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Vintage Style In A Modern World

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Gail Carriger in Sacramento in a Black Maxi

So, for my two events in the Sacramento area I opted to wear my black maxi dress. This gown is pretty darn fancy, it's the one I wore to the Hugos a few years ago. I chose to wear it because I knew I could sit for hours in the car on the way there and it wouldn't wrinkle into oblivion, and it could go from being steampunk to normal with only a switch of the belt and hat.

Gail Carriger in Sacramento in a Black Maxi Gail Carriger in Sacramento in a Black Maxi Gail Carriger in Sacramento in a Black Maxi

So above is a comparison of outfit evolution. A steampunk version with silly hat, corselette, red gloves, and flats and then a retro look with a red velvet jacket, gold sandals, gold gloves, and a shell cocktail hat.

Gail Carriger in Sacramento in a Black Maxi

For the steampunk look I utilized bits of my Autumn steampunk outfit. I suspect you are all too familiar with these.

Gail Carriger in Sacramento in a Black Maxi

I swapped out hat, belt, and shoes for the Avid reader event. Just goes to show how switching a few accessories can change everything!

Gail Carriger in Sacramento in a Black Maxi
 A back view of the hat as I talk wildly with a reader.

Gail Carriger in Sacramento in a Black Maxi
 The hat, front.

Gail Carriger in Sacramento in a Black Maxi
The hat, side. 

The hat was a Christmas gift from my mum a little while ago. She picked up a whole selection at a silent auction. The label is very difficult to read but it think it says, ├Źnarthe 12, Rue de la Paix, Paris. I have managed to dig up a few similar in museum collections.

Gail Carriger in Sacramento in a Black Maxi
 1935  The Philadelphia Museum of Art

Gail Carriger in Sacramento in a Black Maxi
 Cocktail Hat  1950s  The Victoria & Albert Museum

Gail Carriger in Sacramento in a Black Maxi
 1964  The Victoria & Albert Museum

Gail Carriger in Sacramento in a Black Maxi
Flowered version from a still of Mad Men

The dress I bought from Held Over on Haight Street for about $40. I think it's 1970s (because of the fabric), despite the 1930s feel. The last thing I needed was a long black dress but I have a weakness for tears and pussycat bows. This one fits me so beautifully, despite the Rack. Now that I know it works as a steampunk option, I'll probably wear it more frequently.

Being top heavy, I like dresses with the weight on the bottom. Here are a few more for the 1930s.

Gail Carriger in Sacramento in a Black Maxi Gail Carriger in Sacramento in a Black Maxi
 1930 Coco Chanel  The Metropolitan Museum of Art; 1931-1932  Evening Dress  Elsa Schiaparelli The Philadelphia Museum of Art

Gail Carriger in Sacramento in a Black Maxi Gail Carriger in Sacramento in a Black Maxi
 1937-1938 Evening Ensemble Coco Chanel The Metropolitan Museum of Art; 1930s The Frock

Something for the characters . . .

For Sophronia, perhaps for an infiltration operation. 

Gail Carriger in Sacramento in a Black Maxi
1850 Mourning Dress  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Gail Carriger in Sacramento in a Black Maxi
Beaded Cap 1850-1875  The Los Angeles County Museum of Art

And for Alexia.

Gail Carriger in Sacramento in a Black Maxi
1870 Mourning Dress  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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

Gail carriger in Purple Laether in San Francisco 2011

 My last event of the year was an unexpected (for me, I'd forgotten I said I'd do it) appearance at Writers With Drinks in San Francisco.

Gail carriger in Purple Laether in San Francisco 2011Gail carriger in Purple Laether in San Francisco 2011Gail carriger in Purple Laether in San Francisco 2011Gail carriger in Purple Laether in San Francisco 2011

Because I'd moved recently most of my vintage dresses had yet to be unpacked so I defaulted to a skirt and top look that I've never worn before.

