Saturday, October 31, 2015

Finishing School Cosplay! from Gail Carriger

I adore it when people cosplay my characters. Here are some awesome samples from the Finishing School series the final book of which comes out in a few short days.

@seawoodwrites My big girl as Sophronia Temminnick, with Bumbersnoot,
from @gailcarriger's Finishing School series -) #worldbookday

Bumbersoot in and out of his reticule disguise at STWF 2015.

Sophronia cosplay from New Zealand

Soap & Sophronia via FB

I love that last one so much I want to buy the rights to use it for a cover, except then I would have to write a short story for it... the pressures I suffer under. Heh heh.

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

You can also visit the following shopping lists: Travel Dork, My Steampunk, My Wardrobe.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Fancy Dress Costumes ~ The Victorian Halloween from Gail Carriger

"And yet here he was, if one could credit one's senses, about to take part in a fancy-dress ball, a form of entertainment notoriously a testing experience for the toughest. And he was attending that fancy-dress ball, mark you—not, like every other well-bred Englishman, as a Pierrot, but as Mephistopheles—this involving, as I need scarcely stress, not only scarlet tights but a pretty frightful false beard."
~ Right Ho, Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse

via gravesandghouls tumblr, Victorian costumes c. 1880s (Source: vintagegal)
Fancy Dress, 1874

Fancy dress costumes were very popular in the Victorian era, Fashionable Reader. There were follies, masquerades, fancy dress balls, not to mention a variety of other events that might call for a costume of some kind or another. I feature a fancy dress ball in the Finishing School books and I'm contemplating what might happen if Lord Akeldama decided to throw one. However the Victorian approach to fancy dress was quirky to say the least. Here are a few examples...

folly  costume via realhistoricalpatterns tumblr

Classic jester costume, also the domino were both, extremely popular in the Victorian era.

  antique-royals-TUMBLR 1860s 

via Bizarre Victorian fact of the day…

A traditional Halloween custom which was practised across Britain (particularly in rural areas) in the Victorian period was for groups of people (of all ages) to don strange costumes and go door-to-door in the hopes of receiving food or gifts, or of causing a bit of mischief. This custom had a huge number of regional variations. On the Shetland Islands the ‘skeklers’ wore tall pointy hats and voluminous costumes made of straw. In Montgomeryshire in Wales men dressed themselves as ‘gwrachod’ (an ancient Welsh hag-like monster) by putting on ragged clothes, sheepskins and masks. They went through their neighbourhood frightening children and being rude to adults. Young people in Glamorgan cross-dressed and went from house to house singing riddles, while ‘guisers’ in Scotland with masked, blackened, or painted faces chanted rhymes like:

    Tramp, tramp, the boys are marching
    We are the guisers at the door,
    If you dinna let us in, we will bash yer windows in,
    And you’ll never see the guisers any more.

Source: victorianfanguide

gardener costume via realhistoricalpatterns tumblr

Aristocratic Victorians loved to play the poor, particularly the romanticized country poor. In addition to gardeners, milk maids, peasant girls, shepherds and shepherdesses were quite popular.

page costume via realhistoricalpatterns tumblr

There was also and interesting take on cross dressing that occasionally appeared. There's a certain romantic notion and of the beautiful page boy, almost gender neutral and certainly gender bending that made this archetypal character open season for men or women. Maxfield Parrish capitalized on this with some of his work using a female model for many of his pages and princes etc...

rose costume via realhistoricalpatterns tumblr

Objects were also open season. And an idea I kind of love. Above we see a young lady dressed as a rose garden, or rose bouquet. Bellow is one dressed as a... waste basket. I may have to put that into one of my stories.

waste basket costume via realhistoricalpatterns tumblr
via eccentric victorian on tumblr
“Scrap Book” 1890 National Gallery Victoria
“The Dirigible” via OMG That Dress tumblr

Other cultures were also popular, as were historical figures. Always keeping in mind the Victorian silhouette. You'll not that while masks were popular grotesque make up was not. Victorians might theme a masquerade to a particular place or time period or even a famous author, Shakespeare characters, for example, might be a theme.

