Thursday, August 4, 2011

Gail Carriger WorldCon 2010 Retrospective: Tweed Skirt!

I know it's the middle of summer, and if there is any fabric that is a winter fabric, it's tweed! However, I'm going over old WorldCons and one of the skirts that turns up more often than not is my tweed. Probably because it packs and travels well.

Here I've paired it with red for WorldCon in 2008 with Amy, Prannish, & Paul at the Tor party.

Mine is modern, not vintage (fortunately this means it doesn't smell). It's a Liz Claybourne from Marshalls, I probably paid about $30 for it. It's lined and not wool, contributing factors to me buying it. Vintage tweed is almost always wool, which I can't wear to my sadness.

1940's stylish tweedy ladies

Tweed has a very 1940's feel to me, but it's been particularly popular from 1930s on. It has a definite reputation in England for being associated with the gentry (or countrified aristocracy). It was worn for hunting and riding and other sporting pursuits. "Getting into the tweed" is a colloquialism for getting ready for a country jaunt. Also it's irreparably linked to both a boy's public school education (for the yanks this means private school ~ don't ask) and the House of Lords.

The ladies of Gosford park, in the tweed zone.

I tend to pair mine with a knit bow top.

Or a pussycat bow (see future blog). As we have discussed before I love red, so most of the time this outfit ends up with red accessories, as discussed in a previous blog. But sometimes I pair it with brown for a more fall look.

Photo by Lori Nyx

Here I am doing a reading in the skirt on the Blameless book tour. I'm wearing a little fur and velvet net hat which I adore (affectionately referred to as the tarantula hat) and some brown shoes.

 Hat from Decades of Fashion on Haight Street. $30
T-strap pumps by Soft from Nordsrtom Rack $25, and peep toes by Aerosoles from source $35. 

Both shoes started life pink and have been dyed brown. I seem to always end up dying shoes brown because I can't find a pair I like in the shade I want.

In adition to the skirt I have two jackets in tweed as well. Or rather one coat and one jacket.

Coat from Banana Republic outlet mall $60, American Eagle check jacket from thrift store $10.

I've had the winter white coat for ages, it seems terribly impractical but I can't seem to get rid of it. Every time I think, I have too many coats, this is the one I end up reaching for when it's cold and I don't want black. The jacket, sadly, doesn't quite fit the rack and is wool, although lined with a lovely red pinstripe, so it has been (rather aptly) retired to the countryside (AKA my mother's). It's a tweedy fabric, but with a brown hounds-tooth check. It's very equestrian, and I LOVE equestrian so I haven't been able to completely get rid of it.

But where was I? Oh yes, tweed! Like the black pencil skirt the tweed skirt often shows up on the fall winter runways. Here are some examples from both future and past.

I think you can dress tweed modern, as in the last two pictures above, but it will still have a vintage look to it. Particularly if you are wearing a pencil skirt form. I suspect this, combined with the country equestrian nature, is why I love it so very much.

Joan on Madmen sporting tweed, and a 1940's tweed suit paired with what? Oh yes, red!

So what book do I suggest with the tweed?

Patricia C. Wrede's The Raven Ring. Set in Lyra (a world in which Wrede has written many books) this one stands entirely alone. It features a tough mountain lass, who just happens to be a bad ass fighter, and is basically a murder mystery with magic. Eleret must figure out who murdered her mother and what that has to to with the magical Raven Ring that is her only inheritance. It also features two marvelous love interests and a fun ending.


  1. Tweed is just so swoony! And no matter how nice summer is, I'm always ready for the prep/genteel quality of fall fashion.

    Two thumbs up for the tweed pencil skirt!

  2. I confess-- I love tweed so much that I buy wool tweed for winter and faux-polystuff for spring and summer. I don't care if it does look a bit wintry-- I just wear it with bare legs and a cool top. Love it! I figure, I'm an English teacher. If I can't get away with tweed in the summer, who can? ; )

  3. So if wool is off the table for you, how do you deal with finding a winter coat in a vintage style? Or does living in California deal with that one for you? Although given your travel habits, I can only imagine that it must crop up from time to time.

    And I feel your pain on the wool problem. For myself, I have found that wool often results in me breaking out in hives. Hives that don't go away till he wool has left and I've taken a shower. Which just rules out so much winter gear. *sigh* Although, I must admit that I've sometimes wondered if the nice, smooth, better quality wool items I've seen on the market might be worth giving wool another try. I *have* been avoiding wool since high school ... and it *was* a really scritchy wool sweater ... maybe it'd be ok?

