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Vintage Style In A Modern World

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Gail Carriger in Hayward in Brown Gingham

So recently, Fashionable reader, there was a little gathering in Hayward at the Golden Tea Garden with members of The Book Shop round the corner. I chose one of the dresses I purchased for Comic Con but didn't end of wearing, a brown gingham.

Gail Carriger in Hayward in Brown Gingham

As you can see, others were also dressed for the occasion. This dress is similar to my brown plaid, but different enough in cut and fabric that I decided it was worth having two dresses both in the same color pallet and check family.

Gail Carriger in Hayward in Brown GinghamGail Carriger in Hayward in Brown Gingham

One of my favorite things about this dress is the bow detail at the neck. You can't see it in the photo above because it was off the dress while I made some repairs. But trust me, it's cute.

Often vintage dresses have bow details at the waist.

Which I must say I also adore, but it's always fun to find a dress that has some kind of neck line interest, I feel it detracts from the Rack and draws the eyes up to the face.

Gail Carriger in Hayward in Brown Gingham
Geoffrey Beene, 1960s  Augusta Auctions

This particular dress is back to my old standard of pencil dresses.

Gail Carriger in Hayward in Brown Gingham

I always try to wear pencil dresses with heels but my ankle is still not mended. (I hate being old!) So I am confined to flats. I am inordinately upset about this. I'm loosing the beautiful summer months and my lovely lovely collection of heeled sandals is languishing because of this stupid ankle. I might have to do a bit of an Ode to the Unworn post soon, just to stay sane. So for this tea, I had to wear my oxfords, again. Ho hum. I seem to be living in these shoes these days. Thank goodness I have six pairs, a color for every possible outfit.

Gail Carriger in Hayward in Brown Gingham

Back to the tea. The company was charming, the tea admirable, and the food tasty. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Gail Carriger in Hayward in Brown Gingham

I selected an English Breakfast, because I have no imagination when it comes to tea and every time I sally forth into another blend I'm disappointed. And of the nibbles the roast beef and horse radish was my favorite by far.

Gail Carriger in Hayward in Brown Gingham

After chattering away about books and writing and such I signed really quickly and then scuttled off back into the night, or whatever.

Gail Carriger in Hayward in Brown Gingham

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

All About Oxfords! DIY Bonus ~ Going Spectator Style with Gail Carriger

All About Oxfords! DIY Bonus ~ Going Spectator Style with Gail Carriger
Oxfords  1895-1905  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Oxfords happen to be my all time favorite way to wear flats. Although, as you will see, the humble oxford comes in all shapes and sizes these days. You have so many glorious options!

All About Oxfords! DIY Bonus ~ Going Spectator Style with Gail Carriger
 My collection of plain flat oxfords. Cream (BP Nordstrom Rack $50), black patent, and tobacco brown (both from Marshalls on super-sale last week $10. Score!)

All About Oxfords! DIY Bonus ~ Going Spectator Style with Gail Carriger All About Oxfords! DIY Bonus ~ Going Spectator Style with Gail Carriger All About Oxfords! DIY Bonus ~ Going Spectator Style with Gail Carriger
Sporting my favorite cream oxfords three different ways.

I realized, because men's style shoes use men's terminology, I was lacking knowledge on the subject of oxfords versus spectators versus wingtips. So I did some research.

Despite the terminology I use above and elsewhere in this blog, oxford is technically a specific cut of men's shoe with enclosed lacing, like so . . .
Classic Men's Oxford and a Women's Oxford Pump in Grey by Aerosole

Sometimes called balmorals and originally quite plain, the (temporally) later style bluchers or derbys were the ones that had open lacing, like so . . .
Women's Derby Peep Toe Stiletto in Red

In modern times we mostly call all of the above oxfords regardless of lacing technique. Such shoes often also have a piece of leather stitched over the toe section making them oxford caps.

Wingtip is the American term for brogue style mens shoe with the classic W pattern over the cap toe.

Men's Oxford Wingtip and a Women's Derby Wingtip in Distressed Brown by Me Too

Thus you can have a wingtip oxford, although a plain oxford is considered more formal. However, you can also have a wingtip loafer with no lacing at all.

All About Oxfords! DIY Bonus ~ Going Spectator Style with Gail Carriger
 1944 Wingtip Spectator Derbys

Spectator is a term used for any shoe with two colors/textures in blocks following the cut of the shoe, whether tonal or contrasting, for men or women. I happen to be a huge fan of this style of shoe. I have no idea why, I just am.

