Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Review: Rago 721 Waist Cincher from Hourglass Angel


The more I study and wear vintage clothing...and the older I get...the more in favor on body shaping I become.

Sure, a variety of underpinnings is historically accurate for the first 60 years of the 20th century (yup, the 1920s and 1960s too!), but I know on more than one occasion I've skipped them. I've thought, "oh, my modern bra will do. Oh, I'm thin, I don't really need to wear a girdle. Oh, I can get away without a petticoat." But I never feel or am "fully dressed" when I go half-way on a costume, and ultimately the silhouette just isn't quite right.

Enter the shapewear. We call it "shapewear" these days, but it doesn't have to be particularly squeezy. My review today is of one such item that does a nice job, but isn't uncomfortable - the Rago 721 Waist Cincher, from Hourglass Angel.

This waist cincher (AKA girdle) comes in pink and black, which is kindof cute/sexy, and works very well as a smoother-outer. It didn't reduce my waist measurement hardly at all, but gave a nice trim line from about about the underbust to the high hip.


One thing I really like about the Rago 721 is that you can pull it up high under your bust, or pull it down lower over your hips, depending on where you want the shaping to be. The central zig-zag stitched band is the squeeziest part, and can be used to control belly or love handles, whichever you prefer.

The materials are good quality, with stiff lace over the central panel. The majority is a polyester stretch satin. It's not a garment you might choose on a really hot day - I wore it out in the heat and found it quite sweaty, and it also stretched out a bit by the time I took it off.

One thing I didn't like was that the boning in back pokes up at the top and bottom. For a dress with a loose skirt, this isn't a problem, but for a thin wiggle dress or bias-cut '30s gown, this might cause unsightly bumps on the outside.


The cincher hooks closed at center front and has removable garter tabs. I was impressed with the quality of the garter tabs, which isn't always the case. I do recommend wearing the cincher with the garters and stockings, as it helps keep it from shifting upwards as you wear it.

All in all, I 'm pleased with this item. It's easy to wear and provides just a little shaping and smoothing, nothing crazy, and is a good introduction to vintage foundation garments. Pair it with a vintage style long-line bra and full fashioned stockings and you're good to go.

Rago 721 can be found here at Hourglass Angel for $44.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Miss Fisher's Fabulous Fashion


I'm *deep* in Costume College prep fog, but I have been winding down my nights watching Season 2 of "Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries," an Australian series that is everything you would ever want a detective show set in the 1920s to be.
Geometric blouse + solid pleated skirt and matching beret or cloche hat = Insta-vintage!
Charming acting, fun mysteries, and good music aside, my favorite thing about Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries is Miss Fisher's fashion. The show is an hour-long feast for the eyes, with drool-worthy dresses, trousers, coats, and hats, OH THAT HATS!

Via Fashion in Nostalgia
One can't help but feel drawn to dress like Miss Fisher in today's world. The character's clothing is refined but bold, elegant but playful, and oddly accessible. A basic pair of wide-legged trousers paired with a geometric blouse, and a deco-trimmed, long jacket will get you most of the way there...

This coat is my *everything* - could you pull this off in today's world, I wonder?
My favorite outfit from my favorite episode in Season 2 - "Blood at the Wheel" - taking place around ladies' participation in racing rally cars, 1920s style!
...and don't forget the cloche hat! It seems to me that a cloche hat is 90% of a 1920s look. A-OK by me - modern ones are easy to find and re-trim, or you can even steam your own straw or felt cloche with just a basic head block.

Chiffon dress or blouse + cloche hat = insta-vintage
So here's to Miss Fisher's fabulous fashion buffet. I think I'll dedicate my Fall wardrobe to being a bit more stylish in her fictional footsteps. How 'bout you?

For more Miss Fisher Fashion, check out my Pinterest board with tons of glorious inspiration!


Friday, July 17, 2015

The Silver Ghost Francaise - Progress


After posting about where to find patterns for Robes a la Francaise, I thought it time to share the one I'm working on.

This is "The Silver Ghost," and it's huge. I found the warm silvery brocade in a forgotten corner of our local mill end warehouse and bought it all, immediately seeing this gown in my head. Here's hoping the real one matches my imagined one!

So far so good.

Gowns like this definitely start from the underpinnings out. I'm using the Simplicity 3635 grand pannier I made awhile back, with some alterations, primarily that I added an extra hoop into the hem, and a ruffle to help hold the skirt out. This is very important - without the extra hoop on the bottom, your sacque skirt will not hang in that attractive trapezoidal shape.

