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Vintage Style In A Modern World

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Gail Carriger Recently Acquired ~ Blush Dress

I go through phases, Fashionable Reader, where I don't shop and then suddenly gorge myself. I've been trying very hard to be more conservative in my choices, partly because I feel my vintage collection is quite sufficient to my needs, party because I am trying to be fiscally responsible.

That said, I had a major lapse recently due to immanent ComicCon. (Or that's my excuse.) You see, when I went to New Orleans for ALA I realized my existing wardrobe does not handle hot weather very well, and ComicCon is rumored to be on the warm end of things. So I needed to add some lighter weight dresses to my wardrobe. What's that mean?

I've been craving day dresses.

Gail Carriger Recently Acquired ~ Blush Dress

Normally, you know me, I love the pencil dress, but for some reason the swingy skirt is calling to me. I blame the prevalence of the adorable cream (and white and blush) dresses in the fashion blog-o-sphere.

Gail Carriger Recently Acquired ~ Blush DressGail Carriger Recently Acquired ~ Blush DressGail Carriger Recently Acquired ~ Blush Dress

I've discussed the little white dress before. I even tried to make one last year. But I wasn't really happy with the result and ended up giving it away. It's taken me a while to come around to trying to find another one.

Gail Carriger Recently Acquired ~ Blush DressGail Carriger Recently Acquired ~ Blush Dress
 Fashion shoot; 1951 Partie Fine Christian Dior The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 First I hunted for vintage or retro day versions, but cream is difficult to find retro and unstained.

Gail Carriger Recently Acquired ~ Blush DressGail Carriger Recently Acquired ~ Blush Dress

I found cocktail or pencil versions, but that just wasn't what I was looking for. I wanted the day dress.

Gail Carriger Recently Acquired ~ Blush Dress

So, since blush was all over the place I broadened my options out of cream and white to include some pinker shades.

Gail Carriger Recently Acquired ~ Blush DressGail Carriger Recently Acquired ~ Blush DressGail Carriger Recently Acquired ~ Blush Dress
 Marion-Cotillard-In-Christian-Dior-De-Rouille-et-Dos-Cannes-Film-Festival-Photocall; Catherine-Duchess-of-Cambridge-In-Emilia-Wickstead-Waterloo-Chamber-Reception; Coco Chanel, 1930  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

I started to think about not just pure vintage but other ways to wear such a dress, funky ways.

Gail Carriger Recently Acquired ~ Blush DressGail Carriger Recently Acquired ~ Blush Dress
 Chanel Resort 2013

Gail Carriger Recently Acquired ~ Blush Dress

And I found myself edging away from the vintage day dress into alien 1960s mod territory.

Gail Carriger Recently Acquired ~ Blush Dress

Which led me, in the end, to fall deeply in love with the most unexpected dress. Found at Wasteland on Haight street shopping with the lovely Anne of Pornokitsch for a cool $28.

Gail Carriger Recently Acquired ~ Blush Dress

I know it doesn't look like much but even with a drop waist and my chest once it's on, it is possessively adorable. It's lined but I still wear a slip with it. It minimizes the Rack. It's short but not too short. It has a 1920s feel. It has a peter pan collar. I want to wear it like this:

Gail Carriger Recently Acquired ~ Blush Dress

It's deceptively elegant with cream or brown accessorizes, slightly more formal with black ones, or utterly chic with tough studded leather. It has sleeves. It has a kind of French feel. I love it!

Gail Carriger Recently Acquired ~ Blush Dress

However, it wasn't my only recent purchase, because I did go to Haight Street, plus new vintage shop opened near my writing cafe, and Alameda had a vintage fair. So there is much more to come.

Gail Carriger Recently Acquired ~ Blush Dress

Speaking of Haight: Decades of Fashion, one of the best (if most expensive) sources of vintage in the Bay Area has moved locations. It's now across from Wasteland in what used to be the Villains building. The place is a former bank, or something like, and is an amazing space with marble vaulted ceilings. Decades has gone pleasingly overboard decorating and putting together displays of Edwardian and Victorian gowns and accessorizes way up high. If you visit San Francisco it's worth a pilgrimage to Haight just to take in this store. It's like an interactive museum now. Amazing.

Gail Carriger Recently Acquired ~ Blush Dress
1869 Wedding Dress The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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

Gail Carriger's New Wardrobe Additions

Managed to get down to Santa Cruz this weekend. Went down for a little celebration, and stayed for the shopping and some peace and quiet.

