Thursday, April 21, 2016

Introducing the New Simplicity "Outlander" Sewing Patterns by American Duchess

I've managed to keep quiet about this for a whole seven months (heaven knows how; I'm terrible at keeping secrets!) but the cat is now out of the bag, so I'd like to officially introduce the new...

Simplicity "Outlander" cosplay sewing patterns ..... by ME!

Squee!


Last year Simplicity contacted me to do a promotion. I pitched them the idea of doing some historical patterns and they said they were working on a whole new Cosplay category, and that they'd like to include something inspired by "Outlander." I jumped at the chance and submitted several designs for jackets, gowns, and underpinnings.

With the restrictions on the patterns - things like tissue size and complexity/length of instructions - we came up with two pattern packets that work together: the underpinnings packet with a chemise, bum pad, and stays; and the ensemble packet with a gown, petticoat, bodice, and stomacher.

My original drawings for the patterns, with ideas on how to share pieces and get the most out of the limited pattern tissue and instruction sheet space.
There were some things we had to compromise on. For instance, due to restrictions on the pattern tissue, we couldn't include an alternative cut or the skirting on the jacket, using instead the same pattern pieces from the gown. There was no room for a winged cuff, second view of the stays, or under petticoats in the underpinning packet.


Additionally, all of these patterns had to be designed for beginning sewists, easily made using a sewing machine, from materials and notions readily available from chain fabric stores like JoAnns. This is where modern construction with bag linings, application of metal grommets, top stitching, etc. came in.

BUT.

While these patterns are "just" costume patterns from one of the Big 4, hidden in the tissue paper folds are the makings of a historically accurate ensemble. I referenced all our favorite sources - Janet ArnoldCostume Close-Up, The Cut of Women's Clothes, Jean Hunnisett- and looked at myriad extant garments from the 1740s and merged that information with Terry Dresbach's original designs for "Outlander" season 1. What I came up with was a very basic Italian gown (sometimes called quarter-backed) with a single piece sleeve darted at the elbow, laced over a stomacher in front. The gown and/or bodice is designed to be worn over stays, which are of the more conical shape of the 1740s.



So now what? Now it's time to "HACK" these patterns. What do I mean by that?

I mean that here starts a blog series that will show you various techniques that you can use to take these patterns to the next level. Such as:

  • Hand-stitched eyelets instead of metal grommets
  • Creating robings and closing the bodice with pins
  • Interior lacing, buttons, and other bodice closures
  • Drafting and applying a 1740s winged cuff
  • Redrawing bodice seams and stays boning patterns
  • Drafting skirting for the bodice, to create a jacket
  • Extending the front edges for a center front closure
  • Setting sleeves with the 18th century method
  • 18th c. hand stitching techniques for finishing edges and sewing seams
  • Fitting through the side back seams the mantua maker's way
  • Proper silhouette through bum pads, petticoats, and more petticoats
  • Binding and facing the stays with chamois leather
  • Proper materials - wool, linen, cotton, silk
  • How the heck to get dressed

And plenty more. I have a huge list. It's going to be great!

Already starting on the stays - top is reference materials for boning patterns from two great books, "Costume Closeup" and "Corsets and Crinolines." Below is the stays pattern cut out in a size 12. You can see the boning pattern layout for half-boned stays.
As we all should, I'm starting with the stays, so you can expect to see the first of these "hacks" soon.

In the meantime, go and hassle your local Joanns to get those Summer catalogs out and the patterns in the drawers so you can purchase them, and stay tuned for the first installment of "How to Hack the Simplicity Outlander Patterns."

Thursday, April 14, 2016

"Manhattan" Button Boots - Now Open for Pre-Order

American Duchess Manhattan Victorian Button Boots

It's time! The new "Manhattan" Victorian and Edwardian Button Boots are now open for pre-order.

I've been talking a bit about these new boots in previous posts and on Facebook, but the proof is in the pudding - go have a look!

Manhattan Button Boots
Pre-Order April 14 - 28, 2016


Special Opening Price, Discounts and Freebies for all pre-orders! Woo!

American Duchess Manhattan Button Boots
Manhattans are available in black/black or brown/tan

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A Little Background on Victorian/Edwardian Cloth-Top Button Boots

Later this week we're introducing a new style - "Manhattan" Button Boots.

Following the uber-popular "Tavistock" boots, the time seemed right to introduce a variation for Summer - c. 1890 - 1920 cloth-topped boots in black-on-black or brown-and-tan.

Cloth-topped boots, sometimes called "galoshes," developed from early leather-and-fabric gaiter styles. You're all familiar with the early and mid-Victorian foxed booties with bits of leather on the toes and sometimes heels - this practicality continued into the late Victorian period with the heel and toe foxing eventually meeting so the whole bottom of the boot was leather.

