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Steampunk has come to embrace so many varied arts, well beyond just fiction. I’d like to introduce you to a couple of the artisans who make the stuff that makes us all look so good.

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 Shoptroll: (aka Peter Vanslyke)

 

Where can shoppers find your products online?

www.shoptroll.net (but realistically I update the Shoptroll Facebook page way more regularly.)

 

What do you make? 

Riveted seam (no sewing) leather clothing. Mostly skirts, kilts, and pocket-belts.

(Note from Cindy: he also makes bodices, bracelets, gloves, shelves, benches, and just about everything you can make with wood, nails, rivets and soft leather. That’s me and the spouse in SP invasion of RFall our Shoptroll finery.)

 

Do you do this full time or is it a side job? 

Full time. 24-7.

 

How did you get into steampunk, personally and as an artisan?

I think, for me, the two’re inseparably linked. I love non-traditional construction methods (example: to make a skirt, I use rivets instead of thread). I see a great deal of the above in the overall steampunk aesthetic. Descriptions and images of things that at the first seem over-built, stylized, or overly ornamental can too be taken as, say, a plumber’s take on a message-delivery system. Using your knowledge or trade to solve situations that they may not at first seem applicable to…I love seeing that.

 

What’s the hardest thing about being a steampunk vendor?

Not going to panels when you’re at a con.

 

What is your very favorite thing about steampunk and the people involved?

If there is a defining aspect of steampunk, I’d call it creativity. No, really, bear with me as I “define” steampunk here. Every single steamo out there brings something to the table. Every. Single. One. At a comic or sci-fi convention, you have some great artists, writers, actors, cosplayers, etc., but for every one of those folk, there are at least a dozen fans or collectors. (Which, by the way, is great.) In steampunk, that ratio is reversed. Participants create their own character, or their own costume. They all add to the ambiance. most of us have *some* project or other we are working on, be it a light-up Nerf mod, a hover pack , a moving picture, a moving piece of poetry, an airship crew, a presentation, a new novel, knitting, we are all working on things, and most of us will happily enthuse, and share ideas to inspire and encourage one another. That, the building of this thing that we all enjoy together, that is probably my favorite aspect of steampunk.

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 Matt Sabins, of Sabins Gadgeteering Lab, LLC

 matt

Where can shoppers find your products online?

www.sabinsgadgeteeringlab.com

What do you make?

Custom costume props, accessories, and jewelry. My style tends towards Tesla-tech, usually with small glowing light effects to simulate strange energies of the Aether.

(note from Cindy: His wristbands and firefly necklaces are out of this world!)

 

Do you do this full timIMG_3955e or is it a side job?

Full-Time, my own business. I’ve tried pursuing conventional means of employment; it never really worked out for me.

 

How did you get into steampunk, personally and as an artisan?

My first exposure to steampunk was the tabletop role-playing game, “Mage: The Ascension” by White Wo Studios. There’s a Tradition of mages called the Sons of Ether whose mad devices and eccentric style were steampunk even before the term had really caught on, and they were my fast favorite. I really love the strange mélange of mysticism and technology that they represent, and I began to try making Etheric devices of my own to use as props. That was more than 10 years ago, and I’ve been refining my methods with what I could afford ever since.IMG_3667

 

What’s the hardest thing about being a steampunk vendor?

The hardest thing about being a vendor is coming up with product ideas that are original enough not to infringe on other copyrights, but that have sufficiently recognizable value to customers who migIMG_2985ht want to buy them. I often have to restrain myself from exuberant creativity and focus on making everyday stuff with a just a hint of mad science in them.

 

What is your very favorite thing about steampunk and the people involved? 

My favorite thing about steampunk is that it is primarily fan-driven. There isn’t a lot of popular source material in films and television with steampunk as the main focus. There’s plenty of room to get in on the ground floor as it picks up steam, so to speak. As for the people involved, I’ve found most are quite friendly and well-mannered, and they seem to really like my creations.

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 So now that you’ve met these two awesome creators, don’t forget to check out their work! Hopefully, these interviews will be a recurring feature, so if you’re an artisan, or know one who ought to be interviewed, send me an email at cindy@cindyspencerpape.com.

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If you are anything like me, one of the things you love most about comic and sci-fi/fantasy conventions is people in cosplay. I especaily love the crossover Steampunk versions of modern super heroes and villains.

Steampunk Poisin Ivy

Steampunk Poisin Ivy – Comicpalooza

Steampunk Dare Devil & Scarecrow - Comicpalooza

Steampunk Dare Devil & Scarecrow – Comicpalooza

Artist, Chet Phillips had created a trade card set of the Union of Superlative Heroes.  Here is a fun gallery of ten Steampunk versions of super heroes. And here is an image of Steampunk Superman.

Steampunk Riddler - Comicpalooza

Steampunk Riddler – Comicpalooza

Bill Willingham has written  a comic book serreis, Legenderry, for Dynamite, based on Steampunk versions of superheroes. Issue one and two include Steampunk versions of Vampirella, the

 at a booth at Comipalooza

at a booth at Comipalooza

Green Hornet, and Katot. I read

Steampunk Spider Man - HoustonCon

Steampunk Spider Man – HoustonCon

issue three and four where the villains included H. G. Wellls’ Dr. Moreua, Ming from Flash Gordon, and Kulan Gath form the Conan series. The heores in issue three are Steve Austin – the six thousand dollar bionic man and Captain Victory, who also is the captian of the Victory airship. In issue four the two superheroes listed above are joined by The Ghost Who Walks – a Steampunk version of The Phantom. The heroine in all four

Steampunk Wonder Woman

issues is Magna Spadarossa, who is looking for her adventurous sister Sonya, who vanished. This mysterious sister is a Steampunk version of Red Sonya.

