Tuesday, August 30, 2016

1830s Corset Inspiration & Research

Hello Lovelies -

So I'm plugging away on my 1830s corset, and all seems to be going to plan...which is good seeing as how when I picked up my needle and thread yesterday to start sewing it became glaringly obvious to me that it's been a whole month since I've sewn anything and I could totally tell. Bleh.

Messy stitches are messy.

Most displeased.

Anyways, instead of whining about how unhappy I am with my sewing (cause that's boring to read about & a bit of a mood killer) I figured I would post some photos from my Pinterest board to show you all my inspo for everything. I haven't fully decided on a cording pattern yet, but I should have enough embroidery floss in my arsenal to really go to town on this bad boy. So we'll see....

Oh! Also - before I forget - if you don't follow American Duchess on Instagram  you totally should! We've been posting in the 'story' section of our profile pretty regularly & that's where we've been putting quite a few videos and images of Lauren & mine's sewing projects...just in case you're interested... :)

Part of Plate 11, Workwoman's Guide, 1838
1810-40, Philadelphia Museum of Art

1820-39, MeT

1820s, Meg Andrews 

c. 1830s, MFA Boston, 46.88a

1830-1835, MeT, 2009.300.2892a, b
1820-40s, Vintage Textile 
Alright lovelies - that's it for now!

<3 <3

Friday, August 26, 2016

My Big Fat Yellow English Gown - Finito!

Lauren here -

Doesn't it just feel *so good* to best a cranky project, wear it, and love it? I'd been working on my yellow English Gown for most of 2016 and it just fought and fought and fought me, but even with emergency fitting the night before Costume College, I somehow finished this beast, wore it to the Gala, and felt very pretty, if not very.....very....yellow.

This gown started out as the Larkin & Smith English Gown pattern, which is dated 1760s-1770s. I realized that this is actually the first paper pattern for an 18th century gown that I have ever used, so it was an interesting experience. I started the pattern quite a long time ago, but then it landed in the UFO pile for quite some time....long enough for my waistline to grow rather, um, a lot, so when I picked the project up again, I had some serious fitment problems.

Enter the piecing, a very historically accurate way of making $*&% fit. I added my pieces at the side back seams. Now I'd like to say that solved all my problems, but no.

Piecing the back of the English Gown at the side/sideback seam. I added in quite a lot, but in such a way that the finished back didn't look too obvious.
It was at this point I went really, really off-pattern. Instead of single robings, I used a double fold-over, which took quite a lot of fitzing and futzing to get on there right. In the end, my robings came out a little short - oh well - but in a very "V" shape, which I like, rather than the broader shape of later styles.

Now, I wanted this gown to serve as both a 1740s day gown and a 1750s evening gown. To do this, I made a plain ivory silk stomacher for the '40s, which would be covered entirely with the neckerchief, and a decorated stomacher in the yellow silk for the '50s.

The 1750s stomacher - self-fabric ruched, pinked, and fringed, topped off with a huge pink bow.
Here is the front of the 1740s daywear look. The stomacher is completely covered except for the bands, which the enormous trimmed kerchief is tucked into.
I had planned to make two petticoats, one plain and one decorated, but ran out of silk, so I did the decorated/flounced style of '50s, but covered it with the very long and wide whitework apron of the '40s.

The full 1740s daytime look with all the fluff. Fluff on the front, pleats on the back, that was the fashion of the '40s. The whitework apron completely covered the petticoat, so I wore the flounced petticoat beneath it, even though a plain petticoat is more common for this period.
I was feeling pretty chuffed about getting the gown done in time for Costume College. It was time for The Big Try-On before packing everything, and good thing I did because guess what.


Uh oh. What happened!?

I had made a new chemise for all the '40s and '50s stuff I was wearing for CoCo. The reason I did this is because the chemises of the earlier 18th c. are significantly different than the 1770s and 80s, with full sleeves that extended below the sleeve cuffs and formed a puff. Unfortunately for me, this style of sleeve didn't fit in the much narrower sleeves of the 1770s. #panic

If ever I have been glad I hand-sewed something, that moment was it. I used The English Stitch ("weird running whip stitch") on the sleeve seams, which made it ridiculously easy to pop them open and stitch in a couple HUGE gussets. It took all of 20 minutes and suddenly not only did my chemise sleeves fit in there and form the perfect puffs at the ends like they should, but the entire silhouette of the gown became correct. Now it looked like a 1740s/50s gown. I didn't realize quite how important those broad, full sleeves were to getting the look right!

From this angle you can see the broadness of the sleeves after the gussets were added, and also how the winged cuffs look. 1740s daytime look.
1740s and 1750s had visible chemise sleeves puffed out below the gown sleeves. My chemise here is made of linen with separate whitework ruffles in a finer fabric tacked on.
Fast forward to the night of the Costume College Gala. I was still having reservations about this ridiculous yellow dress. I just wasn't sure it was really going to look good at all.

Maggie did my hair, and I got some pink jewelry from Dames a la Mode. I put my shoes on. I put the dress on, pinning the stomacher in place. I put my pale foundation and strong rouge on, then checked the overall look in the mirror and at that moment I felt like a princess. I felt great!

I'm 20 years out of fashion for Francis, haha.
And I continued to feel great, even in the shadow of some of the most stunning gowns I've ever seen. What a night!

