New shoes!

Accessoires are important for a historical outfit, they complete the look. Think jewelry, purses, hair accessories, gloves, stockings, and of course shoes! Shoes are arguably the most important, after all, you can’t go out without them. But proper historical footwear is difficult to find. My solution so far has been to look for shoes which look plausible, and wear those. As my regular style is already historically inspired, that tends to work okay. But, of course, nearly all modern shoes don’t pass closer inspection. What’s more, it’s often difficult to find historically inspired shoes which have a medium to low heel. I’ve no problem with wearing heels, but I don’t like them too high. And as I wear my outfits mostly to events where I have to walk all day, a low heeled, comfortable shoe is preferabele.

For this reason, I’ve been eyeing the shoes made by American Duchess for a long time. This is a small American company specializing in historical footwear, and they make absolutely gorgeous things. The only problem: I’m on a different continent than they are, and ordering shoes online is scary enough if you can return them without extra costs. With shipping overseas, the costs would be on me if the shoes didn’t fit. This is, of course, completely understandable as a small company can’t afford to pay for return shipping constantly. But it does make ordering a bit more of a risk. And then there’s the question of import taxes, which are always very difficult to guess at but can add quite a bit to the price. All in all, with shipping costs, tax costs, and the chance that the shoes won’t fit right, I’ve never dared to order.

So when I was in California last month for work, and actually staying in one place for a couple of weeks, I figured it was now or never and placed an order. I’d left a little room in my suitcase, and  finally took the chance to buy proper Victorian boots! Although I love all American Duchess styles, I opted to get the ‘Renoir’ Victorian button boots. Because they fit with early Victorian, and can pass with late Victorian/Edwardian. And because button-up boots are impossible to find as a ‘modern’ reproduction, because we’ve become too used to zippers and laces. And because they’re just very pretty!


Aren’t they lovely! And the heel is actually quite low, so they should also be comfortable to walk in for a longer time.

Additionally, I also got the shoe painting kit. The Renoir boots come in Ivory, but American Duchess also sells kits to dye your shoes and has tutorials online. Although the ivory is lovely, my only current Victorian dress is black, and I suspect black will go with any future projects just as well as ivory. So I’ll probably be painting them. Because I might want to paint other shoes in the future, and I wasn’t 100% sure on the color yet, I got a kit with different colors.

I got the international shoe painting kit, because I had to take it on the airplane with me. There’s also a US version, which includes primer to remove the paint on the leather before dyeing. I e-mailed to ask which version to get, as I didn’t know why the primer couldn’t be shipped abroad. I got a very quick and helpful reply explaining that the primer couldn’t be shipped because it is explosive. This allowed me to check with my airline, and I found that I wouldn’t be allowed to take any combustive substances on board with me. So the version without primer it was! I now just need to get some turpentine, as that will do the same job.

Finally, I added a pair of silk stockings, because I was ordering anyway and I’ve been wearing modern panty’s under my dresses. Not very accurate (and the stockings are so pretty too!)


My experiences:

Shipping was very quick, and free for me as I was ordering from the US. The shoes came in a gorgeous blue shoe-box, wrapped in plastic and filled with paper.



Unfortunately, I had to throw the box out, because it wasn’t going to fit in my suitcase. I was really happy with the plastic bags around the shoes, because these protected my shoes after they were stuffed in my case! There was also a lovely little etui with the button hook. (And extra heels, which are on the box in the next picture)


The only problem with the package was that the stockings weren’t in them. I got an e-mail from American Duchess on the day the package arrived (it was tracked), including the statement that I could e-mail them if anything was wrong. I asked after the stockings, and immediately received a reply with apologies and an offer to send them out as soon as possible. This was on Monday evening (I opened the package after work), and the stockings arrived on Thursday. All in all, the service was great, with very quick and helpful replies and quick shipping.

