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The Courage to Wear a Cape from Gail Carriger


I had an interesting encounter the other weekend, Fashionable Reader.

I was at a barbecue. You know, that thing, in the back yard, where you burn the meat?

This was no a high fashion event ~ suburban in location, and 30-something anti-hipsters in attendance. These were not my friends, I should add.

Now, where was I? Oh yes . . . the encounter.

Also in attendance was a Very Fresh Girlfriend of one of the fringe members of said group. Clearly nervous, she enters stage right, a lovely fashionable young thing.

Now, to set the scene, I am wearing a cute white dress, tights, and riding boots ~ very de mode. However, it is cold and damp, so over it all I have my favorite black double-breasted rain cape (I happen to own three capes total).

The Courage to Wear a Cape from Gail Carriger The Courage to Wear a Cape from Gail Carriger The Courage to Wear a Cape from Gail Carriger
black double breasted & belted from Max Studio, $130, thrifted vintage cream wool, no label, $25, faux fur from H&M $15

Now this new girl, either in an awkward attempt to make conversation, or just because she is, well, a bitch, says,

"Oh, is that a cape? Not everyone can wear a cape. I should never even attempt it."

It was the tone that threw me. It was said in that way of catty southern ladies,

"Oh, she has put on a few pounds, bless her little heart."

I simply drifted away and on to a far more interesting conversation on the relative merits of DC versus Marvel comic books. (Marvel baby, all the way.)

To the meat of the matter. 


I disagree with the principle of the statement made by Very Fresh Girlfriend as well as the execution. I think anyone can wear a cape. They are delightful fun, one feels rather comic-book-ish (Marvel, I hope, not DC). The belted cape is a good option to prevent loss of shape.

The Courage to Wear a Cape from Gail Carriger




On the practical side the cape allows you to layer in fun and flattering ways. You can wear full or puffy sleeved jackets and then throw the cape on for extra warmth or rain protection. On the impractical side it is difficult to carry a shoulder bag with a cape. (You'll notice most of the street shots bellow have clutches or handbags.)

The Courage to Wear a Cape from Gail Carriger

If you are slightly shorter of stature, a short cape is probably a better option. Regardless, if cut in the right way in can disguise rather than enhance the chest.


And they come for a long and distinguished tradition:
The Courage to Wear a Cape from Gail Carriger The Courage to Wear a Cape from Gail Carriger The Courage to Wear a Cape from Gail Carriger  
1895 Emile Pingat cape via The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1905 Jean-Phillipe Worth evening wrap via The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1933-1934 Elsa Sciaparelli cape via The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

"A mackintosh cape, one of the thinnest and lightest possible to procure. should always be carried to protect the shoulders in case of a sudden shower, and a fur cape for chilly evenings or east wind will be found a most comfortable addition."

~ Lillias Campbell Davidson, 1889

The Courage to Wear a Cape from Gail Carriger  
2011 RT Convention ~ Richelle Mead, Jeanne Stein, Nicole Peeler, and Gail Carriger (in a cape)

For the Characters! 


For Primrose in the Custard Protocol Series



For Felicity in the Parasol Protectorate Series 

The Courage to Wear a Cape from Gail Carriger

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Gail Carriger Talks Capes ~ Yes!

Because I love them so, I thought I'd post a little more about capes.

Gail Carriger Talks Capes ~ Yes!Gail Carriger Talks Capes ~ Yes!

They have been everywhere this fall: runways, streets, and blogs. But do you know where I haven't seen much of them? Out in the wild, on real people. So what do I think? Everyone clearly needs more encouragement! Capes, rah rah rah!

Best thing about a cape? It layers perfectly. We start with basic black:
Gail Carriger Talks Capes ~ Yes!Gail Carriger Talks Capes ~ Yes!
McCall Style News October, 1940; Elsa Schiaparelli, 1933 The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Or if you are feeling a little more daring, how about red?

Gail Carriger Talks Capes ~ Yes!Gail Carriger Talks Capes ~ Yes!

Feeling even more daring? How about plaid?

Gail Carriger Talks Capes ~ Yes!
Burberry, 1937  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Gail Carriger Talks Capes ~ Yes!
 Tuppence Ha'penny by Charlotte's

Gail Carriger Talks Capes ~ Yes!
 T.K. Maxx cape

Here's one of my favorites from the vintage blogs.

Gail Carriger Talks Capes ~ Yes!
Charles James, 1944  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

And how can we go without . . . capes for Alexia?

Gail Carriger Talks Capes ~ Yes!Gail Carriger Talks Capes ~ Yes!
 1860 The McCord Museum; 1850-1869  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

You don't have to take my word for it.

