Monday, May 23, 2016

A 1940s Photo Shoot in Reno, Nevada

The beautiful Elizabeth, dressed in original 1940s vintage.
Whenever we do photo shoots, I always try to come up with an interesting concept. Usually, for the American Duchess line, we're trying to "hide" our very Western, very "new" landscape and town, to make the photos looks like they're from pastoral England or France.

But with the younger fashions, like the 1940s, our home town of Reno actually serves quite nicely. We don't have a lot of very old buildings, but we do have some from the 1930s and 1940s surviving. So for this shoot with Elizabeth, vintage fashion connoisseur, I thought we could actually celebrate Reno's past.

Reno in the 1940s - a new divorcee exits the Washoe County Courthouse

Where better to do that but on the Washoe County Courthouse steps, where thousands of women have become brides and divorcees. This is the famous courthouse from "The Misfits," and one of the most beautiful buildings in downtown Reno.

One of the traditions from the past was for a lady to "kiss the column" upon existing the courthouse doors, her divorce finalized. While no lipstick stains remain, the column still stands as a monument of 20th century female freedom from bad marriages. Check out the newsreel above for glimpses of Reno in 1943, and happy gals "kissing the column."

So, naturally, The Column played a role in our photo shoot.

Reno in the 1940s - Washoe County Courthouse - Elizabeth is wearing all vintage paired with the beautiful reproduction 1940s shoes "Betty" from Royal Vintage Shoes
Elizabeth's outfit is an original 1940s dress paired with a vintage hat and gloves. The shoes are "Betty" 1940s platform sandals by Miss L Fire, which we sell in the 1940s section at Royal Vintage Shoes. These are just wonderful shoes, very high quality and comfortable, with an arch support and adjustable straps. I have a pair myself and they seem to go with absolutely everything.

"Betty" 1940s Platform Sandals in Black Suede from (c)2016

I hope you've enjoyed our photos! Here are the details:

Dress: Vintage
Hat: Vintage
Gloves: Vintage
Model: Elizabeth Pedersen 
Location: Washoe County Courthouse, Reno, NV

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Review: Emmy Design Sweden Vintage Repro Clothing

Vintage menswear look with Emmy Design trousers and suspenders. Shoes by

Do you ever feel like you just can't sew the vintage wardrobe you want, in its entirety, fast enough? I have a gazillion vintage sewing patterns, but it seems like less and less time to make each piece. Even when I finish something, too soon after I am wanting something more - maybe a blouse to go with the pants I just made, or pants to go with the blouse I just made!

Even as a seamstress, I am lured by vintage repro clothing companies, but with all the knowledge of good clothing construction, quality materials, and how things should fit, I am often disappointed with the products of many of these brands.
Vintage menswear style with Emmy Design
An adorable vintage menswear look is easy to pull off with trousers, an oxford shirt, and suspenders.
So when I find one that makes genuinely good stuff, I'm over the moon. Emmy Design Sweden is one of those brands.

Now, this stuff isn't cheap. It's European and the shipping alone can hurt, but I am subscribing to the well-known concept that it's better to spend a bit more on truly good pieces, and fewer of them, that spend the same amount of filling my closet with crap.

I've been wanting to try out some of Emmy's clothing for some time, especially the sweaters. You all know how I feel about vintage sweaters. And let me tell you, I have hardly taken this little 1940s cardigan off since it arrived back in March. The cardi is a very high quality wool blend, nice and soft, and actually fits without the button placket gapping. It's not too tight, with plenty of room in the sleeves, and is the proper length to wear with vintage at-waist styles. This is the best vintage style knitwear I've come across so far.

This cardigan makes my heart go pitterpatter - high quality Fair Isle knit in wool blend by Emmy Design. LOVE!
I also tried the pants, which are voluminous and lightweight. They're a wide-legged 1930s style with buttons on the side. They were quite long and needed hemming for my 5'6" height, so I turned up cuffs and blind-stitched them in place. Though they are sold as Fall/Winter pants, the fabric is very light and flowy, actually quite perfect for Spring and Summer. I will live in these pants this season, no doubt.

