Jessica Out of the Closet & American Duchess: Behind the Designs

Our collaboration pre-order with the wonderful Jessica Kellgren-Fozard is in full swing, and we’re so happy that you love this collection as much as we do! While all collections are close to our hearts, this one is particularly special because we got to design it in collaboration with Jessica. In this post, we’re going to do a little deep dive into the design process behind our new Jessie Pumps and Claud Flats!

In case this collection is your first introduction, Jessica Kellgren-Fozard is a YouTuber extraordinaire. On her YouTube channel (and on her other platforms like Instagram), Jessica makes content about living with disabilities and chronic illnesses, deafness, LGBTQIA+ life and history, vintage fashion and beauty, parenting and family life, and all sorts of other interesting topics. The impact of Jessica’s content and online community is truly amazing, so when we decided to do a design collaboration together, we were over the moon!

There were several factors that went into deciding what sort of styles we wanted to design. Historical period-wise, we knew we wanted to focus on the 1930s-1950s, to match Jessica’s distinctive vintage personal style. We also wanted to incorporate a variety of heel heights, feminine touches, and naturally adaptable features.

Have you heard of quick-release buckles? Also known as quick-rig buckles, dance buckles, and easy-release buckles, these handy little things are popular on dance and character shoes because they make quick changes backstage faster and more efficient.

Above is an antique shoe from the 1920s featuring a type of quick-release buckle- so yes, they could be found back in the day, in case you’re wondering!

Another attribute of this type of buckle is that they are less fiddly than a traditional buckle. One can adjust the buckle piece to fit the spot on the shoe strap that is comfortable for them, and then subsequently, the buckle can be slid into the hook without needing to fasten the buckle. This feature is quite convenient, and can be particularly helpful for folks who have decreased dexterity in their hands. Both Jessie and Claud have straps fitted with quick-release buckles!

Sears catalogue from 1941, featuring our original inspiration for the Jessie Pumps

When we were in the initial design phase for this collection, we, of course, looked at lots of original references along with Jessica. We examined extant shoes, photographs, and vintage catalogues. We knew we wanted to go with a vintage heeled shoe. Pumps were very popular in the 1930s-1950s. Spanish heels could be found on shoes throughout this time period, as well as Cuban heels. This page is from a 1941 Sears catalogue; you can see Spanish heels, Cuban heels, lace-up oxfords, and pumps all represented. We all loved the lattice details and the bow in the pump on the bottom right. We decided to incorporate these details into the shoe that became Jessie!

While the original pumps were strapless, we wanted to incorporate a strap option for times when one may want or need some extra security with their footwear. Enter, removable ankle straps. We added a sweet little tab to the heel of the shoe, and included two pairs of ankle straps, each fitted with a quick-release buckle, with each pair of Jessie Pumps. These straps can be threaded through the tab on the heel. They also allow for a change in look, when one may desire one!

When designing the bow, we decided to mount the bow on a piece of hidden elastic. Since this pump has higher sides, the elastic piece helps with flexibility when putting the shoe on and taking it off. This pump is really something!

In addition to shoes with higher heels, flats were a major trend in the 1950s (say it with us: fashion is cyclical!). Flats, often called ‘flatties’, were especially popular with teenagers and young adults. Flatties could be truly flat, or have low heels, like Claud. They could have bows or tongue details, straps or no straps, and came in all sorts of colors and textures. Low sides were a desirable feature in 1950s flats, to show off more of the foot.

Anything familiar here? We took particular inspiration from one of the flats on this page of a 1950s Sears catalogue when developing Claud. We loved the side profile and how it swooped and curved, in addition to the smart trim and cute thin bow and peaked throat tongue detail. We knew we wanted our ‘flattie’ to have a strap across the instep, as well as a common-sense heel, and rounded toe. The catalogue original refers to this style as a ‘smartie’, so it’s both a ‘flattie’ and a ‘smartie’, hehe.

Our version, Claud, is fitted with a quick-release buckle on the instep strap. We love how this buckle suits the look of the original closure, with the added bonus of being naturally more adaptable. Claud has a super-soft leather toe as well, which really suits the slim silhouette of 1950s flats.

Once we finished the initial designs for Jessie and Claud, we simply had to choose colors! We took inspiration from Jessica’s personal style for our colorways, and the end result is a rainbow of beautiful shades. Jessie Pumps come in black, soft ivory, pink suede, wine suede, and brown. Claud Flats come in black, soft ivory, dusty blue, navy, and cordovan. Plus, both Jessie and Claud are available in standard (B) and wide (D) width!

Of course, Jessica expertly styled both Jessie and Claud in her photoshoot at Kew Gardens in London. We think these styles are just darling, and we’re so happy to have brought them to life in collaboration with Jessica!

In case you haven’t seen it yet, Jessica released a video over on her YouTube channel about collaborating with us at American Duchess. Check it out to hear about the design process from her perspective!

The Jessica Out of the Closet & American Duchess collaboration collection is on sale for 15% off each pair from April 26-May 5 in our US and UK/EU stores.

Pre-Order is Open
April 26-May 5, 2024
15% Discount Per Pair

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