Gail Carriger's New Wardrobe Additions
Event Outfit

We went to Moon Zoom, one of my favorite places to shop in the Bay Area. It's a store that has multiple buyers with different taste who specialize in different vintage periods. I like Terry who buys a lot of 1950s and 1960s stuff (of course). I really didn't need any new dresses, but I make it back to Santa Cruz so rarely these days I feel like I have to stock up while I am there.

I did need a white vinyl purse.

Gail Carriger's New Wardrobe Additions
And I found one! It's not quite as big as I woudl like. I tend to go for day bags that will hole a small pair of flats and a paperback along with the necessities. But this one is in great condition ~ the clasp is strong, the lining undamaged the internal pocket and zipper are sound. It'll hold a paperback in a pinch and at a cool $18 I decided I'd better snap it up.

One of the things to keep in mind when shopping vintage is how many repairs the dress is going to need. As a general rule I don't advise "buying with the intent to modify." One shoudl be able to wear the item right away. But the rain makes me come over all nostalgic abotu hand mending and domestic chores so I picked up a several dresses that are in need of a little love but so cute I couldn't resist. Plust the green one I wore Saturday night got torn.

How to identify a girl who wears vintage?

She stashes safety pins in all purses and every available pocket.

Gail Carriger's New Wardrobe AdditionsGail Carriger's New Wardrobe Additions

So this Edith Flagg, Califronia beauty ($32) came home with me because it's nice and light weight, and I'm a sucker for a dress top combo. For one thing it goes form day to evening with just a change of accessorizes ~ I'd pair it for day with the flowered top and a red hat and red pumps or tan oxfords and brown, chunky red beads; swap out for evening with red, black, tan, or gold sandals, gold jewelry and a cute little headband. I checked the seams on the under dress and they are fine but I am going to have to move the button on the shirt over quite a bit so it nips in at the waist. East fix, that.

Gail Carriger's New Wardrobe Additions

Gail Carriger's New Wardrobe Additions

Then I fell for this black and emerald green cocktail I.Magnin $36. It's sublimely well made, unlike some other vintage I could name, of a nice thick material, and the green roses are fuzzy! How could I resist?

Gail Carriger's New Wardrobe AdditionsGail Carriger's New Wardrobe Additions

Gail Carriger's New Wardrobe Additions

It's in perfect condition but I am goigg to have to hunt from some accessories. I wouldn't mind a nice pair of emerald green gloves, shoes, hat, and clutch to go with. I'm not saying I need to go hunting, just that I have my eye out now . . . Of course, it'll do perfectly well with black.

Gail Carriger's New Wardrobe Additions

The most practical of my purchases was this Nelly Don seersucker cream with gray stripes, $32.  It's incredibly cool and light, packs without wrinkling, and goes with a million things. The cut is quite flattering but it needs a few adjustments. It's in fine condition, but I want to bring the hem up to above the knee for a less dowdy length, and it'll need extra snaps over the Rack area, of course.

Gail Carriger's New Wardrobe Additions

Lastly I had to have this brown check.

Gail Carriger's New Wardrobe Additions

It's labelless, and in need of much love. It has a little bow that needs to be attached at the collar, a pull tag put onto zipper, and all of its seams check over. But it's a beautiful ultra-cool lightweight muslin, and its check (I love check) and it;s brown, I don't have any brown dresses in my collection (unless you count the brown plaid which isn't vintage).

Gail Carriger's New Wardrobe Additions




Also I can't forget my new cream hat, from (where else) Bon Marche Thrift Store in Sonoma (I was back visting for a bit). So cute, and the lovely lady in charge is always so appologetic that she must charge me $7 for such a lovely little creature. I wore it that day! Bows!

Gail Carriger's New Wardrobe Additions

So there you have it, my shopping addiction continues. Moving house and getting rid of half my wardrobe only seems to put a dampener on it.


Gail Carriger's New Wardrobe Additions

I'm inordinately proud of myself for buying only dresses that are step into and pull up, rather than over the head. Such dresses allow me to do my makeup before dressing, which I much prefer. Fortunately, I'm flexible enough in the shoulders to do up my own zippers. I do have a few dresses I love but I can't get into without the AB's consummate help (or occasionally a stranger in the hallway of a convention). These get neglected as a result. I will however, be in one of them for the Goodbye Parasol Protectorate Tea in SF at the end of February.

