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Archive for the ‘Corsets’ Category

Women With Weapons - Comicpalooza 2013

Women With Weapons – Comicpalooza 2013

Whether your costume or your characters attire is a Steampunk ghost, pirate, vampire, mechanic, world explorer, airship crew member, a proper Victorian lady or something altogether different, I wanted to share helpful pointers from panels at Comicpalooza, this past Memorial weekend.

Since I’m a Lolita at Steamed, let’s start with Lolita fashion.

 Steam Lolitas - The Cup Cake Girls - Comicpalooza 2013

Steam Lolitas – The Cupcake Girls – Comicpalooza 2013

When developing a steampunk persona and the costuming for it, you may find yourself building a lot of drama and hardship to your characterization. However, Lolita personas are lighter, let’s just have fun, let’s  have a tea party. For that reason many women are attracted to Steampunk/Lolita fashion crossovers.  For a good start to Lolita fashion, take a nice white blouse, add a frilly petticoat and a skirt trimmed in lace.  Goodwill, Salvation army, and local thrift stores are excellent places to get accessories and props to build a costume.

A Cup Cake girl with the Steam Lolita panel

A Cup Cake girl with the Steam Lolita panel

Whether you’re a Lolita blending steampunk into your costume, a steampunk persona mixing Lolita concepts into your outfit or working with a straight stempunk characterization for your attire, one thing to keep in mind is well fitted garments flatter any figure. Garments that are too large are as bad as clothing that’s too small. Regarding corsets, use those with steel bones, avoid the plastic ones as they bend when it’s hot, and become lumpy. Queen size women should ensure their corsets fall a bit longer in  front. Corsets should close to about 4″ all the way for a comfortable, even fit. It’s less expensive to invest in a custom fitted corset, than buying a dozen inexpensive ones that don’t look or feel quite right.

Lady Blue - Comicpalooza 2013

Lady Blue – Comicpalooza 2013

Don’t foreget bustles, they add a lot to an outfit. They don’t make your butt look big; they make your skirt look full. Certain silhouettes require a bustle to fill out your skirt and add a polished, proportional look to your dress.

Steampunk Sweethearts - Comicpalooza 2013

Steampunk Sweethearts – Comicpalooza 2013

Other than a corset, the most expensive part of your costume may well be your shoes. Granny boots are always popular for steampnk. Consider investing in a good pair of Doc Martins that appeal to your steampunk self. For dancing at a a Steampunkb all you will need something more feminine. Cherries Jubilee is a great source for source for Steampunk shoes, her emeblishmens are amazing.

Regarding menswear, a man’s waistcoat or vest  needs to be long, such as one purchased from a big and tall store,

Shiny As A Copper Penney
Shiny As A Copper Penney

so it covers the shirt to the top of the trousers. That prevent the tummy from bulging under the vest. Pants should be worn at the waistline, around the belly button, not beneath it. Most men will find suspenders work best. Men should keep spats in mind, to add a touch of completion and pizazz to their outfit.

Steampunk Poision Ivy

Steampunk Poision Ivy

For both men and women, stemapunk costumes should look complete, from head to toe, for example don’t wear tennis shoes with a period dress. Also, though accessories are key to a Steampunk look, don’t’ go overboard, keep to the less is more fashion philosophy.

Lolita Alice and the Mad Hatter

Lolita Alice and the Mad Hatter

For examples and ideas, I’ve included a few photos I snapped at Comicpalooza in Houston Texas. So have fun and enjoy creating your or your characters’ Steampunk costumes.

Maeve Alpin is the author of four Steampunk/Romances: To Love A London Ghost, Conquistadors In Outer Space, As Timeless As Stone, and As Timeless As Magic.

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Charles Dickens and his wonderful books with strong fleshed out characters, exposing serious social issues, influence authors to this day. Also,  A Christmas Carol still influences Christmas celebrations. Most families include A Christmas Carol in their holiday tradition by reading from the book out loud or attending a play of it or watching one of the film versions on TV.

In Galveston Texas they go one step further, bringing the images in Dickens’ book alive in the annual Christmas festival, Dickens On The Strand. The 2012 Dickens On The Strand is even more special than usual as this year marks Charles Dickens  200th, Birthday, he was born February 7, 1812.

Here’s a merry ode to the festivities, just imagine Glen Campbell singing it to the tune of Galveston.

Galveston, Oh Galveston

Galveston, Oh Galveston

I still hear carolers singing

I still hear carolers singing

I still hear the bells ringing

I still hear the bells ringing

I dream of old fashioned fun

I dream of old fashioned fun
In Galveston

In Galveston

Galveston, Oh Galveston

Galveston, Oh Galveston

I still hear the children laughing

I still hear the children laughing
Still see the gentlemen so dapper and dashing

Still see the gentlemen, dapper and dashing

Still recall Queen Victoria waving to everyone

Still recall Victoria waving to everyone

As her carriage rolls down the strand

As her carriage rolls down the strand

In Galveston

In Galveston

Galveston, Oh Galveston

Galveston, Oh Galveston

reenactment of a civil war camp

reenactment of a civil war camp

With period nurses in white uniforms

With period nurses in white uniforms

See me hold a civil war replica gun

I held a civil war replica gun

At Galveston

At Galveston

At Galveston

At Galveston

Steampunk is recognized at this Victorian celebration with steampunk square, a steampunk costume contest, a steampunk street ball, and steampunk attendees and airship crews march in the Pickwick’s Lantern-light parade. It’s fun for the whole family and I had a blast. And the food and the shopping was incredible.

For additional steampunk photos taken at Dickens on the Strand, click here

Here’s another Christmas treat, for S. J. Drum’s A Very Steampunk Christmas, click here

May your Christmas be a steamy one, even if you didn’t make it to Galveston.

DSCN0034

Maeve Alpin 

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“The captain said everyone, so hold on to the blasted door and quit yer whining!”

Lolita Lynnette obviously wasn’t going to listen to a word I said. Which meant the only recourse I had was to listen to her. I gripped the doorframe, my filthy nails digging tiny crescent moons into the wood. For her part, Lynnette yanked and tugged until I was forced to let out the breath I’d sucked in. And then she yanked and tugged some more. She couldn’t have weighed more than a hundred pounds in full battle gear, but the woman had strength hidden deep in those tiny bones.

By the time she stopped torturing me, I was certain I’d die of asphyxiation. “I can’t breathe,” I eked out.

She huffed out a sigh and loosened the ties so infinitesimally I couldn’t be sure she hadn’t just pretended. “That’s all you’ll get. You look fabulous.”

Her tiny hands swooped over my sides as if to make sure I could feel just how much smaller my waist had become. I had no clue what the captain had in store for this landside excursion, but the inclusion of corsets served to define the phrase “hell on earth” for me.

~~*~~

Contrary to the story above, I love corsets. Correction. I love good corsets. Sometimes I still like the less-than-good ones though.

In fact, my first corsets fell very much into the latter category. Frederick’s of Hollywood. Plastic boning. Minimal waist reduction. And they held up for shit. On the flip side, they were cheap and I didn’t know for sure if I’d like wearing them.

It wasn’t until several months later that I got my first steel boned corset. I bought it from a friend and wore it for some of my author photos. Let me tell you, there’s nothing quite like being cinched up tighter than I’ve ever been in my life out in the desert around Vegas wearing five-inch heels. Did I mention that the corset was completely black and it was very, very sunny.

Crazy thing about that photoshoot. All the sweating? Totally made my skin glisten. Honestly, my skin has never looked as good in pictures as it did those. And the corset? Dear gods, that was when I fell in love. No, I didn’t suddenly look like a size 2, but holy hourglass, Batman!

That corset led to another (underbust this time, which I personally love less). And that led to my first ever custom corset… which I hate. I’m not sure what it is about that one but it… let’s just say it fits fine, but it’s quite painful to wear and it makes the girls look like a shelf–and not in a good way. After that debacle, I was leery about buying anymore. Surely I could make do with my cheap Freddie’s corsets and the two good ones I had?

Then I discovered Ms. Martha’s Corset Shoppe and learned what a really good corset feels like. As a well-endowed lady, a good corset does more than cinch my waist, it takes the pressure off my back from hauling the girls around all the time. I swear, I learned what it must feel like to be a B-cup… without losing my cleavage. In that corset, I understand how heroines can kick some butt in the steampunk novels we know and love, even when tied up securely.

Sadly, my every day life is less than corset-friendly, but I’m very much looking forward to my next opportunity to wear them–specifically the beautiful blue one that feels so amazing. Ms. Martha, if you happen to be reading, thank you and I hope to see you again soon.

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Today we welcome amazing YA writer Lia Habel. 

Lia Habel was born in Jamestown, NY, and has lived there the majority of her life. Her first book, Dearly, Departed, is a sweeping tale of zombie-living romance set in a cyber-Victorian/steampunk future. When Dearly, Departed sold, Lia was swimming in debt incurred from her studies and years of un- and underemployment, with only a few dollars to her name. Miss Habel enjoys attending anachronistic and steampunk events, watching zombie movies (she has watched over a hundred of them), commissioning ball gowns, and collecting Victorian and Edwardian books. She is incredibly grateful for the opportunities she has recently been given.

Being a neo-Victorian/steampunk clothes horse 101

by Lia Habel

Being asked to write about steampunk always terrifies me, because I hardly consider myself an authority on the subject. In fact, my personal vision of steampunk is far from pure, as I tend to mash it up with cyberpunk, dieselpunk, and as many pretty, sparkly things as I think I can get away with. Rules never suit me, even in a subculture made for breaking rules – which is why, when I attend steampunk events, I tend to dress like a little Victorian princess rather than an airship captain or mad engineer-by-day-burlesque-dancer-by-night. I have the greatest respect for airship captains and mad engineers-by-day-burlesque-dancers-by-night, but I like being that pop of sugary sweet pastel in the middle of the room, the one who maybe looks out of place. Philosophically, you need the lady to define the plight of the urchin, and vice versa.

But let’s leave philosophy behind. Let’s talk about clothes. Today I want to speak to the fantastic teenagers I’ve met at the schools I’ve visited, the ones who come up to me afterward and whisper, “I need to dress like this.” Okay, darlings. This is what you do. This is Lia’s 101 level class on being a neo-Victorian/steampunk clothes horse. The first two suggestions will be very broad, everything else gossip.

1.     Experiment. Don’t box yourself into one style right off the bat. If you have the opportunity and the inclination, try wearing something Elegant Gothic Lolita-esque and adorable, try dressing like a dandy (I don’t care if you’re male or female – tuxedos are sexy), try being a construct or automaton, try playing a dark and alluring Victorian cabaret singer. Playing dress-up is the best way to figure out which styles speak to you, what works for your budget, and what sartorial direction you want to wander off in first. And keep in mind that you can go back to the drawing board at any time, and have more than one style of dress!

2.    Figure out who you want to become. I once heard an academic talk about something called “performative language,” which is basically the idea that certain types of language act like magic spells, forcing something to become true through sheer power of words alone – for instance, saying, “I do” at the altar. It is “when saying something is doing something” (J.L. Austin – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Performativity). In steampunk the same holds true, for you can adopt any persona you like simply by saying it is so. Declare yourself a duke? Then I shall refer to you as, “Your Grace.” Want to be the head of some dark, esoteric cult? Fine, end the world, just don’t proselytize at my hotel room door. So you’re a young lady enrolled in the local boarding school? Is it true what they say about your literature professor, Mr. Brown? Everything can be done, and everything in a spirit of play. The whole wide world is open to you.

3.     EXPOSE! Visually wander through steampunk and Victorian fashion blogs and sites. I love doing this, as it gives me ideas for accessorizes to scout out, color combinations to try, and holes in my wardrobe I need to fill. Some of my favorite sites are http://treselegant.tumblr.com/, http://oldrags.tumblr.com/, and http://my-ear-trumpet.tumblr.com/. And if you can, visit a Victorian costume museum. They’re like candy shops full of delicious things you can never taste, but they’re a great way to educate yourself.

