Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Glimpse into Gail Carriger's Purse

Curious about what I carry around all of the time? Below, you’ll find what I am currently packing in my ubiquitous vintage handbag.


  1. Collapsible Tote: I live in a shopping bag free county, so I stash these puppies everywhere, including my purse. 
  2. Vaseline Lippy: my new favorite thing, since I recently developed an allergic reaction to other lip care products.
  3. Wallet: I bought this wallet at Marshalls years ago. I love it, it's leather, and I paid good money for it. It's a light color so I can find it inside a dark bag. Unfortunately, it's starting to die, the snap is weak and I've been trying to replace it but you know how it goes. This one has all the right pockets and zippers and nothing else is as good. 
  4. Studded Gloves: yes I really do wear gloves all the time, my hands are always cold. 
  5. Pens: to be honest I don't always have them in my purse, but I am always looking for one, and right now there are two.
  6. Zippy Kit: I move between purses a lot so I have this little kit with my necessities, I put some of them on display along side the zippy ~ lady necessity, germ wipe, tide stain pen, tea, breath mints, colored lip gloss, pain pills, nail file square, cough drops.
  7. Tech Kit: I need a better bag for this but it's all the charge cords I always need plus extra buds.
  8. Sunglasses: I think these came from Kohls. As with most other things, I like a vintage shape.
  9. Tape Measure: I always seem to need one and a friend bought me this steampunk style cuteness, which I keep with me all the time.
  10. Keys: Self explanatory.
"To eat in gloves or mittens was always foolish; fortunately it is no longer fashionable; but greatly the contrary."
~ The Ladies' Guide to True Politeness and Perfect Manners or, Miss Leslie's Behaviour Book by Eliza Leslie (American 1864)

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

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Gail Carriegr Talks eShakti ~ Shopping, Ordering, & Measuring

Fashionable Reader, this is not a sponsored post. I don't so sponsors. It's like doing book reviews. I feel odd about reviewing something I got for free, so I don't accept ARCs or free eBooks. Same with clothing. I want to go through the process of purchasing as if I were any other customer. I think it gives a more honest assessment. 

So my dear friend Sarah, who I have blogged about before (she's a professional costume lady for a major theater company and fantastic seamstress), forayed into the wide world of eShakti recently. While her review was mixed, it was basically positive. When I asked if she would order again she said yes. She did say the necklines tended to run low. However, she is a different shape than me, so I decided the only way to find out how good they are, is to give them a try myself.

EShakti is a site (yes, the name is dumb) where one can order dresses (and other stuff, but I'm into the dresses) and then have them customized for $8 on top of the price. In some cases you can also change the skirt length, neckline style, and/or add sleeves. I was particularly attracted to this last option. I prefer sleeves on my dresses and I adore the idea of choosing the length I would like.

Some Initial Thoughts While Perusing the Website

The website is a bit difficult to navigate, it doesn't allow for a watch list, wish list, or a save for later (at least not so I could find). The sorting mechanisms for color were limited. I suggest setting aside a good amount of time and simply flipping through all the options. I did select the option for 1950s style, to save time. Unless, of course, you want something very specific that they do sort for.

  • Most of the dresses are pull over head side zip adjustment. This is my least favorite design of dress. I like to be able to step into a garment without messing my hair and makeup, so a back zipper is my preference. 
  • There are more day dresses than evening.
  • The colors are limited and tend to be in the softer tones (rather than jewel tone). It's possible that this shifts seasonally.
  • Most have adjustable hem lines. Few have adjustable necklines. Very few allow for added sleeves.

Making My Selection

Knowing I had two book launches up coming, and having assessed the needs of my wardrobe, I was looking to buy some very specific gowns.

I wanted something in colors to go with my covers. I did not want anything in black or blue. I need more cocktail and evening wear. I prefer sleeves. There are certain things I avoid, even when customizable, like buttons over the Rack.

Here are the ones I settled into looking at more closely for Waistcoats & Weaponry:

Fully customizable neck & sleeve & hem

Would look so cute over a corset

Has some stretch and may fit best

I decided on the first option because it zipped up the back and was so entirely customizable, also it looked to be the best color match to the cover. Plus I felt the embroidery made it a little more evening appropriate. I did love the second one as well, but fitting it to my corset requires a different set of measurements. Of course the third was the most practical. But when have I every been practical?

This book was harder to match. Shunning the wine, because I already have lots of red in my wardrobe, left me with the purple options. The closest color eShakti had at lot of for this season was their Orchid.

