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Vintage Style In A Modern World

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All About Felt Hats by Gail Carriger

I love hats. I know there aren't many of us hat lovers left in this world, Fashionable Reader, and this makes me sad. Often I yearn for the days of matched hats, purse, and gloves, when a lady didn't go out in public without looking her best. Of course, this also meant hours in the salon and an, essentially, useless life. But the hats!

What commenters have asked me in the past is to write more about when and where a hat is appropriate, and how to pair them with outfits. This is hard information to impart, but I shall do my best.

I'm starting with my felt hat collection because it is winter and it is easier to get away with a felt hat in winter. Felt hats, in general, are better for evening wear and late afternoon to evening weddings. Color and decoration also plays a role, and the different hat styles give an aura of different retro time periods. Selecting a hat shape is a little like choosing glasses or getting a haircut.

All About Felt Hats by Gail Carriger All About Felt Hats by Gail Carriger All About Felt Hats by Gail Carriger

The Cloche

Definitely a cold weather item. You have to be cautious with the cloche, many face shapes have a hard time carrying off this much head coverage. Trust your instincts. I tend to think heart and oval shaped faces can carry this hat off best. If your face is too round, you can end up with a lamentably bowling ball look. But not always, this will also ride on your facial features. Also whether the cloche has a brim or not. Color is also key as there is little hair between the hat and your complexion, so choose with care. I rarely wear my black cloche without a lot of makeup.

An undecorated cloche, like the ones above is more casual and day wear, I wouldn't wear one to a wedding unless heavily decorated. The best thing about a cloche? It's your solution to a bad hair day.It will give you a 1920s ~ 1930s look.

Pair this hat with menswear-inspired looks or classic 1930s style knitwear.

All About Felt Hats by Gail Carriger


The Pork Pie

This hat has certain advantages. It can be found big or small, and it can be seated towards the front or the back of the head, tilted at a jaunty angle or worn straight on. It works for either day or evening (although if black I'd pair it with a bright color for day) and is formal enough for a wedding. It will, as a rule, elongate the face, so keep that in mind. If you have a long oval face this hat is probubly not for you. However, it does have a very retro feel, and it has yet to be embraced for any kind of modern aesthetic. So wear it and you will have the aura of the 1950s - 1960s about you. Also your hair should be done, it doesn't look good with long loose hair (with the exception of the utterly mod pixie cut). You'll probubly need a hatpin.

Pair this hat with girly 1950s full skirt dresses or prim pencil skirts and pencil dresses for the Mad Men secretary look. 

All About Felt Hats by Gail Carriger

The Beret

Berets, even with Prince in on the action, will always give one a bit of the French chic, if you ask me. I vastly prefer a felt beret to a cloth one. I like the more sculpted look and because my hair is short, felt hats stay in place better. I almost always wear mine tilted. And I am just as likely to wear it with a modern outfit as a vintage one.

I think these hats are timeless. The are cold weather hats, though, and they don't actually provide much warmth. They are a little casual for a wedding or evenign event but paired with the right formal attire one might get away with it.

Pair with a-line skirts (not too short or you head into school-girl territory!) and striped tops for ultra French chic, or with wide sailor pants and metal buttons for a slight military table. Also looks nice with print and knit dresses.

All About Felt Hats by Gail Carriger All About Felt Hats by Gail Carriger

The Drape

The best thing about this hat is that is sticks close to your head, like a hairband, and thus I believe most any face shape can carry it off. It comes in a range of sizes, I prefer one that hugs the crow so it won't fall off.

All About Felt Hats by Gail Carriger All About Felt Hats by Gail Carriger

I tend to think of this hat as ranging over time, but most of the images I found were from the 1950s. I wear my red one a lot as it also packs easily, and I love red accessories. I adore this hat so much I don't confine it to any season or time or occasion. I don't wear it when it's really hot, it is, after all it is felt. But that doesn't stop me from wishing I could!

Pair this with anything girly, not the best hat for menswear or pants.