The pants have buttons inside the waistband to affix suspenders, also made by Emmy, a style I absolutely love. I was having trouble finding button-on suspenders short enough for women, so Emmy really solved my problem there.

The trousers are loose, flowy, and comfortable, but may need hemming.
Emmy Design clothing is, unfortunately, not sold in shops in the US. Lucky you if you're in Europe, Australia, or South Africa. They do, however, have a web store where you can order. Check it out, especially the knitwear. I highly highly recommend it!

This outfit:
Blouse - thrifted
Sunglasses- Forever 21

A pair of "Back Then" oxfords from completes the vintage menswear look.
Model - Dalen Obryan
Location - University of Nevada, Reno

Friday, May 13, 2016

18th Century Stays: Boning Patterns

In preparation for making your Simplicity 8162 18th c. stays, you may wish to re-draw the boning pattern.

The pattern comes with an accurate layout for half-boned stays. If you would like to deviate from this, perhaps to add more support or change to a fully boned stays pattern, it's a very easy alteration.

All you need to do is redraw the boning channels. On my stays I've done fully boned and simply drew the pattern I wanted on the interlining layer. It's as easy as that.


On your stays pattern there are "no go zones" where your CF and CB needs to have channels on the edge and opposite side of the lacing holes. You'll notice in all the patterns I've drawn out that this "bone-grommets-bone" pattern is on the front and back pieces. Other "no go zones" are the seam allowances - obviously you don't want to run your boning channels into the seam allowances. I typically will do one channel right along the seam on either side, parallel to the seam.

Drawing the Pattern

After you've marked out your CF and CB "no go zones" and your seam allowance, you can draw whatever pattern you like. Keep your references handy and pay attention to how the boning channels intersect the tabs or curve across the body.

3/8" channel for 1/4" wide zip ties
5/8" channel for 1/2" wide zip ties

Here are several boning patterns from original stays, in chronological order:

Horizontal Boning?

On many of these layouts you will notice horizontal boning across the bust. This creates more support for the bust, especially larger busts. But how do you stitch this in?

The answer is to create a "pocket," a separate piece that is applied to the bust area after the vertical boning channels have been stitched into the outer fabric and interlining. I make my pockets of two thin layers of muslin with the horizontal boning channels sewn in, then I tack the entire piece to the interior of the stays.

You can stitch through all layers to secure it, but I usually just secure the pocket to the seam allowance and top edged. Another method for horizontal boning is to stitch linen or cotton tape to the interior to create individual channels. With any of these methods, if you stitch through all layers, be sure to sew the pocket or tapes in *after* you've inserted the vertical boning, so you don't accidentally sew the channels shut!

Once all the boning channels and pockets are sewn in, the interior will be covered with the lining, so don't worry about it looking messy!

Boning channels can be quite creative. Keep your references handy, but don't be a "slave" to the reference. Think about how different boning directions might affect your body, and don't be afraid to experiment.

Helpful References:

Thursday, May 12, 2016

My "Agent Carter" Outfit on The Mood Blog (!)

I am a bit remiss in posting lately. A whole lot of everything has been going on, but a lot of it hasn't been about historical costuming. While I've been buried in signing leases and lining up contractors and all kinds of moving stuff (more on all that later), I haven't had much time to sew and, well, write about it.

So I'm sharing a bit late. But it's good news!

Last month I knocked out a quick vintage sewing project. Awhile back I acquired a bunch of gorgeous original 1940s patterns, all of them somehow magically in my size. One of them just screamed "Agent Carter," so I put it together in a couple weekends with a scrummy blue wool blend from Mood Fabrics, everyone's favorite NYC fabric store.

Well my dress went on the Mood blog! Squee! You can read all about it, the pattern, and see some more photos o'er there - get in The Mood (Blog).

p.s. The shoes I'm wearing are brown and white spectators from the new Royal Vintage Classic 1940s Collection coming out this Fall. They're not available yet, but I will be telling you all about them soon!