The shoes are now back home with me, waiting for their adjustments. They’re a little tight, so I’ll probably be wearing them a bit around the house first. I ordered a size 6, which is charted as a European size 36/37. As I usually wear 36, very occasionally 37, I guessed that this would be good. For my feet, these work, but if your feet are a little bigger (say, usually size 37 sometimes 36), you might want to go with a size 6.5. American Duchess also allows the option of measuring your own feet and comparing it to a chart, but I didn’t bring my measuring tape to the US, so couldn’t use that. For me, at least now I know that their size 6 is good but tight. If I order from them again, I’ll probably measure and see if 6.5 might be better.

The buttons on the shoes are not exactly in the right place for my feet, which is actually normal. Because they’re meant to fit tightly, moving the buttons is recommended. (Also, there’s a video tutorial online to help!). First up will be painting though, and then I’ll be looking to see if I can find black buttons the right size to put on. I’ll keep you posted!


In a lot of writing (blogs, books), specific terminology is used to refer to certain eras. These terms most often originate in politics or art, but are also used to define certain ‘periods’ of dress history. I’ve also noticed that sometimes, different terms are used for similar periods. And then, of course, there’s the language thing, where terms in different languages are different. They might even denote slightly different periods, because the terms refer to political periods of that particular country. A good example is the ‘Regency’, which is used to refer the period of the regent’s reign in the United Kingdom. In Dutch, we’d call this period ‘Empire’, which refers to the reign of Napoleon. But the political Regency and the reign of Napoleon only overlap for 4 years. And the term ‘regency’ is also used to refer to the period with a certain style of dress, which doesn’t have the same boundaries as the political regency.

So I’ve decided to try to make a glossary of terms. I’ll try to start with the English terms, and then add a list of the Dutch ones (which I’m slightly less familiar with, as most of my resources are in English). I’d love to extend this list further, so if there’s anyone who has additional terms, or terms specific to another language please let me know! (also, let me know if I’m mistaken! I’m basing this mostly on personal experience, art history classes I took almost 10 years ago and Wikipedia, so correct me if I’m wrong)

I’ll make an attempt at a chronological timeline. This means that the history, art, political and fashion terminology is all slightly mixed-up in the same list. I hope it doesn’t get confusing! I’ll also only describe terms used to describe certain era’s. Many people also just refer to the decade (’50’s) or century (18th century), which is a lot more self-explanatory, so I’ll leave those out here.

