Thursday, August 27, 2020

American Duchess Shoes Made in Portugal

This season marks the first collection of American Duchess shoes made in Portugal! We're pretty excited about this and want to share a bit of behind the scenes.

In February, in The BeforeTimes, Nicole, Chris, Matt, and I traveled to Portugal to meet with several footwear factories and hopefully find a good fit (lol). Portugal has a long shoemaking tradition and is well-known for excellent quality, particularly with leather goods.

We met with three shoe factories and learned a lot. It's always fascinating to see into a working production facility and observe the many steps it takes to create just one pair of shoes. Factories can differ quite a lot, too - some have a lot of specialized machinery while others still do much of the work by hand.

These are leather cutting stamps for larger production runs.
Of course, it's no secret that Europe has been shut down for most of 2020. In our little world this has caused delays with sampling and getting ready for our first order, but we have teamed up with a fantastic factory, and we're so happy to present to you the first European-made American Duchess shoes:

Bernadette - Eyecatching Edwardian/1920s oxfords designed in collaboration with Bernadette Banner. These two-toned beauties have 2 inch French heels and come in five colorways, something for everyone!

Gibson - Our classic Edwardian/1920s teardrop tie design with 2 inch French heels. Now in four colors including oxblood red and green.

Tango - One of our vault styles, back by popular demand - the sexy lace-up Edwardian/1920s Tango boots with 3 inch French heels, available in black, red, green, and ocean blue.

Tango Boots in four gorgeous colors
The already infamous Bernadette Oxfords in five colors
Classic Gibsons - black, cognac, oxblood, and green available.
I've gotten quite a few questions from our European customers asking if shipping/customs will be easier when buying the new shoes made in Portugal. Currently we still have to import them to the United States and warehouse them here, but we are working towards a much better European fulfillment solution as fast as we can. We're hoping to make this big improvement sometime next year, pending world events.

Thank you for coming on this journey with us through all of these years. It's been quite a road, but we're pretty stoked about this next move. We can offer more colors and sizes than ever before. We hope you like these changes as well!

Partial Shoe Team doing Shoe Things in Shoe Places
A wall of heels at our heel manufacturer - of course none of these are ours! We have to make all our heels custom because oldey-timey-curvy shapes aren't en vogue.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Introducing the Bernadette Oxfords

The moment we've all been waiting for! We'd like to introduce to you the Bernadette Oxfords, in collaboration with the peerless Bernadette Banner!

Last Fall we started working with Bernadette to develop an Edwardian oxford in her particular, beautiful style. We went through several different designs and iterations, but the clear winner was these super-chic striped two-tones with wide ribbon laces and practical 2 inch French heels.

We then asked you guys what colors you liked and it was a pretty close race! We decided to, well, do more of the favorite colorways than limit it to just two or three, so we have FIVE color options this season!

Blue/Black - a dusty, desaturated grey-blue pair with black
Cognac/Black - we're kindof calling it the Pumpkin Spice Shoe ;-)
Ivory/Black - very classic Edwardian color combo, goes with everything!
Brown/Tan - for the adventurer in you. Pair with all tweeds forever.
Tan/Ivory - sporting and snazzy.

The Bernadettes are one of our first shoes made in Portugal. We've spent most of 2020 onboarding the new Portuguese factory, working on heel molds and patterns, and preparing for this pre-order. We've also extended the size range to US women's 5 - 10 (half sizes), 11, and 12.

We're really proud of these and thrilled to have been able to work with Bernadette on these. We hope you like them!

Pre-Order is open August 21 - September 4, 2020
with a $20/pair discount
only at

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Friday, August 21, 2020

Fall 2020 Pre-Order is OPEN!

Lovely Peoples, I present to you the first pre-order collection release of 2020! We have a lot of new to share with you this year...but first...

A bit of general news...

All of this season's pre-order designs are offered in US women's sizes 5 - 10 (half sizes), 11, and 12. You asked for an expanded size range, and we're finally able to offer it, but be sure to take advantage of the pre-order sale because we will only continue to offer the extended sizes if there is enough demand.

We also have a new website replete with all the modcons like sorting with filters, shopping on your phone, and easier checkout! If you're a size 5, 5.5, or 12 you can use the filters to see what's available in your size. You can also sort by heel height, color, and more.

