, which resulted in a much, much better fit and finish.

Incredibly horrible button holes done by hand. Just awful!

Better button holes done by machine and with matching thread. They're not perfect, just better.
Now it's done, I've worn it a couple times, and I really love the little thing. I so seldom make everyday clothing, even though I hardly ever find what I want in stores or online. I'm pleased with how crisp and lovely the fabric is and I've already starting cutting out an 1890s-inspired jacket to wear with the new waistcoat.

The finished waistcoat before I went back and ripped the button holes out and let the side seams out. I hate fully finishing something only to tear into it again the next day - it takes a lot of willpower to make corrections and I usually have a little tantrum before I do it...but I'm always glad I buck up and finish it correctly.
Hooray for simple stash-busting projects!

There are, of course, things about the final waistcoat that I'm "meh" about, but I learned for next time. I love wearing waistcoats and I definitely plan to make more, so now I have an adjusted pattern for next time.

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Monday, July 15, 2019

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1780-81 The Glasgow Polonaise Sacque Jacket - Done!

My sacque jacket from the back, with the beautiful hanging pleats
Last I updated about this jacket, we'd just set the shoulder straps and I had a bit of finishing to do before our trip to Scotland.
Working on the Isabella Mactavish Fraser gown - photo graciously provided by Atelier Nostlagia
Well now we're back from Scotland and I can finally share some photos of the finished jacket! I wore it three times - once for an impromptu photoshoot in Prince's Street Gardens, and then both days of the gown-in-a-weekend project at National Museums of Scotland.

The jacket was very comfortable to wear and I'm so glad it was cotton because it was *hot* in the museum. My shift, stays, and jacket were all soaked at the end of each day, but quick drying (yay, linen and linen linings!).

The jacket hangs open in the front, with a false waistcoat stitched in at the side-back seams. The front drape is shaped with pleats at the side and the front edges.

I wore my Penny River hand-embroidered stockings (Etsy), red Dunmore shoes, and green Charlotte buckles by Sign of the Grey Horse (Etsy) 
I had a chance to see the original jacket on display at the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow when we nipped up there for the day. It was like seeing an old friend, except I could also observe everything I got wrong on my version! Ah, but that's the point of the exercise, I learn about historic construction, and the why's and how's of it.

The original jacket at the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow - it was such a treat to see this!
I'm going to wear this jacket again to Costume College at the end of this month. I plan to add some cord and button to hold the cuffs up, but other than that and a washing, it's ready to go. If you're going to Costume College, we'll see you there!

And now we know why it's called a "pet en l'air" :-P
Photos are by Abby Cox, naturally <3
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Friday, July 12, 2019

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18th Century Hairstyles for Long Hair

Jenny's long hair was plenty to go over the ski slope hair cushion.
Nearly as often as we receive questions about doing 18th century hairstyles for short hair, we see the question come up for long hair. Can you do a frizzed hairstyle with long hair? How long does your hair have to be to do the tall donut styles? Is there such a thing as hair that is *too* long?

In "The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Beauty" we cover the 1750s through the mid 1790s, and for a greater portion of that timeframe, shorter hair *in front* was the fashion, particularly with the frizzed 1780s hairstyles.

In the 1770s, though, very long hair was preferred for the very tall styles simply because you needed that much hair to get up and over the cushion. The bigger the cushion, the more hair (yours or someone else's) you need.

Laurie has very, very long and fine hair. Once pomaded and powdered, her hair was double the size and easily put up into the donut hair style with plenty left over for top curls, buckles, and chignon all made of her own hair.
Both Laurie and Jenny had quite long hair for the 1770s "Beignet" and "Ski Alpin" styles, but truth be told, Laurie's hair didn't need to be that long. So long as your hair can reach up and into the donut hole, you can do the tall coiffure, and remember...your donut or ski slope cushion don't need to be as large as the ones we make. Hair just past the shoulders can do a perfectly lovely "Beignet" with a scaled-down cushion. Add more height with a pouf, cap, hat, and feathers.