4.     MAKE! Alas, I used to make much more than I now do, but I’m very glad that I at least attempted a few outfits and suites of accessories. Making your own items gives you a sense of accomplishment and allows you to build a wardrobe that’s perfectly suited to your needs. Whether it’s by knitting, embroidering, welding, or sewing, there’s certainly some craft out there you can undertake. (And half the fun of thrift-store shopping and dumpster diving is repurposing the items!) If nothing else, maintaining a large steampunk wardrobe requires knowing how to properly repair and clean various garments. A few hours from now I’ll be sewing a torn petticoat by hand, for instance, and I see engineers fiddling with their mechanical arms and lighted top hats constantly at events, performing small repairs and adjustments.

5.    SHOP! I know some decry the fact that one can buy a suitable steampunk wardrobe, now, rather than being forced to make one – but I love it. I love knowing that my money goes to amazing artisans and seamstresses and designers, people who love the same things I do. I’m not the least bit ashamed. Now, certainly the best way I know of to expose yourself to these fantastic sources of frippery is to attend steampunk events with dealer rooms – normally there’s quite a good selection of corsets, hats, and accessories, which when added to a blouse and skirt will get you instantly on your way. Etsy.com is also a fantastic resource, and many steampunk brands with separate websites also maintain an Etsy presence, so you’re sure to find them. Etsy is also great for finding seamstresses willing to undertake custom projects, which is how I found the designer/seamstress to fill my first custom gown order. All in all, just talk to people – that’s the surest way to find what you want or learn how to build what you want to build.

“All right! We shall shop! What should we look for and what should we do with it?” My humble tips:

    – Corset and boots first. A good corset and a good pair of boots will form the foundation of any wardrobe. Try heavyred.com, clockworkcouture.com, corset-story.com, or fairygothmother.co.uk. For your first corset, I would recommend one in a color and material that can be worn on top of other items as your first layer of clothing. And be sure to get steel boning! Plastic looks cheap, will break, and won’t do anything for your figure.

    – Don’t try to find accessories for a gown after you’ve purchased the gown – you’ll end up scrambling and looking either too cute by half or hastily thrown together. I prefer my ensembles to build organically by purchasing what I like when I see it, regardless of whether it will go with anything I currently own. After a few months or a year, when I suddenly realize that I have an awful lot of navy blue items, that’s when I start searching for a navy blue dress to go with them. Suites of matching items can also usually be paired with a neutral-colored dress, thus freshening it up. So, my big hint: LIKE IT? BUY IT.

   –  Be sure you have the space and conditions to store your items. A lot of my gowns are heirloom-quality material, and I treat them as such. I store them in acid-free paper and boxes, or wrap them up with acid-free linen in storage. When I dry clean them, I insist that even the smallest items be dry cleaned to wedding gown preservation standards. (And then I dance for twelve hours in them, but at least I try to make up for it.)

     – What can you get cheaply? Long skirts, stockings, suitable-looking blouses (either from thrift stores or modern stores), some accessories (hit up craft store sales for fake flowers, ribbons that can be made into sashes and chokers, and interesting buttons to liven up plain jackets – and be sure to check out the wedding section for pretty white trims, usually insanely cheap), gloves and jewelry trinkets (believe it or not, some of my favorite gloves came from Hot Topic and Claire’s – you’d never know it to look at them).

    –  What should you TRY to get as cheaply as possible? Gloves, fans, and handkerchiefs. These are invariably lost, ruined, or stolen by shy, pining would-be suitors* after one long evening – I use my satin opera gloves once, usually. (*This has never happened.)

    – What should you spend the most money on? Your corsets (my favorite corset cost me $300, and I’ve had it for about 6 years now), your really high-class ball gowns (from places like Azrael’s Accomplice – http://www.azacclothingcouture.com/), your good black top hat, and your shoes (support! And buy them large enough to wear socks in).

      – What are some items no one ever thinks to buy but which are versatile or really punchy? Dickies/collars/sleeves – basically detachable shirt pieces that you can tie or pin into any dress you like in order to change up the style or fill in an area you’d rather be filled. Civil War shops are great for these, as they were a staple of 1860s wardrobes. Sashes and belts are a fantastic way to change up an outfit or cover an elastic skirt waistband (try Premier Designs Historic Clothing for the latter – http://www.premierclothing.com/Extra/21-home-page/). 

Now! Go forth and explore! And if you find a shop that’s really remarkable, point it out to me, will you?

~Lia Habel

http://liahabel.com/

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Hello darlings.

Yes, I’ve been away far too long. But Lolita Theresa has been working dilligently on a new steampunk novel for you. In the meantime, since you know how much I adore research, I thought I’d take you on a little trip into fashion.

I’ve always found it fascinating how our society and what’s happening in it can directly impact the way we dress. Today we’re going to look at the changing silhouette of the Victorian era as a mirror of the times. (Courtesy of http://lady-of-crow.deviantart.com/art/Victorian-Silhouettes-83666275 which provided the original artwork.)


In 1837, Victoria ascends to the throne. She’s young, only 18, and beautiful and the silhouette of the time reflects that ingénue-like frame. Times are changing, there’s research happening about dinosaurs in the Pleistocene epoch, Samuel Morse has exhibited his electric telegraph at the College of the City in New York, and there’s a Gag Law in place passed by the U.S. Congress suppressing the debate on slavery.

By 1842, Victoria would have been, 23, and trying to appear very grown up. The skirts are widening (as are the hips and bust line after bearing two children), and do so even more in 1847 when she would have already had five children.

In 1852, at the age of 33, Victoria is truly on her way to showing the world that the English are a world power. They control India, Tasmania, Australia, parts of Canada. Notice the amount (and expense) of ruffles and added lace in the silhouettes of both 1852 and 1857.

However by 1862 the silhouette changes drastically to more simple lines. Victoria’s beloved husband Albert died in December 1861. As Victoria grows older and more critical of the behavior of her wild son Prince Edward, you can almost see the stricture and behavioral mores of the Victorian era changing in 1867 as the skirts grow increasingly more tight and confining until 1882.

Know what surprised me most? Check out the difference between the first image 1837 and the third to last image of 1892. Not much difference is there? Ever hear how at the end we start thinking about the beginning. Makes me wonder if the same was happening with Queen Victoria. Or perhaps, like all fashion, they just started recycling things, and she just happened to be old enough for what was old to become new again *resurgence of 1980’s fashions, cough, cough*.

Notice that by 1902 the silhouette has become so relaxed there’s barely even a bustline anymore. It looks almost worn out and tired. Since Victoria died in 1901, I can see why. (Well that and Edward, who succeeded her, did tend to be a pretty relaxed sort of guy.)