Gail carriger in Purple Laether in San Francisco 2011

The top is a vintage 1940's (or possibly early 50s) Fox Original Kansas City. It fits me (only just at the moment) but I can't resist a perfectly tailored button down since they pretty much never fit me in the modern age. Of course, I popped a button during the event (luckily AFTER I'd been on stage). Thank you Rack. That'll teach me not to reenforce my buttons before going out. Not to mention the golden rule, always take safety-pins when wearing vintage.

Gail carriger in Purple Laether in San Francisco 2011

I also ripped under the arm. Sigh. I might have to come around to the fact that this blouse may be a little too small for me. Curses. I do love the details, though, with a little cross over at the top, and faux belted waist and covered buttons. As you can see I wore it with a cream felt hat, little bow earrings, purple glasses and a green bag. Reminded me of this Joan outfit from madmen.

Gail carriger in Purple Laether in San Francisco 2011 Gail carriger in Purple Laether in San Francisco 2011

I also paired it with a leather BCBG skirt. I'm not sure abotu the skirt, it doesn't fit quite right so it may go on the chopping block. In fact the whole outfit might go out to pasture, it's a lot of work.

Gail carriger in Purple Laether in San Francisco 2011

Gail carriger in Purple Laether in San Francisco 2011
Well, not the accessories, of course!

Gail carriger in Purple Laether in San Francisco 2011Gail carriger in Purple Laether in San Francisco 2011

Gail carriger in Purple Laether in San Francisco 2011Gail carriger in Purple Laether in San Francisco 2011

Still I have come around to purple. It took me a while. My mother wore a lot of purple in the 80s so I had to get over the association.

This is the tone of purple I prefer, sadly there isn't any in my wardrobe. Should I happen upon some I'll probubly get ride of the more drab tones, I just prefer clearer lighter colors.

Gail carriger in Purple Laether in San Francisco 2011
Givenchy ensemble ca. 1956 via The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Or if you don't want to commit entirely to purple, you can always wear it as an accent color.
Gail carriger in Purple Laether in San Francisco 2011

And some for Alexia!

Gail carriger in Purple Laether in San Francisco 2011
 Charles Fredrick Worth afternoon dress ca. 1872 via the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Gail Carriger Has FEELS and Thoughts on Banana Republic's Mad Men Line

In which Gail goes of on a bit of a fashion rant . . . you have been warned.

So, Fashionable Reader, Banana Republic announced recently that they were coming out with a Mad Men inspired RTW line. I went in to their San Francisco flagship store to inquire and the salesman seemed to think the earliest we could expect it to hit shops is next Spring, but I'd be shocked if they weren't shooting for the holiday season.

Gail Carriger Has FEELS and Thoughts on Banana Republic's Mad Men Line

 Here's my main question: Banana Republic, why would I buy a faux-vintage line? It's not going to fit those of use with real vintage curves because you're still using your flat-chested butt-less size models. It doesn't have any of the basics we like ~ hello, sleeves? It's clearly not tailored for anything substantial up top or down bellow. The model doesn't have very much yet it isn't fitting even her tiny little Bs properly.

Gail Carriger Has FEELS and Thoughts on Banana Republic's Mad Men LineGail Carriger Has FEELS and Thoughts on Banana Republic's Mad Men Line

The lengths aren't quite long enough, and the colors are, frankly boring.

Gail Carriger Has FEELS and Thoughts on Banana Republic's Mad Men LineGail Carriger Has FEELS and Thoughts on Banana Republic's Mad Men Line
It's not tailored to the natural waist, a hallmark of 1950s fashion. Instead it's coming in about the ribs. Put my rack in there and it'd practically be a baby-doll.

Gail Carriger Has FEELS and Thoughts on Banana Republic's Mad Men Line

I bet the fabrics are synthetic, the seams sewn only once, and half the stuff isn't lined property. I'll take real vintage any day, at half the price. Of course, I'll probably still go and investigate the outlet mall in a few months, just to be sure. But I lay good money that not a single thing will fit this retro rack better than any one of my $15 thrifted real 1950s dresses, that's for darn sure.