Here's a quick rundown of all the lovely new things -

  • Bernadette - in collaboration with Bernadette Banner, we have a super-snazzy new oxford in lots of beautiful colors. These are your Fall/Winter shoes of glory! Made in Portugal.
  • Londoner - the new Londoners are now available in cherry, cognac, and slate blue. This is our most popular design, so don't miss Londoners! They sell out quickly!
  • Tango Boots - One of our vault styles returning in black, red, and new in green and ocean blue. Made in Portugal.
  • Gibson - Our classic teardrop tie returning in black, cognac, green, and oxblood. Made in Portugal
  • Astoria - One of our most beloved designs has been updated with new buttons and edge piping, and is offered in black, navy, and oxblood red.
  • Kensington - These premium 18th century latchet shoes will be restocked in black, ivory, and oxblood and this season we are also offering green.
  • Pompadour - The iconic earlier 18th century shoe returns with a new heel shape and now in all-leather in both ivory and black.
  • Special Edition 18th Century Buckles - show your pride or spooky side with fun rainbow plated Cavendish and Fleur buckles, and black plated Cavendish.

August 21 - September 4
$20/pair discount (aw yisss!)

We *do* have a couple more styles coming later this Fall - a beautiful Edwardian boot and a full restock of Marilyn 1940s pumps with new colors as well. We're sorry we couldn't get them out for this pre-order but 2020 has been challenging. Worry not! They'll be along shortly.

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Monday, August 10, 2020

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Belle Epoque Wardrobe - 1890s Linen Cycling Jacket

The finish 1890s linen cycling jacket
Like many of us during this lovely pandemic, I've been UFO-busting for the past several months. I've picked up and finished so many projects - two 1930s dresses, a Robe a la Francaise, an artistic dress bolero, and the subject of this post. (I've also created a few new UFOs, but those are posts for another day...)

I started Simplicity EA258101 Edwardian Dusters last year in July-ish and promptly got stuck on the pockets. It then became Fall and my squirrel-brain turned to sewing Autumnal things, not linen garments. I picked up the jacket again in June-ish of this year, determined to muscle through those double-welt-flap-bullshit pockets, and finish this jacket for at least *some* Summer wear.

Picking up this project again and doing a very quick try-on (sanity check), pinned together at shoulders and side seams.
  • Pattern - Simplicity EA258101 - print on demand from Simplicity's website now. This has both the women's and men's long coats as well as hats and scarves. I found the pattern true-to-size and very well-made, as I've come to expect from Simplicity's older costume patterns.
  • Materials - Medium weight linen, horsehair canvas, silk organza, silk charmeuse-ish (?) for the lining, flat tape, obnoxiously large mother of pearl buttons.
  • Extended lapels and re-drew top collar shapes.
  • Shortened hem.
  • Omitted the decorative back tab.
  • Different sleeves - I used the undersleeve that came with the pattern but draw a much more bodacious topsleeve with an enormous leg o' mutton arc. I referenced "59 Authentic Turn-of-the-Century Fashion Patternsfor the shape, but Truly Victorian also has a sleeve variations pattern pack with all the glorious 1890s options. What I adore about huge sleeves of this era is that they'll fit any armscye. Just pleat or gather that huge circle down until it fits the armscye. In my case, because I have le narrow shoulders and I wanted the sleeve heads way up on my shoulder and set narrowly in back too, my armscyes were quite large, particularly in back, but it didn't matter because the humongous sleeves are easily adjusted to fit.
  • The larger half of the 2-piece sleeves. My favorite thing about leg o' mutton and gigot sleeve designs is that the more of a circle you make for the sleeve top, the bigger your puff will be. To be honest, this is quite reserved!
  • Trim - this isn't really an alteration. The pattern comes with suggested trim placement but I, of course, did my own thing. I applied a design to the upper back from an original jacket I found in Edinburgh, but did not buy, last year. I'm not 100% happy with it and think a more geometric pattern would've probably looked better, but I like the sentiment of it.
Sketching out the trim placement. I got this a little too wide, to be honest - I underestimated how much I was going to cut away from the armscyes and how narrowly I was going to set the sleeves in back.