These images also illustrates why it’s so critical to make sure you know precisely which decade (or in many cases which five year period) you are discussing in your steampunk writing. Sure you don’t have to be accurate all the time (as rayguns and dirigibles aren’t exactly accurate either), but if you put an enormous bustle fit for 1887 in your 1847 set book, you really ought to be able to explain why.

Next time you are writing a scene, ask yourself, what do you read into the changing clothing trends and how can it more aptly reflect your characters?

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It’s Monday and first thing off we have a winner to announce.  The winner of Tamora Pierce’s Tortall and Other Lands anthology is…

Danya

Congrats, please email me at suzannelazear (@) hotmail to claim your prize. 

Next off, I’m going to continue to my series on how I created some of my Steampunk outfits.  Even if you’re not the crafty sort (like me) you don’t necessarily need to go out and buy an expensive ready-made Steampunk outfit (as pretty as they are).  You may already own some of what you need.

Today’s outfit is something I pieced together mainly out of things I already owned.  I love costumes and have a trunk full of stuff.  I had no idea I even already had most of the stuff I needed to create a cute outfit until I wanted to put together a mostly black outfit. 

 

1.  The skirt is just a big, black lacy skirt I’d picked up somewhere at some point.  It’s one of those skirts that can be everything from Gothic to pirate to gypsy.  It’s full enough that I can wear it over a hoop and very comfortable.

2.  The black lace blouse is actually from Forever 21, of all places, as are the gloves.  I bought them last summer when they had a ton of victorian-ish stuff.  They often have great jewelry and you can’t beat the prices. 

3.  What ties this all together is the black corset belt.  This one is from Clockwork Couture but I nearly used a black waist cincher that I usually used for the Renaissance Faire. 

See, just a few easy pieces that you may already have — blouse, skirt, waist cincher/corset can be thrown together to create a basic outfit.  Then you can accessorize it depending on your style and what you already have.

4.  Because I’m obsessed with hats, I already owned the perfect hat.  I got this one from Ms. Purdy.  I actually have a few of her things and I really like them. 

5.  The necklace was a gift from a friend, but I love it and wear it with most of my Steampunk outfits.

6.  Finally, I added a tie-on bustle, which is exactly what it sounds — a big, ruched piece of fabric designed to look like a bustle you simply tie on top of your skirt.  There are a ton of types of these from punk mini ones made of net to elaborate and elegant ones.  I got this one on Etsy from Loriann.  Tie-on bustles are inexpensive ways of changing up your outfit and they’re a lot more comfortable to sit in.  This wasn’t something I had on hand, but that I bought to complete the outfit. 

View of tie-on bustle. Picture by Loriann.

 
See, easy.  Take stock of what you already have and don’t be afraid to repurpose.  That blouse from Renn Faire, skirt from your belly dancing days, or hat you bought for your cousin’s wedding may have other uses–especially if you’re willing to replace buttons, add gromets, or add a little flair to it/  Make a list of what you still need to complete your outfit and case thrift shops, the internet (I’ve found a lot of good costume pieces on ebay and Etsy), or perhaps even try to make it.  If you’re gearing up for something, I’ve found that it’s easier on the pocket-book (and less daunting) to plan ahead and buy one piece per paycheck until I have everything I need. 
 
Now, I just need some gadgets…has anyone seen my raygun? 

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I hope everyone had a great Mother’s Day.  We’re holding a Steampunk writing challenge over on the Writing Steampunk Yahoo group during the month of May.  There’s still time to join in–make sure to say you found us on Steamed.

We have quite a few prizes to give away today and if you don’t win we still have a contest going for Steampunk pocket watch.

First off we have a The Twisted Take of Stormy Gale mug and some romance trading cards from Christine Bell.

Hilde

Next we have the prize pack of  Steampunk e-books from Carina Press.

Laura Kaye

Finally, we have the ARC of The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross.

Jessie

Congrats to our winners, please email me at suzannelazer (@) hotmail to claim your prize and thanks to all who entered.  More contests will be coming.

I wanted to share how I put together some of my Steampunk outfits as I’m amassing more for the different panels and speaking engagements and such I’m starting to do.  I’m not a seamstress in any way shape or form, so I tend to buy things here and there over weeks, months, or even years and put them together.   Hopefully this will be some inspiration for your own Steampunk outfits.  A word of warning, I lean very much towards the Steampunk princess vein and don’t have a ton of gadgets–or even goggles.

Outfit #1 — Steampunk Lite

I needed an outfit that was Steampunky, but not full on for events where I’m speaking as a Steampunk writer, but not necessarily on Steampunk.

I started with this outfit from Steampunk Threads as a base.    I chose it because it was feminine and a bit old fashioned, but not specifically Victorian.  It could serve as a dress for anything from a tea to a school visit and could easily be Steampunked up.  For sake of time I bought this ready-made outfit, but something similar could be fashioned from thrift-store finds–or even your own closet.

Picture from Steampunkthreads.com

I added some really great boots from Clockwork Couture I already had.  These boots are unfortunately out of stock, but they have other amazing styles.

photo from clockworkcouture.com

I added a hat very much like this (because you know me and hats) only there’s more  green in mine.

Photo from Maritime Arts on Etsy

A pearl necklace with a little clock on it from my jewelry box added a little elegance.

I love gloves so I got these from Clockwork Couture, which go with several outfits, though I forgot to wear them when I did a panel at the Burbank Book Festival over the weekend.

Photo from clockworkcouture.com

Finally, I put it all together with a really great belt I found at Mad Girl Clothing.  They’re not up on the website yet (I bought it at the Renaissance Faire).    Any waist cincher or corset would probably work, though I didn’t want to go the full-on corset route for this particular outfit.   I liked this belt because there’s a little pocket for a pocket watch and an additional pocket that’s just the right size for some business cards and a handful of buttons.  I don’t have a picture of it by itself, but here’s the whole outfit.

So, what do you think?  Subtly Steampunk? Well…perhaps the belt is a bit much but I love it.  But now I want a bigger hat…

Are you building a Steampunk outfit?  Where are your favorite places to find things?

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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.

