Gail Carriger’s Etiquette & Espionage is Technically Perfect– at least for me!

Despite it’s early calendar debut, Gail Carriger’s Finishing School Book the First was hands down my most anticipated book to be released in 2013. I was not the least disappointed. The heroine of Carriger’s first young adult novel, Sophronia Temminnick, is a strong, capable, curious fourteen year-old adventuress who appreciates the practical value of information in a world that would rather keep her in properly lady-like ignorance and indifference. This appreciation is recognized and Sophronia is covertly recruited to Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing School for Young Ladies of Quality. Her harried Mother is only partially right when assuming Sophronia will learn the finer arts of curtsy, tea service, and household management. She did not anticipate her daughter’s introduction to deception, poison, assignation, or in an appropriate word, finishing!

I found the setting to exist in complete harmony with her adult series, The Parasol Protectorate, of which I have been a long time fan. I loved the crossover between some characters and am dying to discuss the end of E&E with someone who has read The Parasol Protectorate (Staci? D3Z? Who’s next?!). The classes are mostly described in short exchanges to further the storyline and while this does leave me wanting more, it fits perfectly with Carriger’s characteristic neat and tidy handling of plots which she executes like a perfectly practiced curtsy. This is one of the reasons why I label this book technically perfect. Other reasons include perfect attention to its target audience and genre fans.

What else can I say to sell this book? The adjoining boys school is a school for evil geniuses. There are flyway men, dirigibles, rove vampires and loner werewolves, inventors, intelligencers, and head mistresses who are entirely out of the know. There is mystery, adventure, very light romance, Steampunk, manners, and frivolity. Class barriers, conventions, rules, and promises are all broken. But luckily for hearts that break with the ends of enjoyable novels, we will only have to wait until November to receive the second installment and further details of the training of Sophronia. Check it out and let me know what you think!!!

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Errant Easel — Haberdasher’s Edition

The Errant Easel celebrated D3Z’s birthday on March 16th with a tea party and excursion into miniature millnery. While I failed to capture the spread of finger foods, the aroma of lavender lady grey tea, or the discussion of Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate finale on film, I thought I would still share the fruits of my fascinator labor with followers of the Easel.

ImageAs an ardent lover of steampunk and one with a passing interest in recent royal matrimony, I have had a lot of time to think about fascinators and the kinds I would like to sport. I have considered several formats and favor the mini top hat above all. Whether it is tall, asymetrical, feathered, or goggled I find these hats both sharp and jaunty. The more stylized the better, in fact.

For this project, however, I created a hat that settled somewhere between pilgrim and witch that was anything but puritanical. My influence was really from a booth I visited at a renaissance festival years ago that featured these beautifully crafted leather hats that curved back like a witches hat and were adorned with brilliant plumage or brass goggles. I initially started to mimic my memory of these hats but once I started shaping I liked the more simple, steep lines that Doug described as “fast.” Using the poster board to form the incomplete conical body of the hat, I realized I liked the nearly parallel planes that formed the bottom plane where the brim would go and the top plane created by not completing the cone. I covered each of the three sections with fabric and glued them together using (most effectively) gorilla glue misappropriated from my husband’s modeling supplies. I trimmed it with fancy black brick-a-brack and used a simple clock face and clock hands for a focal point on the hat. This is where I paused and found it somewhat lacking. Staci suggested I add some trailing fabric using the complimentary maroon fabric cut at a bias to give it a lovely draping flow. I think it really helped bring the sharp line back down a bit so that as your eyes travel up the steep front line they are drawn back down the back of the hat by the trailing fabric. I really loved this idea and always benefit from brain storming and with the Ladies of the Easel.

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Speaking of the other Ladies, I thought their hats were coming along quite nicely! D3Z was creating mini top hat using the red fabric to create a clever, eye-catching ruching effect that added a nice texture to a traditionally smooth design. Staci crafted a more abstract open (Kentucky) blue hat that spouted silver tulle like fire. I think it was somewhat inspired by Effie Trinket and would fit perfectly into a  Capitol Couture collection. If we are lucky, my partners in crime will share their creations as well.

As this mini workshop was entirely an experiment on all of our parts, I kept it pretty simple with the materials using three solid but shiny fabrics that reminded me of different Victorian outfits I had encountered. The bright Kentucky blue reminded me of the blue dress Rachel McAdams wears as Irene Adler in the 2009 adaptation of Sherlock Holmes when she walks from 221B Baker Street to the carriage engaged by Moriarty. A more muted tone of the same color is featured on the cover of Changeless, the second book in the Parasol Protectorate Series by Gail Carriger. I chose the red fabric because it reminded me of the dress featured on the color of Blameless, book the third of the same series. Finally, I chose the green fabric entirely on the basis of my own preference and what I would like to wear given the opportunity.

Given the chance to do this again, I would experiment with patterned fabric or maybe even stripes if I had the patience to align them. I also thought it would be interesting to layer a lace like fabric over a matte solid color. I would also plan my centerpiece more carefully with greater pizzazz or even blend the steampunk elements with more natural influences. On a more technical note, I would be more judicious with the application of glue as it tends to bleed through this type of fabric, leave unsightly stains, and relieve you of your fingerprints if proper precautions are not taken.