This braid doesn't like to curve!
Tailoring Techniques
  • Pad-stitched lapels and top collar.
  • Horsehair canvas interfacing on the fronts.
  • Organza-reinforced hem.
  • Bound buttonholes.
  • Hand-set lining.
I'm not great tailor, that's for sure. I've only done a handful of tailoring techniques a handful of times and in general have made as many collared garments or jacket-like things than I can count on one hand. This was a big project for me!

There are three books I use to guide my feeble tailoring attempts, and I can't recommend them enough, in this order:

Vintage Couture Tailoring by Thomas von Nordheim
Couture Sewing Techniques by Claire B. Shaeffer
Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing
Some guts on the front - hair canvas, bound button holes, pad-stitched and taped lapels. There's a lot going on here!
Vintage Couture Tailoring, in particular, walks you through step-by-step and with a *lot* of photos, though it is definitely on the advanced side. Gerti'es book is kindof "tailoring lite" but has the most vital info in it.

Watch Points
  • Pocketses - I had a really hard time with the pockets on this jacket. They're double-welt-flap pockets, which I've never done, and I found them unusually difficult for a Simplicity pattern. Nice, I guess, but also kindof pointless...I would've been just as happy with something more like an 18th century pocket with a top-stitched flap.
  • Lining - To line or not to line? I went back and forth for quite some time on this question, it being a linen Summer jacket, but I ended up not having a choice in the end because of how it was constructed and the tailoring I chose to do. Generally, unlined garments of this period have no structural tailoring except maybe in the lapels, top collar, and possibly the facings. Pockets are usually patch-pockets applied to the outside, and I don't know what would've been done about the leg o' mutton sleeves. I have all sorts of madness going on inside this, so I *had* to line. With some research and asking of The Instagram, I learned that cotton sateen was a common lightweight, breathable lining, but I didn't have any, so I went ahead and used the very lightweight silk I got for the job. Yes, the hottest option, I know, but I was so far past the point of believing this was going to be a hot-weather garment that I went on and lined it for Spring and Fall and will use what I learned about unlined jackets on the next project.
  • Sleeve Structure - if you decide to switch out the sleeves and go for the bigguns, they'll need supports. I have a flat-lining of cotton organdy in the tops and also an organdy ruffle stitched to the seam allowance around the top of the shoulder. This made it a real challenge to line the sleeves! I used the original, much smaller sleeve pattern, so the organdy puffs and ruffles are between the outer fabric and the more fitted lining. This means I can't access them, but they also don't scratch me when the jacket is worn.
Here's what's lurking between the outer sleeve and the inner sleeve lining. I added an additional round-cut ruffle in stiff organdy just around the top of the armscye too.

Sleeve supports make a big difference! On the left is with the organdy flat-lined support (shown above). The right is without any sort of support.
The Finished Piece 

Done! For such a "floppy, wibbly" fabric, the soft tailoring really goes a *long* way on the jacket fronts, lapels, and hem.

Inspirated by "Howard's End," I used enormous mother of pearl buttons, found at Costume College 2019.

The jacket has a double vent in the back - not gonna lie, this was really tricky to line, but Vintage Couture Tailoring has a section specifically detailing how to do it.
The only part of my jacket I'm not that pleased with - my angel braid design, based on an original jacket in Edinburgh. My braid was much narrower than the original. I don't hate it, though, and it does remind me of Edinburgh, so it's a positive feeling overall. On a better note, I didn't intend for the collar to be able to stand like this but it's a serendipitous detail I absolutely love. Next time I'll padstitch the collar to do this properly.

I made the jacket from the same linen as this vest, so I'm 2/3 to a three-piece suit. I have enough of this linen left for some sort of bottoms...what shall it be? bloomers? jodhpurs? wide-leg trousers? full or short skirt? I'm wearing the split skirt from HistoricalEmporium in this photo.

Can't forget the topper - a vintage boater found on Etsy from MountainMammaVintage. I've been wanting a boater for ages and was surprised at how rare and expensive they are. I found this one for a really good price, cleaned it up a little, and now I'm madly in love with it. 

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Monday, August 3, 2020

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Sewing Patterns for Turn of the 20th Century Historybounders

My version of Simplicity EA258101 with alterations, paired with a split skirt from Historical Emporium
I've been on a wardrobe-building bender lately (er, when am I ever *not* wardrobe building?) and usually in Summer I trend towards Belle Epoque and Edwardian for...some reason.