In DC Comics Justice Society Allstars they have an actual Steampunk heroine, Anna Fortune. She uses the launcher mounted on her gauntlet to fire can-sized, bullet-like cartridges with magical contents. She calls it spell-casting. Anna mentioned to Atom Smasher once, “The only flying machines they have in my day are hot air balloons.”

Creating Steampunk super hero characters and their alter egos as well as the evil villains they are always  trying to thwart is fun and challenging writing. Dressing up like Steampunk versions of super heroes can be a blast as well. Please comment below – What super hero or villain would most like to steampunk?

Steampunk female Thor

 

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 Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 19 books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, fantasy and happy endings. Her latest Steampunk/Romance is Conquistadors In Outer Space, which is as crazy and as entertaining as it sounds. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

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Project Runway’s Under the Gunn spin off had a Steampunk Challenge on the February 27, 2014 show. For those unfamiliar with this show, it was spawned from the glittery loins of Lifetime’s Project Runway. In this incarnation, notable mentor Tim Gunn (the fashion world’s silver fox) helps three Project Runway Alums to mentor their own designers… yes, it is just like that.

This week they open the episode at Travel Town in Griffith Park. If you are a Steampunk and in Los Angeles “GO THERE!” It’s just a hop, skip, & jump to the Autry Western Heritage Museum.. go NOW.

openingmaterials

Standing beside one of the steam trains at Travel Town, the designers are told they have an ‘avant garde’ challenge with the genre of fashion ‘Steampunk.’ Avant garde is the challenge that has stumped many a designer on the show, mainly because what is ‘fashion forefront’ to one person is not for another. Throw in the added concept of Victorian Retro-futurism and holy steampipes, Tim Gunn… you have some confused designers.

rawmaterialsThey’re given $300 dollars for fabric at Mood and TWO WHOLE DAYS to finish an outfit. (So far in the earlier six episodes they have not had such a luxury).

They’re set free on a table full of parts and clocks… to pull pieces to use in their designs.

wtfBut you can tell that earlier on, this may be a tough challenge for some of the designers. Some of them are excited about the challenge as they like the Steampunk ‘look’ and some have no idea.

One of the designers said they’d seen it before but just hadn’t known there was a name. Hey, that sounds like some of us… huh?

Early on, Natalia talks about ‘functional’ fashion and components and I’m happy. I know she’s going in a good direction.

During the middle of the show when they’re showing the construction and mentor critiques is confusing at times and sometimes my teeth are grinding together. I’m not sure that two days is enough. What I feared happening was the idea that oh look shiny stuff, throw this on! When I’ve talked to Steampunks about their outfits there has been a considerable amount of thought that has gone into their looks. And being part of the culture, they’ve had the chance to look around, research, play, experiment… stuff you just can’t do in two days, especially if you aren’t familiar with the source material.

When it’s time for the runway show, I’m confused about why they have the ‘same’ judges. Project Runway has had guest judges and celebrities before. The week prior they had the Costumer from “Pompeii” come in as a guest judge, but this week there is no such ‘extra’ judge sitting on the panel. No Steampunk fashionistas available? I highly doubt it, but then again, who to pick from the thousands of amazing Steampunk fans?

ashaOne of the judges likens the experience to Paris Couture. I’m not sold on it… but I’ll give you my takes on some of the outfits and you can let me know what you think… why not have some fun? What do you think?

Asha’s dress has some of the silhouette of Victorian fashion, but the neckline strikes me as odd along with the white lace-ish narrow skirt.

stephanieStephanie’s dress was called ‘costume-y’ and they mentioned that it looked like Disney, but here’s where I shrug…

Her belt looks like an exaggerated version of a Medici belt from the Civil War Era.

medicibeltSo really, is it costume or just the judges not really knowing historical fashion? It really comes down to (like every other week) the subjective POV of the judges. Especially when one calls the belt a ‘Mr. T’ belt.

oscarOscar’s outfit was panned earlier by another designer for looking too much like a Saloon Girl… okay, obviously they haven’t really seen much of the Wild Wild West… but we’ll pass on that for now. A judge mentioned that the clock at her center is a bit too spot on for them, but they loved the draping and the hat.

I totally agree that the man is fabulous in construction and I want the hat… NOW… err, please. But then again. I kind of like the clock where it is because Oscar mentioned how the shape and look of the dress was inspired by the train. And yeah… it kind of looks like the front of the train with the hardware there.

nataliaNatalia’s dress is inspired by the concept of a “Time Traveler’s Mistress” – the girl in me says.. Why can’t SHE be the Time Traveler? But that’s just me.

She has engineer’s for parents and something must have rubbed off on her because using clock parts she has literally created a workable pulley that lifts both sides of the front half of the skirt to reveal her underskirt. Way cool.

pulleyShe has now earned some points with her mentor and the head of the show. Go girl! I also appreciate her whole outfit. I like the shape of it that brings to my mind the silhouette of a Victorian Era outfit.

samThere was one outfit that confused me on the dress form, but once on the model, I think I got what he was going for…

the dystopian future that brought to mind Boneshaker’s fashions. 😀 Sam’s would have had more of my support if he’d chosen a different kind of goggle. But that’s just my personal choice.

nicholasI think this next outfit created by Nicholas was more suited to a Mad Scientist creation with the tubes and metallic fabric. The outfit brings to mind a lab coat patchwork that would make Tim Burton proud.

michelleAnother creation, this one by Michelle. I loved the stained glass look of the collar and the coat has a great flair to it in the back.

