Dressing Alexia ~ From the Foundation Up


The final two Parasol Protectorate books, Heartless & Timeless, were released in trade paperback size at the beginning of this month. I thought you might like a glimpse, Fashionable Reader, into some of the things that Alexia might wear underneath one of those amazing dresses of hers.

 1872 Ball Gown  Charles Fredrick Worth, 1872  The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Bustle 1873, Austrian, Made of cotton and horsehair


Here we go!

Godeys Aug 1872 Drawers 
Stockings  1873  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

1875 Garter  1875-1825  The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Evening Shoes  1875-1885  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

1872 Corset  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Corset Cover  1870  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

1872-1874  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Petticoat  1873  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

And over the whole thing?

1870-1875 Bonnet   The Victoria & Albert Museum

1872 Ball Gown  Charles Fredrick Worth,  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Cape  1870  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Parasol 1880s  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

And what were the men wearing?

 1873-1875  The Victoria & Albert Museum; 1875-1880  The Los Angeles County Museum of Art

1875 Pocket Watch  Sotheby’s

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

eShakti Second Time Same As The First?


So, buoyed by my first eShakti shopping experience, I hopped on for a second, more ambitious, order. 

Here's what I got compared with the online image. (Mine are wrinkled right out of the box, sorry.) It's kind fun to see a garment on a real person as compared to the model.

Its raining umbrellas print dress ~ Discontinued

Why did I buy it? I ordered this dress purely on the basis of the fabric, it has little umbrellas all over it. How cute is that? Almost a parasol. I got it with a sweetheart neckline which might have been the wrong choice. It's lined, which is nice. I do like the skirt part a great deal.

Flaws? Yes. The fit on the top is quite awful, or am I overreacting? It's also weirdly warm.

Keep it? I can't decide. What do you think? I could turn the bottom into a cute skirt. The AB likes it and pronounces it cute, he suggests shortening the sleeves and I must say that is an improvement.

Lesson learned? I'll have to remember that any of eShakti's patterns that rely on waist pleats for bust room will not work with a Rack. Anything that doesn't have seams is going to be right out. (I shall amend the 10 rules to include this one.) I also am going to be more reluctant to tinker with the necklines in future. This may have worked a great deal better with the original neckline ~ then again it would have been even warmer!

Colorblock A-line cotton knit dress Jade green black ~ Discontinued

Why did I buy it? The color kinda goes with my November book release cover art. I love green and I'm intrigued by the idea of color blocking. I really love the fabric on this one. It's not lined but the cotton knit is a nice thick stretchy fabric, that slips on easy and fits well.

Flaws? Yes. Look at the way that skirt makes me look. All wide and stumpy. Bad color blocking! Bad! Also I find the style is not to my aesthetic at all.

Keep it? No. I'm sending this one back. I really do not like the way the bottom part makes my frame look. I'm not impressed with the shade of green, and I usually love green. I like the neckline, but that's about it.

Lesson learned? I've added a neckline to the list of ones I like. I should stick with the vintage looks and cuts that I know work on me. Stupid Gail, you are not a modern colorblock woman.

Contrast trim cotton poplin dress

 Why did I buy it? For my second book release beginning of next year. I liked the cheeky feel of it. I modified the neckline to a high back scoop.

Flaws? A few. For some reason this dress isn't lined. However you can't really see the bra seams and the skirt is dark enough I don't think it will have the see-through-when-backlit issue. It does make for a nice cool light weight garment. I wish it were black, not navy, and that the light part were on the bottom and the darker color on top (but I knew the colors when I bought it). I wish the fabric didn't wrinkle quite so much. Going to make traveling with it a pain.

Keep it? Hell yes. I love it. I love the way it makes my waist look so small. I love the stripes at the bottom. I adore the neckline, another one for the list of things that work with the Rack. I was afraid it would open too wide and show the bra straps on the sides but it doesn't. Yes!

Lesson learned? I've added another neckline to the list of ones I like. Supported the fact that those patterns best customized for the Rack have princess seams, at the very least.

Polka dot print blouse

 Why did I buy it? To go with the dress I bought first time around, so I could turn that dress into a multi use garment.

Flaws? Holy smokes yes. Look at that awful thing. Again, no good bust seams. The blouse is not even boxy, it's trapeze! The only shape it gets is from its belt. That kind of cut is AWFUL on a Rack. It blouses badly, it makes the girls look even bigger, and I'd have to spend all day tugging it down. Ewe.

