Monday, September 18, 2017

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The Vintage Makeup Review - with Lauren & Abby

Whether you've gone fully down the vintage style rabbit hole of everyday dress or you need a faceplan for an impending costume party, today we're going to share with you our discoveries concerning vintage repro and still-being-made-today makeup products.

We've selected and tested a number of different products from lipsticks to face powders. Each of these is either a modern historical reproduction (like Besame) or an item that has survived the sands of time and is still being made and sold today (like Coty Airspun and Max Factor Pan-Stik). So without further ado, here are the Pro's, Con's, and Where-to-Buy's of vintage makeup:

Max Factor Pan-Stik Foundation
Introduced in 1948.
A very thick foundation in a variety of colors, in stick form.

Pros: Easy to apply. Very good coverage. Many colors available. Matte finish. This stuff is serious stage-and-screen business.
Cons: Can look a bit weird in certain artificial lights. Can clog pores. Needs powdering throughout the day - feels a bit greasy after day-long wear.
Where to Buy: Amazon or Vermont Country Store

Coty Airspun Face Powder
Since 1935.
A translucent powder and a lot of it. Comes in a plastic box with a large powder puff.

Pros: Definitely does the job. Powder on with the enormous powder puff after applying foundation. Keeps things matte and lovely. The packaging is attractive and reminiscent of the original cardboard box.
Cons: Smells like granny, and maybe not in a good way. The smell is definitely "vintage," and thankfully fades off quickly.
Where to Buy: CVS (if you're lucky), Amazon,

Besame Brightening Face Powders
Vanilla and violet face powders for post-foundation setting. Also work for setting lipstick and generally brightening the complexion.

Pros: Smells wonderful. Does the job. Works great over foundation and concealer or just on its own. It does appear to brighten the skin up a touch. Comes in cute packaging that is easy to carry with you. Plus this company is a small business manufacturing in the USA.
Cons: The powderpuff is a bit insubstantial. Not a lot of powder for your money.
Where to Buy:, Amazon

Tangee Blush
Early 1920s.
One blush to rule them all - the formula changes to the perfect shade for every complexion. Magic.

Pros: It really works. A little goes a long way. Beautiful flush without looking like a clown. Works for all skin tones. No smell.
Cons: A little goes a long way. We mean it! Only available from one vendor.
Where to Buy: Vermont Country Store and Nowhere Else

Besame Lipsticks
A large selection of colors made according to original colors by decade - authentic shades for the 1920s through the 1970s, each researched and reproduced faithfully.

Pros: Authentic, repro colors for each time period in highly-pigmented formulas that go on and stay on. They also smell wonderful. True reds available for warm and cool skin tones with help choosing your shades on the Besame website.
Cons: Variations in formulas color-to-color mean some lispticks are creamy while others are very dry. It can hurt to put the very dry ones on. The shape of the bullet makes applying from the tube very difficult. The bullet is quite short - you don't get a lot of lipstick for your money, but they do last a long time because of how pigmented they are.
Where to Buy:

Tangee Lipstick
Early 1920s.
A novel lipstick that changes according to the wearer's skin tone. Always produces the perfect shade of pink for each individual.

Pros: Easy to apply - creamy formula acts more like a lip gloss than a traditional lipstick and goes on smoothly. Good shape to the bullet. Stays on and is "no fuss" with choosing the right color.
Cons: THE SMELL/TASTE OF THIS STUFF IS DIABOLICAL. Sorry to put that in all caps, but consider that your warning! I wanted to love Tangee and wear it constantly but the odor was so strong it made it unwearable for both me and Abby. The perfume is a mega-strong chemical floral scent that assaults the nostrils all day long and causes a weird feeling in the mouth (yes, you're tasting what you're smelling). Yum.
Where to Buy: Vermont Country Store and Nowhere Else

Besame Cake Mascara
The old-fashioned cake + brush of the 1920s - get it wet and apply the wax formula.