I do, however question the hair ‘tower’ they created for her head. Not quite sure I can forget that one. It must have given the model and horrendous headache. Poor thing.

blakeThe next design is from Blake, who described his inspiration as controlling time, wrapping around her.  The outfit looked like pieces of different items of clothing sewn together and a bunch of gears and metal pieces sewn or glued on.  I think with more time it might have become something with more ‘clarity’… is that the word I’m looking for? Yes, I think so.

shanThe last design was created by Shen. It is the outfit that WON the challenge. I’m not sure if I completely understand why it won. I was hoping to be more excited by the look of it, but perhaps its just not my idea of avant garde Steampunk fashion.

So… tell me… did you see the episode? What did you think?

Which outfits floated your dirigible? Which ones sank your submarine?

How many days would you think a Steampunk challenge should have had to create complete designs?

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Why Steampunk? I put that question to a variety of talented artist. Asking them why they took their art in a Steampunk direction, these were their answers:

Cherries Jubilee, is not only a talented dancer but she also embellishes fabulous Steampunk designs on shoes, transferring them into wearable art and some of the most gorgeous shoes you will ever see in your life.  I asked Cherries Jubilee, “How did you first get interested in Steampunk?”

“I have been attending science fiction/fantasy/horror conventions almost since the phenomenon started, but I was finding it difficult to do interesting costumes after a while. I could not really pull off the “green slave girl” any more and I had done every female companion to Dr.

Who, so I was looking for something else. I was looking for a more free form kind of costuming – not copying something that had already been done, but creating characters of my own in a style that I could wear into my 90’s if I wanted to. About six years ago, I saw some Steampunk at Norwest Con and fell in love with the idea. They were already talking about creating a local Steampunk convention and I was really excited because I could bring in neo-victorian style and, to some extent, manners into a con culture that had grown more than a little crass. I saw an opportunity to bring couples dancing into the sci-fi culture and I got to wear corsets and really cool granny boots. My only thought was, “Sign me up!”

airship-voyager-sqpenny_farthing_20121Camryn Forrest creates serious art with her stunning snow globes and water globes. She is a snow globe engineer. Her work is whimsical and technical, heavy and light, just the way I like my steampunk. So I asked her, “Why Steampunk?”

Camryn Forrest said, “I love the contradiction of steampunk and snow globes. One of the first times I told anyone what I was doing, he said ‘That doesn’t make any sense. Those two things do not go together.’ And that egged me on: I loved the challenge of proving it could work.”

Next, I asked illustrator, writer, costumer, graphic artist and founder and vice chiar of Steamcon, Diana Vick, “What drew you to get involved in and take your art in a Steampunk direction?”

 

8383773791_7f5d80f934_bShe replied, “Steampunk is a very creative genre and I like the imagery.”

 

dawn1Dawn Donati creates unique and gorgeous Steampunk Stained Glass art. So I inquired, “When did your first become interested in Steampunk?”

“Along my travels some of the vending I did was in Victorian reenactment I am well versed in the artclothing aspect.  steampunk was a natural progression for me. What intrigues me is the inventions and the people who create them, the stories they tell – the community. The ingenuity and historical knowledge of the artists is just delightful. I have noticed the steampunk movement is growing I see it all over in art, clothing, movies – it’s fun to see peoples interpretation of what steampunk is. Or maybe I’m just so immersed myself such a hopeless romantic for the opulence of this movement there is no saving me.   For my next endeavor I would like to bring stained glass in to steampunk as a noticed art form.  How Victorian is stained glass – take steamed powered concepts add a splash of industrial machinery a dash of filigree embellishment and there you have steampunk stained glass…. well that is what my mind’s eye would like to see.  I am working on my kaleidoscope and a signature piece.”

mlt_headshotThen I asked Steampunk artist – painter, sculptor and jewelry designer – Michael Treat,”What inspired you to take your art in a Steampunk direction?”

“For me, I think it all started when I began working with materials that are dominant in the 197102921162471135_cgqtnxyz_cSteampunk genre including leather, unbleached fabrics, lace, grommets, eyelets, tack and  wood. Oh–and of course all of those metals! I very much enjoy working with brass, copper, wrought iron and rusty steel with all of their tarnish and patinas. I enjoy working with each material individually, and combining them in new and different ways. As I learned more and more about the genre, and researched what it was about,  I realized that I had found a place to incorporate those elements and the styles into just about anything I had could imagine. I love the Steampunk genre because of the modification process that Steampunk allows, and often even demands! I also really feel a sort of kinship with the American Old West. I admire the optimism that came along with all the hardships and uncertainties of that time period. I also enjoy how that unique creativity, optimism and sense of possibilities and vision is reflected those who live the Steampunk lifestyle today.”

mesteampunksoulsMichele Lynch’s mix media art, art dolls, tree toppers, ornaments, jewelry, paintings and so nevermoremuch more are incredible. Not only the art itself, but I also love what she writes about them. ”The soul sucker mix media dolls or sculptures started after I took a full time job with the soul sucker corporation. I find myself still running from the soul sucker even though I no longer work for that corporation.”

I love Michele’s Soul Sucker world and her art, so I put the same question to her, “Why Steampunk?”

Michele said, “When I envisioned the steampunk soul rebellion, I saw them with mechanical parts to them. I’m not sure where that inspiration came from! But I have always loved movies that had that slight Steampunk feel to them.”

You’ve heard form a variety of Steampunk visual artist as to why they went Steampunk, now readers, it’s your turn. Please comment below…Why Steampunk?

Feel free to share why you write or read Steampunk?

