Wednesday, February 29, 2012

V60: 1770s Hair Notes

Today's post is a page out of my dress journal.  I went through a great many images, a lot of them fashion plates, and broke down the various parts of the big 1770s hair styles made so famous by Marie Antoinette.  Here are my notes:

(click for a larger size)
If you can't read my chicken scratch handwriting (and sometimes I can't either), here are the themes I noted:

  • Poufed front
  • Looped or braided ponytail in back
  • Side curls low, under the ears *always*
  • The sides of the pouf are sometimes twisted into vertical rolls, carried upwards

Here again are some helpful hair "clip ins" illustrated by Diderot:

Some of these are a lot easier to make than others - for instance, the basic switches on the left side are a breeze, but the vertical stick-in rolls are much harder, though once created would be SO much easier to use than trying to roll your own hair or wig.  I've been experimenting with making these hair pieces, but have much more to do, so more on that later ....

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

V59: New "Kensington" 18th Century Leather Shoes in Black and Red

Last week I asked you all for your help in deciding what color Kensingtons to release first.  All three colors (black, red, and ivory) are the goal, but we just can't run all three at once right now, so those of you who voted for ivory, you'll have to hold on just a smidge longer, but they *are* coming.

In the meantime, red and black Kensies are opening for pre-order on March 5th, and we're offering them for the super awesome price of $99, instead of the regular $120.  We don't need to collect quite as many orders this time to run the style, but we do still need support, so if you or a friend are in the market for some snazzy new 18th century shoes, and you want to get the low price, be sure to place your order on March 5th, or in the couple of weeks following, at

Okay, without further ado, more pictures!

Monday, February 27, 2012

V58: The Tim Gunn Petticoat of Suck

I thought I'd experiment with matelesse fabric, a recommendation from a couple lovely readers, to get the whitework/quilted look.  Unfortunately I bought too little, because I clearly had my dunce cap on yesterday at the fabric store.

I bought 1.25 yards of 60" wide, thinking that a 1:2 ratio for gathering into the waist would be enough, but it really should be a 1:3 ratio, otherwise you end up with a fabric tube, not a nice flaring skirt.

Makin' it work - slicin' and dicin'.
So in the spirit of Tim Gunn, I had to "make it work," and cut the bottom off the matelesse, added those panels into the upper part of the skirt, to make a 6 panels skirt (like it always should have been!), which created enough length all around, but left me short, very short, in the hem.

Bring on the rufflage, in this case a 13" deep ruffle of cotton muslin, same unbleached color as the matelesse, again 1:3 ratio to get plenty of gathering.  Now it is a working, but I kindof hate it.

I kindof sucks!

There is at least one example of a quilted petticoat with a ruffle here:

I like that lovely red color, and perhaps I'd like my Petticoat of Suck more if I dyed it.

Or maybe it's just one to chock up to experience?  What do you think?

Sometimes trying a "suck" item on, or pairing it with more costume pieces will help put it in context, but I'm still kindof "meh" about this....

Sunday, February 26, 2012

V57: Mardi Gras / Carnevale 18th Century Costume + Hair

I'm wearing tea-stained Georgiana silk shoes and Dauphine buckles - they were comfy, and didn't scuff or get dirty at all.
Last night I went to a belated Mardis Gras Party with some friends.  I was inspired by Fannie of Temps d'Elegance to wear a white costume, and paired an old pet en l'air jacket from last year with an off-white skirt I normally wear with the Revolution polonaise, tea-stained Georgianas on the footsies, and my second try at a 1770s pyramidal hair pouf.

This was also the first time I wore my panniers, and they were great!  I hardly noticed them all night, and they didn't move, even driving in the car.  The shape they created was subtle - I can tell already I'll want bigger, badder-ass panniers soon. :-)

Anywho, here are some photos...

Saturday, February 25, 2012

V56: 18th Century Costumes from "Versailles: Countdown to Revolution"

I watched a documentary series recently called "Versailles," covering, in three installments, the history of the palace and its monarchs, Louis XIV, Louis XV, and Louis XVI.

I was really impressed with the production values for this series.  They were all shot on location, with French actors portraying each of the historical figures, but most importantly... the costumes were magnifique!

Documentaries are usually on the bottom rung when it comes to funding for costuming, but not this one.  I can't find any information on this production, but it seems to me that whoever the costume designer was must have raided all the best costume houses in England and France.

It's a good series, and I highly recommend it, although it's a little depressing (historically accurate depression!).  Here are some screen grabs from Episode 3, with a rather pretty Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette:

(lots and lots and lots of images under the cut...)

Friday, February 24, 2012

V55: New "Kensington" 18th Century Leather Shoes - Vote For Your Favorite Color

Hi Ladies! Once again I need your help, this time in deciding on colors for the new leather colonial shoe, "Kensington."

Kensington is a sturdy 100% leather shoe with a pointed toe, round latchet styling, and French heel.  They are perfect for the 1770s and 80s, and will stand up to field wear while still looking great in town.  The latchets can be fitted with buckles, or turned back and tied with bows, and the quality of finish makes Kensington appropriate for upper classes as well as middling class.

Below are three color choices - Ivory, Black, and Red.  Please tell us how you feel about each, and how likely you are to order your favorite.  Your votes will help me determine which colors to offer when Kensington is ready to be released in a few weeks. :-)

Thank you again!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

V54: How To Create A Simple 18th Century Pouf

A few nights ago I dressed my hair into a simple 1770s pouf style, for modeling at the Nevada Museum of Art.  I did this style using one hair piece and one rat, and while I already, like our Georgian counterparts, want to go higher and higher, this is a good place to start if you are new to vertical hair dressing.

Click "Read More" for the tutorial...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

V53: 18th Century Costume Modeling at Nevada Museum of Art

Last night I posed for artists at the Nevada Museum of Art's costume painting class.  I wore the Revolution Dress I made last year, and dressed my hair in a simple pouf style.

More photos >>

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

V52: 1770s Pannier Experiments - Style 1

In poking around the 1770s it becomes obvious that panniers are the thing to wear.  I've never made panniers before - I usually land in the 1780s and 90s, when I visit the 18th century, and so big rumps and super-poof round skirts are my thing, but who doesn't fancy the look of side-hoops?

I've decided to try out a couple different styles of pannier, with the caveat that they *must* pack down for air travel.  That leaves out the grand panniers, the full-length panniers, any that don't collapse into a standard-sized suitcase.

Here is my first try:

Monday, February 20, 2012

V51: 1957 Little Brown Dress

Over Christmas I made a couple 1950s frocks I haven't shared with you.  In fact, I made this dress, then didn't have opportunity to wear it until yesterday, for my grandmother's 88th birthday.

The pattern was Butterick 8087, size 12.  I constructed my version from brown shantung with a brown lace overlay on the bodice.  It was another exercise in letting out seam allowances (yay for 5/8"!) and minimizing darts, as I wear a 14 vintage (if I'm lucky), not 12.  Tight squeeze.

I'm happy with this dress - I made extensive use of fusible interfacing on select areas inside, to stiffen the thin shantung fabric sufficiently to keep the zipper from warping, or the tight fit through the waist from pulling in funny ways.  It has its funkiness - the hem needs re-doing, hangs in a funny way - but all in all I like the end result. :-)

Yesterday I wore the dress with a vintage "mink donut" hat - my dad said it looked like little fuzzy donuts lined up in a crown, lol - and a pair of white gloves I picked up at Sacramento Antiques last weekend.

The End. :-)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

V50: 18th Century Hair of Tall Ships

One of the iconic images we first associate with fashion of the 18th century is the Hair Ship, the tiny galleon perched atop a massive coif of curls.

Where did this come from?

In the 1770s, women went berzerk for the creations of Rose Bertin and Leonard - the stylist and hair dresser to Marie Antoinette.  The most outlandish of Leonard's intricate hairstylings featured little vignettes happening throughout the hair - you may be familiar with bird cages in the hair, little villages perhaps.  The bigger, more narrative, more complex the headdress, the better.

Leonard's poufs were also a way for ladies to celebrate or commemorate current events.  In the case of Marie Antoinette's ship, she was celebrating the victory of the French frigate Belle Poule over the British, in 1778.