Derby Wingtip Spectator open-toe Pump in tones of grey. Spectator mary jane pump w/ strap in textures of black


Wingtip Spectator Pump in Black & White, Oxford Wingtip Spectator Stiletto Platform in Tones of Brown, Derby Spectator Pump in Distressed Cream & Black

Spectators appeared first on men's oxfords in England in the late 1860s, but had their heyday in the 1930s. I put Lord Akeldama in a pair of black and white spectators in one scene in my books (1870s setting) and Alexia is quite shocked by him wearing such a shoe. For women, they were probably most popular in the 1940s and 1950s.

All About Oxfords! DIY Bonus ~ Going Spectator Style with Gail Carriger
  My collection of spectators. Clockwise from 12 o'clock: Via Spiga grey & black pumps (gift); Via Spiga black & white stilettos ($50 Nordstrom Rack); BP brown & mushroom flats (dyed by me, see bellow, Nordstrom $50, bought after the cream ones above because I was wearing those so much); unknown brand grey & black flats (Crossroads Trading, Haight Street, SF $15); black & white swing dance shoes that I had soled for street walking when I gave up competitive dance (I have two pairs the other pair is in getting dyed to black & red); and finally Via Spiga black & red stilettos ($50 Nordstrom Rack, they started life brown tones, I had them dyed red and then did the black myself, see DIY bellow.)


 So oxford is the cut, wingtip is the style, and spectator is the color pattern.

Now, this kind-of reverse spectator was wildly popular in the 1950s, the saddle shoe. 

All About Oxfords! DIY Bonus ~ Going Spectator Style with Gail Carriger

And not all spectators have to be wingtips, nor do all wingtips have to be spectators, and neither has to be an oxford. I know, I know, so confusing.

All About Oxfords! DIY Bonus ~ Going Spectator Style with Gail Carriger All About Oxfords! DIY Bonus ~ Going Spectator Style with Gail Carriger All About Oxfords! DIY Bonus ~ Going Spectator Style with Gail Carriger
Wingtip spectator flats that are not oxfords; spectator non-wingtip non-oxford mary jane peep-toe platform stiletto; Hill & Novis in 1935 wingtip derbys.

Some ultra-modern takes on this classic shoe.

All About Oxfords! DIY Bonus ~ Going Spectator Style with Gail Carriger All About Oxfords! DIY Bonus ~ Going Spectator Style with Gail Carriger All About Oxfords! DIY Bonus ~ Going Spectator Style with Gail Carriger All About Oxfords! DIY Bonus ~ Going Spectator Style with Gail Carriger All About Oxfords! DIY Bonus ~ Going Spectator Style with Gail Carriger All About Oxfords! DIY Bonus ~ Going Spectator Style with Gail Carriger
Lace and black spectator oxfords; Lautre brown python spectator platform mary jane pumps; black patent wingtip brogue boots; silver derbys; spatter-painted black and white derbys; and Oscar De La Renta's black & clear spectator derby sandals on the 2012 runway (a new one on me!)

What I love about plain oxfords is because they are menswear they can be tough or cute, retro or modern. You can use them to add a pop of color to an otherwise severe outfit. They are good with tights, socks, nylons or bare legs. They work with maxi-skirts, short skirts, or trousers. They are comfortable for walking long distances, and if you get the right ones, they pack down small and light for travel. Most of them offer more support than a ballet-style flat with more versatility in styling. They are also my airport shoe of choice.
What I like about the pump version is that because of the retro and menswear style you don't have to go with a high heel. In fact, you can pretty much get away with any variation on a heel ~ from stacked to pump to stiletto to small one-incher to hourglass Victoriana. Whatever your heel comfort level you can wear it (and quite probably find it) in an oxford pump.

All About Oxfords! DIY Bonus ~ Going Spectator Style with Gail Carriger All About Oxfords! DIY Bonus ~ Going Spectator Style with Gail Carriger
Some vintage 1940s cuteness.

The DIY section of our presentation.

How to turn plain oxfords into spectators . . .

I have two pairs of shoes I have done this to:

All About Oxfords! DIY Bonus ~ Going Spectator Style with Gail Carriger All About Oxfords! DIY Bonus ~ Going Spectator Style with Gail Carriger

Here's how I do it, with Kiwi shine and a paint brush. This limits me to black and brown on top of whatever base color I already have. (Here's more on dying your own shoes other colors from New Vintage Lady. She appears to order her dye from Spain. I don't know of any other way to get good colored leather dye, so please don't ask me.) If I want a red base, for example, I have a Miracle Shoe Guy who I take the shoes in to, and for $10 or so he dyes them any color I'd like. This is what I did with the red stilettos.

But, back to spectatoring.

