Sunday, December 30, 2012

Gail Carriger 2012 Outfits In Review

<-------- Vote for your favorite.

Looking back on 2012, Fashionable Reader, I feel like I ought to be a rainbow of colors, like the Queen.

I found, however, that I tend to lean towards neutrals and reds, particularly when traveling. One of my goals for next year, thus, is to broaden my scope into a wider range of color. Wish me luck?

And now, a look back at the many shades of Gail in 2012.

1. Passion & Prose in LA

This red and black flowered outfit is fun, but the over jacket keeps ripping ~ the fabric is very fragile so I find myself reluctant to wear it regularly as a result. The under dress, on the other hand is a great cotton sheath and very useful. I wore it again later in 2012 in Barcelona.

2. Goodbye Parasol Protectorate Tea


I love the 1930s but it isn't the best time period for my figure. This dress doesn't quite fit the Rack and isn't all that flattering. I kind of adore it anyway. It also doesn't travel well, so you're unlikely to see me in it outside of the Bay Area. All that said, it does match the cover of Etiquette & Espionage so you may see me in it again soon at a launch party or whatnot this February.

3. Timeless Book Tour

 Portland, San Diego



It was on this trip I decided I'd finally figured out how to pack. I still need a few more items to make my travel skillz complete (the illusive light weight jersey short robe, better hat transport mechanisms, etc.) The green dress I wore in Portland got trotted out for two other events later this year (Comic Con & NCIBA), although it met a sad end (more later). The forset green dress I wore in San Diego is too warm to don often, but it travels great and shows no sign of damage which makes it one of my most reliable vintage pieces. The cream and grey stripe I had on in Houston is a relatively new acquisition but a pain. It's back in the repair pile for the 3rd time! I just can't make the front stay closed over the Rack, I might have to put ties in, or relegate it to consignment. The navy and white polka dot is another great workhorse, like the forest green it's warm but travels beautifully never requires ironing and shows no sign of needing repairs.

4. European Tour

 Check suit at Easter Con, London; just the dress part at blogger meet up, Budapest

 Improvised steampunk with red Jessica Wiggle dress, London and Nottingham.

 The same dress work with black cardy for bookseller meet up, London.

Red and white print suit with cardy over in Stockholm, top then worn over the black dress with flowered top in Budapest, and that same dress with a steampunk jacket in Barcelona.

Since I was traveling to multiple countries in a short space of time I planned multiple use outfits. In order: London, Nottingham, Stockholm, Budapest, and Barcelona. Just FYI I'll never be doing this kind of tour again. I had a great time but that many countries in that space of time is too much crazy, and too much organizing with publishers.

5. Vintage Fair

For a local vintage fair I wore a new flowered day dress, purchased with Comic Con in mind. My experience touring successfully with the forest green and the navy dot dresses showed me I needed some cute day dresses that were cooler, traveled well, and would go with flats. I love this dress and still consider it a great purchase even though the colors don't really go with anything else in my wardrobe, I just wear it with neutrals.

6. World Steam Expo

 In the Autumn outfit with cover of the omnibus.

 In the Fancy outfit with lovely ladies!

Signing near end of event.

I trotted out the usual stream of Steampunk outfits. I'm pretty much settled on these now. I have essentially 4 that rotate through steampunk events: the Spoons (burgundy & black), the Autumn (cream & rust), the Fancy (raspberry & silver), and Changeless Cover (teal & black). I'd like to finish one more, a black & grey number, but it's not vital. I also have a highly valued brown velvet & cream brocade natural form gown that only makes appearances at local events because it really doesn't travel well (look out for it at Nova Albion next year). They all have parasols to go with! I'm learning different ways to wear my four standards, depending on the weather. For example I did a modified Spoons for Comic Con because of the heat.

7. Sunnyvale Library

For Sunnyvale I did a quick look in at the Library wearing the black and white skirt my mum made for me for my original BEA trip for Soulless in 2009. There I met up with a young lady who cosplays the cover of the manga, looking fabulous!

8. Comic Con

 Comic Con day one & night one

 Comic Con day two & night two

 Comic Con day three & night three

Comic Con day four

Comic Con was mainly a battle with heat and shoes. I feel as if I won for I emerged with neither blisters nor heat stroke. The tilt parasol made it's first public appearance along side the modified Spoons steampunk look. The two day dresses worked out well. The green and black cocktail had it's second showing of 2012  and my royal blue JC Penny workhorse put in an appearance. However, I think my favorite outfit of the con might be the red check. So easy to wear. Such a silly hat.

9. Tea in Hayward

This is a nice light-weight dress I actually intended to wear to Comic Con but since it's a pencil and looks better with heals I ended up rejecting it in favor of a day dress with a full skirt. I was glad to have it to wear to an impromptu tea party instead.


Book events are, as a rule, a little stuffy. I decided to spruce this one up by going all out glam, also with the intent of hijacking Ken Scholes from his SF in SF event for drinks later. Always don a cocktail dress for hijackings. Sadly, the dress did not survive me trying to get out of it at the end of the evening. The zipper got stuck on the slip underneath and broke. It's with my mum for repairs (she's better at zippers) and the slip is in my mending pile with the head of the zipper still attached to the lace. Sigh.

11. Nimrod

For Nimrod in Tulsa I wore my black flippy dress three ways. (Two shown.) I love the dress although it is very basic and a little delicate for travel. My new cashmere beaded cardy made it's debut and knocked the cream blazer out of the water. Despite the fact that if fills a niche, I decided I hate that blazer. It's not vintage, the fabric is stiff and it isn't flattering. So it's going the way of the dodo and any outfit that can't take the cashmere cardy will have to cope with the cream cape instead. Blazer be gone!

