Friday, August 26, 2011

Gail Carriger Talks Fall 2011 Trends: Runway to Retro Way

Darling Fashionable Reader, while I await more pictures from Reno I present to you the latest of my occasional series on seasonal trends. The idea is to take a look at some of the styles presented on the runway and suggest how they might be adapted to a retro pallet and more womanly figure.

Trend #1: Bright Trousers
I don't wear trousers very often. Contrary to popular belief I do wear them, but generally only to travel or when I am moving house or working in the field. I would take this trend and translate it to a bright colored pencil skirt, possibly a leather one.
L ~ R: Street Style in San Francisco blog; runways 2009; Tuppence Haypenny blog
I've shown three different lengths. As you can see, the above-the-knee is worn with flats, which I believe is fine, but the bellows are with heels. The first skirt is a marigold color and velvet, two other 2011 Fall trends.

Trend #2: Working Girl Dress
I might, from my retro perspective, call this a Day Dress, but Working Girl works well enough. I love this trend. I'm a big fan of this kind of dress ~ sleeves, nice slightly flowing skirt and a belt of cinch. It's flattering on any figure. If you are going to go for a print, opt for something smaller and geometric, as seen above, that's universally more flattering than a larger more complicated pattern.
It's a quintessentially vintage style. I don't really have a dress like this, not one in a pattern or light color. Perhaps I should at it to the shopping list?
A slightly fuller skirt gives a more 1950's look, while an A-line is more 1940s or 1970s. In both of the above images I'd go for an inch or so shorter skirt than pictured ~ especially if you are a curvy girl. With the skirt a little shorter you can wear flats and it doesn't look dowdy. In the left image above, she paired her day dress with a felt hat and a skinny belt giving the look a slightly modern twist without loosing the vintage appeal. Also, the felt hat takes what is essentially a Spring pattern into Autumn.
The best thing about investing in this trend? You have a dress you a bling up with some metallics and wear to a wedding. Double duty = always good.
Alexia's version?

It's a little early in time for Alexia, but this is a classic Victorian Day Dress. (The term Day Dress early on covered both Walking and Visiting Dresses. These later became separated as the popularity of displaying oneself by sashaying through Hyde Park and along the promenades of Bath gave way to ever fancier Walking Dresses and then Promenade Gowns. The term Day Dress evolved to describe a dress that was rather more sober and plain, but in a good elegant way. Ladies of the church, for example, favored Day Dresses.)

Trend #3: Choker Necklaces
This one is easy to make vintage. Vintage jewelry trends are fascinating. I can say, as an archaeologist, that the choker is one of the first necklaces we ever see. While necklace design shifts along with everything else over time, the length is often all over the place. A deco style necklace (for example) will be made to go with a range of different necklines and so vary in lenght, also, if valuable it is kept and worn much longer than a dress, and it can be both shortened and lengthened as required.
I tend to think you can't go wrong with pearls. And don't feel you have to buy the real deal, most of my jewelry started life in Target. It could get lost at any time, why pay out bank? Save your money for good shoes.
That said, my favorite choker pieces are all inherited and authentic if not Real.
A choker is a great excuse to put a nice pop of color near your face (as is a scarf, for that matter), particularly if you are one of those ladies who opts for black often. Black washes out almost everyone, it's terrible for the complexion. A nice bright choker brings color to the face and attention away from the rack.

Trend # 4: Old Gold
Or in some cases marigold (which has a bit more orange/yellow to it).
This is already a very vintage color, what I think is difficult is how to make it modern. Many struggle with how to pair accessories with a metallic or a strong yellow dress. Most are accustomed to fielding gold as an accessory, not a main. You don't have to do it as a full dress, you can combine this trend with Trend #1, and use gold as your bright bottom half, particularly if you aren't certain whether the yellow tones will work with your complexion and hair. (I tend to wear my marigold dress only when my hair color is a dark brown or chestnut, anything lighter and I feel it doesn't work well on me.)
Marigold is a very strong color that not everyone can wear. I tend to think solid black with marigold is too harsh and favor cream or white.
Cream will give a very vintage feel to the outfit. Steel grey or blues, patterned tights, sharp industrial silver jewelry, will all work to modernize an outfit, but can be risky if the tones are off.
In the end, if you're (understandably) leery of this color but still want to give it a try, stick to accessorizing with it.
And now moving swiftly on from the yellow family, which so many find so trying, we come to a far more acceptable color for Fall 2011 . . .

