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Posts Tagged ‘steampunk costume’

This weekend I crept out of the editing bunker so the hubby (who is a great photographer) could take my author photos.

My mauve outfit I often wear doesn’t photograph well, and I obsessed and obsessed over what to wear. I finally decided to wear a black outfit that I’ve pieced together (from some rather odd places) minus the green bustle. I detail the outfit here in case you’re interested in where everything came from.

This necklace is from my book and it was really excited to have it made. I got it custom from StormTheCastle, which has such pretty stuff. I wore this in my pictures, too.

It was fun to dress up in steampunk gear on a Saturday and go out in public. We went to a park first. The hubby snapped this picture as I was messing around. The skirt is really full, like a flamenco dancer’s. It didn’t make the cut of pictures to send my editor, but I like it an awful lot.

I also really like this one, though it’s more a pic for my website then for my book. Yes, I know, I have the goggles all wrong. I still haven’t found goggles I like in my price range.

This one is okay, but it shows off the necklace better than the others.

Next we went to another park, which required us walking close to half a mile up a dirt trail. It was a good thing I wore the practical boots and not the cute boots.

I also had to climb a tree. But this was my choice. I love this oak tree and have always wanted my author photos taken there. Also oak trees play a role in my book. Climbing trees in steampunk gear is hard and I fell off once…but it’s not a very high tree, and I was just fine.

This one is the hubby’s favorite because you can see I’m in a tree.

But this one if my favorite and the one I hope they use.

Do you have a favorite?

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There’s still room in the Online Steampunk Writing Class I’m teaching the month of November. All levels and genres are welcome. If you’re working on a Steampunk WIP for NaNoWriMo consider joining us–at least to have support and info at your fingertips. If your working on a Steampunk WIP (or have an idea for one) and not doing NaNo, consider joining us as well.

Today I need your help, if you please. I have a Steampunk Princess costume and I need to make it more, well, Steampunk.

I’m not sure if I want to do anything to the dress itself. I’m not a very clever seamstress. My friends helped me re-purpose an old prom dress and a formal skirt to make this, along with about 20 yards of ruffles.

But I need to add something besides the clockhand tiara. Otherwise I look like an ordinary princess. That, my friends, would never do!

That is why I need your help.

What sort of gadgets would a Steampunk Princess have? Clockhand throwing knife hairpins? A delicate wrist-mounted ray gun painted gold with little rhinestones? Throwing star tiara?

What would a Steampunk Princess wear? Do I sew gears on my gloves? Add something to the gown?

I need some suggestions for some easy DIY ideas.

Just a note, I sew things with glue guns so I’m looking for ideas that I can make cheaply and easily (and I mean easily, I’m craft-impaired–remember the ball gown fiasco.)

But the hubby does have a welder and metal cutting stuff….

So, who has an idea for me?

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Austin Lane Crothers, 46th Governor of Maryland sporting his top hat

Leave it to a hatter to cause a social stir, which explains a lot to me about why this piece of clothing so epitomizes the spirit of steampunk.

In January 1797, the man, named Hetherington, caused an upheaval in the streets of London by wearing his tall stove-pipe top hat as he ambled down the street. He drew a crowd and was eventually stopped by the police (by the collar no less) and was given a court summons for disturbing the public peace.

The officer present at the scene described the offence as follows: “Hetherington had such a tall and shiny construction on his head that it must have terrified nervous people. The sight of this construction was so overstated that various women fainted, children began to cry and dogs started to bark. One child broke his arm among all the jostling.”

Hetherington’s top hat literally made front page news. The London Times wrote “Hetherington’s hat points to a significant advance in the transformation of dress. Sooner or later, everyone will accept this headwear. We believe that both the court and the police made a mistake here.”

And was the reporter in the Times ever right. While Hetherington wasn’t the first to create the top hat (that honor goes to George Dunner a hatter from Middlesex in 1793), it certainly wouldn’t be the last. Eventually the top hat would come to be equated not only with the industrial revolution itself as ordinary captains of industry became the millionaires, but also the upper echelons of society.

At first they were used by the military. From 1803 to 1812 the Jaegers in the Imperial Russian Army used them as part of their uniform (but then dropped them in favor of Litwka Shako along with the other units of foot soldiers). (Cheeky nod here to the Jaegerkin of the steampunk comic Girl Genius…)

By 1830 even the working class man had a top hat usually made of felted rabbit fur. Those of the upper classes were crafted from felted beaver fur, beginning a huge upswing in the beaver fur trapping trade in North America. Those made as part of the uniform of policemen and postmen were created from black oilcloth to be suitable for outdoor wear in rain.