Gail Carriger Has FEELS and Thoughts on Banana Republic's Mad Men Line

So am I annoyed? Yes, Fashionable Reader, I do believe I am. And I'm not anti-Banana Republic as a general rule. I happen to own and love one of their winter white overcoats from several years ago. However, the only BR tops I've ever managed to squeeze into were stretch jersey (and I prefer tailored and structured fabrics).

I suppose, in the end, I feel like they are basically poaching a vintage look without giving me what I want from vintage clothing ~ proper fit.

I can guarantee you one of the people this Banana Republic Mad Man line won't fit . . . Christina Hendricks.

Gail Carriger Has FEELS and Thoughts on Banana Republic's Mad Men Line

Gail Carriger Wears Salmon in San Francisco for Heartless Book Launch

I ended up choosing the salmon dress for the Books Inc Heartless Launch in San Francisco.

Gail Carriger Wears Salmon in San Francisco for Heartless Book Launch

My mum, in a rather more dignified manner, called the dress coral dahling (and so did the nail salon) but I still think of it as salmon. Call a fish and fish, as the saying ought to be. The Popster's response? "You do look rather sushi-like." Is there any question which side of the family I get my sense of humor from?

Gail Carriger Wears Salmon in San Francisco for Heartless Book Launch
 Coincidentally, we went out and ate salmon sushi after the event. Yes, it matched my dress! 

So I chose this dress because I was feeling very madmen. Periodically, I am taken over by the spirit of Joan.

Gail Carriger Wears Salmon in San Francisco for Heartless Book Launch

I used to hate pink, but since Mad Men aired I find myself the proud owner of far too many pink dresses. It's very girly, but also very vintage, so I am slowly making peace with myself on the subject.

Gail Carriger Wears Salmon in San Francisco for Heartless Book LaunchGail Carriger Wears Salmon in San Francisco for Heartless Book Launch

I love my salmon dress because it has a very peculiar neckline ~ sort of a reverse sweetheart. Although my dress is clearly 1950s, research suggests that the shape of the neckline is one more closely associated with 1940s dresses, so my dress is probably quite early 1950s. It's unlined and labeless, so I wonder if it might be a modern bridesmaid dress made from a vintage pattern.

Gail Carriger Wears Salmon in San Francisco for Heartless Book Launch

I accessorized it with the following:

Gail Carriger Wears Salmon in San Francisco for Heartless Book Launch Gail Carriger Wears Salmon in San Francisco for Heartless Book Launch
Tan & gold belt from Target $14, and my Mod Cloth drivers $52 (I splurged for Christmas last year)

Gail Carriger Wears Salmon in San Francisco for Heartless Book Launch
 Hat by Mr. John for Remsohoffs San Francisco 1955 possibly later. Gift.

This amazing velvet and bead flower hat was a gift from my Mum for my Birthday this year, along with two others (a feathered number by Jane Morgan New York which is damaged and I will probably never wear, and an amazing evening shell and velvet with an indecipherable label, possibly "Marthe" 12, Rue de la Paix, Paris, future blogs pending). This one is a Mr. John for Remsohoffs San Francisco. You'll forgive me if I divert for a moment? John Pico John, the milliner known as Mr. John, died in June of 1993. The San Francisco Chronicle reported on his death that in the 1940s and 1950s Mr. John was as famous it the world of hats as Christian Dior was in haute couture. His clients included the Duchess of Windsor, Gloria Vanderbelt, Lauren Bacall, and Joan Crawford. His hats appeared in Shanghai Express, Gone with the Wind, The Painted Veil, and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Needless to say, I am rather chuffed to own one but, honestly, until I was looking for something summery to go with the salmon dress I never even considered wearing it.
Gail Carriger Wears Salmon in San Francisco for Heartless Book LaunchGail Carriger Wears Salmon in San Francisco for Heartless Book LaunchGail Carriger Wears Salmon in San Francisco for Heartless Book Launch
Coral cuff from Three Sister's Consignment in Sonoma, CA $12, earrings from a set gifted me by an ex from Dark Garden at the Dickens Christmas Fair one year, and my obligatory Joan pen necklace, gift from my best friend one Christmas. I believe she got it from a Mad Men shop.

