Tipping the Velvet
is a 1998 novel written by Sarah Waters which was later adapted into a three-part serial for The BBC
starring Rachael Stirling. Set in Victorian England
, it tells the story of Nancy "Nan" Astley, an oyster girl from Whitstable who falls in love with a music hall male impersonator named Kitty Butler.
- Adorkable: Ralph. especially when he walks in on Nan and Florence.
- Ambiguous Disorder: Gracie. Something's off with her, even if it's not clear what; she acts very young for her age, and has an odd fixation with certain colors.
- Probably fair for the period, as 'feeble-minded' people were rarely classified more finely than that.
- Aristocrats Are Evil: Diana Lethaby and her decadent friends.
- Bifauxnen: Nan can easily pass for a pretty young man- so easily that her first proper costume as Rackity Jack had to be altered so she'd be less convincing.
- Cast Full of Gay: A large portion of the characters are lesbian women.
- Closet Key: Kitty, to Nan.
- Dirty Communists: Florence and Ralph are aversions (also socialists instead of communists,) as they (especially Ralph) are easily the nicest people in the story.
- Erotic Eating: "Have you ever tasted a Whitstable oyster?"
- Get Thee to a Nunnery: Quite a few examples, most notably the title.
- Happy Ending: But not the one you might have expected.
- Or wanted, depending on your favoured couple.
- Have a Gay Old Time: The language is consistent with the time period the story is set in.
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Nan, although she technically works as a rent boy.
- Informed Attribute: In the TV adaptation, Nan's ability to disguise herself as a boy.
- Iris Out: In the TV version, obviously. Usually on Nan, since she's the narrator.
- Last Girl Wins: Florence; Nan actually met her in the middle of the story and then forgot about her when Diana came along, but she didn't get to know her until afterward.
- Lipstick Lesbian: Kitty may dress up as a boy for the stage, but is conventionally femimine outside the theater. Ms. Lethaby and Zena could also qualify. Nan, however, gets more butch as the story goes on.
- Recursive Crossdressing: Again, this effect was purposely utilized for Nan's stage persona.
- Romantic Two-Girl Friendship: Nan and Flo initially. This being a lesbian story, it ultimately ends up being more than just "friendship."
- Time Passes Montage: Used in the BBC adaptation.
- True Companions: Nan eventually creates a family for herself made up of Florence, Ralph, and Cyril. There's even a scene where the adult members speculate as to who would be in their personal heavens with them and each one lists all the others.
- Wholesome Crossdresser: Nan finds that she's more comfortable in men's clothing even when offstage.