Gail Carriger Talks Fall 2011 Trends: Runway to Retro Way

Darling Fashionable Reader, while I await more pictures from Reno I present to you the latest of my occasional series on seasonal trends. The idea is to take a look at some of the styles presented on the runway and suggest how they might be adapted to a retro pallet and more womanly figure.

Trend #1: Bright Trousers
I don't wear trousers very often. Contrary to popular belief I do wear them, but generally only to travel or when I am moving house or working in the field. I would take this trend and translate it to a bright colored pencil skirt, possibly a leather one.
Gail Carriger Talks Fall 2011 Trends: Runway to Retro WayGail Carriger Talks Fall 2011 Trends: Runway to Retro WayGail Carriger Talks Fall 2011 Trends: Runway to Retro Way
L ~ R: Street Style in San Francisco blog; runways 2009; Tuppence Haypenny blog
I've shown three different lengths. As you can see, the above-the-knee is worn with flats, which I believe is fine, but the bellows are with heels. The first skirt is a marigold color and velvet, two other 2011 Fall trends.

Trend #2: Working Girl Dress
I might, from my retro perspective, call this a Day Dress, but Working Girl works well enough. I love this trend. I'm a big fan of this kind of dress ~ sleeves, nice slightly flowing skirt and a belt of cinch. It's flattering on any figure. If you are going to go for a print, opt for something smaller and geometric, as seen above, that's universally more flattering than a larger more complicated pattern.
Gail Carriger Talks Fall 2011 Trends: Runway to Retro Way
It's a quintessentially vintage style. I don't really have a dress like this, not one in a pattern or light color. Perhaps I should at it to the shopping list?
Gail Carriger Talks Fall 2011 Trends: Runway to Retro Way
A slightly fuller skirt gives a more 1950's look, while an A-line is more 1940s or 1970s. In both of the above images I'd go for an inch or so shorter skirt than pictured ~ especially if you are a curvy girl. With the skirt a little shorter you can wear flats and it doesn't look dowdy. In the left image above, she paired her day dress with a felt hat and a skinny belt giving the look a slightly modern twist without loosing the vintage appeal. Also, the felt hat takes what is essentially a Spring pattern into Autumn.
The best thing about investing in this trend? You have a dress you a bling up with some metallics and wear to a wedding. Double duty = always good.
Alexia's version?

It's a little early in time for Alexia, but this is a classic Victorian Day Dress. (The term Day Dress early on covered both Walking and Visiting Dresses. These later became separated as the popularity of displaying oneself by sashaying through Hyde Park and along the promenades of Bath gave way to ever fancier Walking Dresses and then Promenade Gowns. The term Day Dress evolved to describe a dress that was rather more sober and plain, but in a good elegant way. Ladies of the church, for example, favored Day Dresses.)

Trend #3: Choker Necklaces
This one is easy to make vintage. Vintage jewelry trends are fascinating. I can say, as an archaeologist, that the choker is one of the first necklaces we ever see. While necklace design shifts along with everything else over time, the length is often all over the place. A deco style necklace (for example) will be made to go with a range of different necklines and so vary in lenght, also, if valuable it is kept and worn much longer than a dress, and it can be both shortened and lengthened as required.
I tend to think you can't go wrong with pearls. And don't feel you have to buy the real deal, most of my jewelry started life in Target. It could get lost at any time, why pay out bank? Save your money for good shoes.
Gail Carriger Talks Fall 2011 Trends: Runway to Retro Way
That said, my favorite choker pieces are all inherited and authentic if not Real.
Gail Carriger Talks Fall 2011 Trends: Runway to Retro WayGail Carriger Talks Fall 2011 Trends: Runway to Retro Way
A choker is a great excuse to put a nice pop of color near your face (as is a scarf, for that matter), particularly if you are one of those ladies who opts for black often. Black washes out almost everyone, it's terrible for the complexion. A nice bright choker brings color to the face and attention away from the rack.

Trend # 4: Old Gold
Or in some cases marigold (which has a bit more orange/yellow to it).
Gail Carriger Talks Fall 2011 Trends: Runway to Retro Way
This is already a very vintage color, what I think is difficult is how to make it modern. Many struggle with how to pair accessories with a metallic or a strong yellow dress. Most are accustomed to fielding gold as an accessory, not a main. You don't have to do it as a full dress, you can combine this trend with Trend #1, and use gold as your bright bottom half, particularly if you aren't certain whether the yellow tones will work with your complexion and hair. (I tend to wear my marigold dress only when my hair color is a dark brown or chestnut, anything lighter and I feel it doesn't work well on me.)
Marigold is a very strong color that not everyone can wear. I tend to think solid black with marigold is too harsh and favor cream or white.
Gail Carriger Talks Fall 2011 Trends: Runway to Retro Way
Cream will give a very vintage feel to the outfit. Steel grey or blues, patterned tights, sharp industrial silver jewelry, will all work to modernize an outfit, but can be risky if the tones are off.
Gail Carriger Talks Fall 2011 Trends: Runway to Retro Way
In the end, if you're (understandably) leery of this color but still want to give it a try, stick to accessorizing with it.
And now moving swiftly on from the yellow family, which so many find so trying, we come to a far more acceptable color for Fall 2011 . . .