Orchid and interesting neckline, can add short sleeves instead of caps

Fully customizable and nice color, but will the fabric travel?

So refined, adore the pattern, but fewer accessory options. Neckline and sleeves fully customizable. Most expensive option.

There a lot more fully customizable options in the Orchid range but I didn't think that color matched as well to the cover, although I do think it would look better on me than any other option. In the end, I was so utterly attracted to the last dress that I went with it despite reservations.

I want to add more cream into my wardrobe so I looked closely at this (the buttons are fake):

I'd add sleeves

Then I ran across this dress and all bets were off. I just fell in love:

Entering Measurements

I always suggest putting on the bra that you think you are most likely to wear with the dress. I chose my nude colored Fantasie Serene Full Cup Underwire in 30 H (I might have used the black Panache Tango II Balconette in 28JJ, but my plan is to buy that bra in a 28J in nude to replace this one, and I don't know when I will be doing that.) For now, this is my best foundation bra. Both bras have visible seam lines but I'm figuring under these dresses the lines are unlikely to show. At least I hope so.

I did have to have the AB assist me with my measurements. I needed a good tape measure. It took about 10 minutes to take them all with his help. Some of them were not intuitive so it's was necessary for me to look at the pictures provided.

Look at me exposing all my sins to you.

The Purchasing Process

Signing up for a new account netted me a $25 off coupon, but only for the next 7 days. I missed the window on another special offer so I don't know if they can be combined. There seems to be some other coupon available if you scope the web as well.

Creating an account was relatively easy, if not exactly intuitive. That part took about 10 minutes and I actually had to find each section (address, profile, etc.) it didn't take me from one part to the next automatically.

For each dress the site put in my measurements for custom sizing automatically when I selected that tab.

I ordered this dress:

* With short sleeves. I wanted some sleeve but I did think about how it might look with jackets so decided against anything longer.
* At the designed length, just below the knees. If I were thinking in terms of day wear and flats I would have gone for above the knee, but I want to wear this for evening.
* With the smaller V neckline. I think the wider V more flattering but I was mindful of Sarah's advice about the necklines running low.

* With elbow length sleeves (that's my favorite length and I think would look good with this style).
* At the designed length, just below the knees.
* With the wide scooped neckline. I was mindful of Sarah's advice about the necklines running low, but with the longer sleeves I wanted to show some skin. And I wanted to be able to wear my multi-strand stacked pear necklace with it. I did seriously consider both the boat neckline, which I think would look great without sleeves, and the wide square. (I can't help it though, square makes me think of the 80s.)
* I dithered a lot about this neckline decision, and because it was the most expensive dress I appended a note to my order with my concerns. Then decided to take the plunge, as it were.

* No customizing option except length. I ordered it shorter than pictured, at the knee, so I could wear with flats, and I did input my size measurements and get that aspect customized.

The most annoying part?

Once you have put the item into your cart you can't go back and change your options or customization choices, you have to delete the dress and start over again. 

The $25 gift coupon for signing up was easy to enter.

Finally, I entered my credit card and checked out.

Now I wait.

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

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Steampunk Inspiration from Gail Carriger

Steampunk! I may not always be blogging about it but I am usually thinking about it. Particularly the fashion. Here's some fun steampunk images that haev come across my screen recently.

Corsetry collection shoot at Salle Pianos. Euphrates Dahout in custom leather corset with separate buckle lapel piece and bias-cut plaid skirt. © Joel Aron. All rights reserved. by Dark Garden, via Flickr

"If an article is shown to you in Philadelphia as "something quite new," refrain from saying that it has been out of fashion these two years in New York."
~ The Ladies' Guide to True Politeness and Perfect Manners or, Miss Leslie's Behaviour Book by Eliza Leslie (American 1864)

For my characters...

For Sophronia
Watch Fob, related the the California Gold Rush  1850s  Lang Antiques
Pocket Watch  1840s  Christie’s

 For Alexia

1870s Wedding Dress  1870s  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

1873-1879  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

This could be a painting of Ivy

1874 An Elegant Lady  Alphonse Marie de Neuville  1874

 For Countess Nadasdy

1877  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 1879 Redingote, 1879-80  From the Musee Galliera

For Primrose

1897  Les Arts Décoratifs

 For Prudence

1900  The Los Angeles County Museum of Art

"Dress very plainly when travelling. Few ladies that are ladies wear finery in rail-cars, and steamboats—still less in stages—stage-roads being usually very dusty. The best travelling-dresses are of merino, or alpaca; plain mousseline de laine, grey or brown linen; or strong India silk, senshaw for instance. In warm weather, gingham is better than printed lawn, which rumples and tumbles and "gets into a string" directly."
~ The Ladies' Guide to True Politeness and Perfect Manners or, Miss Leslie's Behaviour Book by Eliza Leslie (American 1864)