Keep it? Absolutely not. It was a good idea, it just doesn't work.

Lesson learned? Seems, look for those darn seems.

Ruffle hem floral skirt ~ Discontinued

Why did I buy it? I've been looking for a true red trumpet skirt for ages. I ordered this one customized it to midi length, so it wouldn't look quite so hoochie. Later I panicked thinking I wouldn't be able to walk in it, but it's fine. It's fully lined and has a fish tail.

Flaws? A few. The waistband isn't a perfect fit. And I don't love high wasted skirts with my figure, but otherwise, just look at that skirt. It's divine!

Keep it?Oh my goodness yes. It fits a wardrobe niche, and the cut! I adore the cut. This one is a winner. I regret not getting the embroidery removed (it's an option with some dresses), but I didn't even think about it at the time.

Lesson learned? Stick with what works. Remember to think about removing the embroidery details for the sake of versatility.

Sweetheart surplice cotton knit top

Why did I buy it? I've been making do with this thin H&M knit top as my one true red option for a while. I like it, but it is very thin and I can only wear it with my least comfortable bra. Because of the style with the pleated fabric over the chest, I thought this would allow me more undergarment versatility.

Flaws? Few. The neckline is a little low so you can kind of see the bra in places. However, there are shoulder keepers that may help with that, and an easy way to pin it to the bra with out the pin being visible (hide it in the folds). The fabric is a little thick and warm but otherwise it's great.

Keep it? Yes. It pretty much does exactly what I wanted and I don't think I could find a better fitting garment for this particular wardrobe hole. This one may come to England with me.

Lesson learned? Knit is my friend, and so is pleating on the boobs, it adds volume, but also bra options. And these days the second is more important than the first.

So there you have it. Now I get to experience eShakti's returns process for you all.

But first I need to know...

Should I keep that blue umbrella dress and turn the bottom into a skirt or just modify the sleeves?

Both are relatively easy for me to do. Or should I return it as I am returning the green and and the dot top anyway?

Your thought are needed. I am torn with indecision. 

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

Gail's Timeline for Planning Outfits for a Book Tour


It should come as no surprise at this juncture, Fashionable Reader, that I am a mite obsessive about clothing. I have no excuse for this, nor do I feel I need one. For some it's video games or TV, for others it's marathons and exercise, for me it's clothing. The shelf with all my shoes lives in our living room (for lack of space elsewhere) with a curtain over it. Sometimes, I draw the curtain back and just lie on the couch, staring at my shoe collection. It brings me peace. It's meditative. While the AB performs quests and shoots aliens with death rays, I play on my fashion app, Stylebook, and read street style blogs. We all have our stress outlets.


Recently, I've been planning for my upcoming trip to England: two conventions, one event, and family vacation over the course of three weeks. That's a lot to pack. I like to have day and evening outfits when I am at conventions. Although my hotel is far enough away from WorldCon and my schedule is so tight for 9 Worlds I'm not sure I will find the time to change each day, the point is to try.

I realize, I pretty much follow a time line of preparation. Here it is.

Two months out:

  • Begin to assess needs and wants for events. 
  • Determine shoe/hat options. 
  • Review dresses for mending, wear, and fit. 
  • Consider packability and plane outfits. 
  • Check over luggage.
  • Check bra and stocking situation. 
  • Shop as needed.
  • Create packing list in Stylebook.

My new travel pants: comfortable, kind of quirky, black,
already wrinkled, and have front and back pockets.
Yes, I do wear pants. I know, right?

One month out:

  • Online ordering (if local shopping has failed).
  • Review Sylebook packing, remove unwanted items, consider weight and accessory versatility. 
  • Incorporate newly acquired items. 
  • Make notes on what I need to try on together, unusual pairings, and undergarments. 
  • Start thinking about what will need to be laundered and dry cleaned.

Two weeks out:
  • Separate items I'm taking with me out of regular closet rotation.
  • Take in dry cleaning.
  • Launder everything else.
  • Check weather at destination and decide on outer wear and additional layers.

One week out:

  • Assemble all clothing.
  • Try on questionable pairings and outfits, reshuffle is necessary.
  • Double check list.
  • Get luggage out of storage.
  • Begin to fill tote with the vital can't forget necessities.
  • Review and refill toiletries.

