Before we welcome today’s “Visiting Lolita” we have some winners to announce–because who doesn’t like winning stuff. First up, we have the winner of the bag ‘o books and swag from RT.
Next we have the $10 GC to Barnes and Noble or Amazon (your choice) courtesy of Steampunk Author Crista McHugh.
Congrats! Please email me at suzannelazear (@) hotmail to claim your prize. Also, if you comment on Crista McHugh, Marie Harte, Christine Bell, or Cindy Spencer Pape’s posts you’re entered to win a Carina Press Prize pack–but it ends May 8, 2011, so hurry up. You can also win a copy of Kady Cross’ “The Girl in the Steel Corset”. Elizabeth Darvill, aka “Lolita Elizabeth” is also giving away some of her books.
Today we welcome Sue McDonald, who writes about Victorian fashion in many places, including for Recollections a historical clothing company. In addition to having beautiful Victorian gear, they also have a Steampunk line, Steampunk Threads. We will be giving away a pocket watch from Steampunk Threads to one lucky commenter.
Sue McDonald has always had an interest in all things vintage and often dresses in Victorian attire, and in addition to writing and acting in short melodramas that take place in the 1800’s, she does “living history” presentations. Her adopted persona, Fannie Bashford is based upon the wife of Charles Bashford, who figured prominently in early Prescott history. Doing the research to ensure that her costumes were period-correct gave rise to the urge to share that information. She started by creating two costume guides for re-enactors and continues to write about Victorian clothing and customs. She has also written several “how to” pieces, like “How to make a Victorian-style purse”. Sue also writes articles for The Wild West Gazette, and The Bustledress Marketplace. Sue also has been writing articles and copy for Recollections. This assignment has also led her into doing research and writing articles about Steampunk attire, which is heavily influenced by Victorian style from the 1800’s.
The Victorian Heart of Steampunk Fashion
By Sue McDonald
For starters, let me say that I have been an aficionado of Steampunk since before the name was coined. I still recall watching the original CBS series Wild Wild West when I was in high school, and am now a bit horrified to discover the series aired in the mid-sixties! The character of Artemis Gordon and all of his fabulous gadgets was endlessly fascinating. I have also been a life-long fan of science fiction, so fabulous machines like those created by Jules Verne and H.G. Wells have always seemed like a reasonable possibility. It is therefore thrilling to see an entire sub-culture now moving into the spotlight of “mainstream culture” here and abroad. More recently I have become fascinated with – and immersed in – re-enactment dressing, circa the late 1800’s, which puts my current love of clothing squarely in the Victorian age. All of which leads me into this dialog about the influence of Victorian dressing upon Steampunk fashion.
It is no surprise that Victorian style would be front-and-center when you consider that Steampunk has its roots firmly embedded in a collection of science fiction books generated in the 60’s and 70’s by several authors who all used Victorian England as their setting for the stories. Just as the currently-popular Indiana Jones movies re-create a World War II setting, with the attendant clothing styles and ever-present “Axis of Evil”, the solidly Victorian backdrop of this special genre of writers set the stage – so to speak – for an alternate world that carries with it all of the romance we attribute to the Victorians, coupled with new possibilities for adventure and discovery.
And the clothes! Let’s face it ladies and gents, dressing in Victorian attire does transport us to a time when women were ever-so-feminine in their corsets, bustles, frills, and petticoats. Gentlemen are somehow at once more masculine and more chivalrous in their frock coats, gloves, and silk hats. I believe the simple act of putting these garments on changes our brain chemistry so that we become somehow altered from just a few hours before when we were wearing jeans and tee shirts. But the hallmark of Steampunk fashion is the ways in which the basic Victorian style has been expanded to include the various forms of equipage that might have been conceived by a Victorian mind. Victorians were fascinated by every new invention, and were always quick to adopt the “most modern” technology at their disposal. I have to believe they would heartily approve of ladies and gents who are equally prepared for a dirigible ride, a journey to the center of the earth, or a gala ball. One can hardly raise an eyebrow at a pair of brass goggles equipped with an eye loupe for examining a heretofore-undiscovered find, or a clockwork-mechanical arm which endows its wearer with special powers.
From previous blogs I have seen that putting together a Steampunk outfit is at once challenging and exciting. On the one hand each outfit is supposed to be unique to the individual. Mass-production is contrary to the Steampunk sense of uniqueness. On the other hand Victorian clothing cannot be obtained from the local mall. In addition most of us do not have the skills or the inclination to find vintage patterns from which to fashion our garments. Having them custom-made is usually beyond our pocketbooks – having invested most of our money in the afore-mentioned accessories. However, there are ways to obtain suitable garments and make them your own. There are on-line shops that specialize in Victorian-styled clothing, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Steampunk Threads and Recollections. Both sites present clothing that is solidly in the Victorian style. There are also pattern companies who have thankfully re-drafted many Victorian patterns to fit modern bodies. They have also improved greatly on the instructions that come with a vintage pattern. My personal favorite is Truly Victorian. This site has the added bonus of specifying when each pattern was popular, so if you are shooting for an outfit for a particular timeframe, you can make it happen.
In closing, I would leave you with a piece of advice that I have found invaluable when dressing in period attire. That would be to go online and browse as many Victorian sites as you can, paying careful attention to the clothing shape and details. (By Victorian, I mean mid-to late 1800’s sites – people tend to call a large variety of things “Victorian” when in fact, they are modern items that perhaps have a Victorian influence.) Be sure to note things like ladies’ hats and jewelry, and men’s accessories; like watch fobs and how they wear their jackets – for example the bottom button of the vest is always left unbuttoned, but a shirt is always buttoned clear to the top. Soon, you will develop a ‘feel’ for what is a correct look. This will help you when you are making your own wardrobe selections, so you can avoid beginner’s mistakes.
Steampunk Threads is graciously giving away this really great pocket watch to one lucky poster. North American only please.