Thursday, July 31, 2014

9 Things The Fashion World Loves That Gail Carriger Doesn't Get

I've posted before about styles I don't like in the fashion world: boxy tops, for example. But most of the time, with most things, I can understand why someone else would wear them. I have enough imagination to realize the aesthetics appeal to a style preference or body type not my own. Long and lean with a boxy top and geometric draped skirt = super chic. And super impossible for me to wear! But I get it. Even something like a baby-doll dress I can see some skinny young thing rocking in a Gothic Lolita way. Or the lead singer of a grunge band doing it all plaid.

But there are things that, no matter how far my imagination stretches, Fashionable Reader, I just don't understand. Here they are...

1. Chanel Number 5
It stinks. And by that I don't only mean the cost and the bottle and the advertising, I mean the smell. It's awful, this chemical pseudo-flowery scent. Inevitably, I'm trapped on a plane next to some elderly female who has doused herself in the stuff. Only two perfumes smalls worse: Pleasures & Sunflowers. I will actually gag when I smell either of those.

2. Baby Powder
It's commonly substituted for other more expensive powder products. Plain old talc powder or baking soda usually works just as well and doesn't make you reek like a baby. It's the association: once I smell baby power I think diapers. And who wants that?

3. Square Manicures
Why? Especially French Tip square. The fingers look so sad and stubby and blunted. And fake. And early 90s.

4. EOS Lip Balm
I get that the containers are super cute, and the flavors are somewhat unique, but in the end it's just an overpriced fruity lip balm. In my case, I tried it and had an allergic reaction, so I'm doubly wary. But it seems to be everywhere right now.

5. Aviator Sun Glasses
Why would you want your eyes to look down-tilted and bug-like? Plus the metal frames are less comfortable and get caught in your hair when you shove them up on your head.

6. Super Skinny Models
I'm not going to get into the politics of it, frankly, it simply looks weird, skeletal, and sad to me. Runway models, in particular, I'm often wincing at the angles and the hip bones and the emaciation. It's not pretty.

vi nightmarepunk tumblr

7. Lavender Anything
I've blogged before about my dislike of lavender (not the color the scent and - such as it is - flavor). The smell reminds my of house-bound ancient ladies. If I ever wrote a horror novel the setting would smell of rot and lavender.

8. Bathing Suit Prints
Everything else may be geometric and stylish, pastels, deco influenced, black & white chic and then... bathing suit season rolls around and all bets are off. The most ugly, unpleasant, garish, and loud prints are everywhere and for some reason totally acceptable. Why? Why must this be? Yes I know there's usually a black option, or a nautical stripe, or some dots, if you're lucky. But those are few and far between. Why buy and wear colors and prints in a bathing suit that you wouldn't be caught dead in any other item of clothing?

9. Wedding Dresses
I understand the pressure, or at least, I can imagine it. But why are so many so ill suited to the female figure, not to mention style and comfort? Let's start with strapless. I've yet to see a bride in a strapless gown who wasn't always tugging up the bodice ~ twitchy and self conscious. And let's talk color. There are many forms of white: pure, winter, ivory, cream, ecru, off-white, blush. Few complexions look good in true white. It's like red lipstick, the shade really does have a huge impact. Sigh. I won't event start on the fit. I'm coming over all Conrad on you, "The horror, the horror!"

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

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Fashion Retrospective ~ Those Uppity Women on Bikes from Gail Carriger

I have a bit of a passion for vintage bicycle riding gear.* And this before I learned that there is some significant connection between the advent of bike riding and women's liberation.

At first women's bike riding attire is not so different from other exercise attire of the late 1870s early 1880s. Which is to say, to the modern eye, not very exercise orientated at all.

via FB

But if you look closely you can begin to see the concept of freedom of movement, and the importance of exercise (shunned in the early Victorian era as countrified and sporty) slowly embraced.

"Let the skirts be as short as possible – to clear the ankles. Nothing else is permissible for mountain work, where one must face bogs, deep heather, thorny gorse, and must not stumble into the hem of one's garments on the face of a rocky precipice. I must, however, draw the line at the modern feminine costume for mountaineering and deerstalking, where the skirt is a mere polite apology – an inch or two below the knee, and the result hardly consistent with a high ideal of womanhood."
~ Lillias Campbell Davidson, 1889

And the style of bicycle attire combines this notion with that of equestrian and riding wear.

Then, finally, with the advent of access to higher education, rise of the middle class, the suffragette movement and the right to vote, better understanding and use of heath care particularly with regards to procreation, everything changes and, most germane to this blog... women wear trousers.

"1900 Doll" from the Gratitude Train  Calixte  1949  MET

George R. Sims on Cycling in London in the 1890's.

1894 cycling_suit-1894-harpers-bazaar

Staring in the 1890s it becomes mostly acceptable for women to wear voluminous (but still actual) trousers to bike ride. By 1895 we see large scale advertisements, and some lampooning in the popular press, but generally it's clear that only the most elderly sticklers objected to the style.

1895 Cycling Ensemble  1895-1900 British Manchester City Galleries

And this wasn't just in England, either. America, and indeed much of Europe, embraced the look.

1895 Mlle Babion et son professeur, Luchon, laiterie, 5 septembre 1895 par Eugène Trutat .      Via Rosalis tumblr

A great deal of the inspiration for the attire has it's source in men's hunting wear. Bike wear for ladies involved heavy material: lots of country Harris tweeds, the early onset of houndstooth, all very much Too the Manor Borne.

1895 Bifurcated-riding-ensemble-1895

If you want to read a fun comic novel set in the 1900's featuring a New Woman and her fiscal and literal liberation via the bicycle, you can do no better than Miss Cayley's Adventures by Grant Allen. It's free to download in ebook form.


And what happened after the turn of the century?

via sydneyflapper-tumblr

1930s Riding Habit

1940s Claire McCardell bicycle outfit



Dior Bicycle
* I also love equestrian attire, but that seems to be a crazy troll mongering subject so I've stopped posting about it.

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

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Then & Now ~ Black Details


Dinner Dress  Emile Pingat, 1877  The Metropolitan Museum of Art


2013 Zuhair-Murad
Retro Rack is also on facebook where I post additional images and fashion thoughts.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dressing Alexia ~ From the Foundation Up for the Parasol Protectorate Series by Gail Carriger

The final two Parasol Protectorate books, Heartless & Timeless, were released in trade paperback size at the beginning of this month. I thought you might like a glimpse, Fashionable Reader, into some of the things that Alexia might wear underneath one of those amazing dresses of hers.

 1872 Ball Gown  Charles Fredrick Worth, 1872  The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Bustle 1873, Austrian, Made of cotton and horsehair


Here we go!

Godeys Aug 1872 Drawers 
Stockings  1873  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

1875 Garter  1875-1825  The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Evening Shoes  1875-1885  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

1872 Corset  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Corset Cover  1870  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

1872-1874  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Petticoat  1873  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

And over the whole thing?

1870-1875 Bonnet   The Victoria & Albert Museum

1872 Ball Gown  Charles Fredrick Worth,  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Cape  1870  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Parasol 1880s  The Metropolitan Museum of Art
 Wedding Fan  1877  The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

And what were the men wearing?

 1873-1875  The Victoria & Albert Museum; 1875-1880  The Los Angeles County Museum of Art

1875 Pocket Watch  Sotheby’s

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

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Gail Carriger in eShakti Second Time Same As The First?

So, buoyed by my first eShakti shopping experience, I hopped on for a second, more ambitious, order. 

Here's what I got compared with the online image. (Mine are wrinkled right out of the box, sorry.) It's kind fun to see a garment on a real person as compared to the model.

Its raining umbrellas print dress ~ Discontinued

Why did I buy it? I ordered this dress purely on the basis of the fabric, it has little umbrellas all over it. How cute is that? Almost a parasol. I got it with a sweetheart neckline which might have been the wrong choice. It's lined, which is nice. I do like the skirt part a great deal.

Flaws? Yes. The fit on the top is quite awful, or am I overreacting? It's also weirdly warm.

Keep it? I can't decide. What do you think? I could turn the bottom into a cute skirt. The AB likes it and pronounces it cute, he suggests shortening the sleeves and I must say that is an improvement.

Lesson learned? I'll have to remember that any of eShakti's patterns that rely on waist pleats for bust room will not work with a Rack. Anything that doesn't have seams is going to be right out. (I shall amend the 10 rules to include this one.) I also am going to be more reluctant to tinker with the necklines in future. This may have worked a great deal better with the original neckline ~ then again it would have been even warmer!

