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Gail Carriger at Bookfest in Red Pedal Pushers with Black and White


Barnes & Noble and their teen book fest this last weekend. It was pretty last minute and I agreed to do a thing because I happen to already be in the area for a morning event, so I figured it was no big deal to hop over.

Gail Carriger at Bookfest in Red Pedal Pushers with Black and White
photo taken by Maude Lynne @the_maude_lynne

Sorry this is the only picture anyone posted of my outfit as I forgot, as always, to take any myself.

I'm wearing a fitted button up black and white striped blouse (yes it goes over the Rack without a gap, it's one of those magic ones).  I got it years ago, likely from Nordstrom Rack. But I've no ready source of good button downs for girls with a large Rack, aside from going custom on eShakti. Recommendations welcome. The sleeves on this one are a little tight but because the rest fits so well and it's vertical stripes I can't get rid of it.

I've paired it with high wasted red cotton pedal pushers (similar $50), black and white Via Spiga wingtip spectator peep toes pumps (similar $60), black vintage leather gloves (similar $30), and a little red headband (similar $10), and red bead necklace and earring set (similar $20).

I'm never sure about pedal pushers, but I like having a few pairs of trousers about, just to remind myself that my legs do, in fact, go all the way up.

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In Which Gail Carriger Gets Four Outfits Out of Two

Packing for Germany I had to keep things small as I was spending 5 days traveling after my Frankfurt work events. So I tried to make it for my three days at the book fair with only two formal outfits and lost of modular action.

In Which Gail Carriger Gets Four Outfits Out of Two

Frankfurt has no fashion, just suits. Although our hotel was very swanky.

In Which Gail Carriger Gets Four Outfits Out of Two

All the hotels I stayed at had this odd thing where the only bedding you get is a duvet. And duvet is a terribly dignified term for the item in questions. The AB and I took to referring to them as people tablecloths, since that was about what they covered.


But you don't care about beds in Germany, Fashionable Reader, you care about clothes in Germany!

I took my favorite vintage check suit, which is comprised of a sheath dress and a cropped fitted three quarter sleeve jacket. I can't remember where I got this suit, it's one of the first vintage pieces I ever bought, which makes me thing it probably came from Santa Cruz, most of my earliest stuff did, for about $40.

In Which Gail Carriger Gets Four Outfits Out of Two

I also took my Jessica Wiggle red dress, which is retro knock off but made a nice thick stretch material that travels really well.


In Which Gail Carriger Gets Four Outfits Out of Two
I paid full price for this dress, $96 from 23 Skidio in downtown Campbell, CA. I remember the price exactly because . . . well . . . ouch, but who doesn't need a knock out red dress in their wardrobe?

In Which Gail Carriger Gets Four Outfits Out of Two

To break up the two I also packed my black cardigan with beaded detail that I picked up years ago at Ross for about $15.

Because I was trying to travel light I only allowed myself two pairs of shoes, the Red Miz Mooz that I love so well, comfortable and close-toe (which was good, because it rained in Frankfurt and we walked everywhere) and my black and white wingtips, for everything else.

In Which Gail Carriger Gets Four Outfits Out of TwoIn Which Gail Carriger Gets Four Outfits Out of Two
Miz Mooz from Haight Street boutique, full price, $70, and Black & White Oxford wingtip spectator dance shoes, resoled for walking, $30.

Because it was so cold I also ended up wearing my cape, my scarf, and my long black leather gloves a whole lot. I took two hats, both felt and stuffed the smaller red beret style vintage inside of the larger black cloche, which is modern.

In Which Gail Carriger Gets Four Outfits Out of TwoIn Which Gail Carriger Gets Four Outfits Out of Two
Vintage red hat from Bon Marche Thrift Store in Sonoma, $15, and black Cloche from Target last winter $20.

And this is what I did with the collection . . .


