Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Tipping the Velvet

Go To

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 and Keeley Hawes. 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.
  • Advertisement:
  • 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.
  • Advertisement:
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Kitty may dress up as a boy for the stage, but is conventionally feminine 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."
  • Streetwalker: For a period of time, Nan works as one, servicing gay men who mistake him for a man. She conducts all her business on the streets, since she can only give out handjobs and blowjobs.
  • 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.

Alternative Title(s): Tipping The Velvet


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: