Tipping the Velvet is a historical novel written by Sarah Waters published in 1998. Set in Victorian England during the 1890s, it tells a coming of age story about a young woman named Nan who falls in love with a male impersonator, follows her to London, and finds various ways to support herself as she journeys through the city. The picaresque plot elements have prompted scholars and reviewers to compare it to similar British urban adventure stories written by Charles Dickens and Daniel Defoe.
Nancy "Nan" Astley is a sheltered 18-year-old living with her working-class family and helping in their oyster restaurant in Whitstable, Kent. She becomes instantly and desperately enamoured with a "masher", or male impersonator, named Kitty Butler, who performs for a season at the local theatre. They begin a friendship that grows when, after Kitty finds an opportunity to perform in London for better exposure, she asks Nan to join her.