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Vintage Style In A Modern World

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Gail Carriger Purple & Black In San Francisco

Instead of the Dickens Fair, Fashionable Reader, I managed a quick drop by at Borderlands in San Francisco last weekend. They very kindly came to my rescue. Since I wouldn't actually be visiting Victorian London I elected to decline the planned steampunk cover look in favor of more sensible wear. I opted for purple, cream, and black.

Gail Carriger Purple & Black In San FranciscoGail Carriger Purple & Black In San Francisco

Purple and I have a long and checkered history. I used to hate it. I associated it with the leggings and oversized sweaters my mother wore in the 80s. But now I've come around. I even did my nails to match.

Gail Carriger Purple & Black In San Francisco
My preference is for short, oval shellacs. 

It was raining in the City, so boots were a must. Here's the outfit breakdown:

Gail Carriger Purple & Black In San Francisco

I use an app called StyleBook to create my outfits. Someday we will talk more about that if you are interested, Fashionable Reader? Anyway, you can see from above that I use it to show all the possible combinations for a given outfit (for example I have three black skirts that work with this top, several different shoes depending on the weather, and different hats to make it more or less fancy).

Gail Carriger Purple & Black In San Francisco
From top down: Hat, Bon Marche Thrift Store, Sonoma, $7; jewelry set Dark Garden Unique Corsetry, Dickens Fair, $25; Madman signing pen, gift from a friend; shirt, Kohls (buttons sewn shut) $10; sweater Kohls, $15; belt Haight Street, $15; skirt Valencia St. thrift store, $7 (buttons added); boots, Miz Mooz, $100; gloves, vintage shop, $10.

That cream hat is quickly becoming one of my favorites. And how excited was I to finally trot out the Kohls sweater? Can you believe something so vintage came from the junior section of a department store, and goes over the Rack, and isn't wool? It reminded me of this set:

Gail Carriger Purple & Black In San Francisco
1955 Sweater Set Christian Dior The Philadelphia Museum of Art

Speaking of wool:

Gail Carriger Purple & Black In San Francisco

I picked this skirt up super cheep intending mainly to wear it with a corset of mine (hence adding buttons to match) but I find myself really gravitating towards it this winter.

Gail Carriger Purple & Black In San Francisco
Dark Garden Custom Corset c. $1000

Perhaps it's that the shape is very hip right now yet still pleasingly 1940s. Perhaps it's that it seems to fit me really well. It is lined, except the waistband (a fault all to common in wool garments) so I do have to wear an undershirt (or a tucked in shirt) to protect my tummy from the dreaded wool rash but otherwise I love it. Some other ways I'm thinking about wearing it . . .

Gail Carriger Purple & Black In San FranciscoGail Carriger Purple & Black In San FranciscoGail Carriger Purple & Black In San Francisco

I also have an allergy to nickle earrings. Generally this means that I always buy danglings (rather than posts) so I can replace the hooks with silver or gold. Unfortunately, these ones are posts. They must be a pretty low alloy because it took several hours before my ears began to ache, but ache they did, so these earrings are out. (The clear nail polish trick doesn't work for me.) Sad, because I really liked the set.Now the hunt is on for new earring to match! Perhaps I will modify a pair of stemapunk earring to take the pearl drop part. Hummm. DIY plotting!

Gail Carriger Purple & Black In San Francisco

The shirt I chose is a bold purple rose print. If you, like me, are slow to accept purple print is a good entry point. Although, with the Rack, I might be better wearing a print on my bottom half. 

Gail Carriger Purple & Black In San FranciscoGail Carriger Purple & Black In San Francisco
 Second image is Giovanna Battaglia

Gail Carriger Purple & Black In San FranciscoGail Carriger Purple & Black In San Francisco
 1952 Mainbocher The Museum of the City of New York; 1960s Vintageous

Gail Carriger Purple & Black In San Francisco

Gail Carriger Purple & Black In San Francisco
Christina Hendricks in Vintage Carolina Herrera

 The sweater over the shirt is a heather knit.

Gail Carriger Purple & Black In San FranciscoGail Carriger Purple & Black In San Francisco
 Heather knit sweater; Trina Turk Belted Heather Tweed Dress

Purple, like most colors, has a wide range of shades from cool to warm, and from dark to light so it will suit any complexion. So saying "I don't look good in purple" isn't really a good excuse. It is perfectly fine to say "I don't like wearing purple." This is similar to not liking Brussels sprouts ~ own it baby! I feel it is perfectly appropriate to dislike colors illogically. I, for example, don't like yellow. Blech!

That said, I have gone out and found some temptingly beautiful purple pieces for your consideration.

