Thursday, August 7, 2014

My Long Haul Flight Essentials

Right now I'm in England, Fashionable Reader. This blog post will be up here for the duration, if you're new to Retro Rack please be aware that normally I update 2-3 times a week.

screen cap Austenland (2013)

I travel a great deal as an author, Fashionable Reader, but not so many long hauls as when I was an archaeologist. Then it was often long flights to far away places for long periods of time, which meant: checked luggage. These days it's shorter hauls for just a weekend or so, which means carry on. However, I do end up going over night to foriegn shores at least once a year or so. And next year it's that big flight down to New Zealand. Also, I tend to have to check luggage for big steampunk events, too much clothing. For these flights I have a whole different approach than regular flights.

First of all, I never travel with a backpack. I understand the freedom of movement, the health of the spine, and all the arguments connected with carrying weight on one's back. But: I hate them. I am constantly being hit in the head by people who are not aware of their backpack, particularly in the isle on planes, particularly large males. I find them aesthetically unsightly, and they mess with the fall of clothing.

Instead, for an overnight flight I carry a tote and a very small rollie.

Anything I need during the flight goes in this tote under the seat in front of me.

Anything I may need on the ground immediately after landing, plus all my main safeties in case checked luggage gets lost, goes in this rolly and in the overhead.

I modified one of the outer pockets of the tote to be a handle sleeve, so I can pop it on the rollie. Both items fit under the seat or in the overhead, but I design my travel around the tote being the reachable one.

Onboard Beauty

First of all, I hoard samples. Whenever offered a beauty sample I always think in terms of what I want on a plane, especially if I am stuck sleeping in my seat. Some online vendors like Sephora often give samples with orders.


The tiny envelope packets of goo are so small and so little that, so far, TSA has never even noticed I have the kit with me, which means I don't have to pull it out during security. Plus this allows me to pack my kit so small in can fit in the seat back or some other easily assessable zone.

It's a little bit smaller than my open hand

So what do I actually pack?

For when my checked luggage goes missing:
Body scrub, makeup removed, shampoo & conditioner

Most hotels provide toiletries... in the USA. Not so overseas. Also, I am never certain if I will like the smell of the hotel product (I've started to keep a list of the chain hotels beauty lines and whether I like them. Hyatt, for example = yech.) 

So, on the assumption that my checked luggage will find me in less than two days, or I will find a drugstore, I pack some product to fill in the break in case I need it on landing.

Perfume, and perfume oil, eye cream, sin screen

Vital necessities:

I buy these two wipes in bulk. I use the Basis as a makeup remover and/or cleanser and the other is a mild toner

These are things I know I will use on the plane. So that I can take care of my skin in the extreme environment of recycled air.

Moisturizer: hand, face, body

Baby toothbrush, floss, toothpaste, nail file, bobby pin

Comb mirror combo

Just because: 

Single use wet ones for when I spill my food inevitably

I have a small collection of items that I just find I always need on planes. These are often also in my purse.

Chapstick, pen, zit sapper, eye drops, earplugs & pain killers

What's missing?

Tiny deodorant. I haven't found one that's really small that I like, so I tend to pack my regular travel roll-on separately instead.

Sleeping Sitting Up

I know, it's awful. I have a sleep kit that I take with me to hotels, it also comes on the plane with me. It includes more earplugs and painkillers (I'm paranoid), sleep mask, little warm fluffy travel socks, and prescription sleep aid. Before you jump on me, I have a non-addictive personality and I fill my prescription for my 10 pills once every three years, at most. So I think I'm doing OK. I only use them when flying overnight, and occasionally on the ground in alternative time zones to cope with jet lag when I have business right away.

I also travel with a silk camping sleep-sack. It's remarkably warm and I can climb into it comfortably and buckle the seat belt over top. It's not restrictive, and serves double duty as a big scarf, and folds up as small as a tiny travel umbrella with less weight. Since reading an article about how rarely airlines wash blankets, I have become even more attached to this baby.

Memory foam neck pillow. This is a hard choice because it takes up a lot of space but is so vastly superior to the blow up kind that I make the sacrifice. Mine comes with a removable sleeve to wash easily.

