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Belts ~ It's What's for Your Waist - Part 4 Swiss Waist by Gail Carriger


I can't remember when I first heard about the Swiss Waist, Fashionable Reader.

Belts ~ It's What's for Your Waist - Part 4 Swiss Waist by Gail Carriger
From my personal collection
Popular in the 1860s this was a boned belt, with at least one peak (either up or down). It usually laced like a corset, only up the front, sometimes is was exactly corset-like with a busk up the front and laces up the back. The Swiss Waist was worn in addition to the foundation corset. It is, so far as I can determine historically, the only corset-like garment that was worn on the outside of a dress.

Belts ~ It's What's for Your Waist - Part 4 Swiss Waist by Gail Carriger
Daguerreotype from my personal collection
Belts ~ It's What's for Your Waist - Part 4 Swiss Waist by Gail Carriger Belts ~ It's What's for Your Waist - Part 4 Swiss Waist by Gail Carriger
 1860s  The Victoria & Albert Museum Swiss Waist; my own version from Dark Garden

Here is a retrospective on the idea of the Swiss Waist. They aren't necessarily exactly this article of clothing, but they all suggest the peaks that I associate with this garment.


Belts ~ It's What's for Your Waist - Part 4 Swiss Waist by Gail Carriger
1829  Kerry Taylor Auctions
Belts ~ It's What's for Your Waist - Part 4 Swiss Waist by Gail Carriger
1872 Godeys Sept 1872 Dicky
Described as: "Overwaist of blue silk, trimmed with black lace; it is to be worn over a black silk dress, and is very dressy and pretty."

Belts ~ It's What's for Your Waist - Part 4 Swiss Waist by Gail Carriger
Tea Gown  1875-1880  The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Belts ~ It's What's for Your Waist - Part 4 Swiss Waist by Gail Carriger
[stage costume] Leonora of Mantua (1873), Valentine Cameron Prinsep via British Paintings tumblr

Belts ~ It's What's for Your Waist - Part 4 Swiss Waist by Gail Carriger
1880 Striped Princess Bodice

Belts ~ It's What's for Your Waist - Part 4 Swiss Waist by Gail Carriger
1889 Evening Dress The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Belts ~ It's What's for Your Waist - Part 4 Swiss Waist by Gail Carriger Belts ~ It's What's for Your Waist - Part 4 Swiss Waist by Gail Carriger
 1890-1895  The Goldstein Museum of Design; Liberty & Co. dress, 1893-94  From the Victoria & Albert Museum

Belts ~ It's What's for Your Waist - Part 4 Swiss Waist by Gail Carriger
1895 Golf Ensemble   The Kyoto Costume Institute

Belts ~ It's What's for Your Waist - Part 4 Swiss Waist by Gail Carriger Belts ~ It's What's for Your Waist - Part 4 Swiss Waist by Gail Carriger
 1896-1899; 1900 Ball Gown  Driscoll both The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Belts ~ It's What's for Your Waist - Part 4 Swiss Waist by Gail Carriger
1900 Dress  Jean-Philippe Worth,  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Belts ~ It's What's for Your Waist - Part 4 Swiss Waist by Gail Carriger
1900s Gustave Beer, Antique Dress

Belts ~ It's What's for Your Waist - Part 4 Swiss Waist by Gail Carriger
1901 Ball Gown  Jeanne Paquin,  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Belts ~ It's What's for Your Waist - Part 4 Swiss Waist by Gail Carriger Belts ~ It's What's for Your Waist - Part 4 Swiss Waist by Gail Carriger
 1900s  theoryphotoart tumblr; on our merry way tumblr vintage-impressions- Portrait, ca. 1906

Belts ~ It's What's for Your Waist - Part 4 Swiss Waist by Gail Carriger
1906-1908 Evening Dress  Jean-Philippe Worth, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Belts ~ It's What's for Your Waist - Part 4 Swiss Waist by Gail Carriger
1940s Dress I. Magnin, Kerry Taylor Auctions

Belts ~ It's What's for Your Waist - Part 4 Swiss Waist by Gail Carriger
v-isfor-vintage tumblr 1950s style sass

Belts ~ It's What's for Your Waist - Part 4 Swiss Waist by Gail Carriger
1950s  Timeless Vixen Vintage blue

Belts ~ It's What's for Your Waist - Part 4 Swiss Waist by Gail Carriger
1950s  Timeless Vixen Vintage

Belts ~ It's What's for Your Waist - Part 4 Swiss Waist by Gail Carriger
1950s Carrier airconditioning advertisement. via theniftyfifties tumblr
And now for the modern age...

Belts ~ It's What's for Your Waist - Part 4 Swiss Waist by Gail Carriger Belts ~ It's What's for Your Waist - Part 4 Swiss Waist by Gail Carriger
 2013 Aigner Fall 2013 collection via nymag.com; 2013 Ralph LaurenSpring-2103

Belts ~ It's What's for Your Waist - Part 4 Swiss Waist by Gail Carriger
2013 Nidhi Sunil in Jimmy Choo Over The Knee Boots. Vogue India, 10.2013 via Booted Up

Belts ~ It's What's for Your Waist - Part 4 Swiss Waist by Gail Carriger
2013 Willow cutout waist belt at theOutnet.com

(A quick note, I had a whole piece prepped for today on wide belts and why they do and don't work on us curvy ladies, but blogspot ate it. I was particularly proud of it, but one keystroke and it's gone, no recovery. Note to self, do not use keyboard shortcuts in blogger! Argh. Anyway, I am hugely overworked theses days and have neither the time nor inclination to rewrite it. So we skip wide belts entirely, sorry....)

