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Vintage Style In A Modern World

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Gail Carriger in Plaid in Palo Alto

For my last Etiquette & Espionage event I wore a plaid dress over a blouse with Very Big Sleeves. 

Gail Carriger in Plaid in Palo Alto
Dress is from Buffalo Exchange on Haight Street for $25, it's not vintage and has a nice bit of stretch to it. It also has pockets at the front, or more correctly one big pouch style pocket. I sewed on the clock buttons to add a little extra interest. Gloves are vintage brown leather, gift. Shoes are by Soft, but they were a dark pink color I had died brown.

This particular outfit has some steampunk notes and since the event was listed as a "Steampunk Reception" I thought I should nod in that direction. Normally, I use this blouse (1970s I think) for my Victorian recreation outfits, but I happened upon the idea of putting it under this pencil dress when watching How to Marry a Millionaire (for the millionth time).

Gail Carriger in Plaid in Palo Alto

Sorry I don't have a bigger screen shot. How to Marry a Millionaire is one of my favorite fashion movies of all time and I would like to own every outfit that each of the ladies wears. So good. Anyway where was I? Oh yes, plaid with steampunk touches.

Gail Carriger in Plaid in Palo Alto
You can kind of see the hair band. It's a big brown satin bow I got at Ross for about $4. I sewed a brass octopus to the center and added a little puff of brown feathers out the back. I'm wearing a vintage costume jewelry gold 1920s earring and brooch set, gift from my mother.

Gail Carriger in Plaid in Palo Alto

Since it was a relatively cool day I paired the dress with a vintage fur wrap.

Gail Carriger in Plaid in Palo AltoGail Carriger in Plaid in Palo Alto

Sadly the poor wrap ripped during the course of the day so it's gone off to Goodwill. It's pretty near impossible to repair fur and certainly more effort than I have time for. Especially as I've owned this one for three years and only worn it 2x. I picked up this wrap from Bon Marche Thrift Store for $15, so I'm not too upset about the loss. I'll do a little blog to morn its passing shortly.

Gail Carriger in Plaid in Palo Alto
 1929 Ensemble  Louiseboulanger  The Museum at FIT

However, back to plaid. I've written on a number of occasions about my love affair with this fabric. I think it goes back to my goth roots. It's one of those patterns that bisects both the alternative scene and the tweed toffy country set. Tally ho the nightclub and all that.

It's funny but even though I have a whole lot of plaid already in my wardrobe it's something I gravitate to whenever I am out shopping. Plaid and and color red. I'm powerless to resist.

Gail Carriger in Plaid in Palo Alto

Hope you all have lovely plaid filled days!
Gail Carriger in Plaid in Palo Alto
Plaid Punch Sept 1853

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

How to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail Carriger

Someone asked me recently how I'd dress for a 1920s party. If there is one decade of vintage fashion I avoid like the plague it's the 1920s. (I'd take the 1980s over the 1920s, which, if you know me, is saying a LOT.) The 1920s just wasn't a good time for the Rack.

How to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail Carriger

I blame Chanel. Don't get me wrong I love her as all us fashion addicts do. For changing the course of dress history. For being the first perfect example for French simplicity.

How to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail Carriger

But Coco Chanel wouldn't know what to do with a pair of bosoms if they whistled up to her in the street and slapped her up side the head. Girl had game, but girl sure had no Rack to speak of. This made her highly unsympathetic to the boulder-schlepping cause. Never yet has the Chanel label really come around to the top side. Pioneering, as they did, the boxy suit jacket among other atrocities. (Thank goodness for Dior, that's all I have to say.)

How to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail CarrigerHow to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail Carriger
 No: Madame Varda in a Chanel dress, 1924 Condè Nast Archive; Yes: Dior's New Look 1947

But, Miss Gail, this does not help those of use with the quandary of having a flapper New Years Party and huge tracks of land. The fact is there is nothing about 1920s fashion that works on the Rack.

How to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail Carriger

So if I were invited to such a shindig? I'd wince and I'd winch and I'd go muttering on about why it couldn't at least be an Enchanted April picnic... But here's what I'd do: work around it. The 1920s isn't going to work with the Girls, so it has to be made to work around them.