Trend #5: Jade Green
I myself tend to wear a forest green, but I actually believe jade green is a much better color on most people. Forest green can be very harsh, I usually have to pile on the make up. I don't happen to own any jade green, but I wouldn't say no, that's certain.
Gail Carriger Talks Fall 2011 Trends: Runway to Retro Way
Jade green has a clean clarity too it, but it isn't a very vintage color. I hunted about for images and while I found a wide range of greens nothing came up that I would qualify as jade.
Even if you can't find a jade, I support green! And I think you can do the whole dress in this color. You can accessorize it with cream, most shades of brown, white, gold, silver, even marigold if you feel very daring.
The next trend is one that has been hanging out for a while now but it must be addressed regardless . . .

Trend #6: Maxi Skirts
Whatever you do DON'T wear it like it's pictured above on the runway. The very last thing a curvy girl needs is all that extra material and bulk paired with an over-sized chunky knit! I don't know about you, but I end up looking like an Earth Mother Type whose wandered off of a commune or Mormon compound or Amish farm or Convent or something. All that's left is Birkenstocks and rice cakes and hemp cord belts and shell jewelry and . . . oh the tragedy . . . the horror . . . flames . . . flames around my eyes . . . burning . . . Sorry, I was spiraling there.
Here's one late 1940s maxi I managed to track down. Retro look? Yes. Good for curves? No. Again, too much fabric down below and don't even get me started on boxy tops, that's a whole other rant.
So what to do if you have the rack or the hips and you want to rock a maxi skirt? Go further back in time, Fashionable Reader, to the 1930s and early 1940s.
Gail Carriger Talks Fall 2011 Trends: Runway to Retro WayGail Carriger Talks Fall 2011 Trends: Runway to Retro WayGail Carriger Talks Fall 2011 Trends: Runway to Retro Way
Keep the fabric to a minimum and go for something less full and more A-line. If you are shorter in stature avoid hems that brush the floor, it'll just look like you borrowed your mother's skirt, try something that just shows your shoes, ending at the top of the foot. Similarly, if you are very tall, go in the opposite direction and sweep the floor, baby. Tall ladies, be careful not to pick an ankle length skirt, it'll look like you need to let down your hem. Here are a few modern options.
We're just looking at the skirts, mind you, not the rest of the outfits. Shudder. Pair with a nice fitted jacket, retro knit top, or tailored blouse that ends at the waist for the most proportional maxi look. It'll seem like your legs go on for days. You can do a fitted tunic as well, for that flowy alternative 1930s thing, but for the love please not a baggy top or boyfriend blazer as seen in the first two images above. I also rather like the maxi with a few soft folds, hides all sins . . .
But not too many folds and not too stiff a material, and please pair with a very fitted top. The 1930s also gave us the maxi satin evening skirt. Satin is always a risk as it can show every little bump (try velvet instead) but this kind of skirt is a nice alternative to having to hunt for a formal dress for a wedding.
Gail Carriger Talks Fall 2011 Trends: Runway to Retro Way
In velvet or satin this skirt is the height of formality. Wear it with a little cropped blazer (even a ladies tux coat for the Madame Lefoux touch) or a wrap jacket and it is entirely appropriate to any formal event, including an evening wedding. Bonus: you can get away with ballet flats AND you don't have to shave your legs!
Gail Carriger Talks Fall 2011 Trends: Runway to Retro Way
I did end up buying a black jersey maxi skirt this year, mainly for slouching about the house in, and possibly for airline travel. It's very comfy. Mine came on sale from Max Studio and has a slight a-symmetricality to it. It's tight at the top and looser lower down making it the love child of fish-tail and an a-line.
Gail Carriger Talks Fall 2011 Trends: Runway to Retro WayGail Carriger Talks Fall 2011 Trends: Runway to Retro Way
There is something to be said for comfort and elegance when traveling.

