Friday, July 29, 2011

Gail Carriger WorldCon 2010 Retrospective: 1950s Day Dress and Red Accessories

This is one of my all time favorite dresses. I think I wear it almost as often as my black and white check suit. Although it's not quite as versatile.

From my second photo shoot back in 2008. Taken by Vanessa Applegate. 
Sadly the little bag has since died.

I purchased it from Moon Zoom in Santa Cruz, CA for about $40. It was missing a belt and, because of the red trim (and red is hard to match) I had to go on an epic hunt for the perfect red belt. I finally found a quilted red patent one at Target for $20, which now lives with the dress.


The dress has pockets with red trim and buttons down the front giving it a shirt-dress feel. Because it is taffeta it is a little warm and doesn't travel well without wrinkling but I still wear it all the time. It's unlabeled and unlined so I don't believe it is designer. It certainly has that classic vintage look, though.

“Abandon” dress ca 1948 and another ca. 1950 both Christian Dior 
via The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dresses like it show up in printed light-weight fabrics for the summertime throughout the late 1940s and early 50s. It's such a flattering cut and style, so much better than the modern shirt-dress.

Elizabeth Taylor unpacking at The Savoy 1951, and 1950 fashion plates.

I'm keeping an eye open for something like this dress for summer. Even though I generally prefer pencil dresses this one has taken hold of my heart. I also think it works better with flats than a pencil dress. The style not entirely old fashioned though, you can funk it up for the street if you like, and a version has shown up on the fall 2011 runways. by Gala, and Sophie Anne from True Blood in a fashion shoot.

I've worn my lovely black number for various readings and conventions. So much that it's semi retired while I give some of my other dresses and airing.

With my agent, Kristin Nelson, at the Denver WorldCon in 2008; and at a reading in 2009

It has an unnecessary zipper up the back. The first time I wore it I was traveling without a lady's maid and forgot to zip it up. Thus I showed up for dinner with my agent in a highly unfit state! So embarrassing. Shortly after meeting her face-to-face for the first time, she was zipping me up. That must be some kind of euphemism for the author/agent relationship.

As you can see from the second photo above, I went looking for an underskirt. Found one on Haight Street for about $15. I had to take down the hem to add length but it ended up being perfect.

Red is difficult. It's a hard color to match and some find it a hard color to wear. I'm empowered by red and I used this dress as an excuses to go all out on red accessories. I might, just possibly, be still using it as an excuse, particularly for shoes. 

Shiny flats, Nordstrom Rack $15, Miz Mooz $50
Via Spiga sandals, Nordstrom Rack $50; Via Spiga Wingtips Nordstrom Rack $50 
(color modified by me, future blog post pending)

I rarely wear this dress with the sandals. Despite what it might look like in the photo above, they are slightly too dark a red and the dress is too winter for sandals, if you ask me.

I love this bag, paid good money for it too $75, but I use it all the time.

As stated above, the purse I normally used for this outfit died the good death so I went hunting and ended up with this beauty. More recently this hat has come into my life. I can't wait to wear it with this dress.

Felt hat, Bon Marche Thrift Store, Sonoma $7.

Opera length red gloves inherited from my grandmother; red hair band from Claires $10; red baubles with gold spacers ~ necklace from Buffalo Exchanged on Haight Street $20, earrings from Salvation Army in Campbell $5.

I actually rarely wear these gloves with this dress as they are too long and have to be put on before the dress, which means I can never take them off again. So mostly I opt for black. The necklace set was quite the quest. I managed to source this set first . . .

I know, they look so similar, but this has silver chain and is a lighter more orangey red. Turns out they really didn't match anything in my wardrobe. In fact, I am thinking of getting rid of them . . . right . . . now! This red set plus a signed copy of Heartless to one person chosen at random from anyone who comments below, before my next post on Tuesday.

And here's a version for Alexia to wear.

1879-1881  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Gail Carriger WorldCon 2010 Retrospective: 1930s Long Black Dress

This was one of those dresses I bought on a whim with absolutely no reason or purpose, Fashionable Reader.

This usually bites me in the proverbial bottom. I have a suit and two dresses in my closet right now I can count from memory that I bought on just such a whim and have never worn. I purchased this dress because I loved it and if fit like a dream and despite being black and a cut I would never normally go for, it managed to minimize the boobs.

Black poly dress with a teared skirt. No Label. 
From Held Over on Height Street in San Francisco, c. $50.

I think the dress is from the 1970s, from the condition and the fabric type, but it has a 1930s feel to it.

Left to Right: 1932 Coco Chanel dress via The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; 
1935 Paris fashion plate; 1930s teared skirt dress

When I was nominated for the Campbell Award in 2010 I was almost as excited by the opportunity to wear this dress as I was with the excuse to visit Australia.