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

Gail Carriger Gold Steampunk in San Francisco

So Etiquette & Espionage (my new YA book and the first in a four book series) launched into the world on Tuesday night. The organizers of the event said they woudl love it if I would wear something steampunk. I was left with a bit of a quandary. With Nova Albion around the corner, a local steampunk event thus allowing me to pack and wear ALL my favorite steampunk outfits and ALL their companion parasols (YES!!), I didn't want to wear one of those to this event. Too much repeat in too story a time. Plus I needed something I could drive in that was a little more casual. I'm rather chuffed with myself for concocting this outfit:

Gail Carriger Gold Steampunk in San FranciscoGail Carriger Gold Steampunk in San Francisco
Outfit front & back

Gail Carriger Gold Steampunk in San FranciscoGail Carriger Gold Steampunk in San Francisco
 Outfit side shots

I started with my Fashioned By Flobért gold robe carriage dress (which might, more properly, be called a coach dress) with buttons all the way up the front.

Gail Carriger Gold Steampunk in San FranciscoGail Carriger Gold Steampunk in San Francisco
 The dress hanging, and at World Con in Reno in 2011

The dress is stained and slightly faded, in a heavy satin. This makes it only suitable for low-light late evening events, and warm, and in ever great need of ironing. I bought it on sale for $10, it needed repairs and new buttons all up the front. I have a great source for vintage buttons in Petaluma and I sourced 32 abalone shell replacements for $10 plus narrowing every single button hole. It was quite the task. I do like the architectural details in the bodice. I'm now in possession of a nice wide belt, which I'll be wearing with it in future when it's not all steampunked. It did steampunk nicely though, didn't it?



Gail Carriger Gold Steampunk in San Francisco

It actually has a bit of a train, so the front hem is shorter than the back, which shows off the shoes and looks ever so slightly bustle-like with the waist cinch. It's very robe like, not surprising as it turns out Fashioned By Flobért was mainly a boudoir designer.

Gail Carriger Gold Steampunk in San FranciscoGail Carriger Gold Steampunk in San Francisco

Similar styles:
Gail Carriger Gold Steampunk in San FranciscoGail Carriger Gold Steampunk in San Francisco
 1930s Elsa Schiaparelli  Kerry Taylor Auctions; 1970s Halston  1stdibs.com

Gail Carriger Gold Steampunk in San Francisco
 1940s Dress  Charles James for Elizabeth Arden  The Frock

I paired my Flobert with patchwork boots and long dark red vintage gloves inherited from my Grandmother.

Gail Carriger Gold Steampunk in San Francisco
The boots, Kenneth Cole, from Buffalo Exchange, Berkeley some 20 years ago, $20. 
I was so poor at the time my best friend bought them for me.

I also wore this little octopus necklace. I like to have octopus on my person somewhere.

Gail Carriger Gold Steampunk in San Francisco
Adorable octopus necklace, gift from a reader

The hat from my Autumn steampunk outfit, and when I'm not facing a windy San Francisco night I susually perch it far forward on my head.

Gail Carriger Gold Steampunk in San FranciscoGail Carriger Gold Steampunk in San Francisco
Signing with the hat and a perched spinner from VivianWestwood SS runway

Gail Carriger Gold Steampunk in San FranciscoGail Carriger Gold Steampunk in San Francisco
Christian Dior Haute Couture 2010 and a very cool hat on one of the guest!

I was reminded of this recent photo shoot in Restoration Hardware.

Gail Carriger Gold Steampunk in San Francisco

Along with the accessories I wore my custom stripped Dark Garden pointed waist cinch as a Swiss Waist with Ruby Blackbird Corset buttons to make it look more belt like. I was drawing on this kind of thing for inspiration.

Gail Carriger Gold Steampunk in San FranciscoGail Carriger Gold Steampunk in San Francisco
 1910-1915 Motoring Ensemble, The FIDM Museum; 1896-1899  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Gail Carriger Gold Steampunk in San FranciscoGail Carriger Gold Steampunk in San Francisco
 1900 Ball Gown  The Metropolitan Museum of Art; screen cap from the Pallisers

So there you have it! Another event, another outfit.

Gail Carriger Gold Steampunk in San Francisco

Before you ask, the waist cinch is 22" but I don't have it laced fully down.

Gail Carriger Gold Steampunk in San Francisco

Something in this vein for the characters?


For Professor Briathwope in Etiquette & Espionage:

Gail Carriger Gold Steampunk in San Francisco
1850s Men’s Dressing Gown  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

For Ivy:
Gail Carriger Gold Steampunk in San Francisco
1885  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

For Prudence:

Gail Carriger Gold Steampunk in San Francisco
1895 Dress  Museo del Traje

Gail Carriger Gold Steampunk in San Francisco
By Cake Central member CakeDiva11

Retro Rack is also on facebook where I post additional images and fashion thoughts.
Gail Carriger WEars Steampunk Light, Outfits in New Zealand 2015Belts ~ It's What's for Your Waist - Part 4 Swiss Waist by Gail Carriger Gail Carriger Denver in Steampunk AutumnSteampunk  on Retro Rack with Gail Carriger Gail Carriger Gold Steampunk in San Francisco

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