Fancy Dress Costume Charles Fredrick Worth, 1870 The Metropolitan Museum of Art

via weirdvintage-tumblr Bird girls of Szegeden, Hungary, 1880s (via Vintage Photo)

via Old Photos & Bacon☣ @photosandbacon

I have a lot of fun imagining how a costume party in my steampunk Victorian era might look. Can you imagine people coming dressed as trains, or dirigibles? Or werewolves or vampires for that matter. I may have to write a short story about this at some point.
White Witch Costume 1885 Kerry Taylor Auctions

“Folly” fancy dress costume 1890 The Los Angeles County Museum of Art

And something a little more to my personal taste...

Halloween Bombshell Veronica Lake

Halloween Bombshell, Myrna Loy
Myrna was best known for her role as Nora Charles
in the 1930's The Thin Man movies
Bollywood Steampunk

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

You can also visit the following shopping lists: Travel Dork, My Steampunk, My Wardrobe.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Some Thoughts on Fashion in the Finishing School Books from Gail Carriger

The Finishing School books go from 1851 ~ 1854, Fashionable Reader. The silhouette itself remained basically unchanged throughout this time period. It wasn't until the cage crinoline was introduced, after the final Finishing School book, that things moved quickly into new avenues. I thought you might like to see a sample of 1850s dresses before Manners & Mutiny releases into the aether.

1850  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The tucked front and elaborate ruching was a hallmark of earlier dresses from the 1840s. As the period wore on, the front became smoother and shawl collars more popular, like so...

1850-1853  Musée Galliera de la Mode de la Ville de Paris

The sloped shoulder remained popular throughout this time period. Broad shoulders on women were considered unsightly, possibly because they were a mark of physical fitness and manual labor.

Day Dress  1850s  The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

That said, pagoda sleeves remained relatively popular, as the inverted triangle shape of the bodice, width of the sleeve and width of the dress all were thought to give the illusion of a smaller waist.

1852-1854  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

One of the reasons I chose this time period is that this style of dress is ideal for hidden skirt pockets full of stuff, not to mention devices up sleeves. There are ways to adapt these ridiculous dresses to espionage that fall away as the Victorian Era progresses.

1850 Waistcoat  1850s  The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Very very Sophronia...
via steampunksteampunk tumblr

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

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Victorian Clothing Terms Used in the Finishing School Books & What They Mean from Gail Carriger

So Fashionable Reader, I use a number of terms for articles of clothing in my Finishing School books. Most of the time I'm aware that some of my readers aren't familiar with the particulars. I try to use unfamiliar Victorian words in context that allows the reader to at least understand what kind of clothing it is (outerwear, underwear, upper body covering, lower, etc). Nevertheless, here, for your edification, are some pictures of what these things actually look like prior to the release of the final Finishing School book, Manners & Mutiny.

Agatha's lace tuck:

Collar 1850s  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Agatha's lace tuck is always slipping. You can think of it as kind of like a removable collar (see above) only it is worn around the lower part of the neckline of a deeper cut dress. It's tucked in to hide some of the depth of cleavage. It's prone to slipping because it is not stitched on. Lace was expensive and you wanted to be able to reuse it. More common in the Regency Era prior to the Victorian Era, the lace tuck persisted in more conservative institutions through the 1850s until industrialized lace became inexpensive enough to stitch directly onto the necklines of dresses.

The pelerine or the fichu:

1850 Pelerine  1850  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

A cape-like item worn so that peaks drape down in the front. Originally for warmth and modesty, later mostly decorative. As the Victorian era progresses the pelerine came to mean longer point in the front while the fichu was smaller and more dainty.

Sophronia's boots:

1851 Ankle Boots  1851  The Victoria & Albert Museum

Sophronia's boots have rubber soles, very unusual and uncommon right up through the turn of the century. Most shoes had hard leather soles or softer ones for indoors (like dancing shoes still do today).