Trend #5: Jade Green
I myself tend to wear a forest green, but I actually believe jade green is a much better color on most people. Forest green can be very harsh, I usually have to pile on the make up. I don't happen to own any jade green, but I wouldn't say no, that's certain.
Jade green has a clean clarity too it, but it isn't a very vintage color. I hunted about for images and while I found a wide range of greens nothing came up that I would qualify as jade.
Even if you can't find a jade, I support green! And I think you can do the whole dress in this color. You can accessorize it with cream, most shades of brown, white, gold, silver, even marigold if you feel very daring.
The next trend is one that has been hanging out for a while now but it must be addressed regardless . . .

Trend #6: Maxi Skirts
Whatever you do DON'T wear it like it's pictured above on the runway. The very last thing a curvy girl needs is all that extra material and bulk paired with an over-sized chunky knit! I don't know about you, but I end up looking like an Earth Mother Type whose wandered off of a commune or Mormon compound or Amish farm or Convent or something. All that's left is Birkenstocks and rice cakes and hemp cord belts and shell jewelry and . . . oh the tragedy . . . the horror . . . flames . . . flames around my eyes . . . burning . . . Sorry, I was spiraling there.
Here's one late 1940s maxi I managed to track down. Retro look? Yes. Good for curves? No. Again, too much fabric down below and don't even get me started on boxy tops, that's a whole other rant.
So what to do if you have the rack or the hips and you want to rock a maxi skirt? Go further back in time, Fashionable Reader, to the 1930s and early 1940s.
Keep the fabric to a minimum and go for something less full and more A-line. If you are shorter in stature avoid hems that brush the floor, it'll just look like you borrowed your mother's skirt, try something that just shows your shoes, ending at the top of the foot. Similarly, if you are very tall, go in the opposite direction and sweep the floor, baby. Tall ladies, be careful not to pick an ankle length skirt, it'll look like you need to let down your hem. Here are a few modern options.
We're just looking at the skirts, mind you, not the rest of the outfits. Shudder. Pair with a nice fitted jacket, retro knit top, or tailored blouse that ends at the waist for the most proportional maxi look. It'll seem like your legs go on for days. You can do a fitted tunic as well, for that flowy alternative 1930s thing, but for the love please not a baggy top or boyfriend blazer as seen in the first two images above. I also rather like the maxi with a few soft folds, hides all sins . . .
But not too many folds and not too stiff a material, and please pair with a very fitted top. The 1930s also gave us the maxi satin evening skirt. Satin is always a risk as it can show every little bump (try velvet instead) but this kind of skirt is a nice alternative to having to hunt for a formal dress for a wedding.
In velvet or satin this skirt is the height of formality. Wear it with a little cropped blazer (even a ladies tux coat for the Madame Lefoux touch) or a wrap jacket and it is entirely appropriate to any formal event, including an evening wedding. Bonus: you can get away with ballet flats AND you don't have to shave your legs!
I did end up buying a black jersey maxi skirt this year, mainly for slouching about the house in, and possibly for airline travel. It's very comfy. Mine came on sale from Max Studio and has a slight a-symmetricality to it. It's tight at the top and looser lower down making it the love child of fish-tail and an a-line.
There is something to be said for comfort and elegance when traveling.

Trend #7: Tartan!
Plaid! I love plaid. Plaid is good. I have discussed my love of plaid before. For Fall 2011 we see tartan is all over the runway. But Miss Gail, you may well ask, how is tartan different from other plaids?
The Check Family: Windowpane = tones of 2 colors, fainter stripes; check = two bold colors, little or no striations or heathering; tartan (usually) 3 or more colors, multiple stripes.
Now where was I? Of yes, love of plaid.
Here's that dress I love so well from a shoot for Locus Magazine. Someone wanted to see it with the big sleeves, here it is!
Now and then: 2011 Burberry Prorsum and 1950s wiggle dress
Of course I'm going to recommend a cape. Were you somehow in doubt of this?
Moving on, only 2 more to go!