Michelle Black

Next we have the $10 GC to Barnes and Noble or Amazon (your choice) courtesy of Steampunk Author Crista McHugh.

Matthew Delman

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.

~Sue McDonald

What’s your favorite aspect of Steampunk fashion?   I have to say, I write Steampunk for the hats (and tiaras…maybe the boots). 

Steampunk Threads is graciously giving away this really great pocket watch to one lucky poster.  North American only please.

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I am happy to say that Steampunk was everywhere at the recent Romantic Times Booklovers Convention, which was held in Los Angeles, April 6-10, 2011.  Yes, I am finally just getting around to writing about it.  Do you know how much time Steampunkapalooza takes?   

RT was amazing, I’d never been to one before and had a few reservations.  There were several Steampunk panels — I was on one Steampunk panel and one about writing historical fantasy (with Gail Carriger, squee).  One of the publishing houses, Samhain, had a Steampunk high tea. 

Then, of course, there was the Steampunk Social that I was in charge of along with Kady Cross, Kassy Taylor, Deb Schneider, and Seleste deLaney.

I volunteered to make about 250 cakepops for the social–because you all know I’m a huge slacker and have nothing else to do than spend 10 hours baking.  Per hotel rules, every cakepop had  to be individually wrapped, too.  Good thing I was local and didn’t have to fly them in my suitcase. 

I’d also picked up all the clothes from the fashion show from Clockwork Couture, who graciously lent us all the beautiful fashions our models wore.  RT involved a lot of me schlepping things from my car to Kady’s room, since I had the clothes, the cakepops, the centerpieces, the fans, several door prizes, and a lot of things for the swag bags.  Kady also volunteers her room for us to put all 100 of the swag bags together.  (Did you know we work very, very hard to put these socials together?)

Also, I was in full Steampunk dress most of the time.   Since Leanna Renee Hieber couldn’t make it I even wore (nearly) all black one day in honor of her, since usually she’s the one in black and I’m the one in pink. 

The social itself went really well.  Close to 100 people gathered for Steampunk swag, cake and tea, a fashion show, a costume contest, and lots of door-prizes. 

But you really want to see gratuitous pictures of Steampunk clothing, not hear me babble about party planning. 

Here’s Kady Cross, the Steampunk track captain. 

And here’s the fab Kassy Taylor. 

Here’s Deb Schneider, along with the winner of our costume contest (the one in the sash).  She *made* her costume on a treadle sewing machine.  Wow.

I don’t have a close up of Seleste deLaney.  (Seleste, why don’t I have a picture of you?).

Since this was tea and cake, I wore pink and a large hat for the occasion.  Not that I need a reason to wear a large hat. 

The fashion show was a smashing success and everyone loved the pretties from Clockwork Couture

Here’s Beth and Erin (same dress, different color). 

Here’s Erin and Zoe Archer.

Here’s Marcella. (I love this dress.)

And, for some reason I don’t have  a close up of Kristen Painter.  (Can you tell my camera died, so I had to gather pictures.  Thanks to everyone who I begged, borrowed, and stole pictures from.)

We had several people come to the social in costume, so we had a costume contest.   Here’s me getting the crowd to help us pick a winner.  Can anyone identify these lovely ladies?  We never got their names. 

Over all, the social was a smashing success.  Despite the hard work, I’d plan another one of these in an instant.  Here’s everyone in costume (except for Kristen. She’s somehow escaped all of my pictures.  Anyone have any pics of her in costume?)

Do you have a favorite outfit?  A favorite flavor of cakepop?  A random comment on Steampunk or Steampunk fashion?  I have one more bag of swag and books from RT, including the *very last* swag bag left over from the party.  I’ll give it to one lucky commenter.  Contest closes April 30 at 11:59 PM PST.

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If you’ve never been to a steampunk con, let me say, you’re missing something. It is emersion into the culture at it’s finest. Where do I even begin?

Just look at that arm!

How about Friday? Friday early I arrived at the location of SteamCon II, which was held between the SeaTac Marriot and SeaTac Hilton. (For those of you not familiar with the Seattle area, that’s right across from the Seattle airport, which means it’s great for people flying in, but not so fun to walk between the two up the hill and down the hill depending on which activity or workshop you were interested in.) The registration lines looped around a bit like Disneyland, and people in the pre-registered line were all in costume, and so were most of those who were coming in to register that day for the event. Unlike other conferences and conventions I’ve been to, the costuming is a huge part of the experience. There’s eye-candy everywhere.

Fabulously Dressed Ladies in Workshop

They gave us a newspaper-like program heaped with so many different workshops and events it was likely to make your top-hat spin. What a glorious array! Everything from steampunk modding and how real gun fights work to magic and steampunk, and chats with the likes of James Blaylock (one

Tuesday Lolita Theresa Meyers with James Blaylock

of the founding fathers of the genre), Cherie Priest, Gail Carriger, Jay Lake, Nick Valentino and the intrepid inventor Jake Von Slatt, and a set of Steampunk ghost-busting enthusiasts from The League of S.T.E.A.M.

Member of The League of S.T.E.A.M.

There was a Grand Mercantile with a huge array of things to be purchased – feathers, leathers, hats and tea, corsets, books and jewelry (oh, good grief, does that actually rhyme?) You could find numerous opportunities to practice your acting skills in live action role-playing events (LARP), or game away in the various game rooms. (I attempted to sit in on a card and dice game of The Good, The Bad and The Munchkin, and having never played any sort of Munchkin was still horribly newbie and lost despite the best efforts of my fellow players at the end of an hour. Thank you to those of you who were so gracious and patient.)

The devine Cherie Priest on her way to a workshop

Friday also presented us with the First Annual Airship Awards, where lovely little airship statuettes were presented for the best in written, auditory, visual and community support of the genre. (Winners and finalists in each can be found at the SteamCon II website if you are curious.) They had a lovely dinner, and big screen flashing various images of the finalist. A few funny speeches and a lot of fun talk around the tables with fellow steampunk enthusiasts.

Saturday saw more workshops and the hosting of a most memorable afternoon tea and fashion show. The designers had some absolutely stunning clothes (which I believe there might be pictures of at the SteamCon website shortly).

A good doggone answer to What is Steampunk?

