Friday, January 29, 2010

1770s Hair Help From the Interwebs



The Dreamstress is seeking advice for big 1770s style hair. I haven't done a wig in this style yet, but I did find this video tutorial not only extremely well-done, but very helpful!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Lookin' Spiffy


To celebrate 99 followers, I've revised the layout to the blog. I've added another side bar, hopefully to keep relevant information from getting lost "down below," and also to keep it more organized in terms of links and banners, etc. Yay graphic design!

For those of you who wonder about these things:
-I googled "blogger 3 column template" and found a "minima" template that could be loaded into the HTML section of Blogger.
-The pretty background is from Shabbyblogs.com, under "3 column designs."
-I reformatted the header image (it was saved as a PSD file, so it made it easy). That's it!

Lastly, Concraft and AmericanDuchess are trading banner ads this month. Here's the one I made :-). If you love American Duchess, and want to help support the blog, please feel free to snatch the banner and post it on your own blogs and pages. Cheers!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Why We Costume, Part 2: Because We Don't Have To.


When I was in college, I got into dressing up in vintage and retro clothing. I tried to "live the lifestyle" that was Rockabilly - polka dot dresses, high heeled shoes, red lipstick, stockings with garters...all the time. I would walk to class and spend the day feeling quite pretty and often a little in pain. I'd field questions about why I was dressed up, why I wore "old lady clothes," what the occasion was, and so on. Usually my answers were along the lines of "because I wanted to," "because they're pretty," and "just because."

My mother found this amusing. She told me she thought I was crazy, and that she had found wearing dresses every day quite tedious, and that she never could abide such an uncomfortable underpinning as a garter belt. Girdles, BLAH; high heeled shoes, ALL the TIME? blah! However, there was a distinct difference: as a girl growing up in the 1950s and attending college in the 1960s, she HAD to wear those things. They were expected, required even. Myself? Naw, it was by choice.

In the last thirty years, the restrictions and constrictions of ladies' clothing have disappeared. We can wear pretty much ANYTHING and get away with it, including men's clothes, ballet flats all the time, hats (or no hats!), you name it. Fashion has exploded like an alluvial fan, sending its silts in every direction and providing us with an incredible number of styles to choose from. Compare this to the fashions of the past, where everyone was trying to achieve the same shape, and clothing, though creative within the bounds, stuck to pretty much the same style. Styles would change about every decade, with subtle transitioning periods (with the exception of the 1790s into the 1800s), whereas these days, styles change every year, and drastically every second or third year.

So what is it about our fashion culture that makes us desire that of the past? I believe it has much to do with the FEELING of wearing these clothes, the way in which they make us move, stand, and hold ourselves. The clothing dictates our poise, our carriage, and often times our attitudes. When you dress up, you feel better. There is something magical about sporting a sharp skirt, clicking around in heels, or wearing a finely tailored jacket. When you add the element of *vintage* to it, it becomes something even more special. It's completely unique, for one, and the knowledge that you are wearing something exceptional is broadcast to everyone else, just in how you carry yourself in those clothes.

Yet we don't HAVE to. That is exactly why we DO. Some readers commented that they wouldn't mind if fashion swung back towards those of the past, but I have to disagree. If we were required to corset every day, don incredibly restricting dresses (admit it, at the end of the day, you're happy to peel that long-line bodice off yourself), and try to function as modern women - doing sports, going to the grocery store, raising our own children, picking up dog droppings, working 8 hour office jobs, even just driving our own cars - I think there would be a violent, bloody revolution and quite possibly the apocalypse! To return completely to the styles of the past would mean a return to the LIFEstyles of the past, and that's something I doubt many modern women would truly want.