All About Felt Hats by Gail Carriger All About Felt Hats by Gail Carriger

The Drape (with Corners)

This is one of my favorite hat shapes. It has a crown section that fist tight to the head and then a curled and corner front brim that is almost beret-like in feel. Like the beret, I think it looks best worn at a jaunty angle and not right on top or at the back of the head. Again I feel this style has a certain French chic, but they are quite 1940s-1950s in feel.


Good for day or night, and the occasional special occasion. I've never seen one worn with long loose hair, but I imagine it would be nice. The triangle corns are not for everyone, again you have to watch the fact shape with this hat. I can't advise since I've only seen it on my own head or in pictures.

Treat it a little like a beret to be on the safe side, when pairing it with looks. Although I also use it where I might use a pork pie.

All About Felt Hats by Gail Carriger
1960s Hubert de Givenchy hat via The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Lady's Fedora

A friend of mine once said that there is nothing sexier than a woman in a man's hat. I've never felt I could carry off the fedora, so I don't own any, but I do tent to agree with him.

All About Felt Hats by Gail Carriger
Late at night, Hugo Loosers Party, Melbourne in Mur's hat, 2010.

My guess it that this suits a round or a square face best, and larger features. But I know many a small pert little thing who can rock the fedora, so in the end, it's just a difficult hat. Be careful, it can be hoochie rather than retro if not paired properly.

All About Felt Hats by Gail Carriger All About Felt Hats by Gail Carriger

This hat has come in and out of fashion for women almost as often as it has men, 1940s and 1960s in particular, and there there was at 1990s debacle we won't talk about.

Wear it with coverage menswear (not too much skin or too tight!) or with structured shirt dresses for the best retro look. Think film noir. 

All About Felt Hats by Gail Carriger
1961-1963 Hubert de Givenchy hat via The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art


The Sun Hat

Or the felt floppy hat, became suddenly popular recently. I blame Rachel Zoe. Women who like to hide behind their hair love this hat. (Was that catty? Oh well.) It's got a very 1970's flavor. I do love the idea that you can get protection from the sun in winter with this hat, and that's when it's appropriate ~ sunny winter days.

Pair it with maxi dresses and skirts, long and flowing, boho chic. Not my thing and likely to be out of style soon. I've tried it on more than one occasion. But when I wear modern clothing, I still prefer structure, and this hat has never worked with my look. Odd, as I have plenty of floppy straw sun hats. The same rule for straw sun hats apply to this one, if you don't have the head shape and features to carry off big with aplomb, no amount of hair or massive glasses are going to make up for it. Nash.

Want something like this to wear to an outside winter wedding? Go for the stiffer and more highly decorated version, like so . . .

All About Felt Hats by Gail Carriger
1920 Half-Mourning Hat (worn with a veil) The Meadow Brook Hall Historic Costume Collection

All About Felt Hats by Gail Carriger
1930's Follie

The Follie, Fancy, or Small Perch

Don't be mistaken, this hat is silly. Which is possibly why I love it. I'm looking for the perfect emerald green felt one to add to my collection. I have a few modern straw follies, but no felt vintage as yet. You can find them in places like Ross, cheap, attached to headbands. You can make them yourself quite easily out of shoulder pads. I like them best perched far forward on the head. This hat will work for a wedding, tea, prom, any special occasion.

Pair it with a cute flirty dress or a full skirt and knit top.

All About Felt Hats by Gail Carriger

Just a reminder, extra images and my thoughts on current street fashion and runways show up between blog posts on Retro Rack's Facebook Page.

Gail Carriger Loves Winter . . . More Tweed!

I love tweed. I love tweed, Fashionable Reader. Rah rah rah, tweed is good!

Gail Carriger Loves Winter . . . More Tweed!
“Tweed Toga”  Bonnie Cashin, 1942 (Look at the spats!!!)

I've no idea why I love it so. It's scratchy and hot and sometimes smells. It's hell to take care of. It's kind of grandmotherly. But . . .