No doubt more hair ships followed, as Marie Antoinette's styles were copied religiously, but the Queen never wore her pouf a la Belle Poule again ... that was so 1778.

Source: Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution
This book is fabulous.  I highly recommend it!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

V49: 18th Century Quilted Petticoats

I am thinking of quilting a petticoat.  My mom thinks that's insane, but it really seems doable, even for an inpatient girl like me.

The quilted petticoats in the Colonial Williamsburg book "Costume Close-Up: Clothing Construction and Pattern, 1750-1790" are constructed of 6 panels of fabric an average of 20-25 inches wide.  Some of the quilting patterns are more complex than others - mine would be one of the simpler ones, with the hand quilting only about a foot deep at the hem.  When you look at it this way, it doesn't seem like such a crazy thing.

'Course, never having done it, I really don't know.  It's the not knowing that draws me to it. :-)

I found some sage-blue silk for one petticoat, to match the yellow/blue stripe I bought several weeks ago, but the silk is not the right weave for a quilted petticoat.  Those I have seen in various collections look to be made of satin, or something on the fairly soft-n-shiny side, so that is what I will be looking for next, in Hansa yellow.  (They were also made of cotton, but I would rather pair silk/silk for this particular ensemble)

In the meantime, here are some inspiration quilted petticoats:

Friday, February 17, 2012

V48: Reno's Vintage Motel Signs

A few days ago I took a wander around Fourth Street in Reno, not the best place for a girl to be wandering, but I had on me the 1950s Zeiss Ikon Contina camera Chris gave to me, and was surrounded by a whole flock of some of the most wonderful mid-century motel signs ever.

'Course...I ran out of film.  And that film has not yet been developed.  Oh the joy of film!

With far too many vintage signs left, I decided to continue with my camera phone, which takes ridonculously good photos, and yes, they're from the "Retro Camera" app, but I happen to like hipstamatic photos, when used appropriately...what's more appropriate than vintage motel signage in the most hipster part of Reno?

Anyway, here are my phone snaps from the day - enjoy a little 1950s goodness today, from the Biggest Little City in the World. :-)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

V47: Results of the Great Button Boot Survey

Awhile ago I asked you lovelies to take a survey on your preferences for Victorian button boots.  Here is what you all had to say...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

V46: New "Imperfect" Section in the Shoe Shop

Hi Ladies,

I created an "Imperfect" section at the American Duchess shop, where you can find Devonshires, Georgianas, and Pemberlies for 50% off.  With each shipment we always get a few pairs that don't meet my strict quality requirements.  The defects on these "imperfects" include pebbled, indented, wrinkled, or scraped leather, small marks, or dirt smudges.  They are cosmetic only.

If small flaws don't bother you, you can have a pair of my 18th century shoes for half the price you'd pay regularly.  Should you like me to personally inspect a pair for you, go ahead and e-mail me - - with the shoe style you are interested in and the size you need.

The "Imperfect" section will continue to be updated with any slightly flawed shoes we have come in, along with dyed shoes.  Check back for steals and deals, but be aware that the stock for Imperfects is always very limited and once they are gone, that's it.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

V45: Edwardian Hair Mysteries Solved - Part 4 - Beginning Styling

So far in this series, we've covered several aspects of Edwardian hair care and styling preparation, along with a few styling supplements.  Now it's time to put that hair up.

Ladies with long hair, you, of course, will have the easiest time - all of the Edwardian styles from Moler's "Manual on Barbering, Hairdressing, Manicuring, Facial Massage, Electrolysis and Chiropody," published in 1905, are updo styles, meaning the hair is pulled up off the neck.  Ladies using hair pieces will have a harder time with this.

Let's start with two styles Moler includes in his book...

Monday, February 13, 2012

V44: Sacramento Antiques Vintage Haul

Victorian boots.  I didn't buy these, but they're cool to look at.
You thought I was going to miss today's post!  I'm exhausted after the all-day shopping trip over-the-river-and-through-the-woods, to Sacramento yesterday.

But oh so worth it.

I always find tons of stuff at Sactiques - this time it was quite a lot of textiles and costumey bits.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

V43: 18th Century Experiments in Hair, and New $6 Neckerchief

Last night I spent hours...HOURS...working on Edwardian hair styles, but I discovered that I needed more switches and hair pieces (today's work), before attempting any more of those styles.