12. Sword & Laser

For Sword & Laser I began, what I suspect will be, a life long love affair with leopard accessories. I wore the red dress that first appeared at BEA in 2009 when Soulless launched (after all this interview was right around Soulless's third birthday). This dress is a little on the orange side of red but it fits so beautifully and I love the way the back collar sits so high. It's unlikely to ever go away despite being made of that bridesmaid's taffeta that is a constant worry so far as wrinkles are concerned. After this event I went out and got a leopard belt to complete the outfit.

13. Las Vegas

What better place to get my leopard on than Las Vegas? And to answer your question, yes I am on the look out for leopard flats. They are everywhere but so far none I really like that are comfortable enough and light enough to fit my needs.

14. Borderlands

I ended the year surrounded by books in on of my favorite places on earth, Borderlands in San Francisco. It was raining and I wore purple and black with cream accents. (The closer the holidays get, the less likely I am to wear read or green, mostly because everyone else is and I'm contrary like that.)

And there you have it, Fashionable Reader, event outfits in review!

I've put a poll up for you to vote on your favorites. I'm always interested in what you thought of the choices, which ones you liked, whether you felt they worked or not.

Also, I want to know what you wore this last year. Anything new you particularly loved? An outfit you remember fondly? Let me know. And I hope you all have a very fashionable New Year!

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

Friday, December 28, 2012

How to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail Carriger

Someone asked me recently how I'd dress for a 1920s party. If there is one decade of vintage fashion I avoid like the plague it's the 1920s. (I'd take the 1980s over the 1920s, which, if you know me, is saying a LOT.) The 1920s just wasn't a good time for the Rack.

I blame Chanel. Don't get me wrong I love her as all us fashion addicts do. For changing the course of dress history. For being the first perfect example for French simplicity.


But Coco Chanel wouldn't know what to do with a pair of bosoms if they whistled up to her in the street and slapped her up side the head. Girl had game, but girl sure had no Rack to speak of. This made her highly unsympathetic to the boulder-schlepping cause. Never yet has the Chanel label really come around to the top side. Pioneering, as they did, the boxy suit jacket among other atrocities. (Thank goodness for Dior, that's all I have to say.)

 No: Madame Varda in a Chanel dress, 1924 Condè Nast Archive; Yes: Dior's New Look 1947

But, Miss Gail, this does not help those of use with the quandary of having a flapper New Years Party and huge tracks of land. The fact is there is nothing about 1920s fashion that works on the Rack.

So if I were invited to such a shindig? I'd wince and I'd winch and I'd go muttering on about why it couldn't at least be an Enchanted April picnic... But here's what I'd do: work around it. The 1920s isn't going to work with the Girls, so it has to be made to work around them.

 Cold Comfort Farm Movie still, easy hair option.

Here are some thoughts.

1. Try to find a fit & flare dress 

Afternoon Dress Wiener Werkstätte, 1922 The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Day dress, ca. 1924 Chanel Wool

Yes they did exist. Many for daytime, bonus day dresses often had sleeves a pretty handkerchief hemlines.

That second option above would be easy to do with a long fitted sweater over a fluttery skirt.

 Evening Joan Bennet; Evening White

And evening ensemble might be made by layering skirts and tops of opaque and see through material, base with dance wear, perhaps?

Alternatively, hunt for a fit and flare dress that has a pattern flattering to the larger bust (like above) is an option.

At Comic Con in a drop waist fit and flare style jumper from the 1970s.

If I had a 1920s day time event I'd wear this dress with a cloche, little heals, and lots of draped pearls for a 20's take.

2. Try to find a dress with lots of neck floof

  Joan Crawford in Westpoint; and Evening Ensemble 1926, American, Made of silk

Alternatively, you can add scarves and layers of beads yourself.

 Still from Cold Comfort Farm; and You Rang M'lord

3. Drape loose jackets, stoles, etc

Ascot, 1928, originally uploaded by Gatochy; Ensemble 1928, American, Made of silk and wool

 Flapper, originally uploaded by Gatochy; Ensemble 1928, American, Made of silk

 Clara Bow; Cold Comfort Farm movie still

4. If all else fails, move that hip sash to your natural waist

 Flapper, originally uploaded by Gatochy; Evening Dress 1925, French

So long as you use a long skinny scarf as a sash and leave it dangling it will have the right look. The point for a party is not necessarily to dress as authentic as possible, but to dress in a way that harkens to the right time period while still being flattering and comfortable. I approach events more like stage shows than reenactment.

If I had an evening 1920s theme event, I'd wear this dress with a fringed shawl and sash at the waist and lots of necklaces. I'd borrow from belly dancing costuming.

 Hard to see but that's a belted almost 20's style black dress with kick pleats.

Just don't use a proper belt, you'll mess with the feel.

Alternatively, a wide pair of silk pajama trousers or harem pants over a leotard with lots of necklaces, boa, fringed scarf, and the like does wonders.

(Corrected via comments.)

Skinny sash about the head or a cloche and the right makeup and you'd be surprised how authentic this looks.

One of the best things about this era? Low healed overly decorated shoes!

 Same as above.

 My best bet for shoes, I'd add bows and things.

Want to watch something to go with? I recommend the TV series You Rang M'Lord and Jeeves & Wooster, the movies Cold Comfort Farm, Enchanted April, and Gosford Park.

Something for Prudence in anticipation of this style?

  Tiara  Child & Child, 1895  Tadema Gallery