All About Oxfords! DIY Bonus ~ Going Spectator Style with Gail Carriger

All About Oxfords! DIY Bonus ~ Going Spectator Style with Gail Carriger

The starting shoes, mushroom colored, removed laces and stuffed with tissue paper for protection. I suggest trying first with a pair you don't care about, say from the thrift store, but they do have to be leather, and preferably matt and untreated (with Scotch guard, for example). Plastics are really hard to work with, and I don't. I try to only wear leather shoes for comfort, wear, and smell reasons.

All About Oxfords! DIY Bonus ~ Going Spectator Style with Gail Carriger

All About Oxfords! DIY Bonus ~ Going Spectator Style with Gail Carriger

Because I like the vintage look, I'm not too concerned with getting the dyed section perfectly even. Still, it takes at least three coats to make certain you have no obvious brush marks. As you do one section, the others dry quite fast, so you don't have to wait at all between coats. It took me about an hour to dye the shoes. Here you can see one coat around the laces and two on the wingtip caps. I like to leave the holes but you don't have to, just a personal preference. You have to have a pretty steady hand because if you get dye in the wrong part of the shoe it's hard to clean off. I use a standard small paintbrush which can be washed clean with water. I poor the dye into the cap and just dip in and go for it. I use a baby wipe or wet one to clean any mistakes.

All About Oxfords! DIY Bonus ~ Going Spectator Style with Gail Carriger

All About Oxfords! DIY Bonus ~ Going Spectator Style with Gail Carriger

The final product. For the brown I used Kiwi Scuff Cover Instant Wax Shine in brown. I ordered it off of Amazon for $6, but you might find it at a local craft store. Kiwi also makes a white version which is good for covering scuff marks on my black & white spectators. For black I use Kiwi Honor Guard High Gloss Instant Spit-Shine. It's brilliant and better than their Scuff Cover but only comes in black. I also use it for repairing the scuff marks on my leather jackets. One little bottle has so far lasted me some ten years and I've a good deal of black leather. I suggest leaving the shoes to dry thoroughly overnight before wearing or packing. You can buff them up with a soft cloth if you like.

On care and feeding of your spectators . . .

Generally speaking, I spray all my leather shoes with Scotch Guard (or the equivalent) when I get them home the first time and (after a cleaning) each fall. However, I haven't yet done it with any of the spectators I dyed myself. I'm scared they will spot. But I'm going to have to do it soon, winter is coming. I'll let you know how it goes. It is nice to know I still have the dyes and if anything happens I can just give them a new coat.

Gail Carriger Reviews Reno WorldCon 2011 Renovation Convention Fashion

And now, for your viewing pleasure, Fashionable Reader, the day-by-day outfit log from Reno. I'll do a breakdown of outfits as soon as more photos start to filter in, and I did miss photographing one dress from the first night, but all-in-all I remembered to pigeon-hole someone to take a full body picture ~ hat to stilettos ~ every time. Of which I am inordinately proud. I have learned that it is best to ask a female to do it (remembers the shoes) or when someone approaches me to photograph for themselves to thrust my camera upon them.

Gail Carriger Reviews Reno WorldCon 2011 Renovation Convention Fashion
Thursday, Day

Sorry for the blurry. Red dress with white acessories, photographed by Francesca Myman of Locus Magazine with senior editor Liza Trombi photo-bombing me ~ much to general giggles. I like to start out a convention with red, it makes a nice powerful impression. However, the shoes were a mistake, especially without stockings. I had blisters to baby for the rest of the con. Sigh, always go with leather.

Gail Carriger Reviews Reno WorldCon 2011 Renovation Convention Fashion
Thursday, Evening

Briefly put in an appearance at the Girl Genius ball, mostly to play homage to Phil & Kaja.

Gail Carriger Reviews Reno WorldCon 2011 Renovation Convention Fashion
Friday, Day

Switched out what I had planned to wear as these are my most comfortable shoes when blisters are in play (yes, better than flats), and because I was going to be interviewed for SF Book Club. Red pattern reads better on film than white knit, particularly on The Rack.

Gail Carriger Reviews Reno WorldCon 2011 Renovation Convention Fashion
Friday, Evening

For the parties I slipped on my 1940's robe dress. I substituted my favorite sandals for the dark brown 40's style T-straps, again because of the blisters. The dress was a little warm for the parties, but they weren't all that crowded, so it worked out fine.

Gail Carriger Reviews Reno WorldCon 2011 Renovation Convention Fashion
Saturday, Day

I tend to call this my pea green dress, but we realized that night it was actually wasabi green. I opted for flats, as this was my busiest day, which I really will only do for dresses with full skirts.

Gail Carriger Reviews Reno WorldCon 2011 Renovation Convention Fashion Gail Carriger Reviews Reno WorldCon 2011 Renovation Convention Fashion
Saturday, Evening

This is one of my favorite dresses of all time. It's a little tight over the rack and requires I go (gasp) bra-less, but sometimes a girl's got to sacrifice for such a rich color and amazing cut. I didn't wear this to the Hugos, but I wanted to put my best foot forward on the last night of parties.

