Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Gail Carriger Wears Coral in California at Convolution

So Fashionable Reader, for Convolution this last weekend I wore one of my new eShakti dresses with black accessories.

This is their Heather dress for $150 (although when I bought it was more like $90 plus coupons and discounts). I had it custom fitted, the skirt lengthened, and short sleeves instead of cap sleeves. Frankly I still didn't expect to like it as much as I do.

A warning, the strapless under dress is NOT fixed to the overlay. I had to put the dress on, adjust the strapless part to lie properly, have my assistant help me pin it, then borrow some matched thread from a friend (I don't keep coral around, apparently) and put in keeper stitches carefully by hand, using the pattern to hide the stitches. This was no problem for me, because of my resources, but if you are top heavy and can't do your own mending, do not buy this dress.

Anyway, it wears beautifully, no wrinkling, the custom sizing couldn't be more exact. It is a perfect light weight feel and the lace overlay hided bra lines and straps.

I paired it with black accessories. Were we in the Spring I might wear it with cream or white, but despite the fact that it's supposed to be 90 this week (argh!) it is fall and for a convention I wanted to play down the coral.


I broke out one of my larger hats (because it was a local con so, no packing!) and I wanted to play up the 1930s length. This is the wine colored teardrop hat I got in Calistoga for $15 and dyed black. I wore my typewriter key earrings and pen necklace for daytime and switched to the jet set for evening. I had on a belt but decided I preferred it without, a good choice as I kept the jacket buttoned most of the time anyway. That jacket is part of my favorite Dior sheath dress suit. I have on a coral bracelet but I took it off and wore black kid gloves instead.

The shoes are Earth wedges. I recommend them for higher arches and also they have a relatively low heal. (This is the Caraway which is no longer available but here is a very similar shoe c. $100.) I don't love the cut through styling as a rule, it's a bit, well, earthy for my taste, but these are my only black wedges for the moment, plus the pattern on the shoe went with the pattern of the dress, and they really are comfortable. I switched them out for my Irregular Choice sky high Chinese influenced wedges that night and instantly regretted it. I love IC shoes and I always get compliments when I wear them but they are torture. Stupid Irregular Choice. Grrrr.

I don't wear coral lipstick so I went for a red that had the same base tones, and a little more blush than usual. Since I have slightly sallow skin, coral looks good on me. So do most Easter colors. It's hard for a former goth girl to reconcile with coral, but in the end I am happy I purchased this dress. I can already tell that right up until the surgery it will become a wardrobe stable. I suspect it may come to New Zealand with me next year.

In the end: points to eShakti.

If you like the color but not the cut, they carry this fabric in the Florence with a full pleated skirt and long sleeves. If you like the cut but not the color? I think this laser cut turquoise and white may be similar.

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

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Gail Carriger Tells Wedding Stories ~ Brown, Blue, Cream Flowered 1950s

So many weddings recently. Here is a glimpse into one of the outfits I wore.

via Facebook

This wedding was in the late afternoon (hence the skirt length) in some botanical gardens (hence the flowers and the sensible shoes). It looks best with a corset underneath, but that's not sensible when there is likely to be lots of dancing and hugging so I'm just wearing normal foundation garments.

Here's a sneak peak at the other wedding outfit I wore. You'll see me in this dress on tour in November.

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

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Dresses in Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger

Dear Fashionable Reader, Curtsies & Conspiracies will be available in trade paperback on October 7, 2014. (After which Waistcoats & Weaponry releases in hardback.)

I take a lot of inspiration from actual dresses when I am writing about these characters. I thought you might like a peek at a few of my inspirational clothing pieces for this book.

On Dimity:

1850s Evening Dress Augusta Auctions

“Unless Sophronia missed her guess, the poor lad was already developing romantic feelings toward her friend. Many of the sooties probably were. Dimity was so pretty and chattery, she quite overpowered the average male. Many gentlemen were unable to cope with abundant chatter, which is why they so often married it.”
― Gail Carriger, Curtsies & Conspiracies 

On Lady Linette:

1850s Whitaker Auctions

On Monique:

1850 Dress From Fashionmuseum.com

On Sophronia:

1853 Blue Evening Dress The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Bolero  Cristobal Balenciaga, 1946  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Petticoat 1840-1855  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

1850 April Tea Le Follet v. 34, plate 76

“You’re a wonderful dancer, Ria.”
“Mademoiselle Geraldine’s takes such things seriously.”
“Ah. And how many ways do you know to kill me, while we dance?”
“Only two, but give me time.”
“You have lovely eyes. Has anyone ever told you that?”
“What rot. They are a muddy green. What are you about, Lord Mersey?”
Felix sighed, looking genuinely perturbed. His air of ennui was shaken. “I am trying to court you. Truth be told, Miss Temminnick, you make it ruddy difficult!”
“Language, Lord Mersey.” Sophronia felt her heart flutter strangely. Am I ready to be courted?
― Gail Carriger, Curtsies & Conspiracies 

Robe à Transformation  1865  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

If you've read Curtsies & Conspiracies do you remember these moments? If not, before Waistcoats & Weaponry you might want to do a reread because Sophronia's life is about to get a great deal more complicated.