Gail Carriger Loves Winter . . . More Tweed!
1950 Whitaker Auctions

It's got that equestrian country-house hunting-party vibe. It's aristocratic feeling. Celebrities love tweed. No they really do. The Queen wears tweed. The Queen probably sleeps in tweed.

Gail Carriger Loves Winter . . . More Tweed!

In my world it is all about the tweed pencil skirt. I tend to feel it;'s such a slim fabric I ought to opt for a slender silhouette.

Gail Carriger Loves Winter . . . More Tweed!

If you don't like the pencil, a tweed jacket is great way to integrate the fabric into your wardrobe without too much bulk. A slim single breasted blazer, perhaps? Wanna rock some uber vintage, tweed jodhpurs are a go! Or a cute tweed vest. But honestly you don't have to go all out like the retro fashionistas.

Gail Carriger Loves Winter . . . More Tweed!Gail Carriger Loves Winter . . . More Tweed!Gail Carriger Loves Winter . . . More Tweed!
Vera Maxwell, 1948 The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Bonnie Cashin, 1963  The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Elsa Schiaparelli, 1947-1949  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

You can accessorize with tweed too, gloves, hats, bags, a touch of tweed, I always feel, is a touch of class.

Tweed tweed tweed! Tweed for me, tweed for you, tweed in green, tweed in blue.

Gail Carriger Loves Winter . . . More Tweed!Gail Carriger Loves Winter . . . More Tweed!
Bonnie Cashin, 1952  The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Marc Jacobs Spring 2012

All we are saying, is give tweed a chance.

OK, now I'm getting punch drunk. I might have got at the mulled wine a little early this year.

One for Prudence to wear?

Gail Carriger Loves Winter . . . More Tweed!
1902 The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Wait for it. PPA is coming, I promise.

And now, good night, sweet tweeds.

Gail Carriegr Wears Teal in Menlo Park

I like teal. But I had to recover from the 80s in order to do so. It took a teal silk 1850s dress at Dickens Fair for me to learn to like it again. (While I still have the dress, I don't have any photos of it and it's in storage at the moment, sorry.) And then, oh then, Orbit produced the cover of my second book . . .

Gail Carriegr Wears Teal in Menlo Park

I knew they would be sending me out to sign and I figured I had better dress to match the book. (Because that is the way my mind works.) Fortunately for me, I found this lovely Diesel jersey dress at a Crossroads Trading in San Francisco for about $20.

Here I am in Houston at Murder By the Book with two lovely fans in the dress last year.

It fits me like a glove and I can't gain a pound but I love the bow and the cut. This was the dress I chose to wear for the Keplers signing, last Thursday. I paired it with white for Houston and with black for Menlo Park.

Gail Carriegr Wears Teal in Menlo Park
Thanks to Soulswallo for the picture.

You can see the kick pleats over the thighs in this picture. Did I mention I love this dress? Well I do. Teal is a great transition color, it works for retro or modern.

Gail Carriegr Wears Teal in Menlo Park
1960 Teal & Black

And here are some ideas on how to take it to the street.

Gail Carriegr Wears Teal in Menlo ParkGail Carriegr Wears Teal in Menlo Park
Bloggers: Left = Target Shoes, Vintage Dress, Target Hat, Old Navy Jacket and Right = Everything Normal in 2009

Here's a similar style teal dress in plus sizes.

Gail Carriegr Wears Teal in Menlo ParkGail Carriegr Wears Teal in Menlo Park

But what about the cover of Changeless? You may perhaps ask. Well, since the cover model happens to be a friend of mine. And she happens to own Clockwork Couture. And the dress happens to be for sale there in rust. I pulled some strings and asked particularly if she might make it for me in teal as the basis for a steampunk outfit. Of course, I've augmented it with a velvet under drape and bustle and a hat. I plan to add more black lace as well.

Gail Carriegr Wears Teal in Menlo ParkGail Carriegr Wears Teal in Menlo Park
At Steamcon in Seattle 2010.
All About Felt Hats by Gail Carriger Gail Carriger Loves Winter . . . More Tweed!Gail Carriegr Wears Teal in Menlo Park

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