Hair that is very long - waist-length or booty-length also works perfectly well with the 1770s styles. Because of the hole in both cushion types, excess hair can be rolled up and stuffed down in there, or pinned within the hole and the ends curled to sit atop, like we did with Laurie's hair.

Cynthia's hair was just past her shoulders and was plenty to create the sculptural late 1760s hairstyle. Because of the shaped buckles and rolls of this coiffure, very long hair also works - just add more buckles!
But what about the short, curly styles? These are definitely more a challenge for long hair, but several costumer friends have done beautiful coiffures with their quite long locks by using the toupee hair piece. The trick is to curl your long hair all over, then work the front back and through the toupee hair piece (which should be short and tightly curled or crape'd, like we show in the book), pinning as needed. Your own hair forms the long chignon down the back. (Particular credit goes to Taylor of Dames a la Mode and Lauren Marks, who named her toupee Fred).

Jasmine's 3C hair was very easily pulled over the grub hair cushion to create the early 1780s style with all her own hair. This is a good option for long hair that you've curled or crimped.
As always, we encourage you to make the hair pieces in the book and then play around with your own hair, pomading and powdering it, curling it, and finding what works best for you. It may be that the 1780s crape'd hairstyles is just never going to happen, but the early 1780s transitional "Chenille" hairstyle is a perfect fit.

For more information and, of course, the how-to's for all of these hairstyles, cushions, hairpieces, products, etc. check out our book "The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Beauty" on Amazon,, and other major booksellers.
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Thursday, July 11, 2019

Bastille Day Sale!

It's time for our annual mid-Summer Bastille Day Sale!

We have looooooots of lovely historical shoes on sale this year:

Theda Edwardian Oxfords - $145 ($165)

Vienna Victorian Congress Boots - $160 ($180)

Amelie Satin Edwardian Pumps - $75 ($120)

Dashwood Regency Slippers - $65 ($99)

Dunmore 18th Century Wool Shoes - $120 ($155)

Eliza Early Victorian Shoes - $99 ($145)

Mansfield Regency Boots - $150 ($199)

Moliere Edwardian Pumps - $120 ($160)

Tissot Victorian Pumps - $80 ($155)

Balmoral Civil War Boots - $150 ($180)

The sale lasts until all of these are sold out - we're low on many styles/sizes, so don't wait. We will NOT be restocking any of these!

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Tuesday, July 9, 2019

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Vintage Capsule Wardrobes

May 1940. Marie Claire.

Though the term “capsule wardrobe” wasn’t coined until the 1970s, the idea stretches much further back. The general purpose of such a collection is to have a wardrobe that is made up of only a few interchangeable pieces. It may be for economic needs, the environment, or simplifying the dressing process. For many, it comes down to quality over quantity. The idea has popularized so much in modern fashion as a response to the concepts of “fast fashion”. For those of us who want to adopt a vintage wardrobe, it can be a great way to start the process, or simply to have a full range of outfits for a weekend event or vacation. In my case, I’m feeling overwhelmed by how much clothing I have that I don’t use, while at the same time never having “the right thing” to wear!

The ideas behind capsule wardrobes were essential in the 1930s and 1940s. With the depression, war, and rationing, creating a wardrobe that stretched its utility as far as possible was a constant topic in magazines. Even Vogue, amidst its high fashion spreads, published articles on economic wardrobes. So how did vintage magazines approach this concept?

One popular method was that of the multi-use garment. A simple dress, often a slip style, with seemingly infinite possible coordinated outfits. Jackets, blouses, belts, wraps, and other accessories change up the style just enough that it would be unrecognizable. This seems like the perfect way to start out a vintage wardrobe, or create a travel-friendly style!

July 1, 1938. Vogue. 

January 21, 1939: Australian Women's Weekly.

The interchangeable wardrobe was another way to stretch a small number of garments further. This in particular resembles the modern capsule wardrobe. Some gave specific numbers for an entire wardrobe, such as Vogue’s “$100 Campus Wardrobe” from 1940. They recommended 16 parts: 4 skirts, 3 blouses, 2 jackets, 2 sweaters, 2 hats, and 1 coat in addition to a pair of shoes, gloves, and other basic accessories.