Simplicity grand pannier pattern - out of print, but still available on Etsy or eBay.
My grand pannier made from the Simplicity pattern - I added a hoop in to the hem and a ruffle at the hem too.
The Petticoat 

I picked up a tip from Starlight Masquerade on using the pannier pattern to cut the petticoat for the gown. This is a *fantastic* tip - it uses significantly less fabric that a pleated petticoat, reduces bulk, and fits over the pannier absolutely perfectly. Historically accurate? No. A really good idea? YES.

Using the pannier pattern to cut the petticoat. I had to extend the hem to floor length and pink up the sides a bit.
Trimming went on the front skirt panel before stitching it to the rest of the petticoat
Petticoat all trimmed and put together except the hem. I interfaced about 8 inches up the hem all the way around, which helps keep the trapezoidal shape
The petticoat didn't take very long at all, and I had a chance to try out my trimmings on the front part. I interfaced just the front panel to keep it from collapsing under all the furbelows, then with a dish plate, drew out the circles for my trim placement.

The Gown

She's not done yet, as you can see, but the most challenging parts have been accomplished. The first step was the basic linen lining, with adjustable lacing at the center back, and lacing across the front of the body, which the stomacher will cover.

Basica pattern for the bodice lining
Once onto the gown itself, I started with the back lengths/width that were pleated into the iconic Watteau pleats. I always find this part challenging, and even now I realize my technique needs improving.
The back length - I ended up cutting quite a lot of this off.
The Watteau pleats stitched to the lining at back, with the bodice piece cut out around the sides.
Once the back pleats were stitched to the lining, I cut out the back shape (according to the lining piece), cutting the rest of the skirt out perpendicular at the waist. All that was then pleated up to about the side seam. I did this a couple times to get the voluminous skirt to lay well over the pannier. It's tricky, and effected the train of my gown quite a lot, which indicates to me that I still didn't have enough width in my back pieces for the method/pattern I used to fit over the side of the pannier.

Pleating the back widths around to the side of the pannier. Easier said than done.
Next up were the front skirt panels. Lots of work here, interfacing, lining, and trimming these. They're heavy and stiff, keeping the right line and showing off all the fluffy stuff that makes these gowns so impressive.

Front skirt panels in progress. These pieces are interfaced and lined in lightweight silk taffeta.
The Trim

The trim for the whole gown is alternating pinked-and-ruched self-trim and puffed "candy wrapper" self-trim, framing large puffs of gold tulle in a circular design. This is all put on by hand and has been the most time-consuming on both the petticoat and gown so far.

Trims - finished on the petticoat and in progress on the gown front panels. 
And Then...

Now I have the bodice, sleeves, and stomacher to do. I draped the bodice piece with the robings extension last night, and will mount the fashion fabric tonight. I've never used the method of robings + pins, but I'm looking forward to the adjustability this offers, both in construction and wearing.

Draping the pattern for the bodice front with robings, which will be faced and trimmed. The stomacher is pinned under there robings, which then fold back (as shown) to cover the pins.
The sleeves aren't going to be too bad for patterning (she said). Sacque sleeves can be pretty loose, with pleating at the back of the shoulder, which makes them way easier to set. I already have the lace sleeve flounces, too.

Deadline...

Costume College, the first weekend in August. I have about two weeks to finish, eeeek!


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Happy Bastille Day! (And Happy SALE!)


Happy Bastille Day! For me, Bastille Day marks the middle of the year. It says, "you've come this far, and now it's time to look towards the Fall" (may favorite time of year). Phew!

It's also the time for our big 18th century sale! There are some great Ba-steals and Ba-deals to be had (har har har) over in the SALE section at www.AmericanDuchess.com - free buckles or stockings on 18th c. shoes, Antoinettes, Nankeens, and Highburies on sale, 25% off Cavendish buckles, major reductions on Imperfects, and even a few deadstock Exclusives. Go check it out.

And now for the pretties. Sales are a good excuse for photo shoots, and I've been itching to show you "proper" pictures of the Midnight Chemise a la Reine. I bribed Abby, a historically-inclined young lady, to model (it was her first time!), and trussed her up in the full complement - chemise, stays, bum pad, ugly puffer, petticoat, neckerchief, gown, sash, beret, and of course....that hair!

Abby Hersey modeling the Chemise a la Reine for AmericanDuchess.com

What a good sport. It took 2 hours to do hair, makeup, and dressing. With the exception of the little curls down the back, all of this is her own hair! For makeup she's wearing a pale foundation (Ben Nye "Clown White"), with Heirloom Haircare's 18th century rouge on the cheeks and lips.

Abby is wearing "Kensington" 18th century leather shoes in "Oxblood," arriving in stock very soon
Two hours to dress, 30 minutes to shoot, and 30 seconds to disrobe. That's how it goes!

Abby Hersey models the Chemise a la Reine for AmericanDuchess.com
Vive La France!