Other Things I Do Not Check

  • Prescription medication
  • Any clothing items necessary after landing depending on weather predictions i.e. hat, gloves, scarf, raincoat, umbrella
  • Food & snacks
  • Various kits: emergency repair, convention, and tea
  • Itinerary and travel documentation
  • Packing check list (I keep a running file on Evernote as well)
  • Reading material
  • Phone and associated charging necessities
  • Breath mints & toothpicks
  • One event outfit: including a vintage style bra and high heels
  • Extra socks and undies
  • Makeup
  • Jewelry
  • Anything I would be heartbroken if lost (like corsets)
  • Self filtering water bottle (filled after TSA)
  • My purse, wallet, etc.
  • All funds (never check money)
  • Sun glasses & spare regular glasses
  • A few zip-loc bags: they just always seem to come in handy
  • Tissues
  • Collapsible mini tote

Dressing for Travel

It may fascinate you to learn that I do not, in fact, travel in retro dresses with full makeup. Sorry to shatter any illusions. Instead I am perennially looking for the perfect pair of breathable slacks. I want them to look business, but be comfortable enough to sleep in, not too hot or too cold, wrinkle free, with full pockets both front and back, hemmed for flats (not heels), boots also, easy to button/zip. Needless to say, it is an endless hunt. Right now, I have a black pair of light weight ruched cotton that fits my profile but is a little too trendy and a grey pair that's almost there but kinda boring. What can I say, I like the hunt.

This Chart Tells You Exactly How Much Underwear You Should Pack.

For tops I choose something I can wear with a comfortable bra, that's darker in color, cotton, and short sleeved. I pair that with a cardigan, these days my long cashmere grey one. I also have whatever jacket is my main for that trip in the overhead just in case, and a scarf in the tote under my seat.

I'm usually wearing boots of some kind, unless it's mid summer and a beach location, because they are my bulkiest shoe, zipper easy to get on and off, and (most importantly) require socks. These days as they make you take your shoes off at TSA I can't imagine not wearing socks! Gross.

Final Precaution

I try to remember to photograph my checked luggage. This comes off as paranoid but my checked luggage has gone missing almost 50% of my travel. It's one of my bad luck things. I find if I snap a picture, that works best to show the peeps at the other end when it doesn't show up.

You don't have to go with my choices: Wish wish has a different selection for travel. 

Retro Rack is also on facebook where I post additional images and fashion thoughts.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

eShakti Retruns & Final Thoughts on Customizing for the Rack

I ended up deciding to return that blue umbrellas dress to eShakti, as well as the dot top and the green color-block dress. Their process is a little convoluted, Fashionable Reader. I had to fill in a form that comes with the dresses, also go to their website and file a return via my account for each garment. I then got an email for each piece which I had to then print out and included in the box. Then once the garments reached the warehouse they went into processing and two weeks later I got a refund. However, considering the garments are custom, I'm pleased to even have the option.

Things to know:

  • One can choose to be refunded the cost of the dress or given store credit. 
  • Refunds do not include shipping or custom fitting payments. 
  • If one chooses store credit they add 20% value to the return (and a year to use it). 
  • The return label if for USPS (not UPS drop off).

I like how generous eShakti is with store coupons. $25 to use within the next 90 days after any order. 10% for filling in their very short survey. Common 3-for-2 dress sales and now the 20% return for store credit policy. Occasional free shipping.

So despite the fact that I returned half of what I bought this last order, I will be ordering from them again. I opted for store credit (plus all my accumulated coupons) I'll have a lot to use up when I return from England.

I already posted my 10 Rules of Shopping eShakti but here are some lessons learned specific to my top heavy figure.

When Custom Ordering For the Rack

Gail's check list for herself. 

  • Cotton poplin wrinkles.
  • Cotton knit is thick and stretchy.
  • Haven't tried: cotton sateen, plain Cotton, Cotton/Spandex jersey, Cotton/Spandex woven poplin
  • Lighter colored, make sure it's lined, but lining makes it warmer.
  • Bodice must have at least front and side darts. Better: princess seams.
  • Pleating at the waist for the skirt is good. 
  • Pleating at the waist for the bodice is not good.
  • Wider waist belts are better.
  • Avoid curved waist.
  • Elastic smocked waist panels at back are good.
  • Must have inner bra strap keeps.
  • Avoid lighter top, darker bottom.
  • Solid colors integrate into my wardrobe best.
  • The more vintage the better.
  • Consider removing embroidery.
  • Keep an eye on the jackets.
  • Monitor seasonal shifts.
Style: Neckline