I wore my new Heartless sandals (I commemorate books with shoes, again I'm prepping a blog about this quirk of mine). They are pretty darn comfy for such high heels but I'm going to have invest in some pads for the balls of my feet if I keep wearing them as frequently as I have been.

Gail Carriger Wears Salmon in San Francisco for Heartless Book LaunchGail Carriger Wears Salmon in San Francisco for Heartless Book Launch
Calvin Klein sandals from Nordstrom's Rack c. $50.

Gail Carriger Wears Salmon in San Francisco for Heartless Book LaunchGail Carriger Wears Salmon in San Francisco for Heartless Book Launch
Ring from Target $4 and Camel Purse, vintage 1950s, from Hubba Hubba, LA $40.

Sadly, the two accessories pictured above died for the book launch cause. I busted the ring on the drive in, entirely my own fault. The purse simply fell apart during the course of the evening (the handle split, edges began to crumble, and clasp wouldn't stay closed). I'm going to watch my vintage leather purchases much more carefully in the future. Sad to see this purse go, but it really doesn't have the capacity it ought of its size so it wasn't really suiting my travel needs anyway.

Gail Carriger Wears Salmon in San Francisco for Heartless Book Launch

Lastly, I acquired one additional accessory upon my arrival. For there waiting for me on the podium was this lovely bouquet, and better yet, the smiling faces of two of my most adorable fans sitting in well dressed splendor at the front! As ever, they made certain to match the flowers to my dress. (Thank you Michael & John!) Of course, there is also Octavia for you all to meet, but that will have to wait until I have pictures.

In the meantime, here are some great ideas for taking a vintage peach/pink/salmon/coral dress like mine from Retro Way to Real Way . . .

Gail Carriger Wears Salmon in San Francisco for Heartless Book LaunchGail Carriger Wears Salmon in San Francisco for Heartless Book LaunchGail Carriger Wears Salmon in San Francisco for Heartless Book Launch
From left to right: Cora in Forever 21 oxfords + salmon floral print, Blugirl Fall 2011 RTW line, Paris street fall 2010

And the book to read with your salmon dress while you eat your salmon sushi and drink some fruity drink with a small parasol in it on the beach in some gorgeous foreign land?

Gail Carriger Wears Salmon in San Francisco for Heartless Book LaunchGail Carriger Wears Salmon in San Francisco for Heartless Book Launch

Why not try something a little tough and snarky like the excellent Valor's Choice by Tanya Huff? Military space opera, written by a woman who really knows what she's on about. Marvelous characters and alien races, extremely snappy dialogue, an endearing and tough heroine, and lots of fast action. Torin Kerr is one of my favorite main characters ever written, and I am a particular fan of this book (the first in the series) because it opens with a post sex pheromone hangover and ends with a battle based on the early Zulu Wars (late 1870s).
I Love Half Length Sleeves from Gail Carriger (Gettign a Retro Look) TV and the Rack ~ 5 Fashion Tips via Joan from Madmen from Gail CarrigerBook Outfits in Blue ~ German & French Covers of Soulless by Gail Carriger Gail Carriger's French Outfits: Brown Gingham Pencil Dress VariationGail Carriger in Sacramento in a Black Maxi Gail carriger in Purple Laether in San Francisco 2011Gail Carriger Has FEELS and Thoughts on Banana Republic's Mad Men LineGail Carriger Wears Salmon in San Francisco for Heartless Book Launch

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