Waistcoat  1840-1860  Nasjonalmuseet for Kunst, Arketektur, og Design

“What do you want?" Sophronia was moved to exasperation.
"Me? Stockings and breeches to come back in fashion. I do miss seeing a man's calves.”
― Gail Carriger, Curtsies & Conspiracies

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

Friday, September 19, 2014

Steampunk Inspiration ~ Transformation Outfits with Gail Carriger

I love transformation gowns. I feature one prominently in my Finishing School series, but in general I just really like the idea behind them, Fashionable Reader. I think some of the tools employed in creating them can still be used today, and they can certainly be used for steampunk outfits.

via ephemeral-elegance-tumblr Evening Dress with Detachable Sleeves, ca. 1850-52 via The Met

The added sleeve is a great idea, it could be made with elastic, like an under sleeve and then removed at any time, or could tuck under the short sleeve and hook on there for more security.

 1880-1882 Robe à Transformation  Charles Fredrick Worth, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

This one has a variation in princess bodices: the first for a ball, the second for a dinner, and the third with a cape for outdoors. For steampunk: corsets could be substituted for the princess. Or, one could construct a corset cover, or belt extension to a corset for a longer point. Also, the swagged over-skirt could be removed for a different look. I took this idea and ran with it for my cream and brown 1880s promenade dress which transforms into an all cream number for evening.

Here we have a more suit like approach to the transformation dress.

 via fashionsfromhistory-tumblr Wedding Dress (With Interchangeable Bodices) Herman Rossberg      1887 MET3

I believe the entire bodice is different but you could do it with two different jackets that fit over a single corset, and you could make a dicky extension for the collar segment for day as a more demure variation, then remove at night.

Riding Ensemble      c.1896      United States      MET

This riding outfit is a great example of the fashion inspired by the New Woman movement at the close of the 1800s. Informed a great deal by the availability of the bicycle, women began to wear trousers and were allowed a much greater freedom of movement (both in clothing and travel). This is tied to the burgeoning university system, allowing (some) women access to higher eduction. But what's applicable to steampunk is the fact that we could interpret the two undergarments separately, and thus have a transformation outfit where it is the bottoms that are traded out for different looks. I might even suggest taking it a step further and having this be an avenue for cross dressing, one could play one's own twin during the day, or something convoluted like that. (P.S. The spats! The spats!)

This last isn't an outfit and it isn't strictly transformation but several examples of different cane variations. However, I thought it would be fun to make a single cane that has everything: spy glass, sword, and watch. 

1900s Cane  early 20th century  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

1900s Sword Cane  Last quarter of the 19th century  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

1900s Walking Stick  early 19th century  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Then & Now ~ Wedding Dress


Wedding Dress  1855-1862  The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Andrew Gn 2013

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

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Gail Carriegr Orders New Dresses from eShakti

The new dresses have arrived!

I am delighted with...

3 of them.

Frankly, 3 out of 4 ain't bad.

I must say, this is a loosing proposition, money wise, with the returning and the sunk shipping costs and tariff and so forth, but in the end I struggle so much these days to find anything that fits the Rack that I'll take what I can get. With surgery in my future, however, this may be my last order for a while.

"Remember that in all American stores, the rule of "first come, first served," is rigidly observed. Therefore, testify no impatience if a servant-girl, making a sixpenny purchase, is served before you—which she certainly will be, if her entrance has preceded yours."

So what did I get?

Heather dress in coral

Custom Sized with short length sleeves rather than capped, and the skirt lengthened to mid-calf, and pockets removed. (I don't like pockets in pencil dresses.)

"But for travelling, have another pocket, concealed beneath your upper petticoat, and in that keep the main portion of your cash."

At first I was really unsure as there seemed something horribly off about the under layer over the Rack. Then I realized it had that strapless sticky stuff and wasn't attached to the overlay (nor meant to be). I shifted it around a bit and... I like it! I can wear a nude bra under without the straps really showing, and as I hoped bra seam lines don't show because of the overlay. It is nice and light and it will pack easily. I'm taking it in to the office to put a few keeper stitches in over the Rack, just for my own piece of mind. I'll probably wear it to Convolution in a few weeks.

Split neck tropical floral print dress

I ordered this one custom sized with added short sleeves and skirt to the knee. This one is darn near perfect. The zipper up the front actually works, although why I would need it? The fit is good. The fabric is thick enough to hide most bras, and I like the box pleated skirt. The one down side is that the fabric is super wrinkly ~ ironing in my future. I'm pleased I opted for the short sleeves because any longer it would be too much solid black on top. The colors will work really well with my accessory collection and the neckline isn't too low. This one is a real winner. I can't wait to wear it. But I need the right occasion. Tiki bar here I come! I may wear it on tour this November even though it's winter on the East Coast because it's that cute.