  • Necklines I like: Shaped Scoop, Boat, Notched, Sweetheart.
  • Necklines I haven't tried: Scoop, Square, U Neck, V Neck, Notched V-neck .
  • Necklines that will be too low for the Rack: Wide Deep Square, Wide Deep Scoop, Wide Scoop, Wide V.
  • Look for folding/pleats over the bust: allows for more bra versatility and optional corset (like the Havana, Brooklyn or Lilian dresses none of which I would have considered in the past).
  • Avoid darts down from the neckline.
Style: Sleeve

I love the elbow length sleeve but I need to be more thoughtful about how it will go with the rest of the dress. For lined poplin day dresses I should do a short sleeve. I must keep in mind the sweaters and jackets I'll be wearing over the dress.

Style: Skirt

While the mini is not for me, I should think about above the knee (day dresses) and midi (pencil dresses) as viable options. I really loved how that midi trumpet skirt came out.

In other news, ran across this useful blog post recently: Button-front Shirt Sources for Ample Busts

Retro Rack is also on facebook where I post additional images and fashion thoughts.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

9 Things The Fashion World Loves That Gail Doesn't Get

I've posted before about styles I don't like in the fashion world: boxy tops, for example. But most of the time, with most things, I can understand why someone else would wear them. I have enough imagination to realize the aesthetics appeal to a style preference or body type not my own. Long and lean with a boxy top and geometric draped skirt = super chic. And super impossible for me to wear! But I get it. Even something like a baby-doll dress I can see some skinny young thing rocking in a Gothic Lolita way. Or the lead singer of a grunge band doing it all plaid.

But there are things that, no matter how far my imagination stretches, Fashionable Reader, I just don't understand. Here they are...

1. Chanel Number 5
It stinks. And by that I don't only mean the cost and the bottle and the advertising, I mean the smell. It's awful, this chemical pseudo-flowery scent. Inevitably, I'm trapped on a plane next to some elderly female who has doused herself in the stuff. Only two perfumes smalls worse: Pleasures & Sunflowers. I will actually gag when I smell either of those.

2. Baby Powder
It's commonly substituted for other more expensive powder products. Plain old talc powder or baking soda usually works just as well and doesn't make you reek like a baby. It's the association: once I smell baby power I think diapers. And who wants that?

3. Square Manicures
Why? Especially French Tip square. The fingers look so sad and stubby and blunted. And fake. And early 90s.

4. EOS Lip Balm
I get that the containers are super cute, and the flavors are somewhat unique, but in the end it's just an overpriced fruity lip balm. In my case, I tried it and had an allergic reaction, so I'm doubly wary. But it seems to be everywhere right now.

5. Aviator Sun Glasses
Why would you want your eyes to look down-tilted and bug-like? Plus the metal frames are less comfortable and get caught in your hair when you shove them up on your head.

6. Super Skinny Models
I'm not going to get into the politics of it, frankly, it simply looks weird, skeletal, and sad to me. Runway models, in particular, I'm often wincing at the angles and the hip bones and the emaciation. It's not pretty.

vi nightmarepunk tumblr

7. Lavender Anything
I've blogged before about my dislike of lavender (not the color the scent and - such as it is - flavor). The smell reminds my of house-bound ancient ladies. If I ever wrote a horror novel the setting would smell of rot and lavender.

8. Bathing Suit Prints
Everything else may be geometric and stylish, pastels, deco influenced, black & white chic and then... bathing suit season rolls around and all bets are off. The most ugly, unpleasant, garish, and loud prints are everywhere and for some reason totally acceptable. Why? Why must this be? Yes I know there's usually a black option, or a nautical stripe, or some dots, if you're lucky. But those are few and far between. Why buy and wear colors and prints in a bathing suit that you wouldn't be caught dead in any other item of clothing?

9. Wedding Dresses
I understand the pressure, or at least, I can imagine it. But why are so many so ill suited to the female figure, not to mention style and comfort? Let's start with strapless. I've yet to see a bride in a strapless gown who wasn't always tugging up the bodice ~ twitchy and self conscious. And let's talk color. There are many forms of white: pure, winter, ivory, cream, ecru, off-white, blush. Few complexions look good in true white. It's like red lipstick, the shade really does have a huge impact. Sigh. I won't event start on the fit. I'm coming over all Conrad on you, "The horror, the horror!"