Due to an unforeseen series of most fortunate events, I was invited to fill in for an author who had to cancel at the last moment, so I spoke on three different panels and gave a reading. May I say, if you ever get the opportunity to go to a workshop by Jay Lake, do so. He is a veritable fount of one-liners that are both groan-worthy and very humorous at the same time.

That is a HUGE hand, mister.

We talked about what is steampunk, dissecting the genre, as it were, and after an hour came to the conclusion that it’s as much time period and aesthetic as it is a particular feeling to the work which is based in the gilded age where excess reigned supreme and exploration was rather mandatory, vs. diesel-punk which has roots more firmly grounded in the dystopian elements of the great depression and world war, where scarcity rules the day and invention is out of necessity to use and reuse whatever one had on hand to survive.

A Teapot handbag! How brilliant!

I went to workshops on ghost hunting in the Victorian era, steam cowboys and one about Hoaxes perpetuated by newspapers of the time by the likes of writers such as Samuel Clemens and Edgar Allen Poe, who apparently made a decent enough showing of it to have their tales of airships being spotted over the city, and animals escaping zoos in the midst of busy down-town cities very popular – and gasp, news of the day. In fact, I found it most fascinating that fictional tales were often intermingled with actual news items in such prestigious publications at The Boston Globe, and not much was done to distinguish between the two. (Wait, how is that so different than today’s reporting?)

L to R Nick Valentino, Tues. Lolita Theresa and Wed. Lolita Elizabeth

I digress. I went shopping in the grand mercantile and purchased a new corset, some tea and some Christmas presents. I had fun lunch with fellow Lolita Elizabeth Darvill. Late in the day I gave a reading from my Weird West set steampunk The Hunter, which doesn’t even come out until late 2011. I let the audience choose, from two sections, action or spicy. They unanimously picked the spicy version. Unfortunately, we’d spent so much time chit-chatting to start that we barely even got into the spicy bit before my half hour was up.

They actually move up and down!

I also took time to visit the art gallery. Wow! Such creativity. (I didn’t know if we were actually allowed to take pictures, so I opted not to.) There were three-dimensional sculptures, prints, clothing, jewelry and more.

Saturday night was the esteemed Outlaw Concert featuring three different bands, including the well-known steampunk stylings of Abney Park. There were people crowded, spinning, dipping and doing what suspiciously looked to me like the Tango out on the dance floor in front of the stage. We were admonished at the beginning of the concert not to leap upon the stage due to the damaging of equipment in the past from such behaviors. While I had to leave early (because I was driving back and forth from home each day rather than staying at the hotel) apparently the high enthusiasm kept up until 3:30 Sunday morning.

Lovely use of top hat and corset!

Which made giving a workshop at 9:00 am Sunday morning a bit of let down. A few hardy souls trickled in to hear about Steampunk Young Adult books, but by far, I think people were likely still dealing with the affects of the concert the night before. I was part of another talk later in the day about Character vs. Setting which was better attended.

I also went to a workshop about the history of steam propulsion that was incredible. Who knew the first hybrid steam/electric car was actually introduced in 1903 and the Prius in 2003? Makes you wonder what the auto industry has actually be working on in the last 100 years, doesn’t it?

Hey, Zombies! Mad Scientist with Brain Pack over here!

My overall impression is that steampunk cons are a meeting of the mind, the creative, social and intellectual (not to mention the dancing portion of one’s anatomy). If you really want to have a good time, prepared to bring comfortable shoes and costumes. Not just one costume, but at least one for each day, and possibly a forth for dancing or going to fancier dinners and events. And don’t be shy about being a mad scientist with a backpack brain on one day and an aeronaut hottie with brown bolero-length bomber jacket and brown leather and wool trimmed hot pants on another, and a high-society vixen with an outrageous top hat and bustle on the third. Everything goes as long as it relates back to the genre. And the array of hats is very impressive. One person at a workshop put it best, “I’ve discovered something about steampunk, there is no such thing as excess. One can never have too much of anything.”

No such thing as excess, I tell you!

Be prepared to shop for those things you’ll find it difficult to get elsewhere. Have business cards so you can share with fellow steampunk fans, and for the love of all that’s decent, if you are going to give a workshop, at least provide some type of handout to go with your brilliant Powerpoint so people will have something to take with them. There’s just too much information to store it all under one’s top hat and I found myself scribbling like a jibbering idiot to keep up.

All in all it was a fantastic event, so worthy in fact, that I’ve already pre-registered for next year! There’s steampunk conventions aplenty out there. If you are interested in the genre, think you want to write in it or would just like something fun and crazy to do for a weekend go to one! And of course this isn’t ALL the pictures…if you are looking for more check out the SteamCon II album over at www.facebook.com/TheresaMeyersAuthor or go www.steamcon.org and check out their gallery.

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The fabulous Lolita Donna, aka Donna Ricci, proprietress of Clockwork Couture has come to my rescue and put together an amazing post about building a Steampunk wardrobe from the ground up.

Building a Steampunk from the grubby ground up

Creating a Steampunk ensemble requires imagination, ingenuity and creativity. The New Victorian movement is rarely portrayed accurately in movies in the true style of genre. To say that it “Damns the factory but celebrates the machine” is one of the most accurate quotes stemming from the budding subculture. Aristocrats are not fine lords and ladies but rather ship captains, yard bosses and storekeeps. This is the working class Victorian. Creators, inventors, metal smiths, dressmakers, musicians and explorers are the celebrities of the time and with that comes a more practical ensemble.

Figure out who you identify or can lose yourself in. After that, you must create the wardrobe to support it.

Thrift stores can be a great source to find sacrificial items to be altered. Many a prom dress was reinvented into a Victorian Steampunk gown. Do a little research before going in so you can keep an eye out for what makes sense.

If you want to do a period recreation, consignment shops and ebay can be a great source for authentic late 1800’s that is still very wearable. Beware that storage and sun are factors in how well a garment can withstand a soiree. Showcase it knowing that it may be a one shot deal and have a backup (or at the last great underclothes) should it fall away during the night’s revelry.

You can also either commission or buy off the rack at one of the online Steampunk Clothing stores opening up. A helpful salesperson can even guide you to get pieces that support your ideal self.