Colorblock A-line cotton knit dress Jade green black ~ Discontinued

Why did I buy it? The color kinda goes with my November book release cover art. I love green and I'm intrigued by the idea of color blocking. I really love the fabric on this one. It's not lined but the cotton knit is a nice thick stretchy fabric, that slips on easy and fits well.

Flaws? Yes. Look at the way that skirt makes me look. All wide and stumpy. Bad color blocking! Bad! Also I find the style is not to my aesthetic at all.

Keep it? No. I'm sending this one back. I really do not like the way the bottom part makes my frame look. I'm not impressed with the shade of green, and I usually love green. I like the neckline, but that's about it.

Lesson learned? I've added a neckline to the list of ones I like. I should stick with the vintage looks and cuts that I know work on me. Stupid Gail, you are not a modern colorblock woman.

Contrast trim cotton poplin dress

 Why did I buy it? For my second book release beginning of next year. I liked the cheeky feel of it. I modified the neckline to a high back scoop.

Flaws? A few. For some reason this dress isn't lined. However you can't really see the bra seams and the skirt is dark enough I don't think it will have the see-through-when-backlit issue. It does make for a nice cool light weight garment. I wish it were black, not navy, and that the light part were on the bottom and the darker color on top (but I knew the colors when I bought it). I wish the fabric didn't wrinkle quite so much. Going to make traveling with it a pain.

Keep it? Hell yes. I love it. I love the way it makes my waist look so small. I love the stripes at the bottom. I adore the neckline, another one for the list of things that work with the Rack. I was afraid it would open too wide and show the bra straps on the sides but it doesn't. Yes!

Lesson learned? I've added another neckline to the list of ones I like. Supported the fact that those patterns best customized for the Rack have princess seams, at the very least.

Polka dot print blouse

 Why did I buy it? To go with the dress I bought first time around, so I could turn that dress into a multi use garment.

Flaws? Holy smokes yes. Look at that awful thing. Again, no good bust seams. The blouse is not even boxy, it's trapeze! The only shape it gets is from its belt. That kind of cut is AWFUL on a Rack. It blouses badly, it makes the girls look even bigger, and I'd have to spend all day tugging it down. Ewe.

Keep it? Absolutely not. It was a good idea, it just doesn't work.

Lesson learned? Seems, look for those darn seems.

Ruffle hem floral skirt ~ Discontinued

Why did I buy it? I've been looking for a true red trumpet skirt for ages. I ordered this one customized it to midi length, so it wouldn't look quite so hoochie. Later I panicked thinking I wouldn't be able to walk in it, but it's fine. It's fully lined and has a fish tail.

Flaws? A few. The waistband isn't a perfect fit. And I don't love high wasted skirts with my figure, but otherwise, just look at that skirt. It's divine!

Keep it? Oh my goodness yes. It fits a wardrobe niche, and the cut! I adore the cut. This one is a winner. I regret not getting the embroidery removed (it's an option with some dresses), but I didn't even think about it at the time.

Lesson learned? Stick with what works. Remember to think about removing the embroidery details for the sake of versatility.

Sweetheart surplice cotton knit top

Why did I buy it? I've been making do with this thin H&M knit top as my one true red option for a while. I like it, but it is very thin and I can only wear it with my least comfortable bra. Because of the style with the pleated fabric over the chest, I thought this would allow me more undergarment versatility.

Flaws? Few. The neckline is a little low so you can kind of see the bra in places. However, there are shoulder keepers that may help with that, and an easy way to pin it to the bra with out the pin being visible (hide it in the folds). The fabric is a little thick and warm but otherwise it's great.

Keep it? Yes. It pretty much does exactly what I wanted and I don't think I could find a better fitting garment for this particular wardrobe hole. This one may come to England with me.

Lesson learned? Knit is my friend, and so is pleating on the boobs, it adds volume, but also bra options. And these days the second is more important than the first.

So there you have it. Now I get to experience eShakti's returns process for you all.

But first I need to know...

Should I keep that blue umbrella dress and turn the bottom into a skirt or just modify the sleeves?

Both are relatively easy for me to do. Or should I return it as I am returning the green and and the dot top anyway?

Your thought are needed. I am torn with indecision. 

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