A basquine bodice:

1853 Basquine  1853  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

In the Victorian era this term came to mean highly decorated jackets worn over ballgown bodices or wedding gowns. They were often used for travel, for example, to and from an event.


1853 Bonnet  1853  The FIDM Museum

A bonnet is a hat worn close the the head and tilted back, often providing very little sun protection. Hair styles evolved to compensate, so the 1850s saw hair divided in the middle with lots of curls around the face and tight buns to the back for daytime.

Pagoda sleeves:

1850 Day Dress  1850  The Kyoto Costume Institute

These sleeves are narrow at the top and very wide at the bottom. In the 1850s they mirror the silhouette of the rest of the dress and were hugely popular. Geraldine's girls love them for hiding all their wrist tools. They were popular for day and walking dresses. They rarely appear on dinner gowns, however, because they would drag through the food!

Hair receiver:

Reminisce: What Are Hair Receivers?

Hair receivers were used to collect all the hair that came off of one's hairbrush each day. After sufficient hair was collected, one would take it in to a hair weaver who would make the hair into a fall or pad or clip curls to easily augment ones up-dos. I know, I know, weird yet strangely logical.

Here's a great article all about Hair Receivers. 

"For breakfast she had a pretty flowered dressing-gown. At ten she put on a simple buisness-like tailor-made costume for shopping in Peterport. On returning she changed into a workday dress and an overall for kitchen operations. The overall was removed for lunch, and then, for the afternoon, a really good dress was put on for paying calls. When we came back a little exhausted from this strain of looking well and being polite, a loose tea-gown was the thing, and this remained on until it was time to dress for dinner."
Seven different outfits of clothes for an ordinary day.
~ The Victorian House by Judith Flanders

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

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

1850s Victorian Fashion Mocked In the Press from Gail Carriger

The 1850s were not particularly pretty, Fashionable Reader. Let's be honest, that's part of the reason I chose it. The interesting thing about the time period is that the satirists of the day knew this, and mocked their own fashions.

1850 Dress Reform Punch18


1853 Correo de la Moda - Trajes de Invierno_Winter Clothes de_for 1853-
From left to right- 1. Cameroo 2. Matilde 3. Carlos IX 4. Dux 5. Friolera 6. Medecis 7. Montmorenci

1853 Fashion Commentary from Punch Aug

1853 Fashion Commentary from Punch Aug

1853 Punch Nov

1856 Empress Eugenie and her court, 1856 via thevictorianlady tumblr

Fashion Commentary from Punch Aug 1853...


Our beautiful fashions go on improving! Like Buckingham Palace, they are constantly being altered, and never altered for the better. What the human façade will be ultimately, there's no knowing. Everything has been tried in the shape of flowers, feathers, ornaments on the top, and, in some instances, paint, that could possibly disfigure it. Let these disfigurements only continue, and they may have the effect of converting the human head into a kind of MEDUSA'S, that will turn into stone all who look at it. One of the latest absurdities is the way in which ladies wear their bonnets—if it can be called wearing at all, when it is falling, like a Capuchin's hood, right down their backs. It thus forms a capital receptacle for collecting any refuse or rubbish that may be dropt, or thrown, into it. We know one lady who found her bonnet, when she got home, perfectly filled with dust. It was quite a dust-bin in a small way—and the luncheon, which was on the table at the time, had to be sent away, as everything was spoilt by the dusty shower that the lady had unconsciously shaken down upon it.
There was another lady—whose husband is not so rich as he should be, and who grumbles fearfully, poor fellow, at every new bonnet he has to pay for—who discovered her chapeau to be as full as it could hold of orange-peel. Some malicious little boys must have amused themselves in walking behind her and pitching into it every piece of orange-peel they found lying about. It was an amusing game of pitch- in-the-hole to them. The consequence has been that the lady, who is extremely particular, especially when she takes a new fancy like a new bonnet into her head, has been compelled to throw away her old bonnet, and to have a new one. The poor husband, who is really to be pitied (husbands generally are), has been obliged, in order to pay for the additional expense, to walk instead of riding, to give up smoking, and to cut off his luncheons—all of which expenses came out of his own pocket and not out of the housekeeping. The last time he was seen he was so thin that it was almost a microscopical effort to see him. But this absurd fashion, coupled with the other absurdity of long dresses, has the one good effect in keeping our streets clean, for the low bonnets carry off all the superfluous dust, and the long dresses carry away all the superfluous mud.