  4. Oooh! Quick question Miss Carriger, That last picture in the blog with the woman wearing the stockings with the seam up the back. When is it appropriate to wear sheer black stockings with a back seam?

  5. I am also allergic to wool and I have found a few (very few) merino wool items that have been ok for me. (Unfortunately they are all VERY expensive brands, but I got them at thrift stores, so not too bad)

    I recommend high end thrift shops to try and get the higher end wool items if you don't want to spend a couple hundred dollars per. I have a merino and cashmere knit skirt (retailed for $300 or something insane like that, I got it at a thrift store for $30), and a Merino jacket that don't bother me (also thrift store, I don't remember how much). I try running the wool on my inner wrist for a minute or two, if it doesn't itch or sting, I am probably ok.

  6. frostfire
    Ah yes, the wool question. I go for cashmere/poly blends if I can find them, My very best coat is one of those from House of Fraiser. I also love leather, I have a leather duster that's buttery smooth lamb and so warm. As for vintage, this is terribly un-PC but . . . fur. Can't be beat for warmth. I try to chose rabbit. I figure I eat rabbit, might as well wear it.

    Black stockings with a seam? Probably only for night, unless you are going to a really funky gothy look. I go with nude with black or nude with nude for day.

  7. Tweed! Definitely one of my favorites for winter clothing, and in New England, it gets put to use. Every week you find something great to highlight, and I can't wait for the next post!

  8. I don't think I'm allergic to wool - just smell like a wet dog when I wear it - even cashmere, so have to stick to cotton or man-made fabrics. Thank goodness I live in So. California so don't need a thick wool coat or sweater!

  9. I don't think I've worn tweed since I was a child.

    I'm curious for those of you who say you're allergic to wool - is it just sheep's wool or is it all wools even alpaca? I'm sure there's someone out there who has made tweed with alpaca wool.

    I do love the seamed stockings. I'm afraid I'd never be able to keep them straight, however.

  10. Somewhere at my mother's house is a pair of genuine vintage silk stockings, with a proper seam up the back - and still in original packaging. I think I tried them on once but they were too small for me. The trick to getting the seam straight is to position the seam in the correct place on your heel, lick your index finger and as you pull the stockings/tights up you run your damp finger along the seam, keeping it positioned at the back of your leg. Not v. ladylike to lick your fingers but it works!

  11. I am allergic to wool (including alpaca & I have a beautiful alpaca knitted coat), so I am 'forced' to wear cashmere (buy it in the sales). I have a couple of tweed jackets & camel hair one. With these & my wool coats I have to wear scarves or polo neck tops as a barrier between me & the wool. For a large lady tweed is not good for skirts as it makes you look twice as big as you are. My husband lives in tweed most of the year (being a shooting & fishing type) & has innumerable tweed jackets in all different colours. This year there's been virtually no week when it has been too warm to wear tweed.

  12. What are the current recommendations for finding proper back-seamed nude w black seam stockings or nylons? I've had a terrible time finding good quality ones lately.

  13. Ah, Rosemadder, that is the eternal question. I can only say, don't bother with Leg Avenue. I range from a 4 to a 6 on the bottom yet they still don't fit me right in the thighs. I don't know who they design their "fits most" for, but in my experience it doesn't fit any. I vastly prefer Music Legs. Because of such poor quality these days, I tend to opt for just nude, and see if I can find vintage.

  14. @ Rosemadder
    For seemed stockings may I suggest the uk retailer What Katie Did. All the vintage blogs I read seem to love them and they ship internationally. I'm plus and haven't tried them out so I can't comment on fit.


  15. I am a huge fan of Sock Dreams for any arm/hand/leg/foot wear. They are fabulous about including descriptions on how things really fit and how the listed size would apply to actual people. They rotate their stock pretty frequently and test drive everything they sell.

  16. And have you heard of The Tweed Runs? (My brother participated in the recent one in Adelaide, Australia) - a group vintage bicycle ride in vintage attire, preferably tweed plus fours for the gents...

  17. How do you dye your shoes? Do you have a good tutorial you'd recommend, by chance?

  18. I found a lovely tweed-inspired modern skirt and jacket set whilst out shopping today. Remembering this blog, I was so very tempted to buy it! Unfortunately, they didn't have the skirt in my size :( I'll have to remember to double check when I go out again on Friday because it was very cute.


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