For ladies, you can never go wrong with a swag-front bustled skirt, ruffle-front blouse, granny boots and great little hat. Do remember your foundation when dressing, utilizing a corset to get the hourglass silhouette of the time. An underbust corset helps create that look while giving you more “breathing room”. Literally.

For men, a true gent can never be without coat and tails and a proper topper. Men’s clothing largely hasn’t changed over the years too terribly much. A pair of dress slacks and shirt will go well under a well tailored frock coat or tuxedo jacket. A bowler or top hat complete a dapper look. Spectacles or a dangling monocle distinguish a literary man from the uneducated worker and a cravat or ascot can cover up an unsightly or non period button up shirt. Don’t be afraid to show some frill. The Victorian gent was the first metrosexual.

Some pointers: Like a towel, a Steamer can never go wrong if he knows where his goggles are. It’s much like a passport, you should have a pair because you just never know what adventure awaits you today. Flights on dirigibles were as common as train rides in our alternate history, and one really does not fancy a bug in the eye.

Every subculture has had it’s ”symbol” as it were. The punks wore anarchy symbols stitched, painted or drawn on clothing and jewelry and the Goths had the ankh. Steampunks unite under the cog to show their avid love for invention, mechanics and time travel. Never be afraid or ashamed to don one.

Not unafraid of social qualms, Steampunk-styled ladies are NOT afraid to show their well fashioned corsets on the OUTSIDE. Cinch up a well curved waist over a skirt and show off 2” of backlacing. I dare you.

Being a celebration of technology, adventure, hopefulness and travel. It’s not uncommon to see the everyday tinkerer strapped into a homebrewed invention or altered object. Perhaps you could make a better pocketwatch or tietack. Perhaps they are both the same thing?

Because many period images were in sepia, many Steampunks have fancied themselves in browns and blacks. Partner that with the working class appreciation, and they tend to shun the acid dyes of the Victorians. This is not to say it’s not allowed, just know with Steampunk, brown is the new black.

Movies to watch for inspiration: Wild, Wild West starring Wil Smith and Kevin Kline, Steamboy (animated), The Prestige, Sherlock Holmes and Firefly. Recommended sounds: The Unextraordinary Gentleman, Tin Hat Trio, Emelie Autumn, and Rasputina.

With your help, we can create a night of Neo-Victorian opulence. A new Utopia with elaborate dress, impeccable manners, renewed chivalry and undeniable kindness. I hope to see you at the celebration.

Yours truly,

Captain Donna Ricci of the S.S. Clockwork Caravel

www.clockworkcouture.com

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Steampunk Lady Adventurer corset by Harlots and Angels, England

Let’s face it, breasts are ponderous things at times, and woefully inadequate in others, yet women have always had to find away around them to do what they wanted to and accentuate what they wanted seen. How? Stays, laces, bands, corsets, bras and a variety of interesting adaptations in between. From ancient times to modern, they’ve been part of our fashion. Today we’re going to take a brief tour of this staple of women’s steampunk finery.

In their earliest forms corset-like garments were worn by the Greeks and a type of underbreast corset used by the Minoans. More common use for the corset as a lacing, boning and fabric construction to flatten the breasts and shape the silhouette came into vogue during the 1500’s when they were used by the Tudor courts to create a cone-shape to the body (and continued into the 1700s).

1770s Italian Stays, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Often called a pair of bodies or stays, they sometimes featured small tab-shaped edges around the pointed base to keep them shapely under voluminous skirts. Some featured soft rolls at the base to pad out the hips (making those wide farthingale skirts flare out even further). Some tied at the sides, some tied over the shoulder.

1803 Corset Elastique, French

The cone-shaping of the corset stayed the norm up until the Regency era, when it became a shorter form of stays that could be laced up (looking like a lace-up bra) to be worn with empire waist style gowns. This fashion was replaced in the 1830s when exaggerated sleeves and skirts made the tapered waist more fashionable once again.

1891 Corset, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

As the Victorian era progressed, a gradual slimming of the sleeves and pulling back of the skirts meant that tighter lacing was required to get the same visual hourglass shape to their silhouettes.

They remained in use until through the 1920’s to flatten and give a slimmer shape, but were replaced as a mainstay in women’s undergarments when rubberized materials came out that were capable of sucking it all in.

1927 Barcley corset

In the 1980’s Madonna brought wearing the unmentionables on the outside into vogue and Steampunk fashions have kept the trend going strong. Today the corset is as much a fashion item as a supporting one, finding new expressions for this long-time favored garment.

I know it’s been a whirl-wind tour of corsets. But you’ll understand if I’m a bit tied up at the moment. <g>

What’s your favorite corset look like?

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 What does a brave adventure wear when embarking upon an epic quest to one of the largest gatherings of readers and authors of the romantic persuasion? Well for starters I crafted this fun little steampunk adventurer outfit. I made everything but the corset and armwarmers! I will be sporting this one day at the Romantic Times convention in Columbus, OH. I am going to be there networking and obnoxiously pimping my upcoming release “Bound by Blood”. It’s not steampunk, but Mila my kick ass vampire heroine rocks a set of goggles! I promise a detailed report upon my return! There will be a variety of costumed parties, of course I will produce photo proof! I will be cavorting as a Vampire, Fairy, and there is even an Alice in Wonderland theme and heading back to the prom…oh wait I guess I never did prom…oh well! I must catch my flying transport at midnight on tue/wed and arrive bright eye and bushy-tailed at 9ish and head straight into the festivities and insanity! Wish me luck!

I will be giving away a signed cover of “Bound by Blood” and a few of my fabulous pens today to hold you over until my return! All you have to do is comment away and let me know what parts of my RT adventures you will be most keen to hear about upon my return! ~Elizabeth

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I’d like to welcome back Donna Ricci, Proprietress, of Steampunk Clothier, Clockwork Couture, purveyor of the cutest boots in town as Steampunkapalooza continues.

Have you entered our superfab contest yet? It runs through April 11 and gives you a chance to win a $150 GC to buy their amazing stuff.

*~*~*~*

What defines a “real” Steampunker? “Real” Steamers don’t just haphazardly stick cogs and gears all over things and call it Steampunk, right? “Real” steamers know Steampunk is much more than just slapping some craft store cogs on their clothes, right?

Yes and no.