Maybe it's the linen tailor-mades.

Or the linen lingerie blouses?


I've been making and buying 1890s and 1900s blouses, skirts, hats, and doing some tailoring on an 1890s jacket, with plans to start an Eton jacket and finish a velvet zouave vest...gosh...busy busy!

Edwardian #historybounding seems to be a rising trend in our world. I'm by no means an early adopter of trends, so I'm just picking up on this now, but loving it. I dig the Edwardian aesthetic, though - it's easy to blend with modern clothing, so it doesn't feel too costumey to wear everyday, and there are enough basic pieces available to buy or make to get a mix-n-match wardrobe up and running pretty quickly.

I'm still doing a fair amount of sewing, though, so I wanted to share my favorite patterns with you, if you too are feeling a little pull to the 'fin de siecle' or turn of the 20th century.



Abby wearing an ensemble made by Nicole using the Sophie jacket pattern by Wearing History.

It's hard to choose a favorite from the "Colette" film starring Keira Knightly, but this might be it - a perfectly "everyday" cycling outfit with an Eton jacket, split skirt, shirtwaist, and boater hat.

*Sleeves - One of my favorite ways to retro-style a plain jacket or blouse pattern is to switch out the sleeves for something more bodacious and accurate. Truly Victorian has a sleeve packet with five 1890s sleeves in it here - Truly Victorian TV495 1890s Sleeves.

This is a good example of using a different sleeve. The sleeves that came with Simplicity EA258101 were significantly smaller in puff, so I just switched them out for a large leg o' mutton 2-piece style. The glory of this type of sleeve is you just pleat or gather it to fit any armscye. 

Now, these are all patterns that I like and that follow my personal aesthetic. There are more from each of these companies and other makers as well, so don't take this post as gospel!

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Monday, July 27, 2020

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1760s Robe a la Francaise - Finished + Video!

At last, at last! My Robe a la Bon Bon 1750 - 1770 sacque is complete!

I finished this gown a little while back but it's taken me quite some time to get the energy up to film a dressing video and take some photos. You can watch the dressing video here:

I'm so proud of this project. I'm very pleased with the final result, but I'm perhaps more proud of myself for digging it out of the UFO pile and seeing it through to completion. It's a rare thing to pick up an abandoned project and I often abandon them again, too, especially when they're this long and tedious.

Party in the front - trim on top of trim with more trim and bows and trim and lace. Rococo-splosion!

The biggest take-away from making this gown is that the trimming takes much longer than expected, even when it's pinked. There's just so much of it. Robes a la Francaise are deceptive - you make the impressive back pleats early on in the process and so it feels like you've gotten somewhere very quickly. It feels like "I'm practically done with this!" Ah, but it's a lie! There is so much to come after that, and it's easy to lose motivation.

All business in the back - the cascading back pleats and fitted sides of the Robe a la Francaise are the hallmark of the style and so, so elegant.
Some tidbits about this gown -

I made this using Simplicity 8578 with some alterations, going by The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking rather than the pattern. Those alterations were:
  • I did a separate stomacher that pins at the sides rather than the center front hook closure.
  • I tweaked the length and hem curves of the sleeves.
  • I lengthened the skirt panels in front.
  • I sewed this gown entirely by hand using 18th century stitches and seams.
I'm looking forward to wearing this cupcake at future events at Versailles, Venice, and Colonial Williamsburg, perhaps in 2021 or 2022. Perhaps I'll see you there!

You can see all of the posts for this project, start to finish, here.

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Friday, July 24, 2020

$200 American Duchess Give Card Giveaway!

It has been quite awhile since we've done a giveaway!

Up for grabs is a $200 USD gift card to American Woot! This never expires and can be used on any products both current and future (say, for that tasty pre-order coming up...)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

There are a bunch of different ways you can enter, and each are worth different points. They are -

Subscribe to our Youtube Channel
Like us on Facebook
Follow @AmericanDuchess on Instagram -
Tag @AmericanDuchess in a post on Instagram
Become a Patron on Patreon
Subscribe to our Email List

Be sure to check off each thing on the official entry above so you get the points.