After the awards, photo by Joxer

I think I love this dress so much because it has a pussycat bow a detail drawing interest up to the face, and away from the rack. It nips in at the waist with a diamante belt tight enough to require no tailoring. And the multiple tears at the bottom balance me out (I tend to be top heavy).

I know, I know silly face, several glasses of champagne in at the Hugo Losers Party. I'm trying to show you the bow.

So I wore it to the Hugo Award Ceremony in Melbourne in 2010 (I didn't win the Campbell but I was in a wonderful dress, and that's what counts, in my world). I paired it with gold accessories because of the dress's built-in belt.

Gold Gloves from Piedmonts on Haight Street, San Francisco $15, and designer earrings, a gift.

Gold ballroom dancing sandals by Very Fine, from It's a Wrap in Burbank, CA $10, and 
little leather embossed bag inherited from my grandmother, probably 1930s.

One of my biggest tips as a high-heel aficionado to those more cautious with their feet, is to try dancing shoes. They can run very expensive but they break easily to mold to your foot. I have a lovely Shoe Guy I visit regularly who not only puts on walking soles and makes repairs but dies shoes for me at a very reasonable rate ($5 ~ $10).  I figure if I am going to get more wear out of the shoe with some adjustments it is worth the money.

Here are some fashion ideas to get a more modern look out of a long dress or skirt like mine. Maxi dresses and skirts are all over the street and the runway both for summer and fall, alas not exactly of this style.

I do think this dress would make for a great wedding dress style for a larger chested lady. But that is a whole other discussion.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Gail Carriger Announces the Winnah of the Heartless Fashion and Tea Give Away

Sorry this blog is a tad delayed, Fashionable Reader. I had to turn in some important notes to New York before 2 pm today which rather derailed the normal synchronicity of my online day, I'm sure you understand.

I was reading your comments for the contest and I actually said out loud into the empty room "You are all so cute!"

Thank you so much both for your positive encouragement and for your thoughts. I have taken them all under advisement. Some of the suggestions were for blogs I already have in the works (I often wait until enough good imagery has come my way before posting). Some will be applied as twists to future blogs (more on accessorizing, for example). Still others are entirely new fodder (plus size vintage has already occurred).

However, while I get all my leopards in a row (not just for this blog but for major edits on Finishing School and preparations for Reno WorldCon) I have prepped a six blog retrospectives on past WorldCons that I hope you will enjoy.

I'm going delve a little further into the matter of accessories (as per requests) as well as the dresses themselves. I hope you enjoy this series.

Rest assured that in the background I am conducting other DIY projects. Before Reno's WorldCon, for example, I must repair three hats, add veils to two, and turn plain oxfords into spectators (not to mention, you know, that crazy writing thang). I also want to finish my new steampunk outfit for the Girl Genius Ball. I'm documenting it all for you!

 And now, as you have waded patiently through the blog I give you . . . the winnah!


If the lovely Miss would please email me at gail at gailcarriger dot com with snail mail details or drop me a calling card I'll pop the books in the mail post haste!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Gailc Carriger On Retro Rack Special Edition ~ Plus Size Vintage!

Aside from the Rack, Fashionable Reader, I am not really a plus size girl. However, I am the universal shopper for many of my friends. Which is to say, they all know that when in dire need I am available in any emergency ~ emotional, lifestyle, or physical ~ if a shopping jaunt is required. I have drawn up spreadsheets that correlate tops to bottoms for a stylistically-challenged beta reader. I have shopped for friends and partners who are too busy to do it themselves (and then returned the unwanted items). I also lived for five years with a plus size fashionista man.

Vintage is difficult to find in plus sizes for many reasons, one of which is that things are often tailored down as they are passed around. The end result is that what survives tends to be on the smaller end. Another reason is that stretch fabrics do not withstand washing so well as non-stretch. One of the things I would do is hunt for dresses in thrift stores that can become vintage with a little tailoring.

Gail tailoring

Since I am not an expert on shopping for plus size vintage I decided to call on a friend. Sarah and I have been BFFs for over 20 years. She's a gorgeous redhead who just happens to also be plus size. She is also a brilliant professional seamstress. I put this question to her. Her response was as follows:

Finding vintage clothes in plus size is like catching lightening in a bottle; especially finding cheap vintage plus size. I've had decent luck on Ebay for retro fashion. But Ebay is getting harder to sell on so the selection is not as great as it used to be.  Sometimes you can find nice things on Etsy too but you really have to troll both sites constantly to find awesome deals.

For actual vintage in plus sizes, the only online store I know of is Re/Dress NYC. They specialize in sizes 14 and up. (Gail notes to keep in mind that sizes have changed, I wear a size 10 in vintage size, sometimes a 12. My modern dress size is 4-8.)