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Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 19 books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, fantasy and happy endings. Her latest Steampunk/Romance is Conquistadors In Outer Space. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

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uniforms Lolita Cindy here, phoning this one in. I’ve got a hard deadline in two days and on the third, I’m headed off to Pandoracon to participate as a panelist on the writers’ track. So wish me luck!

On another note, the spouse and I have officially joined the ranks of the HMS, RAF Defiance, based out of Royal Oak Michigan. I’m joining the crew as resident naturalist, and the tall, dapper gent with me is Rear Admiral Pape, currently aboard on part of a hush-hush diplomatic mission. The real story is, since his jacket came with that insignia, he had to come up with a story to match it, so he didn’t usurp the authority of Captain Sir Benjamin Despard, who so kindly welcomed us aboard.

Creating uniforms from scratch was a fun, long-term project for us. We assembled them piece by piece, either from thrift shops or clearance sales. Here’s the break-down.

Mine: skirt (split riding skirt) clearance from Recollections. (That they happened to have one clearance piece, my size, even in short, still amazes me.) This formed the basis for my uniform. Jacket was from Torrid, also clearance mail order. Corset, underneath, is my old Corset-Story basic black. White blouse underneath, straight out of my closet, black tie filched from one of the offspring. My standard steampunk boots are vintage Salvation Army My hat was $8 at an Army surplus store, and I picked up the hatpin there too. It’s a French parachuting insignia. The ribboned medals I’m wearing are from Spectra Nova and others are from random thrift finds. Total cost of uniform, roughly $100, over the course of 6 months or so, and most of the parts can be worn separately, the coat even in real life.

The hubby is wearing a vintage Detroit Fire Chief’s coat, found at the local antique mall for about #30. His US Navy pants, $7 or so at a thrift shop. Medals again are random thrift bits, and his Royal Canadian Mounted Police hat was all of $20. White shirt, black tie, black boots, straight out of his closet. The goggles were bought so long ago, I don’t remember where or how much. Total cost, maybe $70.

We’ll be rocking these as representatives of the Defiance at Pandoracon. I hope this post sparks an idea or two for anyone who’s been hesitant about costuming. Get creative. Thrift shops are your friends!

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A couple weeks ago, I got to do something cool–I went to the inaugural event of a brand new steampunk group.

In Michigan, there has long been a lot of steampunk activity in the Detroit area, and a number of people who attend the Detroit events do so from around the state and even into Ohio. There’s been some attempt made to get a group going in Grand Rapids, but until recently, the Lansing area was devoid of organized steampunks.

Not any more. Introducing, Capital Steam, which is largely, at this point, a Facebook group. Something I’ve learned about the steampunk community is that there are both formal and informal organizations. Formally, you have the smaller groups, predominantly airships, where informally, you have all the steampunk fans in the region who show up for various events. For instance, in Detroit, the Detroit Steampunk Consortium, Up in the Aether, and the Ann Arbor-based Woodruff’s Grove Steampunk Society all have pretty much overlapping members, as does Steampunk Michigan and Survivors of the Great White North. Now, many of us have also joined up with the fledgling Capital Steam. Since I live about equidistant from Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Lansing, I have no qualms about this.

The first event came off beautifully. In the afternoon, small groups met, in garb, at various local attractions. I was at the R. E. Olds (yes, as in Oldsmobile) Museum, and both fun and education abounded. I met some new friends I can’t wait to see again, and saw some really cool old vehicles as well as other accoutrements of the era.

In the evening, we all met for a lovely dinner in the restored railroad dining car at Clara’s Lansing Station. A few of the Detroiters showed up to lend their support, and a number of totally new recruits arrived as well to start things off right. There was good food, excellent company, wonderful clothing, a fair bit of booze and enormous amounts of laughter. Following dinner, some of the crew retired to a local coffee house/pub to end the evening.

The next event, scheduled for October, is tea at a Lansing mansion, the Turner-Dodge house. I’m looking forward to this eagerly, and already planning my wardrobe.

It was just about a year ago that I discovered southern Michigan had an active steampunk community and went to my first event. It’s been a wonderful, busy, crazy 12 months. A meme I’ve seen on social media says “Happiness is finding other people who are the same kind of crazy as you.” Yeah, that applies to my experience with the steampunk community over the past year.  Can’t wait for year #2.

In other news, I will be appearing at PandoraCon in Cincinnati, Oct. 9-11. If you’re in the area, come look me up! I’ve also been approved for a steampunk panel at the Romantic Times Convention in New Orleans next May, and will be one of the hostesses for the steampunk tea. Finally, my January Gaslight Chronicles novella, Ashes & Alchemy is up for pre-order on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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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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I had a blast at Comicpalooza’s weird and wonderful Memorial weekend. Every aspect of Comicpalooza was a carnival of the fantastic and the Steampunk ball was no exception.

A Belle of the Steampunk Ball

A Belle of the Steampunk Ball

The music was merry the hall was grand and one and all came with their dancing shoes on, in costumes both elegant and outrageous.

Buxom damsels in bustles and corsets and dapper men in Victorian attire swung their feet, kicked up their heels, and bounced at the ball.

Performances began with Frenchy and the Punk. Their flapper cabaret, Great Gatsby sound was a party in itself.

DSCN0464Professor Elemental’s performance as always was rollicking fun. I say steam, you say, punk. “I say steam, you say, ____.  I say steam, you say, _____.” Proffesor elemental’s youtube video

Marquis of Vaudeville with their rockin circus of sound, the smooth mellow vocals of Toby Lawhon,  and a sensual base guitarist with a magnetic flair and whipping hair had everyone prancing and dancing. Marquis of Vaudeville’s youtube video

Abney Park

Abney Park at Comicpalooza

The ball reached the height of amazement when Abney Park took the stage and the magic of music reached a whole other level. Abney Park’s youtube video

May I have this dance?

