Friday, May 22, 2015

18th Century BigAss Caps

...one final push for Williamsburg!

With The Creature wrapping up (and boy does that feel good!), I have just enough time and plenty of organza left to make a BigAss Cap.

And I want it to be biiiiiiiiig. Fluffy. Ridiculous. I want it to eat my head.

So here's my inspiration:

Two Nerdy History Girls - Abby, Milliner's Apprentice at Williamsburg, wearing a big fluffy gauze (organza) cap
Lady Wearing a Large White Cap, c. 1780 - National Gallery of Art
Francis Alleyne, 1780 -85

French School, 1772-85 - Bowes Museum
The back of Samantha's cap - The Couture Courtesan
1777 French Fashion Plate, noting the cap design in the upper right - via
I don't have a pattern, but there are some resources online here:
Luckily caps aren't so very hard to figure out. I have this diagram from Art, Beauty, and Well-Ordered Chaos to go from, and tweak for proportion:

Click through for instruction
I best get on with it!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Progress on Le Polonaise AKA The Creature

Trimming the bodice - the left side was done with the roll hem foot and it really "ate" the fabric - the right with a different method. I will need to remove the left side and re-do it.
Slowly but surely (she keeps saying), I've been trimming Le Polonaise, now semi-affectionately dubbed The Creature.

The Creature requires much time, much fiddling, much hand work. I've finally worked out a good way to hem the organza on the machine, but it's still hours of tearing, trimming, folding, stitching, pleating, pinning, tacking, and pressing.

Thankfully it's also rewarding!

Knife pleats on the skirt. These are tighter than I ended up doing overall.
I'm really pleased with how Le Polonaise is turning out. It's been a journey, one that would have gone much more quickly had I more time to devote. It's really my own fault that my trip to Colonial Williamsburg is now two weeks away and I only have one new gown only partially complete.

But what a gown it will be!

As you can see, compared to the last post, both sleeves are on, and I've added an extension with more organza to one so far. The petticoat has been pleated and trimmed, but I have yet to do the waistband and ties. Then it was on to the trim - many strips of organza hemmed on both sides, then knife pleated and loosely stitched to the bodice and skirt.

American Duchess 18th century 1770s Polonaise skirt effect
Polonaise effect - Left is down; middle is drawn up with interior tapes; right is drawn up with exterior tapes, and is the method I will be using.
Once the trim went on, it's been quite fiddly to get the poofs right. There are two ways to pull up the skirts - interior tapes looped through a ribbon tie or button on the inside, pulling the skirt up from within; or exterior cords which loop from the interior waist down and up on the *outside* of the skirts, hooking to buttons on the outer waist, usually at the side back seams. These two methods produce very different effects.

I usually prefer the interior tapes, to create the "butterfly" effect, but to achieve that 1770s Polonaise poofery I admire on fashion plates of the era, I have to use the exterior tapes. I better go find some pretty cord. :-)

Skirts drawn up with exterior tapes - this creates the distinct three sections the style was named for, plus that quite large poof extending out the back. The interior tapes create a totally different silhouette.
Now back to work!!

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Basic 1920s Frock

Lace Collar on a 1920s Frock - American Duchess Blog

"Frock" is exactly what I should call this dress, even though I don't really like the word.

I found this -frock- on Etsy for an excellent price, and was so pleased to find it in amazing condition when it arrived. It's wool and neither has moth holes nor stinks of mothballs! The interior is unlabeled, with hand-overcast raw edges, some french seams, and clever use of selvedge. It retains some basting stitches, and even has a quick nip in on the side seams to slim it a bit through the waist (which I have totally done on my 1920s projects!).

Original 1920s navy wool and lace dress - American Duchess Blog
Some interesting and typical seaming on the skirt makes this more than just a sack.
This -frock- is just so...straightforward. It reminds me of the dress Roxy Hart wears to court in "Chicago." And I love it! Even though it's a little scratchy to wear, and is basically a lace-trimmed sack, I LOVE it! There's something so satisfying about an original 1920s -frock- in that it's unquestionable. Yup, that's the silhouette alright. No question there. It's huge and waistless and quite long and scratchy and demure and utterly correct.

Look for this one in a future Royal Vintage photo shoot. :)

1920s navy blue wool dress with lace collar - American Duchess Blog

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

"Kensington" 18th Century Shoes in Red are Back!

American Duchess Kensington 18th century shoes in Oxblood

And it's about time!

It's been several years since we've had red Kensingtons available in the shop, but they're finally on their way now, and you can pre-order them to reserve your pair!

We've made some improvements to the original red Kensies:


  • Darker red color (oxblood) inspired by original 18th c. Moroccan leather shoes
  • Premium quality, hand-finished calf leather upper
  • Leather lining
  • Thick and sturdy leather soling
  • Functional and accurate latchet closure fastens with 18th century shoe buckles
  • Our signature 1.75 inch French heels - stylish and comfortable.


American Duchess Kensington 18th century shoes in Oxblood Red

Don't miss your opportunity to wear a pair of the new Kensingtons in Oxblood Red. Red shoes are surprisingly versatile, so don't be afraid to add a little party to your peds, like it's 1776.

Pre-Order Freebies!
Choose a free pair of stockings, free pair of buckles, or a $10 discount when you pre-order (limited time).  Enjoy the sale at