In Which Gail Carriger Gets Four Outfits Out of Two

First day at the fair, for meetings with foriegn editors and high tea. The check suit jacket with the red dress, black & white shoes, and red hat. Long black leather gloves, Crossroads Trading $25, invaluable due to the cold. Vintage typewriter key earrings purchased from and Etsy vendor at a steampunk convention. Mine are the colon and semi-colon on one side, and the question mark and the slash on the other, placed onto special extra-long hooks. I wore them the entire time I was in Germany because my little calculator-like translator kept needing to be reset and the earrings worked perfectly for the tiny button.

In Which Gail Carriger Gets Four Outfits Out of Two In Which Gail Carriger Gets Four Outfits Out of Two

First evening, for visiting with the fans at the pub. Red dress with black cardy, red heals, red hat and long black gloves. I also wore these huge glittery earrings which were very heavy, gift from my sparkly friend Francesca. Story behind those earrings at the pub told only in German . . .

In Which Gail Carriger Gets Four Outfits Out of Two

Second day when I actually visited the fair, I wore the check sheath dress with the black cardy and black hat and black & white shoes ~ for meeting with editors. Paired this with the typewriter earrings, again, and a little multi-metal octopus, a gift from a fan (Sarah Brigdon) at Fencon in its first outing. 


In Which Gail Carriger Gets Four Outfits Out of Two

Because the sweater had so much beading I didn't feel it necessary to wear too much jewelry, but I do always like to octopus touch and a bit of a steampunk element. The hat wasn't the brightest idea, it really messed up my hair, cloches I think I will keep in reserve for bad hair days from here on out.

In Which Gail Carriger Gets Four Outfits Out of Two

Second evening for reception with foreign editors at Mediterranean restaurant. (Very yummy.) Wearing the full check suit with red shoes, red gloves, red bauble jewelry, and the red hat at a different angle, added the cape as it started to rain. Also had my black and white polkadot umbrella.

In Which Gail Carriger Gets Four Outfits Out of Two

Here are some other ways to wear a cape and my earlier blog on the subject.

On my last day, since I was traveling shortly after lunch, and it was very cold, and I was meeting with my New York editor for the Finishing School series I just went all black with the cape and a cream scarf over everythng. Sorry, I forgot to take a picture, bur it wasn't very interesting anyway.

After Frankfurt I mainly descended into traveler's gear, which I my case was long jersey maxi skirt, jeans, jersey tops, my favorite BCBG plaid jacket, and other easy foldable and comfortable layers.I pretty proud of myself as I wore everything I brought, except the two tank tops and the shorts (but they were needed in case it got hot) and some of the socks and tights. 

I did keep my eye out for fashionable finds. For example, this hat on a wax soldier at the museum in the fortress at Koblenz. Wouldn't it just look smashing on me!

In Which Gail Carriger Gets Four Outfits Out of Two
Kidding of course.

I also formed a love affaire with these boots but unfortunately no shops are open in Koblenz on Sunday so when I went back to try them on, I could not. Trust me, they were beauties. Here they are, taunting me with their cuteness from behind impenetrable glass.

In Which Gail Carriger Gets Four Outfits Out of Two

However, I did end up with a cute pair of steampunky gloves from T.K. Maxx for $25.


In Which Gail Carriger Gets Four Outfits Out of Two

And during the course of our travels I investigated not one, not two, but four second hand shops! One in Wiesbaden (Courage Second Hand Boutique) and three in Koblenz (none in Frankfurt, see note above, nothing in Frankfurt but suits).

In Which Gail Carriger Gets Four Outfits Out of Two

All in all a wonderful trip.

In Which Gail Carriger Gets Four Outfits Out of Two

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 at Bookfest in Red Pedal Pushers with Black and White Gail Carriger in a Cream Dress with Brown Accessories in TucsonGail Carriger in Laser Cut Turquoise eShakti Dress in DC for the Waistcoats & Weaponry TourIn Which Gail Carriger Gets Four Outfits Out of TwoAll About Oxfords! DIY Bonus ~ Going Spectator Style with Gail Carriger

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