Thursday, December 17, 2015

Gail Carriger in Vintage 1950s Black Coat Dress with Red Trim (Manners & Mutiny Tour)

The first thing I wore on my tour is the last to be discussed, sometimes life works out that way, Fashionable Reader.

Coat dresses are hard on a top-heavy girl, let's just put it out there right away. This is because, most of the time, they have a button top with a full skirt. And a button top is going to be tough over a Rack, no matter what you do.

Yet, I love me a coat dress.

Why? OK, first of all, they almost always come with sleeves. I prefer dresses with sleeves. Second, the day dress cut (fitted top, full skirt) looks good with both flats and heals. Third, because they unbutton and unzip, as a rule, coat dresses can be climbed into rather than pulled on over the head (no worries about makeup). Fourth, they often have pockets! Finally, there is an intrinsically vintage aspect to a coat dress.

Tailored Junior fashions, 1952 via theniftyfifties tumblr

Called a coat dress for obvious reasons: they look a lot like coats of the day.

 1950s Coat & 1950s Cocktail Dress  Jacques Faith  Whitaker Auctions

Ecarlate Christian Dior, 1955 The Victoria & Albert Museum

I've always felt that the concept may actually have spawned from the carriage dress. Which was a durable travel gown originally designed to button up the front so it could be worn over a completely different outfit and would protect everything underneath from the dust of the road.

CARRIAGE DRESS Violet cloth pelisse of a peculiarly fine texture; tight corsage, and sleeves made moderatrly wide. The corsage and the front of the skirt is ornamented with fancy silk trimming to correspond; sable myff; hat of écru rep velvet, trimmed with an ostrich feather and ribbons to correspond.


For my event at Books Inc I wore my black coat dress, which is a vintage 1950s thick matte satin (so it doesn't travel well) with red trim at the cuffs and pockets (similar for $30, but I would suggest waiting for something similar to come up on eShakti and ordering custom from them instead, that way you can get pockets and a good chest fit: right now they have the Isabel dress for $59.95 plus whatever coupon deal they're running, that you can get with a different length skirt and add sleeves so it would be very like mine). I wore my coat dress over double petticoats for a nice full look. I got this dress back in early 2000's from a vintage store in Santa Cruz. I want to say it's called Moon Zoom? Blue Moon? Something like that.

I paired it with red accessories.

I wore it with my red draped hat (vintage felt), wide red belt (similar $30, multiple colors), red peep toe Via Spiga stiletto sandals (similar $25, multiple colors), gold deco earrings (gift from a friend, similar $20), and a Gothic meets deco gold and ruby necklace (gift from family, similar $20), and vintage red leather gloves (gift from a friend, similar $16).

Here I am wearing the same dress with a different petticoat and accessories at one of my very first readings, for Soulless, back in 2009.

The coat dress was particularly popular in the early to mid 1950s.

Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly theniftyfifties tumblr

1951 Dior Haute Couture, Fall 1951 original

Ivy Nicholson wearing a dress by Jacques Fath, 1951.
Photo by Philippe Pottier. via theniftyfifties tumbr

1Suzy Parker on the cover of Glamour, June 1952 via suzyparker twitter

Zelie  Christian Dior, 1954  National Galley Victoria
1957 Day Dress Button Front Spinner Hat
Glamour, 1959 Photo by Sante Forlano

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.


  1. I have wondered what a coat dress was ever since I read that Princess Diana was buried in one.

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