Thursday, September 15, 2011

Knitted Tops with Gail Carriger: Part 1, Plain and Simple

So Fashionable Reader,

Nor Cal just did that thing that Nor Cal does when faced with the progression of the year. Which is to say, it looked at the calendar, threw its proverbial hands up into the air, and exclaimed,

 "Oh! Is it Fall? It must be Fall. Quick everyone, Fall!"

And in the space of very few days indeed we have rushed from ridiculously hot to that intermittent gray overcast 55-60 that is Nor Cal when it's not hot or raining, e.g. most of the year.

This is all fine with me. 

Being, well, Rack-ish, summer is a great trial of staying cool yet not looking like a stripper or a Real Housewife with granola tenancies.

The rest of the year, here in Old Golden, is made for tights, boots, cute retro dresses, and . . . knitwear!

I am a girl who truly loves the knit top. I apologize to those of you still slaving under summer suns, I'm breaking out the sweaters, and it's time to blog about them.

Bow before the cute knit top with lace collar! Bow, I say!

Ah, hem. Pardon me. Sitting on The Throne, you know how it goes.

Where was I?

Oh yes, knit tops.

Today's blog covers the plain knit top, and I am preparing another blog for later on the subject of patterned knit tops.

I have my own personal list of wardrobe staples for the curvy girl and this is one of them. In fact, I would replace the "white menswear inspired button down" of most everyone else's list, with the cute neutral colored knit top. Mine's cream but I think grey, black, brown, or even a nice pastel would suit most needs.

In addition to the cream, I've managed to find two modern knit tops with a retro feel ~ they have cap sleeves, but what can you do? (I have a theory on cap sleeves ~ much easier to sew than regular sleeves and these days manufactures are cutting corners and getting lazy. Cap sleeves seem to be everywhere and look good on pretty much no one.)  The pink is actually a cardy (I sewed it closed up the front) from H&M and the teal is a Jean Paul Richard from Three Sister's Consignment Shop in Sonoma. Now, back to vintage knitwear . . .

Super secret style tip: Pin the side seams of the top (at the hem) to the side seam of the skirt (at the waistband) from the inside out, of course, with a large safety pin on each side. No shirt riding up or skirt shifting around all day long!

So, for this outfit, for Reno WorldCon, I paired a modern pinstriped pencil skirt (part of a suit) with black Aerosole peep toes shoes (many years ago $40), vintage leather gloves (gift from the Brother's K), a little velvet hat (gift from Rachel of Ruby Blackbird), and a vintage knit top (origin forgotten).

 I love it because it is very light weight, cotton (I have a wool allergy), and has a very small tight pattern. I do tend to hold that those of us over-endowed on the top should be careful with wearing white, but fit is everything, and this one fits well.

 Sometimes she does it backwards . . .

 Now what do we wear under cream or white tops, ladies?

Miss Gail ~ I hope I hear you say ~ always nude/skin-tone bras and nude/skin-tone tanks or undershirts. Never white!

Very good. I like microfiber shapers and I get mine at Ross.

What I love most about vintage knitwear from the late 1930s through the mid 1960s ~ it ends at or just bellow the natural waist! And it is shaped to fit a curvy girl. And it usually has some kind of sleeves.  These are necessary details the modern world of knitwear seems to have forgotten about.

Why end at the natural waist? Because it makes your legs look longer. Why a small tight pattern? Because it doesn't stretch over the Rack (thus highlighting it). Why sleeves? Because this isn't a darn vest! Why fitted? Because it is a truth universally acknowledged that not matter what your size, tailored and fitted clothing will always look better and make you look smaller ~ or at least the size you actually are and no bigger.

I'm a particular fan of this kind of 1930's knit top. The pattern at the neck and decolletage area draws attention up to the face, and away from the bust, and the slight butterfly to the sleeve makes the arm look more narrow because it floats away (no sausage casing issues).

The 1940s sees more emphasis on a strong shoulder and some silly sleeve action. If you already have big shoulders, like me, this can make you look a little like a linebacker. (And please be certain to pair a 1940s top with other retro items or you'll harken 80s in a bad way).  I'll still go for this style (and I have a terrible weakness for very silly sleeves) because once again it draws attention away from the rack and I don't mind a super strong shoulder, but I'll often pair with a full skirt, for balance, or I look top heavy.

Speaking of silly sleeves . . . (Tassels! Tassels on the sleeves. Love it!) Here are few 1950s options. As you can see the knit is getting tighter to the torso, tucked in, and belted (blame Dior). This is a bit more Marilyn va-va-voom but I think, if paired with a suitably conservative skirt, it edges into sexy-librarian in the right way.

1952 still, and Charlotte of Tuppence Ha'penny

While we are on the subject of knitwear, here are few not to do if you have a Rack.

The first is too thick and too short, over a larger breasted gal it'll look like she's smuggling melons across enemy lines. The second is too fuzzy. I adore cashmere, I have a real weakness for it, but one must be careful not to chose a yarn with too much of a hallo, it adds bulk, as on a long haired cat.

Knitwear . . . not just for the ladies.


  1. On that throne... I'd wear a potato sack if you commanded me to. Can haz Khal Drogo now? =B

  2. Gotta thank you for protecting our boobs from bad fashion choices!

    And now to go buy more safety pins. I'm not sure why I never thought of that brilliant solution to knit shirt riding before, but I love it. Now if only someone hadn't lost all the safety pins...

  3. You know what works really well, Wendy? Small versions of those special protective diaper pins.

  4. Oh thank God someone FINALLY agrees with me on capped sleeves! (And I hope those ones I call "slash sleeves" as well - long on the top, slash inward towards the armpits.) I HATE capped sleeves with a passion! Rail against them all the time because they just make fat arms look fatter - plus they, and slash sleeves, bunch in the armpits and are seriously uncomfortable!

    And what do I get? "You have body dysmorphic disorder and need professional help!" Okay, I hate my body but that doesn't mean I'm wrong about the evil of capped sleeves!

    Thank you, Gail, thank you so much for saying they don't look good. Finally, I feel vindicated!

  5. I never got around to saying thank you for this blog. While I don't have a very impressive rack, I still greatly enjoy reading about different styles and getting ideas (much to my husband's chagrin, I've decided that I must now have a red skirt). However, the real thank you comes on behalf of one of my best friends. I love the girl to death but she doesn't know how to properly dress her rack. I've mentioned your blog a few times but thanks to this specific post, parts of which I was reading out loud to her, she hopefully will start realizing what looks good on her and what doesn't. So, thank you for giving me a way to point my friend in the right direction without having to hurt her feelings. (This is an especially awesome time for her to have help because she may soon be entering the business world and will need dressier clothing.)

  6. I hope that, even if she chooses not to follow the blog, she'll take some of the hints to heart.

  7. I adore knit tops! The tops with interesting neck detail are fabulous!
    Love reading your blog!


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