From ReDress

For retro/mod/mid-century inspired new clothing, I like Domino Dollhouse and Pinup Girl Clothing.  Domino Dollhouse carries only plus sizes and Pin Up Girl carries all sizes up to 3X. For nice boutique items that can have a vintage feel or flair to them, I like Lucie Lu ~ she carries only plus sizes from 1X to 5X.

Since your readership is [located] all over the place, it doesn't make sense to recommend specific brick and mortar stores but I can say that I've noticed more consignment stores are starting to carry plus sizes and sometimes you get lucky and find something fabulous.

If your readers are ever in SF try Vintage Expo, I think it happens twice a year. It doesn't specialize in plus sizes but it is a HUGE event and some of the vendors (at least 2 that I know of and probably more) do carry plus sized stuff. 

Excerpted from RedressNYC's site: "If you're in New York, plan to shop at The Big Fat Flea in May
 (formerly known as The Fat Girl Fleamarket).

If you're near Boston, there is the Big Thrifty also in May

She adds that Bust magazine published (Jan 2013) a list of 6 online stores that carry cute plus sized vintage-inspired clothes.
  • - they used to be a brick and mortar store in Brooklyn specializing in plus sized vintage. Now they are strictly online and make their own repro-vintage. (Site can be slow to load.)
  • Domino Dollhouse - based in CA, think Modcloth but more affordable and strictly plus sized.
  • - their look is definitively mid-century retro-chic, think Rockabilly. Sizes XS to 2X.
  • - carry sizes 10-28 in a mix of styles.
  • - sizes from XS to 4X. Style is what you'd expect from their name. (But they are not cheap.)
  • - retro-chic with some nice pieces that I haven't seen on these other sites. Their UI isn't the greatest but they seem to have quite the selection. Sizes XS to 2X.
So my sincere thanks to Sarah for the wealth of information.

In addition, I follow various bloggers who are plus size.
  • Shelley of New Vintage Lady describes her blog as "vintage sewing for the stout woman." Her skill set is way beyond my own but she is an inspiration. 
  • The stunning Miss Amelia of Good Stuff Only occasionally ventures into vintage pin-up and rockabilly in her street style photo blog. 
  • There is also The Curvy Fashionista, her focus tends to be modern and trendy.
And here is an article from Plus Size Vintage on rockabilly.

So there you have it, my darlings. I hope this has been of some help to you. Good luck in your quests and remember, if nothing else you can always accessorize with vintage and believe you me, this blog will come back around to talking accessories on more than one occasion.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Gail Carriger Talks ABout The Outfits She Wore Fot Her Heartless Book Launch

One of the fun things about being an author is developing relationships with people all over the globe. One of my foreign language translators who consults with me the most (read: at all) is my Japanese translator. We have a sporadic back and forth on the subject of certain idioms and the meaning of Victorian phrases which I really enjoy. It forces me to stop and think about language as separate from story, which reminds me of my academic days.

In one of those crazy coincidences, right after returning for New Orleans and lamenting my lack of fan, I received the following in the mail from my Japanese translator!

These are cute tiny very light little fans, perfect for fitting into any handbag and the right combination of colors to match almost any outfit I have. Then the next day, on one of the fashion blogs I follow, this broach popped up which looked just like one of the fans! Coincidence if far more common that we think.

 Lucien Gaillard plaque de cou ca. 1900 via Christie’s

So next time I visit New Orleans I shall be ready!

Also, I promised pictures of Octavia. Here she is. She has grand ambitions to be an octomaton (note the gears) but is being distracted by sniffing flowers.

And here are a few more from Friday's event in San Francisco.

Sadly, I did not have a photographer (AKA the AB) present at the Kepler's event last Thursday in Menlo Park, so I have no additional pictures but it was great fun. I am delighted to report people came even though it was the premiere of the new Harry Potter movie and the day before George R.R. Martin's signing! Also I was given tribute: delicious Japanese Gummy candy, exciting new tea to try, teeny tiny fake food (oddly, foreshadowing of a scene in Etiquette & Espionage: Finishing School Book the First), and octopuses!

A random moment of pantyhose!

And, just because I feel like it, I've decided to give away the following three books. It is a combination which, if you follow this blog, might appeal just to you.

A signed copy of the UK edition of Heartless by self, Fashion by Christopher Breward, & Tea Wisdom by Aaron Fisher and possibly a few other bits and bobs of cuteness I have lying about.

To enter, simply leave a comment below. You don't have to say anything of import but I am interested in your views on Retro Rack so far. Is there anything you would like to see more/less of? Which kinds of entries interest you the most and which do you skip? Any other thoughts?

The winner will be chose by random number generator, and the contest will end next Tuesday, July 26. I'll announce the winner in this blog, along with the first in an eight part retrospective on the fashions I've worn to WorldCons of old (leading up to Reno 2011).

Have a lovely weekend, Fashionable Reader, and if you are visiting San Diego ComicCon I want a Fashion Report! Pretty please?