So we pretend. And pretending is fabulous. Wearing our "new old clothes," getting a glimpse into how women (and men) felt in their own bodies, in the past, looking beautiful and carrying ourselves accordingly, is all a part of an experience that takes us as close to yesteryear as we dare get. But ripping those clothes off and putting on a nice comfy pair of pajama pants and eating cake for the rest of the night?.........mmmm, it's good to be Thoroughly Modern, to indeed have our cake, and eat it too.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Condolences

Our thoughts are with Leimomi of The Dreamstress, tonight, sending her *hugs* for the passing of her Nana Oakes. We love you, Leimomi!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Why We Costume, Part 1: Every Dance is Your Wedding

Let's take a break from our regularly scheduled costuming for a little insight, a little philosophy, a little article on why it is I believe we costume.

Why DO we costume?
What is it about dressing up in historical garments, tying ourselves into underpinnings not conventionally worn for a hundred years or more? And why is this so popular world-wide?

Last night, while catching up on my list of TV detective shows, I watched one episode in which a murder was committed at a wedding. The bride-to-be was decked out in her beautiful gown, and the setting was a posh hotel draped in flowers and golden glowery. I realised that many women only get to wear formal attire a handful of times in their lives, and for some women this is "never."

In high school we might have a smattering of semi-formal homecoming dances, or we may go to our Senior Prom, and get to shop for, pick out, and wear possibly the prettiest thing any of us at age 18 have ever dressed our awkward teenage bodies in. As adults, occasionally a formal reception may crop up, or some kind of banquet, but these things are few and far between, which leaves us one last overarching, shining event: our weddings. It is the one day where gentlemen can look snappy, feel snappy, and allow the fuzzy warm feelings of romance to read like a book upon their faces. And, of course, it is the day that the bride will wear the one piece of clothing that will be so blazingly beautiful that fathers will cry and grandmothers will drink three times the martinis.

So what has this to do with costuming? Just look at the photo above! A beautiful dress, a luxurious setting...sound familiar? As women, I believe some small part of us costumes for the same kind of feelings that we could or did feel on our wedding days. We love the long skirts, the gentle (or extreme, your choice), hugging support of underpinnings keeping everything, bodies and dresses, perfectly in place. We love the golden light glowing on our skin in the grand ballroom, the sweeping steps to descend and ascend gracefully, the flocks of other beautifully dressed girls to gush over and to gush over us. We love the gentlemen looking their finest, asking us to dance, and, of course, that unique, unforgettable feeling of being swept around the dance floor, skirts flying out, head spinning, short of breath and loving every minute of it. This is all a romanticised view, of course, but is it not the dream we spin and the things we remember the next morning, suffering our dance-hangovers?

I do not mean to imply that every girl who costumes secretly wants to get married (or not so secretly!). I also do not imply that it is the ONLY reason we costume (of course not!). I do, however, truly believe that we love getting "dressed to the nines" for special occasions, even if those special occasions happen every month! At the root of all this is the desire to feel beautiful, striking, special, which clothing of the past will always somehow have the ability to accomplish.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Ubersexlich...Proof of Life


Proof of my exploits as a hired seamster. That's a LOT of trim, and it's not even a quarter of it. There will, of course be more...everywhere...down the front edges, up the back pleats, on the cuffs, on the collar. It will be insane! It will be brilliant!

The picture is a little blown out, so apologies for not being able to see the trim so well, but I assure you it's gor-ge-ous.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Trim-Laden Teaser

Oh Duchess, you're SUCH a tease!
The collar of James' frock coat, trimmed out,
ready to be stitched to the body of the coat. Whee!


Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Dark Side of Costuming...


Girl, what the heck have you been doing!? We want updates already!

I've been doing the most mundane, neck-aching, back-breaking, horrific-yet-necessary part of the costuming job: cutting.

This doesn't seem like such a big deal, right? It does when you have a frock coat, a waistcoat, and breeches to cut, and all of them are lined, some parts of them even interlined. And it does when that frock coat has something like 25 self-covered button rounds to cut out.

The sad part is that I'm still not done cutting! Instead, I'm off to buy out the fabric store of their delectable silver trim, so I can get that on before the lining (which isn't cut, haha).

The caterpillar that is a garment before its metamorphosis
into the beautiful 18th century velvet butterfly it will become...