The Giveaway runs July 24 - July 31, 2020. The winner will be announced and notified August 3, 2020.  Good Luck!

This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook, Instagram, Patreon, or Youtube. We hereby release Facebook, Instagram, Patreon, or Youtube of any liability. Winner(s) will be contacted by email up to 72 hours after the giveaway ends. If you have any additional questions - feel free to send us an email!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Purchase entry is an option but not required. Sweepstakes runs July 24, 2020 to July 31, 2020.  Entry guidelines listed above.  Winner will receive 1 gift certificate in the amount of $200 to This gift certificate will never expire and may be used on any products current or future. The gift certificate must be used all at once unless the winner requests store credit to be applied to their account instead.  The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning.  Winner will be selected by random on August 3, 2020 and will be notified through e-mail.  If the winner forfeits, cannot be contacted, or does not claim prize, the prize will be re-awarded.  All prizes will be awarded.  Sponsor: American Duchess Inc., [email protected]  Void Where Prohibited by Law.
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Monday, July 6, 2020

Bastille Day Sale 2020

It's time for the annual American Duchess Bastille Day Sale - a lovely little mid-summer clearance.

This year we have a lot of odds, ends, bits, bobs, end-of-line stuff hanging about. We're sending all these shoes off into the world for the revolutionary (har) price of $89/pair.

Yup, I'm not even kidding. Also, please tell me you get the history-nerd reference. ;-)

Anyway. Yes, $89 - tons of stuff! I hope you find something perfect for you!

Bastille Day Sale
July 6 - 17, 2020

Click me like one of your French revolutionaries

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Monday, June 29, 2020

Monday, June 22, 2020


Petticoat Pitfalls for Grand Panniers

Well shoot, this didn't work....
Don't you just love when you finish up a project, perhaps the first part of an ensemble, something you've maybe done numerous times before, only to put it on and go "uh-oh?"

I threw together my 1720s-1740s Robe Volante petticoat this weekend. It went so fast - I measured, I shaped the top, I knocked out the hem, I pleated and bound and was so pleased, so very pleased. Then I put it on only to see an ill-shaped lump of skirt hanging in all sorts of weird ways. What had gone wrong?

I made the mistake of assuming I could construct an early 18th century petticoat for wide hoops the same as a petticoat from the later 18th century. What I discovered, though, is that the common method of knife-pleating the waist, leaving the sides open for pocket slits, and tying front-to-back doesn't work at all with wide hoops because the fabric just falls off the sides, creating a saggy appearance and a hugely uneven hem.

A big lump o' petticoat with an uneven hem - what went wrong?
Back to the drawing board. Okay, so how *were* they constructed, then?

There are precious few resources for just petticoats from the first half of the 18th century, but I found a couple that showed the fullness over the hoops at the top being controlled either by gathering or pleating horizontally out from the waist. This presents a challenge with pocket slits - they simply can't be put in-seam the way we're all used to because they're part of the problem with the petticoat collapsing on the sides.

So...what to do?

You're probably familiar with this image from The Met:

The Met, petticoat from a Robe a la Francaise, c. 1760-70, 2009.300.903a,b.
The accepted theory is that these drawstrings controlled the height of the *hem* and allowed the petticoat to be worn with different sizes hoops, but after experimenting with this I've found this drawstring method to be much more clever and complex. The drawstrings appear to have very little affect on the hem, but they *do* serve double duty controlling the fullness of the fabric over the hoops and creating a pocket hole at the side body at the same time. It's an ingenious way of creating the effect of a yoke without actually making one, which would have used more fabric.

I made my drawstring sections 15 inches long on each side but they could have been longer. I'm not entirely sure what the right ratio of drawstring-to-pleated-into-waistband should be.

If I'd made my drawstring sections longer I might've had more hole for my pockets - I didn't get this construction exactly right but it's better than it where I started.
I also discovered, after doing all of this wrong multiple times, that the shaping across the top breadths is much less than usual. The sides with the drawstrings need to be fairly straight, but there's a dip at the centers front and back so that the hem is relatively straight. Even with messing about with that, my hem still curves up a bit at the sides. Luckily this is reflected in some original prints and paintings so I feel solidarity with the mantua-makers of the past who weren't getting it right every time either.

