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The INNOCENT DARKNESS read-along starts today! Join in the fun!

Someone asked me to talk about the Steampunk fashion in INNOCENT DARKNESS. So, here it is.



Is there something you want to know about writing, steampunk, or the AETHER CHRONICLES books? Tell me on my facebook page!


Suzanne Lazear is the author of the AETHER CHRONICLES series. INNOCENT DARKNESS (book #1) is out now. CHARMED VENGEANCE (book #2) releases 8-8-13. Learn more about the Aether Chronicles on the series website.

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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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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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Today we welcome back one of my favorite visiting lolitas, author Eden Bradley who’s not only one of the fabulous Smutketeers but also writes under the name Eve Berlin. Thank you so much, Eden, for coming and visiting us today.

A Journey of Pants and Other Steampunkian Things, Myself Included
by Eden Bradley/Eve Berlin

My travels to the 2010 Romantic Times Booklovers Convention began with a pair of pants…Well, it actually began long before then, when my fellow authors and dear friends R.G. Alexander, Crystal Jordan and Lilli Feisty and I decided to blog together, and the Smutketeers blog was born.

The four of us love Steampunk everything: fiction, clothing, the fabulous computers, furniture, cars and jewelry, being made by brilliant and creative minds. We all write various sub-genres of erotica and erotic romance, and since we all had Steampunk stories in mind, we decided the Smutketeers blog must be Steampunk in style-one uniting factor among many. Before we launched the blog we got together in the Nevada desert and did our first photo shoot. Blistering heat and high winds aside (and with the aid of a pitcher or two of margaritas) we managed some very interesting pics. As soon as it was done we knew we wanted to do it again! But since we all live in different areas of the country, it’s not often that we’re all in the same place at the same time. That time finally came for us at this year’s RT Convention in Columbus, Ohio.

R.G. found the most fascinating location for us-the Depot Rail Museum. There we were allowed to shoot in front of-and on-their antique Vulcan Locomotive, as well as in Car 100, an elegant private executive rail car originally built for Ringling Bros. in 1886.

We all wanted new costumes for the shoot-any reason to make a new costume!-and since this year I’m launching my new pen name, Eve Berlin (my first ‘Eve’ book,
PLEASURE’S EDGE,
will be out from Berkley Heat in October), I needed two costumes-one for Eden and one for Eve. Eden likes to wear her petticoats, so I wanted something a bit different for Eve, and decided she should be in pants. But finding the perfect pair of Steampunk pants isn’t all that simple, costume geek that I am, so I decided to make them myself-that’s half the fun, anyway! It began with a pair of inexpensive, tweedy pinstriped capri-length slacks bought at a local department store…

They weren’t terribly interesting, but made an excellent base for the design I had in mind. I immediately stripped the plastic buttons from the belt loops, replacing them with brass cogs and clockwork bits, some of which I had on hand (as any good Steampunk fan should!), and some which I purchased for this project.

But I also wanted to feminize the look a bit and add a dash of Victorian, so I bought a few yards of very wide cotton lace. The lace was a pale, yellowy cream color-not quite the right shade, so I tea-dyed them until I got the tone I wanted. Tea-dyeing is a simple process and antiques most fabrics beautifully—cotton takes the tea particularly well. I gathered the lace, sewing it onto two lengths of grosgrain ribbon which I would use to anchor it inside the hem of the pants. But before that, I wanted to add a bit more detail, because in my mind, Steampunk style is all in the details.

I spilt the side seams of the pants open at the bottom-just a few inches-folded and sewed the edges back, and hammered brass grommets in. I used a darling thin brown ribbon to lace through the grommets, corset-style, and tied them with a small bow, then sewed the lace into the cuffs. I decided to sew that thin ribbon onto the edge of all the pockets, and added some tiny brass studs, as well, then used some vintage-looking brass and silver safety pins to anchor several lengths of antiqued chain, and the pants were done! All I needed was a sheer Victorian blouse, a tweed vest, some antique pins and other bits of jewelry (most of which I made, as well), with some flowers and a bit of clockwork in my hair.

One thing I love about Steampunk is the variety of styles. You can be purely Victorian, or add other elements: Wild West, Cyber, Deisel, and there are a million ways in which the styles can be mixed and melded, resulting in a very personal style statement.

I loved the way the pants—both my costumes, actually—turned out, and the photographs too!

Back at home, R.G. Alexander has sold a Steampunk story to Berkley, and the rest of us are still working on our proposals. I am dying to have the time to write it. I’m hoping it’ll be next year, but my current contracts have kept me busy! I have my upcoming Eve Berlin release with Berkley Heat, and in January my first Harlequin Spice novel, THE LOVERS, will be out, as well as two more releases this year from Samhain, SUMMER SOLSTICE, Book Three in my contemporary Celestial Seductions series, out August 10th, and BLOODSONG, Book Two in my Midnight Playground vampire series, out September 7th.

You can stay tuned to all the Smutketeers’ book news on our blog: www.Smutketeers.com Or you can visit my websites: www.EdenBradley.com or www.EveBerlin.com. And you must visit the Smutketeers to see the pics from our latest photo shoot in our gallery! All for Smut, and Smut for All!

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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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