Pros: Despite being water soluble, this mascara stays on very well. Easier to use than appears. Comes with a brush and pretty packaging. Can also be used for eyebrows Isn't heavy but isn't invisible - build it up in layers.
Cons: Water soluble. Yes, it's got staying power...but don't cry or go swimming. The brush is alright but a spooly style might be easier to use. Let the cake dry before folding the paper back over it or else the paper will stick to it.
Where to Buy:, Amazon

To hear more of Lauren and Abby's musings....possibly too much musing...50 minutes of musing....on these products, check out our video below (we shot this live some time ago, so while it is no longer live, it does contain all the shenanigans of a completely improvised show. You've been warned):

**This post originally appeared on the American Duchess blog in December 2016**
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Thursday, September 14, 2017

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Pattern Review: Decades of Style #2005 1920s "Baltimore" Dress

My Decades of Style "Baltimore" dress in green and ivory striped cotton.
This past weekend was one of my favorite events of the year, the Oakland Gatsby. This annual end-of-Summer picnic is a 1920s, 30s, and 40s feast for the eyes with hundreds of well-dressed ladies and gents enjoying an afternoon garden party.

The Gatsby - a huge 1920s lawn party.
There is a costuming standard for The Gatsby - they won't let you in unless you are appropriately dressed! This may seem rough, but the atmosphere this creates is one where, with a little imagination and relaxation, you may slip into a suspension of disbelief and connect with our days of yore in a more palpable way. This trick of the mind reminds me of the movie "Somewhere in Time," and happens all too rarely, making it quite an experience when it is achieved.


Decades of Style #2005 1920s Baltimore Dress pattern.
This year I made a 1920s dress from the new Decades of Style "Baltimore" dress pattern. I liked this pattern because of the geometric lapped seams. My original plan was to transition the frock between '20s and '30s with a belt, but that worked out less splendidly than I'd hoped.

Fun with stripes. The pieces front of the Baltimore dress gave opportunities to be creative with the striped cotton.
I made this dress from a special textile I bought in the gift shop at Quarry Bank Mill on my vacation in England this past June. This cotton was made on the antique machines that run in the mill - the cotton processed, the yarn spun, and the fabric woven. Learning about the mill and observing the machines running was an experience I will never forget. This video shows the loom in action but does not accurately convey the noise of it. Just one machine was so intense that it shook the floor - it was impossible to imagine all of the machines in the multi-story mill running at once. No wonder the mill workers went deaf within months of starting work there.

I did not have a plan for my Quarry Bank cotton when I bought it, but the geometric possibilities with the Baltimore dress presented the perfect opportunity.

The dress was quite easy to construct. There are several lapped seams on the front, and the back is just one piece darted at the neckline. I turned and basted the seam allowances on each piece and top stitched, a very vintage technique. Once the front was all pieces together it was easy going to finish construction. The one place I had trouble was the V neckline, which I attempted to bind in self fabric bias tape. I didn't do so well at the point of the V, but with time running short it was a "good enough for now" attempt to be revisited later.

Lapped seams - one of my favorite vintage techniques.
All in all I found the Baltimore dress very easy. I did curve the side seams in a bit to be more flattering and will probably take more in or possibly dart the back, only because I'd like to wear this dress as an everyday frock rather than just as a costume. My textile choice, in the end, probably wasn't the best. The cotton is perhaps a bit stiff. I felt a bit like a striped potato. This dress made up in chiffon, gabardine, or crepe, however, would be completely different, so if you're planning to give this pattern a try I recommend a textile with some drape to it.

The cotton dress was cool and comfortable in the unseasonable heat this year.
If you'd like to give this easy and accurate pattern a try, check out Decades of Style.
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Monday, August 28, 2017

Swag: 1920s Beaded Bags

Original 1920s beaded purses
This year at Costume College we were treated to a host of new - and epic - vendors selling all sorts of random and wonderful stuff.