How to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail Carriger
 Cold Comfort Farm Movie still, easy hair option.

Here are some thoughts.

1. Try to find a fit & flare dress 


How to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail CarrigerHow to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail Carriger
Afternoon Dress Wiener Werkstätte, 1922 The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Day dress, ca. 1924 Chanel Wool

Yes they did exist. Many for daytime, bonus day dresses often had sleeves a pretty handkerchief hemlines.

How to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail CarrigerHow to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail Carriger

That second option above would be easy to do with a long fitted sweater over a fluttery skirt.

How to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail CarrigerHow to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail Carriger
 Evening Joan Bennet; Evening White

And evening ensemble might be made by layering skirts and tops of opaque and see through material, base with dance wear, perhaps?

How to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail Carriger

Alternatively, hunt for a fit and flare dress that has a pattern flattering to the larger bust (like above) is an option.

How to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail Carriger
At Comic Con in a drop waist fit and flare style jumper from the 1970s.

If I had a 1920s day time event I'd wear this dress with a cloche, little heals, and lots of draped pearls for a 20's take.

2. Try to find a dress with lots of neck floof


How to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail CarrigerHow to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail Carriger
  Joan Crawford in Westpoint; and Evening Ensemble 1926, American, Made of silk

How to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail CarrigerHow to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail Carriger

Alternatively, you can add scarves and layers of beads yourself.

How to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail CarrigerHow to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail Carriger
 Still from Cold Comfort Farm; and You Rang M'lord

3. Drape loose jackets, stoles, etc


How to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail CarrigerHow to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail Carriger
Ascot, 1928, originally uploaded by Gatochy; Ensemble 1928, American, Made of silk and wool

How to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail CarrigerHow to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail Carriger
 Flapper, originally uploaded by Gatochy; Ensemble 1928, American, Made of silk

How to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail CarrigerHow to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail Carriger
 Clara Bow; Cold Comfort Farm movie still

4. If all else fails, move that hip sash to your natural waist


How to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail CarrigerHow to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail Carriger
 Flapper, originally uploaded by Gatochy; Evening Dress 1925, French

So long as you use a long skinny scarf as a sash and leave it dangling it will have the right look. The point for a party is not necessarily to dress as authentic as possible, but to dress in a way that harkens to the right time period while still being flattering and comfortable. I approach events more like stage shows than reenactment.

If I had an evening 1920s theme event, I'd wear this dress with a fringed shawl and sash at the waist and lots of necklaces. I'd borrow from belly dancing costuming.

How to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail Carriger
 Hard to see but that's a belted almost 20's style black dress with kick pleats.

Just don't use a proper belt, you'll mess with the feel.

Alternatively, a wide pair of silk pajama trousers or harem pants over a leotard with lots of necklaces, boa, fringed scarf, and the like does wonders.

How to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail Carriger
(Corrected via comments.)

Skinny sash about the head or a cloche and the right makeup and you'd be surprised how authentic this looks.

How to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail Carriger

One of the best things about this era? Low healed overly decorated shoes!

How to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail Carriger
 Same as above.

How to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail Carriger
 My best bet for shoes, I'd add bows and things.

Want to watch something to go with? I recommend the TV series You Rang M'Lord and Jeeves & Wooster, the movies Cold Comfort Farm, Enchanted April, and Gosford Park.

Something for Prudence in anticipation of this style?

How to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail Carriger
  Tiara  Child & Child, 1895  Tadema Gallery
Gail Carriger Talks French Fantasy FashionGail Carriger's French Outfits: Black & Blush 20's Dress VariationLooks Inspired By Books ~ The Parasol Protectorate Omnibus Vol. 2 by Gail Carriger France in Fashion ~ Parasol Meets Umbrulla by Gail Carriger Nova Albion Steampunk Convention ~ Fashionable Objects from Gail Carriger Gail Carriger Cream in Santa Clara ~ Nova Albion Steampunk Convention Outfit Day 2, 2013Steampunk Accessories ~ Timeline of Inspiration from Gail Carriger Gail Carriger in Plaid in Palo AltoHow to Dress 1920s with a Rack from Gail CarrigerThen & Now ~ Spiderweb

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