I didn't include measurements here for how to pleat into the waist, how much for the drawstrings, how much to dip the waist front and back, because these all depend on your panniers.
Here is a little diagram showing the construction of these drawstrings. Most notably there are no pocket slits either cut in or left open at the seams. The pocket slit/hole is created entirely by the top edge of the petticoat when drawn up. Seeing it flat like this I have to marvel at the simplicity of it.

Before on the left, After on the right - you can see it's got a much, much better shape. I didn't get it exactly right at the top with the drawstrings but it's a big step towards better.
Those clever, clever Georgians!
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Monday, June 15, 2020

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How to Avoid Lampshade Hoops in the 18th Century

It's a thing in the Georgian period too!

I've recently started on my next big (physically big), early 18th century project, a Robe Volante. One of the reasons I felt confident to jump right in is because I already had a grand pannier...or so I thought. When I pulled it out of the closet, it had no hoops whatsoever in it! So I set to work re-hooping it, using a mixture of double-steel hoop wire, single flat steel hoop wire, and flat cane.*

As I shoved the hoops into the boning channels to full taughtness, I stepped back and assessed the shape. It looked good...but I remember there being an issue when I first wore this pannier. Here it is:

...LAMPSHADE HOOP. The bane of historical costumers throughout time!

How to solve this? A few ideas/hopes crossed my mind - maybe the petticoat would hold the hem out; maybe interface the petticoat and/or gown hem with organdy; maybe add an organdy ruffle to the pannier. Ultimately, though, none of these were particularly supportable with primary evidence from this period, and so the bigger question...

..."If I'm having this issue now, they must have had this issue back then too. How did they solve it?"

Back to the source material. I took a good long look at all of the panniers and hoops in Patterns of Fashion 5, several which are close in style/design to mine. Here's what I observed:

- The only hoop that had as severe an angle from waist to hem as mine was the grand pannier worn by Louisa Ulrika (pg 130). This hoop is significantly wider than mine at the top, though, and also longer than mine, making that bottom hoop closer to the floor - less distance for the gown fabric to get sucked under there. This hoop is also made of silk rather than cotton and there is a lightly-pleated silk ruffle/guard covering the bottom hoop.

Louisa Ulrika's court hoop - this thing is over 7 feet wide. There is a hoop in the hem which is covered/hidden by the lightly pleated flounce. 1751 - Livrustkammaren

Here's another grand pannier, worn by Sofia Magdalena, 1772. It's made relatively the same way with that deep flounce covering the fourth hoop, but the silhouette is noticeably different. Livrustkammaren.  
- All of the other hoops, whether sewn into skirts or not, show a much more straight-down-ish angle. There is a flare but it's nowhere near the degree I had in mine.

Two grand panneirs from Germanisches Nationalmuseum (link) - these are *bigguns* but even with them being this large you can see the angle from top to hem isn't as severe as my initial hooping.

- Many of the hoops in PoF5 are also a lot shorter than mine - knee-length or lower-hip-length. This means the petticoat and gown fabric hang from these points in a more uppy-downy way and aren't held out by anything other than the body of the fabric.

Here's an example of a quite short hoop from the V&A. It's dated later - 1780-1789 which I'm not sure I agree with, given that hoops like this were way out of fashion by then except for court dress (and maybe this was made for that, who knows). Anyway - it's pretty short!
This one looks to be below the knee at the bottom hoop, but isn't floor-length. It's only 25 inches long and 72.5 inches in circumference at the bottom hoop.  Notice the rather straight angle - it only flares out a little bit. Manchester Art Gallery, c. 1765-1775. 1953.41.4
Luckily it's easy to adjust hoops to be smaller. I've taken about a foot out of the bottom hoop and reduced the second up from the bottom a bit too. You can see from this comparison how much this altered the shape:

These photos are taken from different angles but you can see the difference in silhouette.
And it looks like this did the trick with the petticoat, too. There doesn't appear to be lampshading at the hem:

Yay! No hard ugly lampshade lines!

So! When you're constructing your grand panniers, keep these notes to hand! It's all in those angles!

*(Make do and mend - just using what I had to hand. In the future I will probably use all double-steel hoop wire with connectors so that the hoop can be easily deconstructed and reassembled for travelling)

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