Now that the ball is over, the dancers have left, the booths at Comicpalooza have been taken down and all the stars have gone. So we are left waiting for the ball and Comicpalooza to come in 2014.

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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I have a deliciously exotic post for you for Steampunkapalooza. Today, April 12, is national licorice day. Those amazing ancient Egyptians were the first to discover the wonders of licorice. Generous amounts of licorice were found in King Tut’s tomb and the use of licorice in an ancient beverage is recorded in Egyptian hieroglyphics. The Victorians loved licorice. It’s a perfect candy for a tea party. You can place a stick of it in your tea to stir it. Also a crystal dish filled with colorful Licorice Allsorts, a favorite English candy since 1899, will liven up your tea table. Of course licorice was just one of many ancient Egyptian influences on Victorian culture.

Constance Collier as Iras in Ben Hur, 1902

Constance Collier as Iras in Ben Hur, 1902

The Victorians loved costumes and Cleopatra influenced costumes were quite fashionable, used in the theater and to wear to balls. Of course actual Ancient Egyptian clothing and the Victorian idea of it were two different things. Pictured here are actresses Constance Collier, Sarah Bernhardt, and Maud Allan.

Sarah Bernhardt as Cleopatra in the 1890 production of Victorien Sardou’s Cléopâtre, and on the right, above, Maud Allan as Samone, 1910

Also, Inspired by authentic Victorian fashion plates of Egyptian costumes, the Steam Ingenious Cleopatra fancy dress project is recreating the gown Lady Paget wore to the 1875 Delmonico Ball in New York City. The portrait and photo of Lady Paget in the costume along with several fashion plates of Cleopatra style gowns are pictured on the blog.

The Egyptian Revival period also influenced Victorian furnishings.This chair belonged to Empress Josephine.

Victorians were fascinated with Egyptian mummies and unwrapping parties were quite stylish. George Mann tied Steampunk with mummy unwrapping in a wonderful scene in The Osiris Ritual. Here’s an excerpt from a Victorian mummy unwrapping party in the Steampunk/Romance, As Timeless As Magic.

Mister Mugrage yanked a strip of linen wrapping, tugging it off as he circled the mummy, unraveling it. He withdrew an amulet from the linen gauze and held it up. “Our first party favor. Who wants this lovely turquoise scarab?”

A lady in a large hat and a blue gown fluttered her fan. “I do, Mister Mugrage.”

“Madame Mills, by all means, this little gem is yours. It shall bring you great luck.” Mister Mugrage placed the treasure in the woman’s gloved hand as she giggled with glee.

Heru loosened his cravat before he gagged. The crowd’s thunderous applause fueled his anger. These amulets protected the deceased, helped him find his way in the afterlife, and this ridiculous man handed them out as party favors.

Mister Mugrage continued unraveling the mummy until he came upon the next find, a small hawk carved from blue lapis. He handed it to a man with a protruding belly and white beard, dressed in black trousers, a gray coat, and a green cravat. Heru fought the urge to grab the amulet back from the man‟s chubby fingers.

No sooner had the other guests congratulated the man than Mister Mugrage yanked the wrappings again. “Here we have a hollow gold beetle.” He placed it in Felicity’s hand. “What is this symbol on the top?“

Felicity peered at the golden insect, examining it closely. “Two crossed arrows over a shield, the symbol of Goddess Neith, deity of the hunt.”

“Who will have this fine beetle?” Mister Mugrage flashed a broad grin.

Heru wanted to yell for them to stop as he stood helplessly by, watching a corpse being violated for nothing but the fleeting pleasure of shallow people. He accidentally bit his tongue. He grabbed his jaw, and rubbed it.

A woman held up her dainty hand netted in a lacy glove. Felicity gifted the lady with the beetle amulet.

As Mister Mugrage unwound more linen gauze, he discovered a small statue with the body of a man and the head of a jackal.

“Anubis.” Finally, an idea struck. Heru swiftly stuck out his hand, almost grabbing the amulet. ”May I?” he asked in French.

“Oui.” Mister Mugrage handed it to him.

Heru knew this held the most powerful curse, for the priests who cast spells on the amulets wore the mask of Anubis. He flipped it over and read the hieroglyphic inscription. “You dare to touch this sacred mummy. You mortal man, whose flesh and skull will return to the desert sand. I curse you with the loss of your hands.” Heru clasped the amulet tightly, whispering the spell in Old Egyptian in the parlor just as he would have in the temple of Anubis. “Curse him, who disturbs the dead, who robs what the gods entombed. His hands should be severed if not his head, his cursed fingers doomed.”

“Give me that. Let me read it.” Felicity’s father reached for the amulet to grab it back from Heru. He gasped. His fingers fell limp. Mister Mugrage screamed, “My hands! They are numb, I cannot feel anything.”

Another fun fact, the coolest thing about Steamgyptianpunk is Heron (also called Hero) the Egyptian, in first century AD, invented the steam engine. His aeolipile was the first working steam engine in history.

Along with my  Steamgyptianpunk books, As Timeless As Stone and As Timeless As Magic there are several other steampunk books in my home library with Egyptian influences:  The Osiris Ritual by George Mann, The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers, Timeless by Gail Carriger, and Empire of Ruins by Arthur Slade.

My Contest to celebrate Steampunkapalooza is a giveaway of a pdf eBook of As Timeless As Stone. Leave a comment below and I’ll choose two winners. Please include your email so I can reach you if you are selected.