Beaver fur eventually gave way to silk for the upper classes. The black top silk hat was crafted from cheesecloth, linen, flannel and shellac. A skilled milliner, using various types of flat-irons, “baked” the shellac into the linen around a five-piece wooden hat block and covered with black silk plush, which came mostly from France. So expensive was the silk, that only the master tradesman (foreman) was permitted to cut it.

The hat was finished with a 2½ to 3 cm wide cloth hatband, which was later replaced by one of ribbed silk. For decades (nearly a whole century) the top hat was to go through several permutations. During this early Victorian time – i.e. approximately 1830 – top hats were extremely tall, some even reaching nearly eight inches high. The period of 1840-1850 saw the glory years of the top hat where it reached it’s tallest height. Prince Albert took the top hat from being a mere fashion statement to a symbol of urban respectability by donning the top hat in 1850.

Later in the Victorian era, from 1837 to 1901, the height was reduced to between six and six and a half inches. Around 1890, the top hat also received a larger crown, so appearing more tailored or ‘nipped in’. From around 1920, top hats were around five inches tall. That still applies today.

The spring loaded Gibus, or opera hat top hat that could be pressed flat by hand for easy storage, then popped back into shape, was invented by a Frenchman name Antoine Gibus in 1812 and patented in 1837.

The gray top hat has been used for wedding ceremonies since 1960 and actually comes from the Ascot horse races. It is around five inches in height and is made from wool felt. Today felt top hats are still made.

Custom top hats for steampunk fans vary from leather to felt, silk to vinyl and come in such an array of shapes, sizes, textures and styles that it’s as unique as the individual wearing it.

Fortunately for us, the top hat isn’t dead. It’s just found a new form of popularity among fans in a new generation.

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The dress is finished, I got the tickets in the mail, the hubby’s suit has been found, and a babysitter for the tot procured.

It’s time to get ready for the ball.

While trying to iron the dress, I quickly realized why ladies of the time had ladymaids. It was a very daunting task, especially since I’m no good at ironing.

I couldn’t find a fall or a curly bun wig to borrow, so I attempted to curl my hair myself. Again, I wished I had a ladymaid. My arms got tired putting in the sponge rollers. I did my makeup (very simple, just a little black eyeshadow in the crease to accent the black and white dress), put all our stuff in the car, dropped off the tot and set off.

The ball was in Riverside–about an hour and a half from Los Angeles with no rain or traffic. Last year it took us about 6 hours to get there and we missed a bulk of the dance. This year we left at 3 and got there in time to get ready in a friend’s hotel room (I wasn’t about to ride in the car in full costume, lol).

We let the guys get ready first, then kicked them out. My friend laced me up and helped me make sure the hem of the skirt covered the hoop and didn’t look too uneven.

My curls didn’t quite dry in the damp weather, but they’ll do. Again, a lady maid would have come in handy. I wore black slippers, not heels–doing the Virginia Reel in high heels is a really, really bad idea. On went the black lace gloves the tot picked out and the black clockhand earrings, hairpin, and necklace I got from EJP creations  awhile back (I had ordered some gold ones, but the black went with better, so I’ll save those for another dress). I add my black velvet cape and a peacock feather fan. Viola! I think I’ll do.

Meanwhile, the guys keep calling to see where we are, so we make the trek from the hotel room to the venue. Bagpipes play in front of the venue,  as everyone arrives in full Victorian regalia. The guys have enjoyed, as they put it, “watching the parade floats go by.” The hubby looks dashing in white tie and tails.

We check in and are given dance cards. Worn on the wrist, they have a little pencil and list the dances that are done in each set. Gentleman go up to ladies and sign their dance card (with the lady’s permission, of course), thus reserving the dance. Most of my card is reserved for the hubby, but I have a few friends I agree to dance with. The hubby also gets drafted to dance. (In the Victorian times it is considered rude to deny other’s the chance to dance with your escort.) The first set is in full swing with a live band. The set dances are called, so everyone can join in even if you don’t know how to do them.

Right after we arrive, Queen Victoria and her retinue arrive. A few people are kinighted for their service to the crown. Then it’s time for a waltz and the grand march. One of my rose pins breaks in the very first waltz. The pin is holding the dress up, but one of my friends has a safey pin so we fix it. I’ll have to sew them on for next year.

The grand march is quite fun, giving you the chance to see everyone who’s at the ball and take a look at everyone’s dresses. There are many, many beautiful dresses. There are quite a few bustle-dresses this year (a little early for the Dickens era, but beautiful nevertheless.). However, many soon find that bustle dresses with trains are very hard to dance in.

There are four sets, each set consisting of 4-5 dances. In between sets the band breaks giving us time to socialize, look at all the lovely dresses, or get some refreshments. The ball is sold out and there are several hundred people there–all in costume. Most are in Victorian gowns. I see a few with Steampunk flair and one airpirate. There’s also a few regency and colonial dresses, and a few prom dresses. Those who don’t want to dress up but want to watch can sit in the observation gallery, which is also packed.