One of these vendors offered just piles and piles of estate sale treasure. You really had to dig, and also keep coming back to dig some more, because as the piles decreased, they were added to by a reservoir of random antique bric-a-brac that somehow kept manifesting.

Intricate beading in turquoise and silver.

Silk lining in bright turquoise - it's a wonder this has survived. The weave of the silk accounts for its durability.

I as lucky, and I do mean lucky, to snag not one but two 1920s beaded purses in near-perfect condition. Purses like these aren't hard to find, but are often a) very expensive, b) missing their linings (the bag), or c) losing beads. Imagine my disbelief when these two exquisite bags were not only surviving admirably but were also...wait for it...only $15 each.


Orange and blue beaded 1920s bag - quite loud!

The bright-ass orange silk lining is in tact. The pressed tin frame also survives but is a little worse for wear with some oxidization.
They are such treasures! The blue one is a wonderful mix of various turquoise and silvery hues that reminds me of water. The orange one, well, it's just wackadoodle and so obnoxious. I can imagine some saucy Flapper rocking this bag, a small bullet of dark lipstick and a tiny pressed powder within.

The best places to find bags like these, in my opinion, is at flea markets, or online on Etsy or eBay. With the popularity of the '20s coming back, too, there are some modern makers of beaded bags. You can see all the coolest ones in one place at Vintage Dancer.

Flashy was the flapper who carried these bags!

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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

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Pattern Review: Decades of Style No. 101 The E.S.P. Dress

Hello Lovelies!

Almost exactly a year ago, I finished making my first dress from Decades of Style's ESP 101 Pattern. It's a part of their Decades Everyday pattern collection that is meant to be easy, accessible, and fast to make. I bought the No. 101 E.S.P. Dress pattern because it is a really good fit with my fashion aesthetic, and I thought it would be a good project for me to work on my machine sewing skills.

My legs are doing weird things, but I'm cool and comfy in my ESP 101 Dress

Of course, it took me all of last summer to make the thing (that's what happens when you have the sewing attention span of a gnat and a cross country move that same summer), and I'm just now getting around to being able to blog and photograph it. However, I wanted to give a little review of the dress pattern for those who might be interested or are a beginner looking for a good first project.

The Good

Overall, I really love this pattern and I am planning on making more dresses out of it. It's a good shape and design that is flattering for women and can be dressed up or down with fabric choice. (Seriously, can you imagine how glamorous this dress could be in just a black silk taffeta?!)

I found the instructions fairly easy to follow, which is important to me as I do genuinely consider myself to be a beginner when it comes to machine sewing, even though I'm an expert hand sewer. My biggest hang ups were adding the facing and setting in the zipper, and as far as I can tell, that seems to be normal with beginners. I got everything in and attached fine, but I do think my finishing work on the facing around the neckline could be oodles and oodles better. I also still get confused with terminology on stay stitching, etc. with facings. I just don't think I'm used to them yet.  However, for not using a zipper foot on my machine when setting the zipper - I'm pleased with how it worked out.

My favorite parts for this dress are: the pockets (who doesn't love a dress with pockets!), the fact that the dress has sleeves, and I find the neckline to be very pretty. When I didn't deviate from the instructions (more below...), everything went together smoothly, and could probably be completed if you worked the entire day. It really is a great dress pattern for your collection!

I did a red zipper because I like just a little touch of quirk. 

The "Meh"

This is more of a personal body quirk, but after wearing the dress a few times I've realized that it is just too short in the waist for me, and as a result, it sits just a little short in the hem too. (My legs are really short, and so I would be shocked to see how short this dress was if I had legs that were, oh, I don't know, proportional to the rest of my body.) I like my skirts and dresses to be at least to the small of my knee and this one is just above. I don't really think this is a pattern problem, because I do have a long torso, but it is something to keep in mind if you have a longer torso or prefer your skirts to be a little longer. While the shorter torso doesn't really bother me, I do wish my skirt was about 1-2" longer for my own personal comfort.