Here is a book trailer of As Timeless As stone:

Maeve Alpin

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So far, since becpirate coupleoming a Lolita last year, I’ve been mixing my posts on writing steampunk with chronicling my adventure into the steampunk lifestyle. Discovery #1: Steampunk folks are diverse, warm, welcoming and loads of fun. As one wise gentleman told me the other night, waving out at a dance floor full of corseted and tricorned partiers, “Life is hard, complicated and often messy. This? This is just fun.” (That’s him below with the spouse.) Discovery #2: There is an enormous crossover between the steampunk crowd and the Renaissance Faire crowd. Enormous. Fortunately, a lot of hoops, corsets, skirts and blouses, belts, gloves, jewelry, etc. can do double duty. That makes the crossover a lot more affordable. But this weekend brought me to discovery #3: PIRATES!glenn & don`

Yes, there is an active and organized pirate community in Michigan. How did I not know this?

shoptrollThey call themselves Brethren of the Great Lakes and offer everything from a pirate festival on Lake Michigan to adding color to your random local event. They do lectures on maritime history. And yes, they throw one hell of a party. One of my steampunk friends (left) invited me to an event via Facebook, where he was going to be selling his magnificent leather goods. (Like the skirt I’m wearing in the photo above. See more of his awesome work at Shoptroll.net) That was the first I’d heard of the Brethren. Best yet, the event was right in my home town, so for a change, the spouse and I didn’t have to drive anywhere. pirate kala

During the afternoon, there was a fair inside a local hall, with booths selling everything from clothes to wigs, to pirate stickers to the best handmade caramels I’ve ever eaten. (War Pony Forge: Yum!) There was a pirate art show. A silent auction and raffle raised funds for this summer’s festival. A band played traditional music in one corner. The costumes and company were…piratical, loud, funny and courteous. Also much less smelly than their historical counterparts, an anachronism I applaud. There is no single era of piracy required in the costuming and fun.  A Renaissance admiral chatted happily with a steampunk airship pirate.shiver me timbers

In the evening, the party moved to a local watering hole, where we filled both of their banquet rooms. A rowdier band played rocked-up traditional music, and the event was so much fun that random locals paid their five dollars to come in, just because there were so many people having such a good time. (And there were lots of pirate wenches in corsets–duh.) Also to note was that many of the pirates were also members of the steampunk and Ren-Faire communities. In fact, they make something of an effort to have the pirate events fill in the gaps when there isn’t much Rennie stuff to do. And again, a lot of the garb is compatible. I see much more pirating in my future. Yarrr!

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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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As a Hollywood makeup artist who worked on the film Titanic and owns of one of the most popular makeup lines used along with Steampunk and Halloween costumes, as well as creator of the Bloody Mary comic books, I picked  Bobbie Weiner as the perfect person to blog about for my Halloween post on Steamed. I met Bobbie Weiner recently at Sparkle and Hustle in HoustonTexas.

Bobbie Weiner & Maeve Alpin

Bobbie Weiner & Maeve Alpin

Bobbie’ Weiner is the heroine of her own life. Her book, I Can Do This, describes her remarkable journey from a doctor’s wife and the country club life to a to a successful, independent business woman. She clearly has a Steampunk sprit, full of spunk and spit fire.

Bloody Mary’s story begins when her husband rode off on his Harley into the California sunset after telling her he wanted a new life, his  new life included an incredibly young wife already lined up for him. In her mid forties, for her first step in reinventing her life, Bobbie (Bloody Mary) enrolled in the Joe Blasco Makeup School for the television and film industry. Three days after she graduated she worked on a low budget horror film, Pumkinhead II. There the production assistant led her into an old barn where she painted a doll house replica of the set with blood and gore, to prepare it to be blown up. Her work on the doll house impressed the cast so much they nicknamed her Bloody Mary.

After Pumkinhead II, she worked as a makeup artist on a lot of short films and B-list horror movies. Then she got a  call for the TV show Renegae, staring Lorenzo Lamas. On that set she met and became friends with an English makeup intern, Josie. Bobbie’s big break came when Josie recommended her for the film Titanic, they needed her special effect makeup skills for the frozen, floating corpses.

During the Titanic shoot, on her day off, one of Leonardo Dicaprio’s stunt doubles asked her for blue and gold makeup to paint his face for the San Diego Chargers game. The next day he told her they were on TV and everyone wanted to know where they got the makeup. When she asked him what he usually used, he said markers and sharpies. That gave her the idea to start a sports makeup line. She attended a college trade show and left the convention with 46 orders for face paint kits.

About a year before Titanic came out she appeared on the morning show, Sun Up San Diego. The manger of the base super store for Marines and their families at Camp Pendleton heard her say her makeup never washed off, even as the actors lay in the water up to five hours at a time. He wanted her to make camouflage face paint for the marines. At that time the US military used a formula from 1918 full of castor oil. The men hated it so much they wouldn’t use it. At the advice of her father, Bobbie trademarked Sports Fan Face Paint, her name, Bobbie Weiner, and Bobbie Weiner’s Camouflage Face Paint. She was soon flooded with orders from the military. In 1999, she received the first of two gold medals from the U. S. Department of Defense, she was awarded the second one in 2002. These were Automated Best Value System medals, awarded to government contractors whose products meet stringent quality, price and delivery requirements.  Every U. S. solider who went to Afghanistan or Iraq had one of her camouflage makeup kits with them. By the early 2000’s Bobbie no  longer worked as a makeup artist for films, instead she supplied the film industry with her makeup. Anytime you watch a modern military movie in which camouflage is used, you can safely guess the makeup came from Bobbie Weiner.