Gail Carriger Purple & Black In San FranciscoGail Carriger Purple & Black In San Francisco

Gail Carriger Purple & Black In San Francisco
Hermes leather bracelet at hermes.com

Gail Carriger Purple & Black In San Francisco

Gail Carriger Purple & Black In San FranciscoGail Carriger Purple & Black In San Francisco
Giovanna Bataglia; H&M Dark Purple Coat

Gail Carriger Purple & Black In San FranciscoGail Carriger Purple & Black In San Francisco
 1914-1915  Nasjonalmuseet for Kunst, Arketektur, og Design; 1910s Evening Dress  Nasjonalmuseet for Kunst, Arketektur, og Design

Gail Carriger Purple & Black In San FranciscoGail Carriger Purple & Black In San Francisco
 1900-1905  The Goldstein Museum of Design; 1900 Pendant  1stdibs.com

And if those last two images don't convince you to try purple, nothing will.

And now, for the characters!

For Sophronia after Etiquette & Espionage

Gail Carriger Purple & Black In San Francisco
1860s  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

For Ivy Hisselpenny in Soulless

Gail Carriger Purple & Black In San Francisco
1872–75 purple dress by poteidia

For Rue in Prudence
Gail Carriger Purple & Black In San Francisco
1890s  Kerry Taylor Auctions

For Primrose in Prudence

Gail Carriger Purple & Black In San Francisco
1896 Ball Gown Jean-Philippe Worth

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

Gail Carriger Retro Makeup Routine

So, in the last blog we covered some kinds of retro makeup. This blog will cover my personal routine. I'm including products because I often get asked, and tips for coping with the products. I am in no way affiliated with these and the recommendations come from use, not sponsorship.

I've broken the makeup down by stages, what I do first, and in some cases what I wear daily as well as events. I break out all the stops for events, so when you see me in person Fashionable Reader, I've usually spent an hour or more on my makeup. In my non event life the most I spend is 15 minutes.

Gail Carriger Retro Makeup Routine

Base ~

For daily wear I apply Olay Total Effects Eye Transforming Cream under my eyes, and rub a little red-eye reduction eye drops to the red parts of my face (in my case, the nose). After that is dry, I use Aveda Tinted Moisturizer SPF 15. I believe in being professionally "shaded" and make sure they allow you to go outside into natural light with a mirror to make certain of the match. I apply small amounts with a light hand using a wedge shaped sponge applicator to a clean dry face. All over, including the eye area and the eyelid. Don't forget to blend well at the jaw bone.

For events I use M.A.C. Studio Fix Powder Plus Foundation. Again, please try to get professionally "shaded" and make sure they allow you to go outside into natural light with a mirror to make certain of the match. With flash photography I prefer a pressed powder. Again, I find it's best when applied to a clean dry face (no moisturizer and certainly no base, that's what cases caking) all over including eyes and eyelids with a kabuki-style brush. I use a eyeshadow brush to apply to eye area as well, hide those circles. I also apply to neck and a light dusting to the decolletage when wearing a low cut dress. We ladies don't sweat, we glow, but there's not point in letting nature get away with anything she shouldn't.

Gail Carriger Retro Makeup Routine

Cheeks ~

I don't bother with blush on easy days and I've yet to find my favorite color for events. I apply a pressed powder to the hollows of my cheeks as a rule. Still looking for a winner. Because of my face shape and the M.A.C. powder base, I find creams don't work for me.


I do, however, always apply a highlighter. For events, with the M.A.C., I use a white pressed powder eyeshadow on the brow bone, inner corners of the eye and tops of cheekbones. For everyday I use a liquid slightly yellow shine, Stila's All Over Shimmer Liquid Luminizer in gold works, but isn't my ideal choice. I find I need to let it dry slightly and then kind of pat and smudge it otherwise it streaks.

Gail Carriger Retro Makeup Routine

A word on brushes. I'm not one for saying you have to go out and drop bank. Mine are mostly from a $4.50 eco-friendly gift set. But, I do suggest gettign enough so you can dedicate your brushes. Mine are, in the order picture above, and in order of use . . .
  • Powder
  • Powder touch up
  • Blush
  • Highlight
  • Light shadow
  • Medium shadow
  • Eye liner smudging
  • Extra (in my case for shocking colors)

Gail Carriger Retro Makeup Routine

Eye Liner ~

I don't have a steady enough hand for liquid liner so I use pencil and just sacrifice myself to the more modern smudged look. I love kohl based liners because they are so easy to apply, although they tend to smear. I use Prestige Soft Blend Kohl Eyeliner for everyday. But I use the same technique for either occasion.

For events I line the inner bottom with white liner. Then I do the inside corner and do a cat's eye with black waterproof liner on the upper lid, other corner and inner underside of upper lid (don't forget). I use Rimmel Exaggerate Waterproof in black but others are available.