I also did deviate from the pattern with the skirt - the instructions called for gathering and I opted for pleating. While I understand and agree that gathering is easier to pattern and to sew, I think pleats are more flattering.  As you can see in the photos, I did small box pleats all the way around. It worked fine, but I would have liked there to have been more fabric to the skirt so that way I had more to work with in the pleats. I wager I would probably feel the same way about the skirt if it had been gathered. It wasn't quite as full as I was expecting it to be.

When I make this pattern again, I'm going to add to the length and width of the skirt and the length of the bodice, too.

Final Verdict

As I said already, I have every intention of making more dresses out of this pattern - including out of wool and silk for winter and more formal occasions. I just think that I will need to be more careful when it comes to slight alterations to better flatter my body & fit my personal tastes.

If you're a woman who loves a dress with pockets - then this is a pattern for you - doesn't matter if you're a beginner or highly experienced! Decades of Style's No. 101 E.S.P. Dress is a must have in your pattern collection! If I can do it - then you can definitely do it! :)

Woo! I did it!

Have you made the No. 101 E.S.P. Dress? What do you think? Is there something I could do better next time (like use a zipper foot...haha!) Leave a comment and let us know! <3 <3
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Monday, August 21, 2017

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Review: Gracy Q 1950s Style "Sophia" Dress

Gracy Q "Sophia" dress in yellow
Do you have a "best dress," a frock or outfit that is your nicest, most polished look and, most importantly, you feel epic in? My "best dress" is this little sunflower yellow number, the "Sophia" dress by Gracy Q.
On my pilgrimage to Revival Retro in London this past June, I anticipated I would buy a few dresses or blouses or something. Of course, I managed to fall in love with the most expensive dress in the shop, but also the one with the highest quality and best fit.

Being a seamstress myself, I usually go down the "I can sew that" route to talk myself out of clothing purchases, but such is the "build" of this "Sophia" dress that no, no indeed I do not think I would come out ahead if I were to try to make it myself.

The structured bodice flows into a full skirt - with pockets! - with a hanging rayon lining
The dress is a wonderful linen-look ramie textile in a mid-weight that drapes beautifully, fully lined in a very lightweight rayon (viscose). Yes, fully lined in the bodice with a hanging lining in the skirt, which removes the need to wear a slip underneath.

The bodice is structured and fits very well, particularly in the length of the waist, which is so commonly too short for me in RTW dresses. The neckline is particularly flattering, set quite wide in a 1950s style and tapering off into small cap sleeves. I feel like this dress combines business and pleasure with the structured lines of the bodice flowing into the full skirt, all of it done up in this beautiful soft yellow.

And my favorite-most-favoritest thing about this dress? It's incredibly versatile. The dress comes with a self-fabric tie belt, but as you can see it's very easy to use any color or design of belt. In my case I chose a navy blue belt to pair with the navy blue and ivory Lillian Mary Janes, but imagine red, green, sky blue....this yellow is a wonderful neutral. I do love versatility in dress.

Versatility in dress - today I chose Lillian Mary Janes in navy/ivory but just about any color or style will go with this dress.
Drawbacks - the fabric wrinkles very easily. As you can see in my photos, I'd been sitting before this photo shoot. It's a fact-of-linen (or near-linen), but I consider it a fair trade-off for the cooling properties of this fabric. The dress is also a hand-wash-and-hang or dry clean kind of girl. In pressing, I found it a little difficult to iron around the neckline trim.

All in all I love this dress. I'm impressed with the quality, fit, design, material, and versatility, and highly recommend Gracy Q as great value for money in flattering, beautiful garments.
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Monday, August 14, 2017

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Getting Ready for Gatsby

Hello Lovelies!