I also tried out a 1770s "V" shaped pouf style, and had a go at creating side curls.  Here was my reference:

Saturday, February 11, 2012

V42: Edwardian Hair Styling Mysteries Solved - Part 3 - Rats, Switches, and Wiglets

In the last two installments of this series, we took a look at how women prepared their hair for styling.  They used some interesting shampoos, along with various methods of crimping and waving, to get the hair ready to twist into the magnificent Gibson Girl coifs we all envy today.

So now it's time for styling the hair.  Before we start, though, let's address the problem so many of us have: lack of hair.

Friday, February 10, 2012

V41: Edwardian Hair Styling Mysteries Solved - Part 2 - Brushing, Crimping, Fire

Last time in Part 1 of this series, I introduced you to some rather "exciting" sounding Edwardian shampoo and hair dressing recipes, taken from "The Manual on Barbering, Hairdressing, Manicuring, Facial Massage, Electrolysis and Chiropody" by A.B. Moler, published in 1905.  I would also like to introduce you to another book, "Beauty Aids, or, How to Be Beautiful," by Countess C---, 1901, available in full on Google Books.

This time we will look at how the hair was cared for in terms of brushing, combing, singeing, roughing, marceling and crimping.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

V40: Edwardian Hair Styling Mysteries Solved, 1905 - Part 1 - Shampoo and Other Scary Things

The other day, while washing my hair, I began thinking about hairdressing habits of the past, and how we ladies today treat our hair in *such* a different way from our Edwardian counterparts.

The main comment I receive when posting about period hairstyling is that the commenter's hair is so fine, so crawly, difficult to work with, lacking volume.  It may seem like women of the past had magically voluminous hair, but hair growing from the scalp hasn't changed at all in the last 100 years.  It is how we care for our hair that has, though, and I'm determined to get to the root of how Edwardian women dealt with their locks.

First, a few things to keep in mind:

  • Edwardian women washed their hair infrequently (by today's standards)
  • Edwardian women brushed their hair lots, with real boar bristle brushes
  • Edwardian women put just as much stuff in their hair then as we do today
  • Edwardian women did unto their hair things we would never dream of doing today

So where to start with solving the Edwardian hair mysteries?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

V39: 1920s Beaded Flapper Dress Design

Today Lady Carolyn invited me to participate in a presentation on 1920s fashion coming up at Reno's National Automobile Museum at the end of March.  How could I resist!

I have a decent selection of 1920s dresses...unless, of course, we're talking about evening attire, of which I have none.  No flapper dresses, which is pretty lame when I love the 20s so much.

This presents the perfect opportunity, though, to work that 1990s beaded slip dress I snagged for $15 at a thrift store into a beaded flapper frock worthy of the Charleston.  Here's the plan (or three):
Which one do you think?
The neckline decoration is coming straight off the dress as-is, but the question is what to do with the rest of the dress.  I would like to use as much of the remaining vermicularly beaded fabric as I can, but I will have to supplement the re-fashion with some additional fabric, either black crepe, some kind of skirt material like metallic drapey-netty-stuff, or fringe.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

V38: Progress on the 1912 Titanic Abbey Gown

Well I've gone through all the easy bits now, and am on to the hard I-hate-these-parts bits, with my 1912 gown.

The sleeves of the gown are made of just the net, which requires tiny roll hemming by hand.  Yay.

Anywho, here's the progress.  Since my last post about this gown, I installed the side hook n' eye closure, attached the net skirting, and made the long sash.
The beginning of the net sleeves.  The maroon colored stability strap will be covered in sequins, leading up to the leaf applique.
The sash is made of bias strips of the under dress' satin, and is several yards long, so as to wrap twice around the waist and tie with a large bow and long tails.
The "so far" dress.  I feel the overlay is a bit short, and I have extra beaded net, so I think I will add a second tier beneath the first shown here.
The sleeves are a very odd shape, and the arms on this mannequin were absolutely essential to figuring them out.  This one sleeve is not done yet...just wanted to see how that tassel would look :-)
More to come on this project, of course! April will be here before we know it. :-)

Monday, February 6, 2012

V37: Steampunk School Picture Day

Last Saturday Chris and I spent the afternoon snapping photos of the local Steampunk club, "High Desert Steam."  We had access to the Victorian train cars stationed at Victorian Square, in Sparks, and had a lot of fun inside and out.