The owner of Troma Entertainment asked her to speak and give a presentation at Comic-Con in San Diego. There she met the branding manger of Diamond Comics. When she told him she was creating a comic book, he asked her to send it to him when she was done.

When her mother became ill, She went to Florida to care for her. That’s how she met her comic book artist. She dropped in a local printing company to order business cards and asked the clerk if she knew any good animation artist. The lady recommended the artist who worked there, Tommy. Bobbie set up an interview and he presented eight black and white pages that were exactly what she was looking for. She sent the first prototype of Tales of Bloody Mary to Diamond Industries and they loved it. She printed 100 copies for a Horror Convention and sold every one. She also sold out at Comic Con 2003. In 2007 she licensed the name Bloody Mary and her 5th comic book theme to Six Flgs over Texas in Arlington, Texas and “Bloody Mary’s Circus of Fear” haunted attraction was born. She gives all proceeds from it to the Boy Scouts. She also licensed the name Bloody Mary to Universal Studios Orlando for their Halloween Horror Nights haunted house.

At a huge Halloween trade show in Chicago, Bobbie did a Titanic-style dead-person demo on stage. There, a writer from a horror magazine interviewed her and asked what was the best Halloween makeup. She told him hers was the best, Bloody Mary’s. She began making death makeup and blood. Her blood is the best , it doesn’t contain any sugars, so it’s not sticky and washes off with just soap and water.

Bobbie gave the key note address on opening day for the 7-Eleven International Convention. She brought people up on stage and transformed them into frozen, dead zombies. She began selling her makeup kits in all the 7-Elleven stores.

In 2002 a funeral director approached her about providing funeral makeup and she reformatted her makeup line, The Other Makeup, to make women look younger, into an additional line, Bloody Mary’s The Final Touch for funeral homes. She also sells jaundice powder and embalming filler for filling in wounds, surgery scars and bullet holes. People also started buying those products to look like real corpses in haunted houses.

Her line of products even includes Bloody Mary’s Bloody Mary Mix and Bloody Mary Hot Sauce. Every year she develops new products from spray blood to tattoo cover kits to living statue makeup kits as seen in the video above.

Her makeup is thought of as essential in creating certain Steampunk personas. Her metallic makeup foundation perfects the popular metallic Steampunk robot look. Her bullet hole, gash, and bite prosthetics are often used, as well as her fairy ears and fairy makeup kit. With the choices she offers, you are sure to find a product of hers to enhance your Steampunk look. or your Halloween costume for tonight.

But the  most important thing to remember about Bobbie Weiner is her advice, “Never let your age be an obstacle. I don’t care how old you are.”

Happy Halloween,

Maeve Alpin

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Ancient Egyptian culture has had a major influence on the Victorian era and also modern Steampunk. As indicated by the titles, two classic Steampunk novels include strong Egyptian influences: The Osiris Ritual by George Mann and The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers.

Pretty Miss with Parasol belly dancing at ComicCon’s Steampunk Ball

The Victorians were fascinated with Egyptian mummies and unwrapping parties were quite stylish. George Mann tied Steampunk with mummy unwrapping in a wonderful scene in The Osiris Ritual. Here’s an excerpt from a Victorian mummy unwrapping party in the Steampunk/ Romance, As Timeless As Magic: Heru peered within the sarcophagus, at a coffin shaped like a human figure, in a green headdress with a single yellow stripe and a jewel painted in the middle. His gaze lingered on the beautiful hieroglyphics in orange and blue, thinking of the power they held and the magic his mother created with them in her spells.

“Now, what we have all waited for.” Mister Mugrage opened the coffin. A gilded mask lay over a linen sheet wrapped around a human corpse.

Heru rubbed his brow, then fisted his hand, aching to punch Felicity’s father in the teeth.

Mister Mugrage removed the mask in the likeness of the mummy inside and held it up. “This mask is a wonderful treasure for the evening and I will do you all the favor of parting with it for the highest offer made.”

The crowd all sighed with “oohs” and “ahs.” Heru could tell by the gleam in several people’s eyes, they wanted to own it. This was all about money to Mister Mugrage. He had no love of the history, the art, or the spiritual significance his daughter seemed to understand. Heru vowed he wouldn’t blame Felicity for her father’s actions, but a throbbing surge of anger rose in him as she unwrapped the sheet from the mummy. The guests closed in like a mob and thrust forward. Heru could hardly breathe, the room felt void of air.

Mister Mugrage yanked a strip of linen wrapping, tugging it off as he circled the mummy, unraveling it. He withdrew an amulet from the linen gauze and held it up. “Our first party favor. Who wants this lovely turquoise scarab?”

A lady in a large hat and a blue gown fluttered her fan. “I do, Mister Mugrage.”

“Madame Mills, by all means, this little gem is yours. It shall bring you great luck.” Mister Mugrage placed the treasure in the woman‟s gloved hand as she giggled with glee.

Heru loosened his cravat before he gagged. The crowd‟s thunderous applause fueled his anger. These amulets protected the deceased, helped him find his way in the afterlife, and this ridiculous man handed them out as party favors.

Mister Mugrage continued unraveling the mummy until he came upon the next find, a small hawk carved from blue lapis. He handed it to a man with a protruding belly and white beard, dressed in black trousers, a gray coat, and a green cravat. Heru fought the urge to grab the amulet back from the man‟s chubby fingers.

No sooner had the other guests congratulated the man than Mister Mugrage yanked the wrappings again. “Here we have a hollow gold beetle.” He placed it in Felicity‟s hand. “What is this symbol on the top?“

Felicity peered at the golden insect, examining it closely. “Two crossed arrows over a shield, the symbol of Goddess Neith, deity of the hunt.”