August 15, 1941. Vogue.

Others were less numerically inclined, with visuals of how to take a few coordinated basics to make a range of ensembles. This Australian Women’s Weekly from 1941 shows just a few outfits made from 2 blouses, 1 jacket, 1 dress, 1 evening gown, 1 pair of trousers, 1 pair of shorts, and 1 skirt. It’s meant to represent a wardrobe that can adapt to any social circumstance.

October 4, 1941: Australian Women's Weekly.

Some overlapped these two ideas with a few ensembles that mixed and matched entirely. Each bottom has three different options for tops that vary the look. 3 blouses and one jacket can carry you through a lot of options!

December 2, 1939: Australian Women's Weekly.

A central theme throughout these articles was the use of color and pattern to keep things harmonious. One 1939 article shows how a fun and colorful stripe can be made into 4 different pieces, then matched with a skirt and jacket in a solid color. Another from 1942 shows a striped fabric in 3 colorways with 2 solids to match. How to use color as a method of wardrobe styling extends far beyond the economic “capsule” concept as well. But that’s a topic broad enough for another post!

October 21, 1939: Australian Women's Weekly.

November 7, 1942: Australian Women's Weekly.

An economic wardrobe starts with the best basics. Investment pieces that won’t go out of style and won’t fall apart quickly. Vogue recommended starting with a best dress, suit, and coat in a 1933 article on smart economics. A few accessories (hats, blouses, scarves, etc) would then be the less expensive accents which could be renewed and replaced to keep up with fashion. The same idea was touted as the “French Way” to be thrifty circa a 1930 Vogue article. Regardless of why you might want to start your own vintage capsule wardrobe, these articles provide a great set of parameters.
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Monday, July 1, 2019

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18th Century Hairstyles for Short Hair

Nicole's chin-length bob was perfect, if not even a little too long, for the early 1780s crape'd hairstyle once supplemented with a few hair pieces at the back...
One of the most frequent questions we get about doing authentic 18th century hairstyles like we show in "The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Beauty" is..."are there instructions/styles/techniques/possibilities for short hair?"

The short (hehe) answer is YES!

Surprisingly, most of the 18th century favored a particular haircut - very short in the front and very long in the back, or what we might call a mullet today. In fact, the only period we cover in our book that was all about long, long, long hair is the 1770s, when very tall hair cushions were in fashion and you needed that much hair (whether it was really your own or not!).

Crape-ing or tightly curling the hair, then fluffing it up on cushions gives such huge volume, height, and width. Remember - Nicole's hair is only chin-length!
The rest of the time, though? Short hair in front was essential to success with the hairstyle. The 1750s, 1780s, and 1790s styles all benefit greatly from chin-length or shorter hair, sometimes even just a couple inches in front, and this is noted in original sources too.

Then as now, not everyone has the ideal hair to create the idealized hairstyles. Man, I wanted beachy waves *so badly* in 2003 but it just was never going to happen because my hair just never gets longer than about shoulder length and was too lanky and fine to achieve Cosmo-approved seaside glory. Women in the past also dealt with these issues!

Even if your hair is only a couple inches long, you can easily blend it into a toupee like the one above and no one will be the wiser. We teach you how to make one of these, along with a clip-in chignon and buckles.
Original hairdressing manuals are choc full of advertisements for mail-order toupees, buckles, and chignons to supplement a lady's 'do. So effective are these easy-to-make pieces that you can put together 90% of a perfectly-coiffed 18th century hairstyle in a few minutes with hairpieces and be out the door to the market fair in no time.

An example of the clip-in chignon (long hair) - and easy and essential hairpiece we teach you to make in the book.
So, of course, we included these three hairpieces in The #ADBeauty book. They're all made from real human hair so that they work with the pomade and powder, and they're all ridiculously easy to clip in and blend your own hair into, regardless if your hair is 2 inches or 20 inches long in front.

Want to know more (all the things?)
The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Beauty

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