The ball attracts people of all ages, from teens to older couples. There are some families. There aren’t any small children, the youngest are around 9 or 10–all dressed up and well versed in the manners and dances of  the time, quite a cute and impressive sight.

The hubby and I waltz and polka. My slippers are too big and keep slipping off.I learn to Schottische. I feel good because I get a lot of compliments on my dress, fabric glue and drama aside. So, in spite of everything, I guess I did manage to pull everything off.

The most fun dance of the evening for me had to be the plain quadrille, which is quite possibly the longest set dance ever (and five sets, not four). It’s made up of four couples and we were lucky enough to be in a set with our friends. The hubby was a very good sport, going with the flow and trying his best. I was quite proud. My friends who sat the dance out thought we were quite entertaining to watch, especially since the guys are goofballs.

Finally the night drew to a close, finishing with the farewell waltz. The best part of the evening was just getting to spend time dancing with the hubby, though seeing old friends and looking at all the pretty dresses was nice as well. The ball has drawn to a close. We say goodbye to everyone and change out of our clothes for the long, rainy drive home. It’s been quite the fun evening and I look forward to going next year.

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It’s time to tackle the front of the ball gown.  That scares me more than the back, since if you mess up the back of the gown you can pull a Jo March and stand in the corner all evening.  But if you mess up the front, it’s pretty hard to hide.

Step One:  Not having a dress form or someone near my size available, I put the hoop skirt on a hanger and used ribbons to hang it under the dress to get an idea of how it looked. 

Step Two: I realized several things.  1.) The boning of the hoop shows right through the dress.  2.) The hoop skirt is too short.  3.) I never repaired the rip in the hoop that I acquired at Renn Faire last year. 

Step Three:  Time to work on the front. 

The first thing I do is cut off the white bows and replace them with black satin rosettes.

Step Four:  As it turns out the little panel in the front just doesn’t lay right–but I’m cutting it off anyway–off it goes.  Closing my eyes, I cut it off and pray I don’t cut the dress, too. 

Step Five: I can’t simply make a new panel because you’d see the black through the white dress, I’m going to have to stitch it directly to the ruffle.  Fun.  So, the white fabric I cut off the dress,I use it to construct a pattern.  

Step Six:  Taking the pattern, I cut the black brocade and make two panels. Spreading the blanket out on the floor, I hem the fabric with fabric glue.  As usual, the whole thing in uneven and lumpy.  The hubby shakes his head and vows to find the pedal to the sewing machine.  I pin the panels in place.  I must have bought cheap pins because they keep bending (either that or they don’t like fabric glue.) It’s still uneven and lumpy and as good as it’s going to get.

Step Seven:  The hubby drags me to Harbor Freight.  I walk next door to the fabric shop and buy netting and white ribbon in hopes of fixing my hoop skirt.

Step Eight.  I’m having major hoop shirt drama.  The ribbon doesn’t work and sewing the netting on to the skirt (to hide the ribs of the hoop) just seems daunting.  I bite the bullet and buy a new hoop skirt, an adjustable four-bone one that’s longer and has netting.  Moments after buying it, I discover there are such things as slips that go over the hoop and under the dress.  But the hoop skirt was cheaper, anyway.

Step Nine:  The hubby finds the pedal to the sewing machine.   I waffle between trying to use the machine, which is just scary, and hand sewing. 

Step Ten:  The new hoop comes in the mail and I try it on with the dress.  Oops.   I cut the front panels using the old hoop.  This hoop is bigger and the dress won’t fit over it.  But that’s an easy fix.  I just make the hoop smaller.  Yay for adjustable hoops.  But the tot gets red paint on the white satin.  Sigh.

Step Eleven:  Setting up the machine, I thread it.  The usual sewing machine foot has gone missing, so I use a different one–it’s all good?  Right?  I can’t get the machine to work.  So I hand sew the right front panel on.  I pick my thumb with the needle and bleed all over the seam. 

Step Twelve:  I try the dress on with the hoop again.  The right front panel is too short.  It had been fine when i tried it on.  I can’t figure out what went wrong.  Why, oh, why, did I decide to do this myself again?  At this point in time I can’t even get my friends to fix it short of buying more fabric, ripping out the pannel, and completely remaking it.  Sigh.

Step Thirteen:  I try the sewing machine again, using new thread.  It works and I sew the left front pannel on.  Much faster.  But my seam is not nearly as even as when I sew by hand (and that’s not even either). 

Step Fourteen:  I try the dress on again.  The left front pannel is much longer than the right.  All I can do is hem the left panel to try to match the right.  I’ll just have to deal with people being able to see my feet.  Next year I can make new panels that are wider–and longer.  The back is too long, dragging on the floor.  That needs to be hemmed too, but I hem it to the proper length, not the length of the front.