  • Viking/Norse
    • 793–1066
    • Political term
    • In 793 the abbey in Lindisfarne (England) was destroyed by Normen, signalling a period of over 200 years of exploration (and attacks and raids) from Vikings. The end is set to 1066, when the Norse king Harald III was in England. It should be noted that several other areas stayed under Norse rule longer (such as Scotland and the isles). I’m not very familiar with Viking costuming, so I’m not sure if this term will refer to any dress falling within the period, or if it’s used specifically for the dress worn by the Vikings themselves, or of their conquered peoples.
  • Medieval
    • 500-1500
    • History term
    • The medieval period covers a long period of a 100 years. Of course, within this era, there were many changes for clothing. Most often though, these are simply referred to by their century and location, making things easier.
  • Gothic
    • ca. 1100-1500
    • Art term
    • The term ‘Gothic’ refers to a certain style in art, specifically the latter half of the Middle-Ages. Of course, it is now also used to the modern clothing style involving loads of black, but that’s another story.
  • Renaissance
    • ca. 1450-1650
    • History / Art term
    • This term is used to describe the period between the Middle-Ages and ‘Modern time’. Generally, it is defined by an age of progress in art and science. Many countries have their ‘own’ renaissance, of which the start and end dates vary. They generally lie between 1450 and 1650 though. There’s also a lot of variation in European dress styles, so location matters!
  • Tudor
    • 1485 – 1603
    • Political term
    • This term refers to the rule of the Tudor family as kings & queens of England. Within fashion history, this term is often used to refer to the period between 1485 and 1558, because in 1558 queen Elizabeth ascended the throne. Most people would use the term ‘Elizabethan’ period for her reign within the Tudor era.
  • Elizabethan
    • 1558 – 1603
    • Political term
    • Referring to the rule of queen Elizabeth. She was the last of the Tudor monarchs, so with her reign the Tudor reign was also at an end.
  • Jacobean
    • 1567–1625
    • Political term
    • Referring to the period of reign of king James IV (for Schotland) and James I (same person, as king of England from 1603). This latter date coincides with the start of the Stuart era, as we’re talking about king James Stuart here.
  •  Stuart
    • 1603 – 1714
    • Political term
    • Referring to the rule of the house Stuart in England. Generally speaking, this term refers to the 17th century, as it almost wholly coincides with it.
  • Baroque
    • 1590 – 1725
    • Art term
    • Another art term, the Baroque spans the 17th century and a little more.
  • Rococo
    • ca. 1700 – 1785
    • Art term
    • Overlapping slightly with the Baroque, from which it sprung, the rococo is named after the ‘rocaille’, the shell shape used so often in its decorations. It ended quite abruptly near the end of the 18th century as politics changed and a new-found interest in the classics gave way to Neo-classical art.
  • Georgian
    • 1714 – 1830
    • Political term
    • Referring to the reign of four successive ‘Georges’ as kings of England. In fashion history, this term is mostly used for the earlier part up to 1811, as that’s when the (overlapping) Regency started, and that term is used. I’ve never seen it used for the period 1820-1830 (after the regency ended) in a fashion context.
  • French Revolution
    • 1789-1799
    • Political term
    • The period of the French revolution, in which the people turned against the establishment and which meant the end of the monarchy in France. Dress was quite an important thing in France in those days, and during this period there’s a sharp shift away from the opulence of before into clean and simple lines, which was no-doubt helped along by the hatred of the aristocracy at the time. There’s also a lot of red, white and blue in French fashion at the time, which were the colors of the revolution.
  • Neo-Classical
    • 1765–1830
    • Art term
    • An ‘opposition’ to the drama of the Baroque and Rococo, Neoclassicism was inspired by the re-discovery of the ancient Greeks and Romans. This started to show in dress around 1785, and strongly influenced the rise of the waistlines and slim, white dresses worn in the early years of the 19th century.
  • Regency
    • 1811-1820
    • Political term
    • The term ‘Regency’ refers to the period in which George IV held the regency for his ill father, George III. In historical fashion, this term is used a lot, and generally refers to a slightly broader time span to comply with the styles in clothing. Generally, I’ve seen it used for the period 1795-1825, when the high waistline and slim silhouette was popular.
  • Biedermeier
    • ca 1815 – 1848
    • Art term
    • Although the start & end date refer to political events (congress of Vienna – Revolutions of 1848), the term Biedermeier refers to a German/Austrian art style. It is used to refer to fashion mostly from ca. 1820 to 1840, or the period between the Regency & the Victorian era. I suspect the term came into use mostly because there’s no English political term covering this period except ‘the end of the Georgian era’, which is confusing.
  • Romantic era
    • ca 1800 – 1850
    • Art term
    • Romanticism was an artistic and intellectual movement in which the glorification of nature and history was important. There was a renewed historical interest, and an emphasis on emotion and the individual. In dress history, I see this term used mostly to refer to the 1820’s, 1830’s and 1840’s. This is probably because the period 1800-1820 is generally defined as Georgian/Regency and from 1850 on as Victorian, so ‘Romantic’ in turn means the bit in the middle for which we didn’t have a proper name yet.
  • Civil-War
    • 1861 – 1865
    • Political term
    • There’s been many civil wars through-out history, but in historical costuming this term is mostly used by Americans and refers to the American Civil War. There’s a lot of re-enactment groups in the US for this era, so also a lot of people interested in this period, and therefore a lot of resources available!
  • Victorian
    • 1837 – 1901
    • Political term
    • Referring to the reign of queen Victoria in England, this era covers most of the 19th century. This also makes it confusing, as dress changed greatly between 1840 and 1900, so the term ‘Victorian clothing’ can be used to refer to a large range of different clothing styles.
  • Crinoline/Hoop era
    • ca. 1855-1865
    • Fashion term
    • Finally a term actually referring to fashion! The expanding skirts of the 1840’s and early 1850’s were supported by loads of petticoats. In 1856, the wire/metal hoop skirt was invented to support the ever-growing bell shape. In the 1860’s, it changed into an elliptic shape and eventually transformed into what we now call the bustle.
  • Bustle period
    • ca. 1865-1890
    • Fashion term
    • This term is used for the period within the Victorian era when so-called ‘bustles’ were worn. Taking many shapes and sizes over the years, the general goal of the bustle was to increase the fullness of the skirt in the back. (or: to make your but look bigger). Generally, 3 different periods can be distinguished. Ca. 1865-1876 is the Early bustle era. Skirts are still slightly round at the hemline, and bustle expands out from the natural waist backwards. From ca. 1876-1882 bustles shrank to almost nothing (say, a small pillow), giving from to the ‘Natural Form’ era. But from ca. 1882-1890 the bustle returned and grew bigger than ever. This is the Late bustle era, the main difference with the Early one being even more emphasis on the back, and the bustle expanding out from a little lower, say the start of the hip bones. Around 1890, the bustles had shrunk again to nearly nothing, this time for good. (Well, for now at least!)
  • Edwardian
    • 1901 – 1910/1914
    • Political term
    • Referring to the reign of king Edward of England, who reigned from 1901 to 1910. Broadly speaking, it is often used for the first 14 years of the century, from 1900 to 1914. This is when the first World War started, and brought many changes to society.
  • WWI
    • 1914-1918
    • Historical term
    • World War I. Also referred to as ‘the Great War'(in English, at least for the Netherlands, if we refer to ‘the war’ its WWII)
  • (Art-)Deco
    • ca. 1920-1945
    • Art style
    • A style of art following on art-nouveau, which marries traditional crafts motives with the new technological possibilities. I’ve mostly seen this as referring to the 1920’s and 1930’s, which might have something to do with the lack of a proper other style term for the inter-war period.
  • WWII
    • 1939-1945
    • Historical term
    • World War II. This war started when Germany invaded Poland in 1939. For me, WWII has always has 1940 as start year, because the Netherlands were invaded in that year. The US got involved in 1941 with the attack on Pearl Harbor.
  • Vintage
    • ca. 1920-1990’s
    • The term vintage is generally meant to be ‘anything old’, but usually any clothing from pre 1920’s will be labeled ‘antique’, and not vintage. Most often, ‘vintage’ is used to refer to clothing between 1940’s and 1970’s, but as time goes along this might change. (In 20 years, what we wear now can be considered vintage). This term is the odd one out, because it is generally used to specifically refer to actual items which were made in the past. Reproductions are generally named vintage-style, or retro. I find that in costuming circles, most people make a distinction between historical, being anything up to ca. 1920’s, and vintage being anything between then and 20 years ago.