Gail Carriger in a Marigold Cocktail Dress at Reno WorldCon 2011

Gail Carriger in a Marigold Cocktail Dress at Reno WorldCon 2011
Photographed by the incomparably wonderful Vanessa Applegate

Saffron, Marigold, Yellow Gold, Bright Mustard, whatever you wish to call it this is a dress that only 5 or so years ago I would never have purchased. I was very much against yellow and orange, but particularly yellow. For no good reason, Fashionable Reader, I just was. I have a rather sallow complexion and I tend to feel that yellow makes me look jaundiced. In fact, this particular shade tends to make me a little on the pink side. Shocking in a freckled individual who can not blush.

Gail Carriger in a Marigold Cocktail Dress at Reno WorldCon 2011
Deanna Hoak, Eddie Schneider, Gail Carriger at the REno WorldCon Parties

Don't tell, but possibly the most shocking thing about this dress as that due to the nature of the scoop neckline, I cannot wear a bra with it. But the bodice is well lined, stiff, and structured, so I like to hope you can't tell. Initially I am very self conscious in such a condition, with a Rack like mine, braless is a near sacrilegious term. But it works.

Gail Carriger in a Marigold Cocktail Dress at Reno WorldCon 2011

This dress has become one of my very favorite. It's one of those on the long list of "save if from fire!" I can't remember where I bought it or how much I paid (knowing me, no ore that $50) and it has no label, but my guess would be late 1950s early 60s from the silhouette and pleating. However, the length of the skirt might push it back in time.

Gail Carriger in a Marigold Cocktail Dress at Reno WorldCon 2011

Of course, I have discussed gold previously, but this dress is such a different tone and style from the Flobért. Here is a little retrospective on the this color . . .


Gail Carriger in a Marigold Cocktail Dress at Reno WorldCon 2011Gail Carriger in a Marigold Cocktail Dress at Reno WorldCon 2011Gail Carriger in a Marigold Cocktail Dress at Reno WorldCon 2011
A dress for Alexia 1880 via The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; 1939 Valentina dress via The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; 1950s dress via Timeless Vixen Vintage
Gail Carriger in a Marigold Cocktail Dress at Reno WorldCon 2011Gail Carriger in a Marigold Cocktail Dress at Reno WorldCon 2011
1956 Norman Norell ensemble via The Indianapolis Museum of Art

I like to pair mine with cream, and a little faus fur cape I picked up from H&M for $15 a few years back.

Gail Carriger in a Marigold Cocktail Dress at Reno WorldCon 2011

Here I am boosing it up at Reno (and a suggested scent for the occasion, Manderine Tea Perfume). It was Saturday party night so I went a little eccentric and paired the dress with my orange plaid glasses, yes, you read that right, and a velvet shell decorated evening hat my mother purchased for me from an auction for my birthday last year.

Gail Carriger in a Marigold Cocktail Dress at Reno WorldCon 2011
The label is very difficult to read but it think it says, Ínarthe 12, Rue de la Paix, Paris.

The peachy orange velvet is not a color that I have in my wardrobe, but it went well enough and I wanted to wear something a little outrageous for the big party night. Back to the cape. Adding it gives the dress a particularly reto feel.

Gail Carriger in a Marigold Cocktail Dress at Reno WorldCon 2011Gail Carriger in a Marigold Cocktail Dress at Reno WorldCon 2011
Knit cape from 1964, and 1950s dress via Timeless Vixen Vintage

 Especially as, right now, this kind of cut (only shorter) is considered quite modern and the color is very on trend.

Gail Carriger in a Marigold Cocktail Dress at Reno WorldCon 2011



So, what to read with the marigold dress?

Gail Carriger in a Marigold Cocktail Dress at Reno WorldCon 2011

Sharon Green's Hellhound Magic, is the second book in her Far Side of Forever series. Sadly, the series was never finished (so far as I can tell) but this book has a satisfactory ending. It is written from the first person perspective of Laciel, one of the most powerful sorceress in existence, who is a bit of an unreliable narrator. Like many of Green's books the complex fantasy world (or, in this case, worlds) is interwoven with an equally complex love affair. It can get frustrating – if the two only communicated once in a while! – but I can't help but adore Rik and root for this shape-changer to win over his stubborn all-powerful love. You all know I have a weakness for big gruff shape-changers and the stubborn women they adore. I'm not saying my adoration of this trope is sourced in Green, but she certainly colored my formative High School years.

Gail Carriger in a Marigold Cocktail Dress at Reno WorldCon 2011Gail Carriger in a Marigold Cocktail Dress at Reno WorldCon 2011

Gail Carriger in a Marigold Cocktail Dress at Reno WorldCon 2011
The Courage to Wear a Cape from Gail Carriger Dressing Sophronia from the Corset Up (Finishing School Series) with Gail CarrigerSteampunk Inspiration from Victorian Historical Clothing With Gail Carriger Gail Carriger wears Coral Lace Pencil Dress in Tucson for the Festival of Books in 2015Dressing Prudence From the Foundation Up, Custard Protocol Special Extras with Gail Carriger Book Outfits in Blue ~ German & French Covers of Soulless by Gail Carriger Gail Carriger Talks Capes ~ Yes!Gail Carriger in a Marigold Cocktail Dress at Reno WorldCon 2011

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