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Vintage Style In A Modern World

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Gail Carriger Presentation Outfit ~ Why I wore Vintage 1950s Red & Black Flowered Sheath


I recently did a Business of Writing presentation. I don't do this often, but I feel like I'm getting to the point in my career where I should pay it forward. A kind of, "Let me tell you what I have learned from my mistakes so you don't have to."

Anyway, this is what I chose to wear for my presentation:

Gail Carriger Presentation Outfit ~ Why I wore Vintage 1950s Red & Black Flowered Sheath

I always think of red and black as power colors

I'm not sure there is any scientific reality to my assumption, or if, instead it's just that I feel more powerful when I'm wearing them. I blame Star Trek. Red makes me feel in command.
Also this is a pretty comfortable and cool outfit, it's light weight and simple, and doesn't wrinkle easily. It's one of my go to outfits in general, and for autumn in particular, I think, because of the color profile.
Gail Carriger Presentation Outfit ~ Why I wore Vintage 1950s Red & Black Flowered SheathGail Carriger Presentation Outfit ~ Why I wore Vintage 1950s Red & Black Flowered Sheath

This outfit, from the 1950s, is in two parts: a black cotton shift dress with red & orange applique flowers that perfectly matches a stiffened georgette jacket.


Gail Carriger Presentation Outfit ~ Why I wore Vintage 1950s Red & Black Flowered Sheath
In 2012 in just the sheath in Spain, before my publisher there folded
Gail Carriger Presentation Outfit ~ Why I wore Vintage 1950s Red & Black Flowered Sheath
In 2012 at a romance event in LA

The jacket has been a bit of a problem over the years, because it is georgette with a fused backing from the 1950s it's actually pretty fragile. I've repaired it a number of times. Fortunately, the pattern is so busy it's hard to see the repair stitches. It does, however, mean that a presentation is a much better venue then a convention (where I am doing a lot more risky stuff).

Gail Carriger Presentation Outfit ~ Why I wore Vintage 1950s Red & Black Flowered Sheath

Wearing this dress at a convention before I promptly ripped the jacket. 
I love this dress because it feels faintly Spanish influenced and it reminds me of this one on Joan in Madmen:

Gail Carriger Presentation Outfit ~ Why I wore Vintage 1950s Red & Black Flowered Sheath

I keep waiting for eShakti to do a run on this style of dress but I suspect the fabric is hard to come by as is, and no one wants to do that kind of applique anymore!
I'm wild about this swim suit:
Gail Carriger Presentation Outfit ~ Why I wore Vintage 1950s Red & Black Flowered Sheath
Bathing Suit  1950s  Timeless Vixen Vintage

For the characters!


For Mrs Barnaclegoose in the Finishing School series...

Gail Carriger Presentation Outfit ~ Why I wore Vintage 1950s Red & Black Flowered Sheath
1855 Kerry Taylor Auctions

Countess Nadasdy in the Parasol Protectorate series...


Gail Carriger Presentation Outfit ~ Why I wore Vintage 1950s Red & Black Flowered Sheath
Charles Fredrick Worth, 1878-1880  The Philadelphia Museum of Art

And the countess later in Romancing the Inventor...


Gail Carriger Presentation Outfit ~ Why I wore Vintage 1950s Red & Black Flowered Sheath
1885  Kerry Taylor Auctions

Gail Carriger Presentation Outfit ~ Why I wore Vintage 1950s Red & Black Flowered Sheath
Boots  1885  The Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Gail Carriger Presentation Outfit ~ Why I wore Vintage 1950s Red & Black Flowered Sheath

Vintage velvet hat with applique leaves (gift), vintage glasses (gift from a reader) with my prescription, necklace vintage heirloom, dress & jacket 1950s, modern CK wedge sandals from several seasons ago (similar $15-30).
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Gail Carriger WorldCon 2010 Retrospective: Tweed Skirt!

I know it's the middle of summer, and if there is any fabric that is a winter fabric, it's tweed! However, I'm going over old WorldCons and one of the skirts that turns up more often than not is my tweed. Probably because it packs and travels well.

Gail Carriger WorldCon 2010 Retrospective: Tweed Skirt!
Here I've paired it with red for WorldCon in 2008 with Amy, Prannish, & Paul at the Tor party.

Gail Carriger WorldCon 2010 Retrospective: Tweed Skirt!
Mine is modern, not vintage (fortunately this means it doesn't smell). It's a Liz Claybourne from Marshalls, I probably paid about $30 for it. It's lined and not wool, contributing factors to me buying it. Vintage tweed is almost always wool, which I can't wear to my sadness.

Gail Carriger WorldCon 2010 Retrospective: Tweed Skirt!
1940's stylish tweedy ladies

Tweed has a very 1940's feel to me, but it's been particularly popular from 1930s on. It has a definite reputation in England for being associated with the gentry (or countrified aristocracy). It was worn for hunting and riding and other sporting pursuits. "Getting into the tweed" is a colloquialism for getting ready for a country jaunt. Also it's irreparably linked to both a boy's public school education (for the yanks this means private school ~ don't ask) and the House of Lords.

Gail Carriger WorldCon 2010 Retrospective: Tweed Skirt!
The ladies of Gosford park, in the tweed zone.

I tend to pair mine with a knit bow top.

Gail Carriger WorldCon 2010 Retrospective: Tweed Skirt!Gail Carriger WorldCon 2010 Retrospective: Tweed Skirt!Gail Carriger WorldCon 2010 Retrospective: Tweed Skirt!