Trend #7: Tartan!
Plaid! I love plaid. Plaid is good. I have discussed my love of plaid before. For Fall 2011 we see tartan is all over the runway. But Miss Gail, you may well ask, how is tartan different from other plaids?
Gail Carriger Talks Fall 2011 Trends: Runway to Retro WayGail Carriger Talks Fall 2011 Trends: Runway to Retro WayGail Carriger Talks Fall 2011 Trends: Runway to Retro Way
The Check Family: Windowpane = tones of 2 colors, fainter stripes; check = two bold colors, little or no striations or heathering; tartan (usually) 3 or more colors, multiple stripes.
Now where was I? Of yes, love of plaid.
Gail Carriger Talks Fall 2011 Trends: Runway to Retro Way
Here's that dress I love so well from a shoot for Locus Magazine. Someone wanted to see it with the big sleeves, here it is!
Gail Carriger Talks Fall 2011 Trends: Runway to Retro WayGail Carriger Talks Fall 2011 Trends: Runway to Retro Way
Now and then: 2011 Burberry Prorsum and 1950s wiggle dress
Gail Carriger Talks Fall 2011 Trends: Runway to Retro Way
Of course I'm going to recommend a cape. Were you somehow in doubt of this?
Moving on, only 2 more to go!

Trend #8: Slits
Yes there is some retro connection to the slitted pencil skirt, but I tend to avoid this look. Frankly it comes of as kind of trashy.
Gail Carriger Talks Fall 2011 Trends: Runway to Retro Way
I tend to prefer a kick pleat.
Gail Carriger Talks Fall 2011 Trends: Runway to Retro Way
A very retro option is to go for a slitted tunic instead. Just an idea. Here's a lovely version from J. Peterman.
Gail Carriger Talks Fall 2011 Trends: Runway to Retro Way

Trend #9: Maxi Coat
Otherwise know as the duster, because it dusts the floor. In my world there is no better coat. If you can find a nice, slim cut, fitted, single-breasted duster, in a good quality material you have your Investment Coat. This is the coat you drop bank on and keep for the rest of your life. I have a New Zealand lamb-leather duster that I adore, soft as butter and incredibly La Femme Nikita (major thrift score brand new $50). I also have a very warm pale pink fish tail duster I picked up on Height Street for well over $100, but it's gorgeous and so warm.
Gail Carriger Talks Fall 2011 Trends: Runway to Retro Way
Maxi coats have been around a long time, beautiful velvet one.
Gail Carriger Talks Fall 2011 Trends: Runway to Retro Way
So far as the rack is concerned, I would tend to avoid double-breasted, too much additional material up top. However, it is a more retro feel. The first coat above, while begin a double, has the button rows very close together and a smaller collar which makes it far more flattering.
Gail Carriger Talks Fall 2011 Trends: Runway to Retro Way
And, you don't have to go with black. Not everyone risks pink the way I do, but a nice camel or cream or dove grey makes for a great neutral alternate, and then you can wear everything else black without having to worry about looking like you are off to a funeral. Or you can be daring and go with red.
I can't let the duster go without putting in a steampunk mention. While I generally don't like a double-breasted coat, changing out the buttons for metallics can give a relatively plain jacket some real steampunk / pirate flare.
A word on maxi swing coats. Very dangerous, you can look like a tent. Be werry werry careful . . .
In the end, if you can find the perfect duster, of all the Fall 2011 trends, this is the one you should invest in. But make certain it is the perfect maxi coat for your figure and climate. These coats will be around forever, you can wait to find the right one.
Want to have fun with your winter coat this year and stay on trend? I'm going to say it, you know I am, opt for a cheaper fun cape instead. So much cuteness.

In addition to the fashions discussed above, I also spotted the following on the Fall 2011 runways:
  • lots of leather and black
  • opaque tights
  • shorts with tights and boots
  • capes 
And now, my darlings, I am exhausted. Have lovely weekends, and I hope I have inspired you to play with some of the up coming trends.
Gail Carriger Talks Fall 2011 Trends: Runway to Retro Way
Still want more? Runway Daily's report on Fall 2011, and Fab Sugar's take. Both Prada and Miu Miu are going retro for Fall! Yes!
Then & Now ~ Green DressGail Carriger Recently Acquired ~ Blush DressThen & Now ~ Flowered DressGail Carriger's New Wardrobe AdditionsGail Carriger Talks Fall 2011 Trends: Runway to Retro Way

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