The most interesting part of the English Gown - the back pleats!
So it was a journey, this gown, and it barely resembles the pattern from which it started, but in the end I was so happy with it, and so glad I did finish it and got to wear it. I hope you all like it too!

p.s. I have much to share about the 1740s daytime version of this dress. I wore it for all of two hours on the last day of Costume College, so I don't have any good photos (please excuse the dark photos above), so a photo shoot is in order.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Dipping My Toe Into Uncharted Corsetry

Hello Lovelies!

Abby here --

Ok - so my title is not entirely true. I've made an 1800s corset before...hell I've even taught a workshop on how to pattern and make your own a few years ago.....but this...this ladies & gents is my first official jump into the deep end of the pool of historical dress. I'm going deep...swimming my little heart away from the 18th century (for now) & into one of my favorite moments of clothing.

The 1830s.

No. For real. Don't mock it till you try it! (...sewing pun?)

I used to think, like most people, that the 1830s was just flippin' weird...and because we as humans have a tendency to associate weird = ugly... I always thought the 1830s was ugly.

...like Ugly.


Apparently this is for sale on Amazon. Aren't they just perfection?!

But then....then my friends I started to look at the prints and giggle...1830s makes you smile...and the more something makes you smile the harder it is to hate it.

(Plus, when you have Chrissy from the Laced Angel making 1830s hair magic on her head it's hard not to love it!)

I still think they must have been just ever so slightly out of their minds during this decade, but I find it fun & endearing. So, with that in mind, I've set my mind to making a late 1830s outfit....

Obviously the first thing I need to do before I get into the fun stuff is a correct corset. Like I said earlier - I've made 1800-10s corsets before, but they're a bit of a different fit than the 1830s one, and so this will be a fun exercise for me to see how well I am doing with my corset/stays pattern drafting work/skill.

I've patterned this little stink and have basted all the gussets & gores into place. Now I just need to whip everything together very quickly so that way I can do a fitting and see how well she fits me. This also means I need someone to help me fit this garment (this is the part where I side-eye Lauren across desks...)

Anyways - here she is, in her current state. I've made her out of white jean and oznabrig linen from Burnley & Trowbridge. The white jean is recommended by Workwoman's Guide from 1838 for corsets & the linen helps improve the structure, etc. I'm going to use a light blue embroidery cotton for creating the busk, boning & cording channels when the time comes. So long as she fits, it shouldn't take too terribly long to put her together...so fingers crossed everything works!

Very few pieces with all the gores & gussets basted in.

Pretty sure I wasn't paying attention when I started whipping this edge together. I've also added an additional layer of linen to help prevent the eyelets from blowing out the first time I wear this thing. 

White jean with channel marks & a hellova lot of seam allowance


Here's the lining side of the front of my corset, I'm trying to decide if I want to put the busk channel in now or later (probably should do it now to help with fittings, tbh..but...I'm feeling a bit lazy)

Alright, that's it for now...until next time!

<3 <3

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Introducing Abby Cox, New Vice President of American Duchess

Hello Lovelies :)

Abby here...and man, does it feel good to write those two words again! It feels like it's been forever since I've really sat down and blogged like this....so long that I actually forgot how blogger works...oops.

Anyways, I am super excited to be posting on the American Duchess blog for the first time! So, for my first post, Lauren and I thought that it would be a good idea to (re) introduce myself to ya'll. So here we go...

I'm not usually this serious...

Salutations. My name is Abby & I am Vice-President (I still giggle when I read/write/type that..cause it's awesome) of American Duchess Inc. & Royal Vintage Shoes LLC.   August 15, 2016 was my first official day on the job & writing this post is one of my first responsibilities. I like cookie dough, cheese pizza, old clothes, and awesome shoes (in no particular order, unless you are asking me when I'm hungry...and I was very hungry when I wrote that line...now I have Goldfish on my desk...and Reese's cups because I'm an adult.)

If you had told me a few years ago that I would be sitting here, writing this blog, living in Reno, NV (seriously), and working at AD & RV I probably would have looked at you like you were completely mental...but here I am, and I am beyond thrilled to be here. If you've ever read my blog, Stay-ing Alive (warning, it's very GIF heavy at the top...my bad) then you know that I've been a scholar and maker of Historic Dress, with an overwhelming focus in the last quarter of the 18th century. I have an MLitt in Decorative Arts & Design History from the University of Glasgow, Scotland that was focused in Dress History (my dissertation was on stays), and I've spent the past 5 years working for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation - the last 3.5 years specifically as the Apprentice Milliner & Mantua-Maker at the Margaret Hunter Millinery Shop.

I'm not gonna lie, when this whole idea of working for American Duchess/Royal Vintage came about, it was a very difficult decision to make - to leave Colonial Williamsburg & my apprenticeship unfinished....I'm not a quitter - I wasn't raised that way, but I also knew that working with Lauren would be a life changing opportunity and something that I would regret if I passed up this "once in a lifetime" chance. The Swede (my husband) also pointed out when we were discussing whether or not this was something I should do, that I didn't want to end up like Walter White in Breaking Bad....

no really...that's what he said...
And seeing as how that life path wasn't really on my list of things to do, but understanding that his joke was actually quite profound, we made the leap! My mother, her best friend, and I have spent the last week driving across the country to Reno, NV, getting settled in, and causing mischief and mayhem in Virginia City...

Yep...that's me...in a barrel...what I am wearing under the barrel was the most embarrassing...:D

So that's where we are now...I'm here at work...doing work things...and having the best time! Lauren and I have a lot of projects, plans, and travel coming up over the next few months, and we are so looking forward to sharing it and all the hilarity that shall ensue with you!

Until next time...
<3 <3