Step Fifteen:  I hem the left pannel and back, using the sewing machine, since I’m nearly out of fabric glue.  The sewing machine isn’t quite as frightening any more.   I try it on with the hoop again.  It’s going to have to work.  Using an entire roll of black taffeta ribbon, I tie it on as a sash and look in the mirror.  I have the tot take a picture with my cell phone.   This is as good as it’s going to get. 

 

Stay tuned for more…

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The ball at the Riverside Dickens’ Festival is quickly approaching. We recently moved and I can’t find the dress I made (well, my friends made while I watched, lol) for last year’s ball.

My mission: to get a dress, cheap, and Steampunk it, cheap, as quickly as possible so I’d have it in time for the ball.

The caveat: It’s a Dickens’ Ball, not a Steampunk Ball, so I want it to be different and spectactular, but not totally out-of-place.

The problem: I can’t sew worth a lick and am so not crafty.  Also, after our recent move I have no idea where even to find a needle and thread let alone the sewing machine that I haven’t used in six years.

Step 1: I bought a Von Lancelot Costume off ebay for dirt cheap. The only problem was that the one I won was all white. What in the world was I thinking? But it was so much prettier than the other “birthday cake” style dresses in my size, and all the others were outside my budget as was a custom one.  Also, I needed a full on ball gown, not a bustle-stule dress.

Step 2: I asked my friends to help me with very easy ideas and the general consensus involved dye in a contrasting color. I was leaning towards black. Black and white would be very striking, yet would blend in far better than distressing it and putting a corset on top (which would be the easiest.)

Step 3: But then I actually got the dress in the mail. It is beautiful, but the fabric won’t take dye. Also, the dress is all one piece, so it wasn’t like I could do something easy like cut out the underskirt, dye it, and baste it back on with fabric glue and duct tape (yeah, that’s how I roll, lol). I’m very tempted to simply pretend I’m a debutante and wear all white. I’d never seen an all-white Victorian ball gown, but white wasn’t the color du jour for wedding dresses so I might be able to get away with it.

Step 4: I took the dress to the fabric store. I’m going to have to bite the bullet and replace the back panel and underskirt with actual fabric. I obsess over fabric and decide on black brocade. I nearly bought black and gold brocade but decided it would be too busy.  Less is more where I’m concerned.  Less is also easier.  Using my coupons, I buy fabric, ribbons, and giant satin roses. I also buy thread, needles, pins, and a large bottle of fabric glue.

Step 5: I decide to tackle the back of the dress first. Would anyone notice if I simply fabric glued the black brocade over the white satin?

Step 6: I laid out the dress and the brocade out on top of a blanket on the livingroom floor. Gluing the heavy brocade directly to the satin would make the panel really heavy and probably affect the drape of the dress. The panel would have to be to be cut out. I seriously reconsider the sanity of doing this myself. Usually, I either convince my friends to help me or pay someone to sew it for me. Did the sewing machine even make the move?

Step 7: Steeling myself for the possibility of ruining the dress, I cut the back panel off, trying to get as close to the ruffle as possible. If worse comes to worse, I can always bring the dress and fabric to my friend and plead with her to make it right.

Step 8: Using a white crayon, I traced the cut-out panel on the wrong side of the black brocade. Using my husband’s measure tape, I measured 1 inch around for a seam allowance. Then, taking a deep breath, I cut the brocade. Neither my cutting or my lines are straight. When I was an intern, I’d been forbidden to put labels on envelopes because I just can’t make things straight.

Step 9: I hem the fabric with fabric glue, so the brocade won’t fray. My husband wonders what in the word I’m doing and says he thinks he’s found the sewing machine.

Step 10: I’m afraid to fabric glue the back panel on. It’s a ball, with dancing, and well, people’s dresses tear. I have nightmares about the back panel ripping off entirely. Why am I doing this again?

Step 11: I pinned the new back panel on–it’s looking good. The hubby finds the sewing machine.  It takes about two hours to do all this.

Step 12: The hubby didn’t find the power supply. But the sewing machine scares me as visions of ruining the dress swim through my head. I wished I still lived across the hall from people who sew. The idea of calling someone and going over to their house to use their sewing machine just seems like way to much work.

Step 13: I start to hand-sew the back panel on. Several times I consider shoving it into a bag and taking it to someone else and paying them to sew it for me. It takes four hours and the stitches are far from expert, even, or consistent, though I tried to sew over the original seams and make small stitches. Maybe I should reinforce it with fabric glue.

Step 14: I replace the white ribbon in the back with black ribbon. It’s time to go to bed. The front will have to wait for another day. But all-in-all, it’s starting to look pretty.  I might just be able to pull this off.

To be continued…

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