1900 Gustave Beer, 1900-1905  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 Lace spats! Eeep!
1900 Spats  1900-1925  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

1904 Collar  1904  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 For Percy, perhaps
1906 Ensemble  1906-1908  The Victoria & Albert Museum

"Gentlemen consider it a very irksome task to go on shopping expeditions, and their ill-concealed impatience becomes equally irksome to you."
~ The Ladies' Guide to True Politeness and Perfect Manners or, Miss Leslie's Behaviour Book by Eliza Leslie (American 1864)

After the turn of the century...

1922 Ski Ensemble  1922  The Victoria & Albert Museum

1960 Coat  Lilli Ann, 1960s

1965 Boots  Roger Vivier, 1965  Les Arts Décoratifs

1965 Ring  1965

1994 Ensemble  Jean-Paul Gaultier, 1994  The Victoria & Albert Museum

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

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Then & Now ~ Gold Stripes


1959 Party Dress  Coco Chanel Augusta Auctions



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

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Gail Carriger Talks Bra Shopping ~ Panche, Curvy Kate, Ewa Michalak

I finished my latest manuscript and handed it in. Hooray!

So I spoiled myself by making a pilgrimage to Revelation Fit, a swanky new bra shop in Oakland. If you happen to be local and struggle to fit the a Rack like mine (smaller ribs, bigger bust) this is the shop for you. The shop is a one woman operation with only two changing rooms and is run classy boutique style. That is, she measures you properly, and then brings a selection to try on. She takes a look at you in the different makers and different styles and then brings you a new selection. As a result the process does take some time so I would suggest calling ahead and trying to go in when she isn't likely to be too busy.

She carries many of the usual suspects (Panche, Elomi etc) in a wide range of sizes and, most excitingly Ewa Michalak.

I've heard rumors of this Polish designer from various busty European bloggers for years, but no one carries them here in the USA (so far as I know). Until now. Ewa Michalak specializes in one specific modern cut (read: round shape) bra: demi coverage, very pretty lacy but miraculously seamless to the outside world. Best thing about the one I tried on? Lightly padded removable inserts, in case one boob is bigger than the other. These are smart well thought out bras.

From Their Website

I bought one in red with black dots, and yes it does look like I have massive ladybug boobs. And boy are they crazy up-lifted. In addition, I purchased a sport bra and a retro shaped bra by Panache. I also tried on, for the first time, Curvy Kate.

In the past I've been buying 30H. Not so much, as it turns out.

The Ewa Michalak I bought was a 70K (32K), but I think a 65K (30K) would fit me better. So when Revelation gets the next shipment in I am going back to try for a nude colored T-shirt bra, the ever illusive. 

The Panache Women's Underwired Sports Bra only went up to a 30H and that fit me, but quite tight. I love that is has this hook on the back to convert the straps. I don't mind the tighter fit because of the uplift and minimization. I'd buy it in nude for t-shirts, but they don't make it that color. Read this bra designers, no one should ever want or wear a white bra. It's always visible under everything, particularly in photos. No really, trust me. You think not? Take a flash picture of yourself.

The Panache Tango fit me best in a 28JJ. I really like it and the shape it gave. I will invest in this bra in the nude as well, when my current nude dies on me. But I might try the J for slightly more support. I don't have a picture for you because on the web it's only shown on small boobs, but this blogger kind of shows the amazing vintage uplift. It's not exactly comfortable, and the seams are visible, but what is does is amazing.

The Curvy Kate Princess in a 30JJ. The store only had it in white, and I just don't wear white foundation garments. (No one should.) I'll see what she gets in next time I visit for this designer and go from there. This wouldn't really serve as a work horse bra, too lacy and delicate, so I need to have a reason before I invest in this brand.

Anyway, there you have it, various bra makers, various bra sizes, just goes to show how important it is to go in and try stuff on.

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

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Then & Now ~ Silver Floofy


1880-1885 Charles Fredrick Worth The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


Bridal Gown

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

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Then & Now ~ Soft Blush & Silver Gown


Evening Dress  Laferrière, 1900  The Victoria & Albert Museum


via artschoolglasses tumblr Monique Lhuillier, Pre-Fall 2013
Retro Rack is also on facebook where I post additional images and fashion thoughts.