  • Gouden Eeuw 
    • In English: Dutch Golden Age
    • ca. 1600 – 1700
    • A period of growth in trade, science and the arts in Dutch history. It is generally thought of to have started around the same time as the founding of the East-Indian Trading company (1602-\). 1672 was the ‘disaster year’ (war, with political and economical consequences), after which the decline started.
  • Empire
    • In English: Empire (we’d pronounce it the French way though)
    • ca. 1800 – 1815
    • Art term
    • Technically this is a term used to refer to the French neo-classical interior style made popular by Napoleon. In practise, it is also used to refer generally to the reign of Napoleon, of which the exact days are shown in the next term.
  • Napoleonistische tijd
    • In English: Napoleon’s time
    • 1804-1814/5
    • Political term
    • The period of Napoleon’s reign as emperor of France (and multiple other regions, including the Netherlands). Napoleon abdicated in 1814, to briefly return in 1815.
  • Belle époque
    • In English: Beautiful Era (another term borrowed from the French)
    • ca. 1870-1914
    • Historical term
    • Generally, this term is used to refer to the era of progress in France (and surrounding countries) around the turn of the 19th to the 20th century. It ended with the start of WWI.
  • Interbellum
    • In English: Inter-war period
    • 1918-1939
    • Political term
    • The inter-war period, between WWI and WWII. I haven’t really seen this used often in costume history, although it might be used in a context for which it’s relevant that it’s a period between wars.