Trend #8: Slits
Yes there is some retro connection to the slitted pencil skirt, but I tend to avoid this look. Frankly it comes of as kind of trashy.
I tend to prefer a kick pleat.
A very retro option is to go for a slitted tunic instead. Just an idea. Here's a lovely version from J. Peterman.

Trend #9: Maxi Coat
Otherwise know as the duster, because it dusts the floor. In my world there is no better coat. If you can find a nice, slim cut, fitted, single-breasted duster, in a good quality material you have your Investment Coat. This is the coat you drop bank on and keep for the rest of your life. I have a New Zealand lamb-leather duster that I adore, soft as butter and incredibly La Femme Nikita (major thrift score brand new $50). I also have a very warm pale pink fish tail duster I picked up on Height Street for well over $100, but it's gorgeous and so warm.
Maxi coats have been around a long time, beautiful velvet one.
So far as the rack is concerned, I would tend to avoid double-breasted, too much additional material up top. However, it is a more retro feel. The first coat above, while begin a double, has the button rows very close together and a smaller collar which makes it far more flattering.
And, you don't have to go with black. Not everyone risks pink the way I do, but a nice camel or cream or dove grey makes for a great neutral alternate, and then you can wear everything else black without having to worry about looking like you are off to a funeral. Or you can be daring and go with red.
I can't let the duster go without putting in a steampunk mention. While I generally don't like a double-breasted coat, changing out the buttons for metallics can give a relatively plain jacket some real steampunk / pirate flare.
A word on maxi swing coats. Very dangerous, you can look like a tent. Be werry werry careful . . .
In the end, if you can find the perfect duster, of all the Fall 2011 trends, this is the one you should invest in. But make certain it is the perfect maxi coat for your figure and climate. These coats will be around forever, you can wait to find the right one.
Want to have fun with your winter coat this year and stay on trend? I'm going to say it, you know I am, opt for a cheaper fun cape instead. So much cuteness.

In addition to the fashions discussed above, I also spotted the following on the Fall 2011 runways:
  • lots of leather and black
  • opaque tights
  • shorts with tights and boots
  • capes 
And now, my darlings, I am exhausted. Have lovely weekends, and I hope I have inspired you to play with some of the up coming trends.
Still want more? Runway Daily's report on Fall 2011, and Fab Sugar's take. Both Prada and Miu Miu are going retro for Fall! Yes!


  1. The maxi skirts and slits fit perfectly to the giant essay I just typed up in my blog, featuring how to walk in a kimono. *lol* I used to have a black maxi skirt that worked well as a summer alternative (I. Do. Not. Show. My. Legs. And it was nice and airy) or alround theatre costume supporter. Lent it to a friend, never got it back. As these things go.

    A great yay for plaid, and an even greater one for looooong coats!! I LOVE a long, very slim coat. Those two-button-rows ones in black wool are my standard, but I'd kill for the one with the Russian frogknots in size extra small, extra short. *faints a wee bit*

  2. Would give my right boob for he middle jade dress (runway pictures). Stunning. Will get more wear out of my vintage welsh wool cape too :) Although might invest in a another one, you cannot have too many of such a timeless item.

  3. See, no matter how bad I might look in it, I'm more inclined to go for the maxi dress because I despise my legs. I think they're incredibly ugly. I guess that's why I forced myself to buy some shorter dresses recently, but I end up not wearing them if I can help it.

    Can I ask - did you always like to wear hats or did you just get used to them? Because I absolutely hate wearing hats. Always long to rip them off the second I put them on. (I guess Ivy and I would never get along. Not to mention I'd be shocking all of Victorian society by running around bareheaded. Then again, I am an American from the "wild west" area. So they'd probably be expecting me to wear buckskins, lasso cattle, etc. LOL) That's why I wondered. I suppose it's like seeing a woman in a thong. You just sit there wondering how the heck she can stand it. I find myself wondering how you can possibly stand hats.

  4. Jami, Mom reports that I didn't like them as a baby but I've been into hats since the 80s when I started buying my own clothes. She, on the other hand is "still not hat person."

  5. I found this to be quite fascinating. I admit I am now tempted to look out for a duster and one of those lovely day dresses. That last cape you showed is also adorable, especially since you can tie it at the waist for quite a nice shape if you desired.


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