Or a pussycat bow (see future blog). As we have discussed before I love red, so most of the time this outfit ends up with red accessories, as discussed in a previous blog. But sometimes I pair it with brown for a more fall look.

Gail Carriger WorldCon 2010 Retrospective: Tweed Skirt!
Photo by Lori Nyx

Here I am doing a reading in the skirt on the Blameless book tour. I'm wearing a little fur and velvet net hat which I adore (affectionately referred to as the tarantula hat) and some brown shoes.

Gail Carriger WorldCon 2010 Retrospective: Tweed Skirt!
 Hat from Decades of Fashion on Haight Street. $30
Gail Carriger WorldCon 2010 Retrospective: Tweed Skirt!Gail Carriger WorldCon 2010 Retrospective: Tweed Skirt!
T-strap pumps by Soft from Nordsrtom Rack $25, and peep toes by Aerosoles from source $35. 

Both shoes started life pink and have been dyed brown. I seem to always end up dying shoes brown because I can't find a pair I like in the shade I want.

In adition to the skirt I have two jackets in tweed as well. Or rather one coat and one jacket.

Gail Carriger WorldCon 2010 Retrospective: Tweed Skirt!Gail Carriger WorldCon 2010 Retrospective: Tweed Skirt!
Coat from Banana Republic outlet mall $60, American Eagle check jacket from thrift store $10.

I've had the winter white coat for ages, it seems terribly impractical but I can't seem to get rid of it. Every time I think, I have too many coats, this is the one I end up reaching for when it's cold and I don't want black. The jacket, sadly, doesn't quite fit the rack and is wool, although lined with a lovely red pinstripe, so it has been (rather aptly) retired to the countryside (AKA my mother's). It's a tweedy fabric, but with a brown hounds-tooth check. It's very equestrian, and I LOVE equestrian so I haven't been able to completely get rid of it.

But where was I? Oh yes, tweed! Like the black pencil skirt the tweed skirt often shows up on the fall winter runways. Here are some examples from both future and past.

I think you can dress tweed modern, as in the last two pictures above, but it will still have a vintage look to it. Particularly if you are wearing a pencil skirt form. I suspect this, combined with the country equestrian nature, is why I love it so very much.

Gail Carriger WorldCon 2010 Retrospective: Tweed Skirt!Gail Carriger WorldCon 2010 Retrospective: Tweed Skirt!
Joan on Madmen sporting tweed, and a 1940's tweed suit paired with what? Oh yes, red!

So what book do I suggest with the tweed?

Gail Carriger WorldCon 2010 Retrospective: Tweed Skirt!

Patricia C. Wrede's The Raven Ring. Set in Lyra (a world in which Wrede has written many books) this one stands entirely alone. It features a tough mountain lass, who just happens to be a bad ass fighter, and is basically a murder mystery with magic. Eleret must figure out who murdered her mother and what that has to to with the magical Raven Ring that is her only inheritance. It also features two marvelous love interests and a fun ending.

In Which Gail Carriger Gets Crafty: Turning A Little White Dress Retro Style

In Which Gail Carriger Gets Crafty: Turning A Little White Dress Retro Style

It took me a very long time to learn to wear white. My mother, being a gardener, is deeply mistrustful of the color and has never worn it my whole life. However, it is a common vintage color, or at least cream is.


My dear friend Rachel (who also Betas my books) believes that you can never trust anyone in white trousers. I will admit to once being tempted by a lovely white suit, but until this season the furthest I ever went into white was a tailored white shirt, or cream knit sweater. However, the 2011 spring runways were all about the little white dress (LWD). 

So I decided I could break away from my dear Mum, and become an Adult Who Wears White. I thought if I thrifted one and tailored it myself, perhaps I wouldn't be so scared of it. The quest was on!

In Which Gail Carriger Gets Crafty: Turning A Little White Dress Retro Style
The original dress, cream eyelet muslin from Bon Mar Thrift store, $5.
In Which Gail Carriger Gets Crafty: Turning A Little White Dress Retro Style
The modification in progress. 
Hemmed dress to shorten it and then used cut piece to make small sleeves. 
Also nipped in at the back to make more fitted at the waist. 
In Which Gail Carriger Gets Crafty: Turning A Little White Dress Retro Style
The finished dress on the dummy. Luckily I have a slip that is perfect for wearing underneath.

Here are some ideas as to how to take a dress like this from retro to street and from summer to autumn. I'm looking forward to experimenting.  Of course you don't have to go for the whole dress, you can always just do an accessory.

I'm introducing and new occasional feature to the Retro Rack blog. The book that matches your outfit!

In Which Gail Carriger Gets Crafty: Turning A Little White Dress Retro Style

For the Little White Dress I am suggesting you try an old favorite of mine, Restoree by Anne McCaffery. It's an earth-girl-stolen-to-alien-planet political drama with a great romantic thread and a light breezy tone. It has a summer read feel to it. Don't worry, the aliens are amorphous ~ no bugs. There is some plastic-surgery kind of experimentation, but it's very light. The romance element is wonderfully well done.

Have a lovely weekend all!

In Which Gail Carriger Gets Crafty: Turning A Little White Dress Retro Style
Gail Carriger Presentation Outfit ~ Why I wore Vintage 1950s Red & Black Flowered SheathMen's Fashion Retrospective ~ After 1900 by Gail Carriger Men's Fashion Retrospective ~ Victorian Fashion Before 1900 by Gail Carriger Gail Carriger WorldCon 2010 Retrospective: Tweed Skirt!In Which Gail Carriger Gets Crafty: Turning A Little White Dress Retro Style

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