Abby here -- and let me tell you -- I have 1920s on the brain! Now that Costume College has ended, the Royal Vintage travel schedule has died down just a bit for August, and Lauren and I are starting our prep for Gatsby Summer Afternoon in Oakland on September 10th!

I've had a love for the 1920s for a bit of time now and while I own 3 original dresses, I wanted to make something new to wear to the picnic so I wouldn't have to worry about the garment. I've been known to "Hulk Out" and do some damage on my clothes, and I don't want to do that to an original...again...on accident. 😬

When I think of accessible 1920s and vintage dress patterns, one of the first pattern companies that come to mind is Decades of Style. I've been a fan of Janet & the company for a few years now and have a couple of their patterns already. Low and behold, while at Costume College I met a lovely lady who had on this great 1920s dress. When I asked her about the dress and she told me it was Decades of Style's 1925 Zig Zag pattern, I knew what I had to do.

This is the cover of Decades of Style's 1925 Zig Zag Dress Pattern - isn't it gorgeous?! I'm doing the sleeved variation since I'm not a fan of sleeveless anything. :) 

I was in love and it had to be mine.

I already had some sky blue cotton voile in my stash that would be perfect and I decided to add white voile bias for accenting all the lovely seam lines, and so after I got my hands on the pattern I set off to work.

I was very nervous adding the white detail to the skirt seams - since everything is thin and on the bias.

It's still currently in 2 large chunks (skirt and bodice), but I am making progress! I was (and still am) nervous about doing the dress justice. My machine sewing skills are extremely novice compared to my handsewing ability. So it's been a very good learning experience for me.

Not perfect, but I am very happy with how my white detailing is working.
I'm almost to the attach the skirt and the bodice together part, but I still need to finish pressing and prepping the skirt points (spray starch is your friend for this part). I'm also riding the struggle bus with the gathering at the shoulders for the bodice. I think my brain is just having a hard time making the mental calculations and steps to do what needs to be done.... (as in I'm over thinking it.)

So that's where my new 1920s dress is at the moment...a productive work in progress. I'm also trying to decide on which shoes I want to wear with them. Currently, I'm thinking Evelyn in Brown/Tan - what do you think?

Until the next update! <3 <3
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Wednesday, August 9, 2017


Review "The True Thirties Dress" in Blue Stripe by Emmy Designs Sweden

Hello Lovelies!

Abby here to talk to you about my new favorite dress in the (very large & needs to be cleaned out) wardrobe -

The True Thirties Dress by Emmy Designs of Sweden

Y'all. Seriously - Emmy created everything a girl could want in a dress with this lovely number. I mean, look at it!

Those lines though....
I love a good summer dress in a nice lightweight material, and The True Thirties dress is just that. It's made from a nice lightweight striped cotton (100%) that is cool and comfortable for the high summer heat (and humidity depending on where you're living...). I wore this dress for the first time when Lauren and I went to Louisville, Kentucky for Jane Austen Festival, and it was beyond comfortable when we were running around town and spending time outside. The lightness of the fabric and the swing of the skirt allowed for a lot of air circulation, and kept my body cool and comfortable in the high heat & humidity.

Look at that twirly skirt! wee!
My favorite pieces of clothing are those that have a healthy blend of classic, sophisticated design lines with a thoughtful & creative edge to the detailing. Emmy's True Thirties Dress does both of those things. The careful layout and design of the striped pattern on the bodice of the dress helps draw the eye to the narrowness of my waist, and packs such a visual punch that you will receive compliments where ever you go! (I kid you not - I keep a tally when I wear this dress because it amuses me so much!)

Please forgive my modern hair and 1780s earrings - I was doing a hell of a mish-mash that weekend!
The skirt also has just a little extra fullness at the sides and *drumroll* pockets! I mean, really, what girl doesn't love every dress she owns with pockets?! It's just not possible! Seriously - this dress is just the best, and it takes a lot of effort for me to not wear it every day of the week! (Lauren would probably start to worry about me...ha!)

