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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.

Knitted Tops with Gail Carriger: Part 2, Patterns and the Rack

I stick to a couple of hard and fast rules when shopping for patterned tops, whether knitted or not.

Generally speaking, smaller uniform patterns are better. Do make certain they do not stretch over the rack so much they distort and thus emphasize that area, both a color pattern and a texture pattern (like cables or open-work crochet) can do this. I prefer geometric over flowers and flat pattern to a textured one.

Knitted Tops with Gail Carriger: Part 2, Patterns and the Rack

Don't be afraid of stripes. As with color blocking, you can actually use the stripe, or any pattern for that matter, as you would a bright color ~ to draw attention away form your larger areas. For example if you are self conscious about your chect or stomach, pick something that emphasizes your arms and face.

Knitted Tops with Gail Carriger: Part 2, Patterns and the Rack

You can achieve something similar to the above with a patterned blouse and solid colored vest or knitted sweater-vest (that sexy librarian look). Also, please note that the knit in both the above examples is stretching over the chest in a "white" way.

Knitted Tops with Gail Carriger: Part 2, Patterns and the Rack

Here I am making that very grave mistake. Solution ~ with colors darker than your skin tone, wear a matched undershirt, in this case I should have worn red. In cases where the top is lighter than your skin tone wear a nude top that matches it. Also make certain you don't just look at yourself inside. Natural light and flash photography can cause "rack reveal" issues.

Knitted Tops with Gail Carriger: Part 2, Patterns and the Rack

Here are two of my favorite modern sweaters, the stripes about the shoulders and the details at the neck draw the attention upwards. (Sorry about the wrinkles, haven't worn them recently as it's too hot.)

For heaven's sake, just don't op for the following version of stripes and solids!


Draws attention to exactly the wrong area, is also bulky and too long. Looks great on her, but then I'm not shaped like her. That said, for those of my readership who have the opposite problem from me, (taller, smaller chested types) this is a great look!

 Here's another example of a vintage piece and a retro version of the same 1950's style pattern blocked knit top that be great on a fuller figure.

Knitted Tops with Gail Carriger: Part 2, Patterns and the Rack

Knitted Tops with Gail Carriger: Part 2, Patterns and the Rack
From Diary of a Vintage Girl Blog

This second version is better for she of the broader shoulders.

You can also reverse it, as white tends to widen and put a darker smaller pattern over the bust.

Knitted Tops with Gail Carriger: Part 2, Patterns and the Rack

Things that break up the the eye and torso will tend to divert attention, so something like this lovely check number would also work.

Knitted Tops with Gail Carriger: Part 2, Patterns and the Rack

Please note that, as usual, I'm opting for sweaters that finish right about the waist. These are hard to find in the modern age, a great sadness to me, so I tend to shop for vintage tops whenever possible. Given my wool allergy and the general destructive nature of moths vintage sweaters are hard to find. That said, since sweaters have stretch, sometimes I've been able to buy retro and get a nice cotton or acrylic from a discount store.

Knitted Tops with Gail Carriger: Part 2, Patterns and the Rack Knitted Tops with Gail Carriger: Part 2, Patterns and the Rack
These two came from Ross and Kohls, respectively, probably around $15 each. Junior's larges, both of them. 

I've yet to successfully shorten a sweater, I know it can be done but as a seamstress I have issues with stretch and I don't knit so it frightens me.

Knitted Tops with Gail Carriger: Part 2, Patterns and the Rack
Cold Comfort Farm

That said, you can find a longer finely patterned sweater and belt it. I suggest using my "safety pin at the seam" trick to kep it from riding around. A nice skinny belt gives a very vintage look, a wider belt is more modern.

Knitted Tops with Gail Carriger: Part 2, Patterns and the Rack

Here's another great way to block a pattern. This is one whole piece. Binding the cardigan to the front panel allows you to do as she has done, curve the cardy inwards over the rack, something that never naturally occurs and thus makes you look smaller. Also that long block of one straight line, particularly if it is a lighter color, makes you look long and lean. There's a DIY project in here with a thrifted cardy and a knit vest and someone (not me) who can mod knitwear.

Lastly, if you are still afraid of pattern remember you can pair a small neutral colored pattern like a faint window-pain plaid, check, houndstooth, or tweed with a nice bright pencil or full skirt, and this will definitely de-emphasize the rack. But if you still don't like that idea, you could try color blocking your knits instead.

Knitted Tops with Gail Carriger: Part 2, Patterns and the Rack
Note the buttons at the neck, again drawing attention to the face. Nice detail.

Please if you have images of yourself in knitwear, or want to tackle the aforementioned DIY project, feel free to share on the Retro Rack Facebook Page.
Gail Carriger in San Diego in Purple & Cream at ConDor 2014Gail Carriger's New Aquisition ~ Sweater SetGail Carriger Purple & Black In San FranciscoKnitted Tops with Gail Carriger: Part 2, Patterns and the Rack

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