The vintage cameras came out for the day - my 1940s Brownie, 1950s Zeiss Icon, and Chris' large format camera (vintage in spirit and technology) and 1950s Voigtlander Vito B.  We haven't developed the film yet, but I'm hoping to have some cool black and white Steampunk photos to show you soon. :-)  The real workhorse of the day, though, was the Nikon D300 dSLR.

Without further ado, here are a few of my favorite shots of the day...

Sunday, February 5, 2012

V36: SuperStripe Sunday - Stripes in the 1770s

It's Superbowl Sunday here in America Land.  I don't follow football, so I'll be burying myself in the sewing loft and trying to accomplish something on the 1912 Titanic gown.

Yesterday was a Steampunk photoshoot I'm looking forward to sharing with you, but I haven't developed any of the photos yet, so I can't post them today!'s a look at my favorite striped things from the 1770s (and some from year 1780).

Can't argue with stripes!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

V35: Starting on Fabric Stamping for Colonial Williamsburg

Yesterday I thought I'd try my hand at stamping the linen/cotton I bought for one of my Colonial Williamsburg jackets.
I don't have a ginormous fabric stretcher thing, so I smoothed the fabric out on my dining room table.
First things first, I gave the un-stamped fabric a good hot wash, and a good hot dry, to fully shrink it, then a good hot iron.  I then spread it out on the dining room table and measured out my spacing for the stamping, using an orange chalk pencil to mark a small dot where I would place the bottom of the stamp.  I went with a 2 inch space between motifs, and each line is offset from the one beside it, to create an overall "brick" pattern.

Then on to stamping.  I used a foam applicator to tamp the floral stamp with fabric paint.  This produced quite a lot of variation, and you can see the lines of the stamp around some of the flowers, in the close-up, but in a mass they are not noticeable.  It takes a certain technique to press hard enough and still avoid those lines - still learning :-).

In between the flowers I dabbed a red dot, using a paintbrush.  Simples :-).

'Course, I've accomplished.....about a 36" x 28" wide space so far, out of 2.5 yards of 60" wide fabric.  It certainly takes time, but I am very happy with the result so far.

You can see my mess-ups in the bottom right, where a detail in the tabletop caused a stamping flub.  That part will have to be avoided when doing the cuttng layout.

If you're new to my blog, you can read about my fabric stamps here.

Friday, February 3, 2012

V34: Last Day to Pre-Order Astoria Edwardian Shoes

Okay, Ladies, today is the last day to pre-order Astoria Edwardian shoes for the special $110 price.

The Astorias have done super awesome, and both the ivory and black colors are going in to production in a few days.

Surprisingly, the black Astorias sold better than the ivory, which leads me to believe that black shoes are in-demand, so you can expect more black historical footwear in the future. :-)

You will still be able to purchase Astorias after the pre-sale ends, for the regular price ($135).  They will still be delivered in early April.  The only difference is the price and the stock is now limited, because I've put in the order with the factory already.

Pre-Ordering will stay open until 12 am Pacific Standard Time.  Here is the link:

Thursday, February 2, 2012

V33: Only Death and Taxes, in the 18th century

I have done absolutely nothing costume-related in the past couple of days, and that is because I've started my 2011 taxes.


'Course, taxes in the 18th century were a big deal too in England, and were a major factor when it came to the Revolutionary War in the American Colonies.  School children everywhere know this one, "no taxation without representation!"

I kindof feel that way right now.

Here are some 18th century cartoons about taxes, from the Lewis Walpole Library:

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

V32: Guest Post @ The Dreamstress, and Pierrot Jackets

One of my favorite pierrots - from The Met
Today I am a guest blogger for The Dreamstress.  I wrote a little article about Pierrot jackets, one of my favorite styles of the 18th century.  I won't talk about them here - you have to go read the article on The Dreamstress' blog - but I will post some pictures. :-) Enjoy!