One trick? I draw the bottom of my line extension for the cat's eye with the white pencil first, that way I can work to get the eyes symmetrical with white instead of black. Then I lay the black in just above the white for a nice clean look.

Gail Carriger Retro Makeup Routine

Eye Shadow ~

I always suggest using a contrasting color on the wheel to bring out the color of ones eyes. (But matching to it will also make them pop.)
  • For blue eyes, a nice bronze (or orange, if you're daring)
  • For caramel and lighter brown eyes, purples are nice
  • For dark brown you can select at will
  • If you're lucky enough to have purple eyes then pale taupes and yellow golds are fabulous
  • I have green eyes. The contrast color is red or pink, but then I look like I have pink eye.
Gail Carriger Retro Makeup Routine

So, I like to use a complimentary color often going for purple (like Urban Decay's Eyeshadow in Asphyxia) if it's an edgy day look, and for events I almost always use an muted orange-gold color. I love LORAC's Eye Shadow in Serenity. I also have a mixed Smokey Eyes pallet for when I feel adventurous.

Lashes ~

There are a lot of products out there claiming various lash lengthening benefits. I tried the "base coat first" and the maximizer and . . . in the end I've settled on two I like. Both are waterproof, because I just don't want to worry about it budging. For daily wear I use Bourjois Pump Up The Volume Mascara in Noir, and for events Rimmel Sexy Curves Waterproof Mascara in Black. But I tend to thing everyone has their favorite. I will say that even on my laziest days, I never leave the house without mascara.

Lipstick ~

I wear pink and neutral lipsticks on my natural lip shape in daily life, and, like mascara, I rarely leave home without it. One or two sticks live in my purse, just in case.The safest color bet for daily wear is to try to match one's natural lip color only a shade or two darker.

For events, I usually do a 1940's ultra red lip, which means I go outside the lines a bit. Done right, this is a great way to make thin lips look a bit larger. I like red, so few people risk it these days. Although one has to be careful, it can age a girl. I recommend using the color wheel in this matter as well. Although I use it to battle my natural complexion, which is slightly sallow, rather than emphasize it. Because I want to avoid anything that makes me look any more yellow, I stay away from its opposite on the color wheel (purple) and instead go for stark true reds, some blue-based pinks, and fuchsias. I avoid coral because I fear the orange, and I just don't like browns or burgundys all that much.

Gail Carriger Retro Makeup Routine


I prefer color-stay (or long-last) lipsticks. I just don't like fussing once it is on, it stays on all day. I've done (too much) research into the competing products. Here's my run down of the brands:

CoverGirl Outlast All Day Lipcolor ~ some of the best colors, but the over gloss is in a separate tube, which is annoying. Also I don't think it holds as long as some of the others.
Revlon Colorstay Overtime Lipcolor ~ the first brand I ever tried, best holding power, but the shine cover is a little drying to the lips.
Maybelline Superstay Stain Gloss ~ (new product) don't bother, it moves around and comes off just as much as regular lipstick. I threw mine away.
Maybelline New York Superstay 24 ~ my favorite at the moment for color and applicator, but the tube is very very badly designed. The topcoat end falls off constantly in the purse with is annoying and unhygienic. I ended up wrapping mine with tape. Since this is a new product I'm hoping they will fix this problem. I do adore the applicator.
Maybelline Super Stay Lipcolor ~ mostly what you will see me wearing, my favorite vintage shade is Flame #725.

Tips for long-last lipsticks ~

Always apply to a clean dry mouth. I suggest wiping with a wet towel and then a dry towel before application. It's vital to get any powder or chapstick product off. You want lips as smooth and exfoliated as possible. Apply the lipstick quickly and carefully in smooth movements and don't apply too many layers, re-application as it drys will lift the first layer off. Then leave lips alone for five minutes until completely dry before applying the top coat.

The best way to remove color-stay lipsticks is with a heavy duty ultra-moisturizer skin cream or waxy chapstick, rub in well, then wipe off with towel or makeup remover towelette.

On the road I keep a touch-up kit of powder and lipstick on me at all times, but I don't bother carrying anything else.

Gail Carriger Retro Makeup Routine

An note on nails. The most vintage looking is an almond shape. It can be hard to explain this to a salon. I've take to carrying a copy of this picture around with me.

Gail Carriger Retro Makeup Routine

And that, my dear Fashionable Reader, is that. If you are interested, I can do other products as well.

Gail Carriger in a Pink 1930s Bright Pink Maxi Dress in the Bay AreaNova Albion Steampunk Convention ~ Fashionable Objects from Gail Carriger Gail Carriger in Brown & Cream in Santa Clara ~ Nova Albion Steampunk Convention Outfit Day 2, 2013Gail Carriger Purple & Black In San FranciscoGail Carriger Retro Makeup Routine

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