Cloth-topped button boots c. 1867 - The Met
Cloth and leather side-buttoning boots c. 1870 - Augusta Auctions
Men's button boots - wool tops and leather bottoms - c. 1890-1900 - V and A
Part of this was also fashion. Women's cloth-topped boots came along a little after men's, as the popularity of women's tailor-made, menswear-inspired clothing grew. In addition, women were participating in more sports and often wore spats for activities such as cycling. Sporting fashion carried over into daywear, with boots like these combining the shoe + spat look.

Men's shoe and ladies' tall boot from the same time period, c. 1890-1900 - V and A
Example of women's sporting spats, or gaiters, worn over low-topped shoes
Gaiters for sale in the Sears Catalog, 1920. From "Everyday Fashions of the Twenties"
Cloth-top boots became widely fashionable in the 1890s and reached the height of their popularity between 1910 and 1914 (Rexford, 2000). Tone-on-tone colors such as black, tan, and white were popular as well as two-tone versions such as black/gray, brown/tan, and black/white.

Cloth-top button boots c. 1910-14, originally from Vintage a la Mode on Etsy (original listing no longer available)
Edwardian cloth-top button boots with stacked heels and straight fly - originally from Simplicity is Bliss on Etsy (original listing no longer available)
Edwardian cloth-top button boots with stacked French heels - originally from A Perfect Patina on Etsy (original listing no longer available)
By the late 19teens, button boots in general were falling out of fashion, with the very last persisting to the early 1920s but no further. (I noticed in the "Everday Fashions" Sears Catalog books that the illustrated models are still wearing what appear to be either two-tone button boots or spats over shoes until 1921, but not afterwards except for a rubber rainboot overshoe with side buttons in 1922.)

Sears Catalog, 1915 - cloth or "dull kid" tops. From "Everyday Fashions 1909-1920"
Advertisement from 1917 - the bottom right boot is cloth and leather, but the other buttoning two-tones are leather tops and bottoms, also a very common style contemporary to the cloth/leather combo. This image is from Vintage Buttercup on Etsy
As always, our new "Manhattan" boots are based on original examples. My antique button boot collection has been growing, and an original black-on-black pair stood for the patterning of our reproductions.

Antique Cloth-Top Button Boots c. 1910-1915 - American Duchess Archive Collection
Original cloth-top side-buttoning boot from the American Duchess Archive (I feel sassy saying that, lol) - c. 1900 - 1915
The Manhattans share a last with Tavistock, but we've made a few changes. The heel is the same shape and height - 2 inches - but is covered with leather in a faux stacked design. The soles of Manhattan are real leather with a double thickness under the ball of the foot, and a welt top stitch. Manhattans do not come up as high on the leg as Tavistock, and we have omitted the use of elastic. Don't worry, though - you can still fit the ankle and leg by moving the buttons, either taking them in or letting them out: there is a 1 inch overlap on the button fly to allow this.

Manhattan Button Boots by American Duchess

Manhattan boots are opening for pre-order on Thursday, April 14. We have them at an introductory retail price of $160 and, in addition, you will have your choice of a free pair of stockings or a $10 discount as a "thank you" for placing your order early. The boots will arrive in July.

Manhattan Button Boots by American Duchess


Watch this space, your inbox, or Facebook for the announcement!

References:

Rexford, Nancy E. Women's Shoes in America, 1795-1930. Kent, OH: Kent State UP, 2000. Print.

Blum, Stella. Everyday Fashion of the Twenties. N.p.: Dover Publications, 1981. Print.

Olian, JoAnne. Everyday Fashions, 1909-1920: As Pictured in Sears Catalogs. New York: Dover, 1995. Print.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

1940s Hair Styling Inspiration

It's Sunday. I was meant to do a 1940s photo shoot today, but it's raining. Yup, rain in the desert. It rains 10 days a year here, and I manage to schedule photo shoots on all of them.

So the photo shoot is delayed, but that just gives me more time to play with 1940s hair ideas. Here's what I've been pinning...

via
Digitalt Museum - click through
My model, like me, has very fine hair. The challenge will be to get the fluff and volume that 1940s styles demand without wet setting her hair (time unfortunately does not allow) - the work will have to be done with heat, which is always a risk with fine hair, and effects the final look of the style too. Therefore I'm leaning towards an updo with smooth rolls rather than a fluffy, girlish style.

via
Rosalind Russel in a "happy pompadour." This is an easy style to do and we can put the back fluff up in a french twist. via
Off-center victory rolls and a smooth roll in the back, looks like. This is a good style for the type of hat I have, too. via
via
My plan is to get as much curl into the model's hair as I can with a curling iron, then tease and smooth. I have a nifty little hat to cover the back of the head, so most of the styling will be in the front of the hair, which holds plenty of possibilities with victory rolls and pompadour options.


Wish me luck!