Gail Carriger Reviews Reno WorldCon 2011 Renovation Convention Fashion
Sunday, Day

This is a modern skirt, nice because it's synthetic and doesn't wrinkle. Skirts I can buy modern, it's tops and dresses that never fit me. This one has a faint blue pinstripe. While it is a little boring, I keep it in the closet because it travels so well and has a matched jacket and pants, all of which fit! The knit top is vintage.

Today's secret tip?

As I did in the above outfit, you can fasten your blouse to the waistband of the skirt (from the inside, of course) at the seams of both sides with safety pins. Then you don't have to spend all day tugging and rearranging.

Gail Carriger OUtfit round Up Dresses and Calamari in New Orleans

I have returned from New Orleans, Fashionable Reader, I what I lost in water weight due to the heat I regained in fat from all the fried food. Orbit put me up at the Sheraton on Canal Street and here's the view from the bedroom window, such a  beautiful city!

Gail Carriger OUtfit round Up Dresses and Calamari in New Orleans

On Friday evening, after recovering from a rather hectic plane ride, the AB and I headed out for nibbles. Following instructions from a fan, we sourced Maspero's fried calamari, which was indeed delicious. The AB was also favorably impressed with the draft beer.

Gail Carriger OUtfit round Up Dresses and Calamari in New Orleans

New Orleans if full of the nicest people! I often get compliments on this red dress, which suits well enough but I feel is rather basic. However, never before have so many lovely ladies said how much they liked it. The AB suggested this was the Marilyn effect, as the top is quite boobilicious.

Gail Carriger OUtfit round Up Dresses and Calamari in New Orleans

On Saturday for speeches, panels, and a publisher dinner I chose something a bit more conservative. It turned out to be a fortuitous choice for that was the "coolest day" and it was the warmest of my three dresses.

Gail Carriger OUtfit round Up Dresses and Calamari in New Orleans

 I did learn, however, that stilettos and humidity are mutually exclusive with blisters popping up instantaneously. Sadly, I consigned my peep toes back into the suitcase.

Gail Carriger OUtfit round Up Dresses and Calamari in New Orleans

I ended up wearing my oxfords the entire rest of the trip. For these first two outfits, which involved a lot of walking around in the sun I also wore a white straw hat as well. I had alternating flowers for the hat to match each outfit (expect immanent blog on the subject).

Gail Carriger OUtfit round Up Dresses and Calamari in New OrleansGail Carriger OUtfit round Up Dresses and Calamari in New Orleans
Oxfords are BP from Nordstrom and they are very light-weight and great for travel. I think a shelled out good money for them, $60. It was worth it. I like them so much I bought the second pair in a darker mushroom color which I am going to stain to be brown two tones (again, expect a future blog).I LOVE millinery ~ one of my favorite hobbies. The hat is from my usual Bon Mar Thrift store, $10. I did entirely redecorate it, though.

I know, I know, white and cream, but sometimes a girl's just gotta protect her skin. For Sunday, however, I was inside all day, so I switched hats to a cream mini topper. It was the hottest day and luckily I wore my lightest dress. Still, because of the AC, I regretted not packing a light shawl.

Gail Carriger OUtfit round Up Dresses and Calamari in New Orleans

Note that the bra straps are invisible? Success! Although, the hat kept falling off (when I talk I get very animated and gesticulate wildly and wiggle around a lot). I had a nice hat pin but it broke, time to invest in another stronger one.

Gail Carriger OUtfit round Up Dresses and Calamari in New OrleansGail Carriger OUtfit round Up Dresses and Calamari in New Orleans

I paired all three outfits with crocheted gloves (from Bon Mar Thrift Store Sonoma, CA ~ $2) and a vintage cream purse (from Moon Zoon in Santa Cruz, CA ~ $20) with added octopus bling (gift).

Gail Carriger OUtfit round Up Dresses and Calamari in New OrleansGail Carriger OUtfit round Up Dresses and Calamari in New OrleansGail Carriger OUtfit round Up Dresses and Calamari in New Orleans

So, coping with humidity and avoiding sweat blisters. Any advice or thoughts, ladies?
Gail Carriger Omaha Outfits at OSFest 2013Gail Carriger in Hayward in Brown GinghamAll About Oxfords! DIY Bonus ~ Going Spectator Style with Gail Carriger Gail Carriger Reviews Reno WorldCon 2011 Renovation Convention FashionGail Carriger OUtfit round Up Dresses and Calamari in New Orleans

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