Two days out:

  • Final check over.
  • Commence modular packing.
  • Pack everything possible, except clothing.

Day before (or day that) I leave:

  • Roll the three rolls: everyday clothing, event clothing, spare outfit for plane.
  • Obtain plane food and last minute items. 
  • Charge and sync all devices.

via FB

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

New Acquisitions in 2014


Well, to be truthful, Fashionable Reader: some of these were purchased long ago. I just forgot to post them. But I did break my shopping fast finally (before eShakti). Well, I had a birthday and I apparently have no will power past 3-4 months. Learning process. Here's what I bought...

Black bow pumps from Sofft, $40 at Nordstrom Rack. Sofft is a brand finding its way more and more into my closet. They are basically an Aerosole competitor: good arch support, comfortable insole, retro feel.

1940s Advertisement for similar shoes

They err on the narrow side, which I need, and they do tend to go up high on the Achilles, which I hate. I've been looking to replace my character shoes for a while (which have been my default black pump for 20 years). But I really need to be able to walk long distances in them. I think these will fit the bill, we will find out soon as they are coming to England with me.

Also from Nordstrom Rack, probably about $20. It's leather and it fits the hips. It's narrow and yet still has a bow. (My other black bow belt is thick elastic at the waist.) I probably didn't need this, but I wanted it.

Reversible belt, $30 Nordstrom Rack. Brown on one side, coppery gold on the other and it's leather and fits at the waist. Men have had the reversible belt for ages but us ladies have slim pickings in this arena. Finally, I found this one and I love it. I haven't had a chance to wear it yet but any time I get two outfits out of one item of clothing I'm happy. It's all about double duty when packing, especially accessories.

Grey belt, at the waist, Nordstrom Rack $15. This one filled a niche in my wardrobe. I actually got to cross it off the list. I know, right?

Jersey two tone asymmetrical skirt and long cream lace skirt. Both came from Marshalls for about $20. I love asymmetrical stuff but I can mostly only wear it on the bottom half of my body. This skirt is very easy and I have it partly for beach and pool. The lace skirt was an investment for steampunk events. It's long and fits well but synthetic lace so I can pack it easily. It'll work just as well to wear on a plane as it will with a corset, so another good double duty item.

Two scarves both from Kohls for about $15 each. The first one I bought to go with some turquoise jewelry and because I could also use it as a sash belt or in my hair. I keep seeing vintage pictures of women wearing scarves around their waists and I really want to try it.

via Etsy listing pattern

The mint bird scarf was another whimsy purchase. I love the asymmetrical pattern. Also I adore that color of mint, it looks great with my complexion (I think). It also reminds me of one of my favorite Gunne Sax dresses of all time. (I used to have several in high school. It was my way of interpreting the 90's grunge babydoll.)

Leopard headband for $5. It gave me a headache because it has the metal (not plastic) band. I wanted something that took my leopard accessories from day to night. For although I love my leopard pillbox hat, it really does not work for an evening look. I took it apart, put it onto a clip instead and this one will come to England with me.

Red pedal pusher pants in a heavy cotton waffle fabric. Yes I know, I have winched on about Capris in the past. But I did say if I found the perfect pedal pusher cut I would buy them. These are darn near perfect: too the waist, quite tight, nice thick fabric, and a beautiful deep red. You see I have had the perfect red trumpet skirt on my wish list for ages with no success. I found these, tried them on at a whim, and then realized they could fill the same niche in my closet. So I bought them. In fact, I think I may wear them today!

P.S. There are no links to Amazon in this blog post for this reason.

"Fashion is one of the very few forms of expression in which women have more freedom than men. And I don’t think it’s an accident that it’s typically seen as shallow, trivial, and vain. It is the height of irony that women are valued for our looks, encouraged to make ourselves beautiful and ornamental… and are then derided as shallow and vain for doing so. And it’s a subtle but definite form of sexism to take one of the few forms of expression where women have more freedom, and treat it as a form of expression that’s inherently superficial and trivial. Like it or not, fashion and style are primarily a women’s art form. And I think it gets treated as trivial because women get treated as trivial. What’s more, there’s an interestingly sexist assumption that often gets made about female fashion — namely, that it’s primarily intended to get male attention and male approval."
— From Fashion is a Feminist Issue by Greta Christina 

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