It would be difficult to say which fashion, in point of cleanliness, ranks the lowest. A classical friend of ours humorously declares that he thinks the bonnets will soon be the lower of the two, and that the ladies, for convenience' sake, will shortly be wearing them, tied on to the end of their dresses. It will be relieving them, he funnily says, of a great draw-back, and will have the further advantage of keeping their dear heads cool. This classical friend also says that the ladies, as viewed at present with their bonnets hanging behind them, look like female anthropophagi, or "monsters whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders." However, we have only one hope that the fashion, which seems to be dropping lower and lower every day, will gradually drop off altogether, and then the marital cry will be "Il n'y a plus de Bonnets!" and Cranbourne Street will be ruined. But after all, the eccentricities in the way of dress do not lie exclusively on the side of the ladies.

We must not throw every absurdity on their backs. The gentlemen come in, also, for a large share of the ridiculous. Look at an elegant young gent of the present day! His hat you must confess is faultless. It combines every quality within its lovely chimney-pot form. It has not only beauty of shape, but utility of purpose. The brim is admirable. A lady-bird can about settle on it, and that is all. There is just sufficient width to enable you to lift the hat with, and what more do you want? As for keeping the sun off, it is not needed for that purpose, for when is the sun ever seen in England? and as for keeping the rain off, as it is a well-known fact that no Englishman ever ventures out of doors without his umbrella, it cannot be needed for that purpose any more than for the sun. Then look at the shirt-collar! It is a high linen wall, behind which the face is securely protected from the sharp, cutting winds that are continually flying about our climate, like so many aërial guillotines. One's head would infallibly be chopped off, cleaner than any head of asparagus, if it were not for some such protection; and besides, we should not find fault with our young men if they do try to hide as much as they can of their beautiful features. You may be sure they only do it out of charity to the ladies! The small ribbon that fences in this high wall of collar is, likewise, most beautiful. It is almost an invisible fence that is planted evidently more for ornament than use. The wall would look cold and naked—a kind of workhouse wall—without it. We may say that every part of the dress bespeaks a degree of taste that would win the admiration even of a savage. In fact, get a savage—a greater savage, if you can, than one who beats his wife; then select a Young Lady and a Young Gent in the present year's costumes; let the former be as fashionable as you like—let the latter be as green as you can find him: then put them before your savage—turn them gently round for five minutes, and then ask him his candid opinion. We will wager our next week's receipts—no small wager, by the way—that he will be puzzled to say—

Vintage Freakshow  FB Flying hoop skirts 1926

The final Finishing School book, Manners & Mutiny featuring much silly fashion largess releases soon!

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

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Cosplay from Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate Series

I adore it when people cosplay my characters here are some fun and inventive takes on side characters in the Parasol Protectorate series with bonus... tattoos!

Countess Nadasdy SPWF 2015

Here's Ivy Hisselpenny recruiting Victoria from the Otto & Victoria art series into The Parasol Protectorate. (What would her code name be?)



Madame Lefoux cosplay went so far as to create business cards!

And a different take on everyone's favorite inventor. . .

gamermattjeevas:  L'inventrice au Jeu
   "The first full mock-up of my Madame Lefoux cosplay! I’m hoping to get a better cravat, but I think this one doesn’t look half bad; the rose on the hat contains a skull that I want to replace with an octopus as well. On the plus side, I found Monsieur Peugeot, so he can hang out with me!"
via fuckyeahgailcarriger on tumblr



Here are my sketches of Alexia's two parasols:

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

You can also visit the following shopping lists: Travel Dork, My Steampunk, My Wardrobe.