Retro Rack is also on facebook where I post additional images and fashion thoughts.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Fashion Retrospective ~ Those Uppity Women on Bikes

I have a bit of a passion for vintage bicycle riding gear.* And this before I learned that there is some significant connection between the advent of bike riding and women's liberation.

At first women's bike riding attire is not so different from other exercise attire of the late 1870s early 1880s. Which is to say, to the modern eye, not very exercise orientated at all.

via FB

But if you look closely you can begin to see the concept of freedom of movement, and the importance of exercise (shunned in the early Victorian era as countrified and sporty) slowly embraced.

"Let the skirts be as short as possible – to clear the ankles. Nothing else is permissible for mountain work, where one must face bogs, deep heather, thorny gorse, and must not stumble into the hem of one's garments on the face of a rocky precipice. I must, however, draw the line at the modern feminine costume for mountaineering and deerstalking, where the skirt is a mere polite apology – an inch or two below the knee, and the result hardly consistent with a high ideal of womanhood."
~ Lillias Campbell Davidson, 1889

And the style of bicycle attire combines this notion with that of equestrian and riding wear.

Then, finally, with the advent of access to higher education, rise of the middle class, the suffragette movement and the right to vote, better understanding and use of heath care particularly with regards to procreation, everything changes and, most germane to this blog... women wear trousers.

"1900 Doll" from the Gratitude Train  Calixte  1949  MET

George R. Sims on Cycling in London in the 1890's.

1894 cycling_suit-1894-harpers-bazaar

Staring in the 1890s it becomes mostly acceptable for women to wear voluminous (but still actual) trousers to bike ride. By 1895 we see large scale advertisements, and some lampooning in the popular press, but generally it's clear that only the most elderly sticklers objected to the style.

1895 Cycling Ensemble  1895-1900 British Manchester City Galleries

And this wasn't just in England, either. America, and indeed much of Europe, embraced the look.

1895 Mlle Babion et son professeur, Luchon, laiterie, 5 septembre 1895 par Eugène Trutat .      Via Rosalis tumblr

A great deal of the inspiration for the attire has it's source in men's hunting wear. Bike wear for ladies involved heavy material: lots of country Harris tweeds, the early onset of houndstooth, all very much Too the Manor Borne.

1895 Bifurcated-riding-ensemble-1895

If you want to read a fun comic novel set in the 1900's featuring a New Woman and her fiscal and literal liberation via the bicycle, you can do no better than Miss Cayley's Adventures by Grant Allen. It's free to download in ebook form.


And what happened after the turn of the century?

via sydneyflapper-tumblr

1930s Riding Habit

1940s Claire McCardell bicycle outfit



Dior Bicycle
* I also love equestrian attire, but that seems to be a crazy troll mongering subject so I've stopped posting about it.

Retro Rack is also on facebook where I post additional images and fashion thoughts.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Then & Now ~ Black Details


Dinner Dress  Emile Pingat, 1877  The Metropolitan Museum of Art


2013 Zuhair-Murad
Retro Rack is also on facebook where I post additional images and fashion thoughts.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dressing Alexia ~ From the Foundation Up

The final two Parasol Protectorate books, Heartless & Timeless, were released in trade paperback size at the beginning of this month. I thought you might like a glimpse, Fashionable Reader, into some of the things that Alexia might wear underneath one of those amazing dresses of hers.

 1872 Ball Gown  Charles Fredrick Worth, 1872  The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Bustle 1873, Austrian, Made of cotton and horsehair


Here we go!

Godeys Aug 1872 Drawers 
Stockings  1873  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

1875 Garter  1875-1825  The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Evening Shoes  1875-1885  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

1872 Corset  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Corset Cover  1870  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

1872-1874  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Petticoat  1873  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

And over the whole thing?

1870-1875 Bonnet   The Victoria & Albert Museum

1872 Ball Gown  Charles Fredrick Worth,  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Cape  1870  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Parasol 1880s  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

And what were the men wearing?

 1873-1875  The Victoria & Albert Museum; 1875-1880  The Los Angeles County Museum of Art

1875 Pocket Watch  Sotheby’s

Retro Rack is also on facebook where I post additional images and fashion thoughts.