Only Curtsies & Conspiracies Could Exceed Etiquette & Espionage

Only Curtsies and Conspiracies Could Exceed Etiquette and Espionage

I was thrilled to be one of the lucky reviewers to win a (signed) advance reader copy of Gail Carriger’s Curtsies & Conspiracies from Carriger’s blog contest. I received my copy late in the week but quickly found myself engrossed to the degree of happily finishing it by the same week’s end.

When we rejoin Sophronia at Madmoiselle Geraldine’s (floating) Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality, she is sitting her 6 month examination, an affair that leads her to serve cold tea (gasp!), to lament the implications of almond aroma, and to covertly liberate an oddgob of it’s mini-prototype valve of unknown purpose. Everyday activities for a young intelligencer in training. As the lessons advance, so does the intrigue, including, but not limited to kidnapping plots (of which the Plumleigh-Teignmott siblings are reluctantly the subject), love triangles (of which Sophronia is reluctantly a vertex), and the political entanglement of Picklemen, Flywaymen, Vampires, Werewolves, intelligencers, and evil geniuses in training (they all seemed rather enthusiastic to me!). My favorite scene described the fortune telling of each of the main players and its clever use to Sophronia’s own end.

I worry that I will spoil something if I continue to skirt about the plot but one thing I can clearly express is that Curtsies & Conspiracies exceeds the expectations set by Etiquette & Espionage. In C&C, Carriger really hit her stride in this setting and as a result the plot is executed greater efficiency while exuding light-hearted style, the dialogue delivered with greater wit, and the characters filled out as much as their voluminous skirts. The plots in this book are much more extensive than hinted in its predecessor but the clues and plot developments are revealed expertly throughout the narrative. As much as I loved Book the First, I was not prepared for how much I would enjoy Book the Second.

Curtsies & Conspiracies will be published in hardcover November 5, 2013. I highly recommend pre-ordering this book and clearing out the late Autumn weekend to float above the moors with the ladies of Madmoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

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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.