Laser cut illusion sheath dress

I got this one custom sized with cap-sleeves added, the skirt to below knee length and pockets removed.

The fit is a tad loose but still good enough. Luckily this dress has the under layer is sewn to the over-layer in the Rack area. Bra straps are not visible enough to worry me, and as I hoped bra seam lines don't show. I think I maybe should have gone for a knee length skirt, but despite that I really love it. It is super light weight (like a slip) and looks like it will pack like a dream. Unfortunately, the white underskirt is sewn in at the side seams or I would shorten just the underskirt for a slightly altered look. Still may do that at some point. Otherwise I am super pleased with this one too. It's not very retro, I was hoping for a early 60's mod thing. It might lean that way with the right accessories, but I'm OK with some modern stuff in my wardrobe. I know, shocking!

Side button wool blend dress in black/off-white

I got this one custom sized with short sleeves added.

Sadly this is the one I have to return. The fabric is not wool but it is really thick and very scratchy. The dress isn't lined and with the weight of the fabric I just know I'll be miserable. So this one I will be sending back, lesson learned: even wool-like isn't going to work for me. Glad I didn't get that plaid one as well. Frankly, this was the one I needed least so...

All in all I am pretty happy with this round, and like I say it's now time to stop.

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

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Gil Carriger on More eShakti & A Warning


First, I must tell you something important I only recently learned. There is also an import tax on clothing purchased via this website. After my various purchases before my trip, I was startled to find, upon my return, a Tariff for $40 on top of everything else. So please keep that in mind if you buy from them and are on a tight budget.

More Shopping

Anyway, I returned to find that the store has added new things for fall. There is a lot of forest green (which I love) but I had hoped for other autumnal colors. All in all there is much less selection than when I first visited the site which leads me to think that their biggest selection is probably for Spring and early Summer. Never the less here are a few I covet right now:

Chambray linear print sheath dress

You can add sleeves on to it. It's basically a  wiggle dress with a perfect cut for a curvy figure (front pleats may even work with a corset) and vertical, not horizontal, lines in a pattern that will disguise bra seams. So why didn't I buy it? I have a LOT of patterned blue dresses in my wardrobe already, it just doesn't work for my needs right now. Sigh.

Ruffle front wool blend plaid dress

I do love plaid. And this just looks like it would be so flattering, disguising all ones sins in all the right way. Unfortunately the description says the fabric is actually wool blend and even lined I'll probably turn into one big itch. They have the same dress in a pink and cream cotton check but I already have one very similar so I've given this style up. Still, so flattering.

You can get this one with sleeves too, and I do love emerald green. I have green eyes (I know, who knew under the glasses?) so I like to think green is one of my colors. Also I've been trying to add more swing skirted cocktail dresses to my collection, given that they can pair with flats or heels. Why didn't I buy it? I'm not confident that the neckline is flattering on my chest and even with the overlay I would worry about bra straps showing. Also that cut wouldn't work over my corset so...

"Except to ladies whose chief delight is in seeing things connected with dress, to go shopping with a stranger is usually very tiresome."
~ The Ladies' Guide to True Politeness and Perfect Manners or, Miss Leslie's Behaviour Book by Eliza Leslie (American 1864)

So what did I use my return credit a coupons to order?

Why did I choose these? I think every girl should have the courage to add Hawaiian print to her wardrobe, just once. (Although I'm not sure about dudes.) This seemed one of the nicest ways to introduce it. It has a black background, green, pink, and cream, all colors I can accessorize well. And now 'll be prepared to honor Jay, or visit the Locus awards, or go to Hawaii ~ as needed. As for the second: I bypassed this laser-cut turquoise color-block twice already but I kept thinking about it. It's a good match to my next book cover, it was on sale, so I just decided to give it a try. Yes it has many of the problems of the emerald cocktail number so I am nervous. But I couldn't stop thinking about it.

Both of these are replacement pieces. The black and white check is to replace my much beloved checked suit. I really love the style of it, although I probably don't need this dress at all. I hope it packs OK. Although the title says wool the fabric description does not, so fingers crossed that it isn't wool. If it makes me itch, I will have to return it. The pink is to replace a peach sheath. I think this one will be much more versatile. The color will work better on my complexion and the lace overlay makes it much easier to wear foundation garments than my previous peach number.

Yes I did customize them all, but you'll have to wait to see what I chose to do. I know, I know, the tension is killing you! Yes I worried about the bra straps showing on the laser and the pink, but I think the overlay is tick enough on both to hide straps. Because of the bodice color on both, I'll have to wear a nude bra with each anyway.

I am hoping they all pack OK. We will find out as soon as the box arrives, wrinkles do not lie.

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