Friday, September 26, 2014

My 2014 Steampunk Ball Costume - Complete!

So the ball was ages ago, but I didn't have a good photo of my whole costume until today. As it stands, you can't see much detail in this, but I didn't want to leave you hanging after posting my progress earlier this month.

Though the corset was no great feat of waist reduction, I finished it, wore it, and felt good in it, so I count that as a win. Many others seemed to like it, too, because I somehow won the ladies' costume contest, a great honor!

Photography was done by Eric Marks of Backwards ME Photography
Here's another photo by Dana Lee Fruend:

There's really not much to be said about it, but there ya go. :-)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

1919 "Red Russian Doll" Coat Progress

It's looking like a coat! The belt around the middle is just there for mocking up, and is tighter than the final belt will be.
Things are going together really quite well on my "Red Russian Doll" project. I have the back and front pieces together, and it's starting to look like a coat, but there was a lot to be done before making it just this far.

I pulled out my Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing and followed the tailoring instructions. The first step was to cut interlining - cotton muslin - to flat-line all the wool pieces, giving the fairly thin wool structure. This worked beautifully for the soutache braid, which needed something to keep it from weighting the wool too much.

Pad stitching the collar, according to Gertie's book.
I stitched the lapel canvas (hair canvas) to the muslin, then basted the muslin to the front pieces of the coat, working the pad stitching on the lapel through both layers.  I also followed Gertie's instructions for pad stitching the collar (I'm still not sure the collar piece is the right shape - I'll test it one more time before stitching it on)

Then to the soutache! I wanted to do one continuous piece of braid for all the decoration on the front, but pulling the little interior cord to get the loops to lay flat turned out to be a pain for a long, unspecified length, so I did each design singularly. It was a little tedious, but didn't take as long as I thought it would.
I did the soutache design on my computer, printed it out, and pinned it up to see if it was a good scale.
Working the braid - I marked the design in chalk, the stitched the soutache on by hand. I did not pin this before working it, just shaped the loops and stitched it as I went.
One side of the soutache applied
Both side applied, and I just folded and pinned the jacket front pieces to mock up how it might look when finished.
I added pockets into the side seams when stitching the front and back pieces, and next I'll be working the facings and collar. I'm nervous about the faux fur - I've never really worked with it, and I'm not sure I even have enough, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it...

All-in-all, it's going well! Here's hoping it continues that way. :-)

Monday, September 22, 2014

In Defense of Outlander - Claire's Wedding Gown

This past Saturday's episode of "Outlander," the 18th century Highland-time-travel-romance-1940s-hot-Scottish-men drama on Starz no doubt caused many a breathless sighs in women across the world, as Jaime and Claire stood up for their shotgun wedding.

The Outlander wedding gown, in all its glory - via
But many of us in the historical costuming community were also inspecting every possible detail of Claire's wedding gown (when we weren't ogling the groom, and who the hell cares what HE was wearing), a spectacular display of...well, a lot of things were on display.

Since that night, there has been a lot of discussion about the gown, and its historical accuracy. Statements from the show's costumer, Terry Dresbach, have justified some things and raised more questions about others.

But I'm going to come right out and say that I personally thought the dress was outstanding, and was surprisingly accurate, if you know what the reference was. So what was that reference?


Robe de Cour - 1766 - via
Simply put, the gown is a robe de cour, a very specific kind of formal gown worn mostly in the first half of the 18th century, exclusively at court. Of course, that brings up questions about why there would be this type of gown floating around in rural Scotland, but an earlier dialogue between characters justifies its existence enough for me.

Sofia Magdalena's wedding gown, 1766 - its missing the fluffy lace sleeves - via
Unlike other 18th century gowns, both formal and undress, the robe de cour laced in the back. The bodice consisted of an incredibly stiff, fully-boned, structure with a very low, wide, off-the-shoulder neckline, not unlike 17th century bodices.

Showing the back of a robe de cour - very long train, and also, the skirt and bodice are separate pieces - via

Extant robes de cour were worn over very wide panniers, and had trained overskirts, separate from the bodice. The overskirts fell over the back of the pannier, and the petticoat acted as an enormous display of all things shiny and expensive, right on the front of the ensemble. Not all robes de cour had the enormous rectangular shape, though, as Isis shows us in this image:

Wedding breakfast of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, by Francis of Lorraine, c. 1736 - via

So to compare the Outlander wedding gown:

  • Extremely low, wide, off-the-shoulder neckline
  • Back-lacing, heavily-boned bodice
  • "Stomacher" is all-in-one with the bodice
  • Metallic fabrics and decoration
  • Fluffy, lacy sleeves reminiscent of the "stacked" construction seen on originals
  • Worn over a wide pannier (pocket hoops are shown later on in the episode)

Detail of the embroidery on the Outlander gown - via Terry's blog
What was not accurate?

  • The fluffy, lacy sleeve construction was almost-kindof-there but not quite
  • The embroidery design and placement on the skirt (I was quite happy about the bodice's design)
  • The quality of the fabric
  • The bodice and top skirt are sewn together instead of separate.

Outlander gown's sleeve construction, using smocking. Via Terry's blog
An original robe de cour's sleeves, using pleating. The raw edges are there, though. Via Isis' Wardrobe
And these are things I'm being really picky about.

So I'm going to stand up and say I absolutely loved the Outlander wedding gown. I thought Terry Dresbach did an outstanding job with combining historical accuracy, modern audience expectation and understanding, and the needs of the production. A show's costuming must speak for the characters, settings, and events in the story, as well as the time period, which is a lot to juggle, and I think Terry did and great job with it.

You can read more about the costumes here
or follow Terry's blog (which construction pictures of the wedding gown), where she specifically notes her inspiration (you'll see many of the same photos).

Friday, September 19, 2014

F/W Shoes: Re-Pre-Orders Now Open

It's that time of year, when we here at ADHQ are already getting ready for the big holiday rush.

No, I'm not playing Christmas music or slurping down eggnog lattes quite yet, but we *have* already put the order in for holiday inventory, which is one part new and exciting historical styles, and one part re-stocking our older, most-popular Fall/Winter styles. This year, the styles we've re-ordered are:

Some of these have been out for an age, like black Pompadours, so we've opened all of these up for Re-Pre-Orders (backorders) from today until delivery in mid-to-late November.

If your size is currently in stock, it will ship right away. If your size is out of stock, it will ship in mid-to-late November.

Please Note: We can not offer discounts on Re-Pre items, only new styles, but follow American Duchess on Facebook, or sign up for our newsletter, to be notified of upcoming sales, coupons, and special offers. We also offer EasyPay Layaway on all Re-Pre Items, which you can learn more about here

Place Re-Pre Orders at