Emmy Design's True Thirties Dress retails for 209 Euro (approx. $226) and is worth every penny. It's well made, well designed, and will get you compliments and looks everywhere you go. If simple blue & white isn't your favorite - The True Thirties Dress also comes in a Poly/Cotton Mint Green, Blue, and White Striped Seersucker version, too!

 <3 <3

Shameless Self-Promotion: I wore this dress with our new Claire Oxfords in White (Pre-Order until Aug 10th!), but I also love wearing this dress with Evelyn Oxfords in Tan/Brown and Marilyn Pumps in Red for a punch of sassy color!
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Thursday, August 3, 2017

It's GIVEAWAY TIME! Win $175 from Royal Vintage!

You guessed it! We're hosting a giveaway for a $175 gift certificate to!

There are so many many, many, ways to enter. Each entry has a different number of points, so you can do as many of these or as few as these as you like for a various number of entries.

If you have already pre-ordered any of the new New Yorker Collection shoes (Claire, Susie, Eve, or Rosie), go ahead and enter your order # for an automatic 5 entry points. If you are drawn as the winner, you have your choice of that sweet, sweet gift certificate OR we will happily refund your order!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Please feel free to use photos from our blog here, our Facebook page, or our website at Post away! Collect entry points! Woo!

The contest runs from August 3 - August 10. The winner will be drawn at random and announced August 11th. Have fun, folks!
"Claire" 1940s Oxfords in white - perfect nurse shoes!

Claire 1940s oxfords in black.

Rosie WWII Double Buckle Boots for Women

A good pair of classic saddle shoes will last you a lifetime.

Susie Saddle Shoes in blue/white.

Claire 1940s Oxfords in black leather.

Susie Saddle Shoes in three classic colors - black, blue, and brown

Claire 1940s Oxfords in brown with stacked heels

The beautiful new Eve sandals in rose gold metallic leather.

All our F/W 2017 New Yorkers!

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

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Review: "Rock Around the Clock" Dress by Emmy Design Sweden

The Emmy "Rock Around the Clock" dress in plaid, paired with "Evelyn" oxfords in tan/brown by Royal Vintage
Once upon a time a girl met a dress and fell in love. I was the girl, and the dress was this adorable plaid number from Emmy Design Sweden.

For us vintage-loving ladies in the USA, it can be a risky to buy a dress from Europe. The cost, shipping, and unknowns about the quality and fit often stop me from clicking the "buy now" button. In taking the leap with Emmy I have never been disappointed (I'm becoming an Emmy junky - I now have two pairs of trousers, a cardi, a sweater, and this frock). In fact, I'm rather picky about fabric content and comfort in my day-to-day retro pieces, so when the Rock Around the Clock Dress arrived I was pleasantly surprised by how "real" it was.

Comfortable and casual cotton plaid dress for all body types. Oh, and it has POCKETS!
By "real" I mean that the fabric is cotton - authentic, comfortable, easy to wash. The cut of the frock is also spot-on. There is a subtle high neck curving gracefully around to a V in front with enough crossover to be modest but not dowdy. The waist is long enough and not skin-tight, and the skirt is plenty full and just the right length too. This is a dress that is casual yet chic, comfortable yet classy.

The dress zips up the back to a high neck. The skirt is full and fun.
I did a simple pin curl set for my hair and paired the Rock Around the Clock dress with our "Evelyn" oxfords in tan/brown, although you could coordinate so many different colors and types of shoes. The plaid in the dress is earthy with greens and tans but also has a shot of lavender to keep it interesting, so any of those colors for coordinating shoes, hats, gloves, and cardigans would look great.

"Evelyn" Oxfords in Tan/Brown by Royal Vintage
All in all, I'm in love with this dress and highly recommend it. The Rock Around the Clock Dress is available directly from Emmy or from Revival Retro in the UK.
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