Inspiration – Tudor

In December I got a couple of new costume books, including the Tudor Tailor! I have never made anything pre 1800, but I love the Tudor period in style, and I was very interested in the information and the patterns it would include. So far, I’ve been really happy with it, the background information is really nice, as I didn’t know a lot about this period. The patterns provided give options for creating several full outfits, both male and female, from undergarments to dresses and head wear.

Additionally, I just got some lovely silk I’ve been eyeing for months. I finally decided that if it’s still on my mind months after I first saw it, it’s meant to be. Also, the price was incredibly good, so I can justify the buy. It’ll do for Tudor, but also slightly earlier, so I’m not sure yet what it will be. It’s pretty though…


I’m not sure if/when I’ll actually get around to making Tudor things, but it’s always fun to plan and dream. The book covers various eras and styles, but for now I’m focusing on the ‘typical’ Tudor dress, ca. 1530-1560.

So some of my favourites.

I’ve found that many portraits showing Tudor fashion show a black and/or red coloring. So I figured I’d organize by color.



Mary Tudor, ca 1515

I adore the black (velvet? it looks like it) with pearls and gold look of this portrait. She also has interesting under-sleeves. It’s too bad the bottom is not shown, but there’s a 1850 adaptation of this portrait which gives a suggestion:

(c) Palace of Westminster; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

I’m not sure how accurate the pearls on the hem are though. And I’m curious what’s hanging off her belt!



Anne de Pisseleu (1508–1576), Duchesse d’Étampes Attributed to Corneille de Lyon (Netherlandish, active by 1533, died 1575)

Another black/white/gold dress, although it looks like she has white undersleaves and a white kirtle on (showing the skirt between the open front). This time it looks like embroidery which gives the white details. I’m also intrigued by her necklaces, and the way they fall so wide. And she has the initial-necklace! I’ve only seen this on Anne Boyelin before (with a B), but I don’t know that much on the period, so I think it might’ve been a trend!



The Jersey Portrait, previously identified as Lady Jane Grey, is now identified as Katherine Parr

Another black dress with different color sleeves and kirtle. The quality of the image is not great, but the silver/red combination of her sleeves & kirtle is interesting. Her outer sleeves seem to be made of fur, not sure I like the look that much. But, she does have pearls!



Princess Elizabeth, c. 1543-1547. ‘The Family of Henry VIII’, detail. Anon. Hampton Court Palace. © The Royal Collection.

Moving in the direction of less black and more red. I think this combination of fabrics is my favorite. The brocade of her dress is gorgeous, and the sleeves and kirtle have a color which complements it perfectly. If only I could find fabric like this…



Catherine Howard, cousin of Anne Boleyn and fifth wife of Henry VIII

A similar color combination, but with red as main color. The sleeves & kirtle look wonderfully intricate, and her partlet seems to be embroidered with gold. It’s also interesting that her outersleeves are a different color and fabric.



Catherine Parr, sixth (and last) wife of Henry VIII

We’re moving into the realm of different colors now! Although I believe that red/gold was quite a popular combination. In any case, the brocades are gorgeous. Still not a fan of fur sleeves though.



Katherine Parr, Sixth Wife of King Henry VIII

This portrait is intriguing because the fabrics are so different from anything else I’ve seen. The colors, with the salmon and green and pink, and also the fact that the base color seems to be white(ish). I don’t particularly like the fabric, or the combination with the orange/green of the sleeves & kirtle, but it’s interesting! (also, note how in all of her portraits shown here, Katherine Parr has her hands in exacly the same way… Makes me wonder if the painter was the same, or if they were just copying eachother, or if it has some meaning)



Mary Tudor, Queen of France, Sister of Henry VIII

To finish, one of the only portraits I’ve found where the dress is not black/gray/red/orange/golden toned. I haven’t really been able to find other purple/blue/green examples. This is probably also because the bright versions of these colors were hard to create in Tudor times. (I know the green dress Natalie Portman wore in ‘The Other Boyelin Girl’ is gorgeous, but no way they’d been able to achieve that color in the 16th century!) Nonetheless, this portrait is a lovely example. I particularly like the fabric of her sleeves, and the way her left (for the viewer) sleeve seems to be almost falling off showing her kirtle beneath.