“Who will have this fine beetle?” Mister Mugrage flashed a broad grin.

Heru wanted to yell for them to stop as he stood helplessly by, watching a corpse being violated for nothing but the fleeting pleasure of shallow people. He accidentally bit his tongue. He grabbed his jaw, and rubbed it.

A woman held up her dainty hand netted in a lacy glove. Felicity gifted the lady with the beetle amulet.

As Mister Mugrage unwound more linen gauze, he discovered a small statue with the body of a man and the head of a jackal.

“Anubis.” Finally, an idea struck. Heru swiftly stuck out his hand, almost grabbing the amulet. ”May I?” he asked in French.

“Oui.” Mister Mugrage handed it to him.

Heru knew this held the most powerful curse, for the priests who cast spells on the amulets wore the mask of Anubis. He flipped it over and read the hieroglyphic inscription. “You dare to touch this sacred mummy. You mortal man, whose flesh and skull will return to the desert sand. I curse you with the loss of your hands.” Heru clasped the amulet tightly, whispering the spell in Old Egyptian in the parlor just as he would have in the temple of Anubis. “Curse him, who disturbs the dead, who robs what the gods entombed. His hands should be severed if not his head, his cursed fingers doomed.”

“Give me that. Let me read it.” Felicity’s father reached for the amulet to grab it back from Heru. He gasped. His fingers fell limp. Mister Mugrage screamed, “My hands!”

Felicity rushed to her father and clutched his arm “What is it?”

“I can’t move my hands, not even to lift a finger. They are numb, I cannot feel anything.”

Steam Driven Belly Dancing

Even more than mummy unwrapping parties, the Victorians loved costume balls. Cleopatra influenced costumes were highly fashionable at these affairs. Steam Ingenious’ Steampunk Cleopatra fancy dress project is inspired by authentic Victorian fashion plates of Egyptian costumes. It’s a recreation of the Celopatra costume Lady Paget wore to the 1875 Delmonico Ball in New York City. The portrait and photo of Lady Paget in the costume along with several fashion plates of Cleopatra style gowns are pictured on the blog and the details of the pattern and the fabrics are included.

Another Egyptian influence on Steampunk is belly dancing, which has been big ever

Sword & Steampunkery

since Abney Park incorporated it into its live shows. Many belly dancers have been inspired to go steampunk adding goggles, corsets and pantaloons to their costumes. The extraordinary Steampunk Belly Dancers featured here are from the Osiris Dance Company. If they look familiar, they perform at the Steampunk Ball at ComicCon each year and they will also be performing at the Wild West Festival in Tucson next year.

A heroine who belly dances could add an interesting element to a Steampunk novel.

As you can see it’s easy to weave some exotic Egyptian influences into your Steampunk books.

If you liked the excerpt from As Timeless As Magic the novel is free as a kindle eBook from today until Friday, August 31st.

Maeve Alpin

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As a mom, I love the idea of mother-daughter writing teams. Today we welcome my favorite, Belle and Nancy Holder. They decided to interview each other for this guest article.

New York Times bestselling author Nancy Holder (Wicked, Teen Wolf: On Fire) and her daughter, Belle, have written two stories in a Victoriana-steampunk universe starring Lightning Merriemouse-Jones, a time-traveling mouse who devours the works of Jules Verne (literally.) Lightning appeared in Pandora’s Closet and Furry Fantastic, both edited by Jean Rabe and others. They’ve expanded their love of steampunk into cosplay, costuming, and appearing on steampunk panels. Nancy will moderate the steampunk panel at the Big Orange Literary Festival at Chapman College in September, and is writing several steampunk short stories for various anthologies. Belle has been creating a line of steampunk accessories featuring astrolabes.

 

 In Which Belle and Nancy Holder Quiz Each Other on the Subject of Steam

by Belle and Nancy Holder

Nancy’s Interview

Belle: What got you interested in steampunk?

Nancy: I went to the Adventurers Club at Disney world.  Now sadly gone, the Adventurers Club was a gathering of various eccentric characters from the 1930’s who were returning from their exciting travels to spin yarns.  I loved the costumes and the immersive experience. The night was full of whimsy. Steampunk is like that.

Belle:  What is your dream steampunk outfit?

Nancy: A maroon velvet fitted jacket over a black skirt with red lace. I’d like a proper big bustle, high button shoes, a small black and maroon hat, and my own private clockwork carriage.

Belle: Do you see steampunk as a long-lasting fad, or a permanent genre?

Nancy: A permanent genre. It is too fun to lose.

Belle: Whose steampunk world would you live in?

Nancy: Jules Verne’s.

Belle: Is writing steampunk harder or easier than any other genre?

Nancy: Easier, because it is so fun!

 

Belle’s interview

Nancy: Will you outgrow steampunk?

Belle: It’s not something you outgrow, but something you grow into. So, no.

Nancy: What is the appropriate place to wear steampunk clothing?

Belle: Obviously steampunk events and conventions. Really, anyplace you would be allowed. My school doesn’t allow hats, and huge skirts wouldn’t fit in the narrow doors. It really depends on the outfit.

Nancy: Do you see steampunk as a fad or new genre?

Belle: A fad, but a long-lasting one, like being a hippie. It will probably fade out of the public eye, get brought back, and I think then it will slowly transform into something else, sadly.

Nancy: Who is your steampunk persona?

Belle: She’s like Kaylee from Firefly, but with zeppelins instead of space ships.

Nancy: What is the best thing about steampunk?

Belle: It’s such a broad idea, there really isn’t a limit to the things you can do.

 

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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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