Steampunk, like so many other movements, can be crazy elaborate. It’s not uncommon to see people giving over their whole lives to the style. With it’s combination of the classic and the contemporary, Steampunk has an unusually broad appeal and feels less threatening than some other aesthetics. This is both wonderful and worrying: people of all stripes can easily be Steamers. On the other hand…people of all stripes can easily be Steamers. It’s almost too easy – hang a spare part on a chain around your neck and suddenly you’re Steampunk. For puritans of the style, it’s tempting to feel insulted. You’ve put hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars into perfecting your gadgets, devices, and look, and then some poseur comes along, glues a gear to his hat, and voila – Steampunk.

The question I find myself asking is: so what?

Back in the day, what was a simple, tell-tale sign you were looking at a daytime Goth in casual black tank and jeans? She had an Ankh on. It was like a calling card. Yup, just that symbol alone told me she was one of my own. No secret handshake needed.

Before that, Punks had the anarchy symbol. Historically, just about every member driven society has created a symbol of membership, from the Knights Templar to the Masons. It makes introductions easier and says to everyone else who gets it “hey, I know you!” even if we’ve never actually met. I knew instantly we shared at least some values and gears and cogs have become that secret symbol for Steampunks, which is why I find it puzzling that so many get upset about seeing a gear or cog on a piece. Let’s face it – the line between historical reenactment and Steampunk can be a fine one. Fact is, if I walked into Dickens Faire or a Civil War re-enactors party, I wouldn’t know a Steamer from anyone else if they weren’t of the gadget having variety.

The gear embodies the Steampunk spirit as well as it’s style. It’s true that Steampunk is about technology, advancement, travel and wonderful inventions. Just about every mechanical piece with movement from the Victorian age uses a gear or a cog in it’s inner workings. But let’s not forget that Steampunk culture is about more than objects – it’s also about people and a sense of adventure and innovation. Whether one lives and breathes it, or simply hot glues an old test tube to a lunch box, there’s room for everybody. Here at Clockwork Couture, we’re amazed and delighted at the variety of people who want to take part, from hardcore devotees to suburban housewives.

So there it is, my permission. You have it. When a new piece of jewelry you have just put together, or bag or wrist cuff looks like it’s missing one detail, you have my blessing to slap a gear on it. Honest.

Now about those goggles on your top hat…

*~*~*~*

Thank you so much for joining us, Donna.  She’ll be back again on Friday.

It’s also not to late to win a signed print by artist Jasmine Becket-Griffith.

Author Jana Oliver will be joining us on Thursday, April 8th. On Saturday, April 10th we’ll be joined by The Royal Ladies’ & Gentle-mens’ Experimental Madness Society’s represented by Joseph CR Vourteque IV. On Sunday, April 11th TotusMel will be dropping by.

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Today’s visiting Lolita is Donna Ricci, Proprietress, of the super fabulous Steampunk Clothier Clockwork Couture.

Not only do they have amazing clothing (and boots to squee over), but they have a wide variety of accessories (can anyone say octopus parasol?) and men’s stuff. You can win some of their loot for yourself by entering our contest which runs through April 11.

Let’s give visiting Lolita Donna a big steampunkapalooza welcome!

~*~*~*~

Remember the scene with Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny finding a cave heaped high with gold and jewels? Daffy jumps up squealing, “Mine! Mine! Mine! Back! Back! Back! Down! Down! Down! Mine all mine!” That’s how I feel about getting a week to commandeer this blog. Happy, excited and eager to tell everyone about my entrée into the wonderful world of Steampunk. (And with no Bugs Bunny to get in my way.) Not unlike the newly converted, I’m ready to spread the word of how…well… connected the world of Steampunk is and should be.

I wasn’t always into connections.

I started in the world of Goth…

Long Beach, CA  1996

Long Beach, CA 1996

From the moment I heard of Steampunk 6 years ago, I didn’t entirely know what it was. Partly due to a poor explanation, partly due to my own lack of imagination, I didn’t connect to it. The singular thing I loved most about Gothic fashion was the Victorian aspect–once I found out about Steampunk my world popped open. Not only could I have color, I could have 19th century style and a computer too! This my friends was a match made in heaven. Never were more surrendering words spoken as I shed my funereal garb and set forth for the brave new world…

my wedding at the Magic Castle, Hollywood, CA September 2003my wedding at the Magic Castle, Hollywood, CA September 2003

You might think I’m a “subculture hopper” or “bandwagon jumper”, but the fact is, I had just actually been wandering around in Steampunk waters for more than 20 years. Now with bright eyes, eager wallet and a whole lot of inspiration, I knew the first thing on the agenda was:

Fashion

The original attraction began with the clothes. A girl can only acquire so many black garments before she realizes that she’s hit a sartorial wall. I mean, black is slimming and all, but I needed a lift. And blood red? Not everyone can carry it off. I wanted color back in my life. Moving from goth to Steampunk was like Dorothy landing in Oz, going from monochrome to big, bustling Technicolor.

Friends

The SteamFashion community on Live Journal is still my biggest source for new virtual pals, inspiration, places to shop and a testing ground to show off mine. There are  specific yahoo groups for my area, other Live Journal communities, Tribes and Facebook fan pages to find other Steamers. Because everyone from Grandmothers to teens can appreciate the style and beauty of the Victorian era, you can find new comrades of all ages.

Lifestyle

This I found, was the easiest part. Years of live-action roleplaying (get your mind out of the gutters), Comic Con, wacky friends and board games all has taught me that having a great persona and even more open-minded attitude is the keys to enjoying this  new sub-culture.

Fun

This can be hard when something is both new, and attaining rules for itself. Luckily, I’m secretly an immature, gay, black, punk-rock boy stuck inside this pale waif vessel, and nothing gives me more joy than saying “F*ck the rules”. Giving myself the freedom to ignore everyone else’s expectations makes having fun a whole lot easier.

I have since felt myself warmly welcomed into the Steampunk community. I now define myself as within that- happy to be among such like-minded people. The gentility, chivalry and friendliness I have encountered with these new friends has indeed immersed me in a new happy place, and frankly Auntie Em, I’m glad I’m not in Kansas anymore.

I hope we’ll stick together this week to see what my brain comes up with for you, and in turn, would love to hear from you as well. donna@clockworkcouture.com


Remember, have fun.

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