Posts Tagged ‘steampunk fashion’

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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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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Today we welcome back author Seleste deLaney.  One lucky commenter will receive a digital copy of Badlands as well as the opportunity (if they wish) to have one of the Badlands warriors named after them in a future story.  Contest ends April 15, 2012. 

Seleste deLaney never lost her love of the fantastic, and her stories now always reach into other realms. The worlds and people she creates occupy as much of her time as the real world, and she is most fortunate to have a family that understands her idiosyncrasies and loves her anyway.  Visit her website at http://selestedelaney.com/

Fashion in a Time of Steam

by Seleste deLaney

When I created the world of Badlands, I wanted four very definite regions: the Union, the Confederacy, Texas, and (of course) the Badlands. Along with their different social attitudes—about pretty much everything—I came to realize that each place would have different ideas about clothing.

Ever was easy. The Badlands is a place where life revolves around the necessary. Ideas like “decency” and “propriety” don’t mean a lot when you’re a woman dealing with violent criminals on a daily basis. Clothes for Ever are more for protection than fashion, which is one reason she viewed her dress uniform with such disdain. It was so fitted she couldn’t fight in it effectively and, in that scenario, fighting without “armor” became preferable. It’s an attitude women from the Badlands, including the Queen, share and respect.

Aboard the Dark Hawk, however, there were two other women. As a former slave, Mahala didn’t care about a little bare skin one way or the other. To her, clothing was a sign of choice, and choice was a sign of freedom. Though she grew up in the Confederacy around women of status who dressed like traditional southern belles, her tastes skewed in a different direction. She loved and appreciated having the right and the means to purchase her own clothes, but she wanted very badly to leave her past behind her, so she disdained anything that would make her feel “like a lady.” Frilly clothes and the accessories that go with them were things slave-owners wore. So Mahala chose utility in the form of fitted breeches and men’s style shirts in bolder colors than she would have been allowed in her past life.

One womann, however, clung to her past life desperately. Out of the Dark Hawk’s crew, Henrietta was the only one to really balk at Ever’s state of undress when she came aboard (and that included the men). Born to Philadelphia society, Henri was raised to be both a scientist and a lady. The traditional steampunk garb of corsets and bustles became something that were a part of her because of that history. Even rushing around to deal with crew injuries, she made sure to always present herself in such a way that she would feel equally comfortable walking into the halls of Congress to visit her father. For her, those articles of clothing were her nod to propriety on the Dark Hawk, they were the thing that linked her to the life she left behind.

For those of you who have read Badlands, you know I like to challenge the way in which my female characters view themselves. Ever had to accept certain conditions in order to fulfill her mission—one of them being clothes—just as Henrietta had to accept that sometimes clothes and a veil of propriety are nothing more than masks.

Discussion point: When reading steampunk, do you require the bustles, corsets, vests, and pocket watches, or does the lack of them make you look for the reason behind their absence?

One commenter will receive a digital copy of Badlands as well as the opportunity (if they wish) to have one of the Badlands warriors named after them in a future story.

 ~Seleste deLaney

Website: http://selestedelaney.com/

Blog: http://selestedelaney.blogspot.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Seleste-deLaney/111903172206874

Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/SelestedeLaney

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/selestedelaney/

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4243796.Seleste_deLaney


After a brutal Civil War, America is a land divided. As commander of her nation’s border guards, Ever is a warrior sworn to protect her country and her queen. When an airship attacks and kills the monarch, Ever must infiltrate enemy territory to bring home the heir to the throne, and the dirigible Dark Hawk is her fastest way to the Union. 

Captain Spencer Pierce just wants to pay off the debt he owes on the Dark Hawk and make a life for himself trading across the border. When the queen’s assassination puts the shipping routes at risk, he finds himself Ever’s reluctant ally. 

As they fly into danger, Ever and Spencer must battle not only the enemy but also their growing attraction. She refuses to place her heart before duty, and he has always put the needs of his ship and crew above his own desires. Once the princess is rescued, perhaps they can find love in the Badlands— if death doesn’t find them first…

You can read an excerpt here: http://selestedelaney.com/Seleste_DeLaney/Stories/Entries/2011/2/28_Badlands.html

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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…


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

View of tie-on bustle. Picture by Loriann.

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

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

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

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


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

Laura Kaye

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


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

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

Outfit #1 — Steampunk Lite

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

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

Picture from Steampunkthreads.com

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

photo from clockworkcouture.com

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

Photo from Maritime Arts on Etsy

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

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

Photo from clockworkcouture.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s Kady Cross, the Steampunk track captain. 

And here’s the fab Kassy Taylor. 

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s Erin and Zoe Archer.

Here’s Marcella. (I love this dress.)

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

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

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

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

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In case you need books to read, here’s a great list of steampunk books. 

I have a case of the Mondays. 

I’m going to be doing a couple of panels at the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in April in Los Angeles (including one with Gail Carriger, squee!)   

 I need clothes to wear.  I can’t actually buy things to wear, but I still need them.

If I could buy new steampunk clothes for this convention, this is what I’d buy:

I would get this beautiful skirt in black from Clockwork Couture because I could wear it with so many different things…Oh, how I want this skirt so much!

I would love to find a little cape like that to go with it.  I am also fond of hats.  I like this one I found on ebay to pair with it.

I have this wonderful tan asymmetrical steampunky blazer I wear to work.  I found this great skirt on ebay.  I bet I could put them together and create a nice look for a panel. 

I’d pair it with this lovely hat from Maritime Arts, only I’d want the ribbons and flower in green.

In case I actually make it to the masquerade ball, I’d want this mask in cream from Asfina on Etsy

If I had an infinite amount of money, I’d get this dress from Bound By Obsession, because it is really, really amazing and would match my clockhand tiara. 

Isn’t it breathtaking?  I covet this dress.


I love my clockhand tiara from EJP Creations.  But this one from SparklyJems is a beauty. 


Okay, that sums up my list of things I wish I could buy for RT.  If you’re going, look for me.  I’ll be there with bustles on…

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Okay, so it’s a horrible pun. But really, if you’re looking at the historical development over time of the bustle, could you resist? The fact remains that one of the classic elements of refined lady steampunk wear is the bustle. But what people seem to forget is that the bustle wasn’t always part of Victorian fashion and actually changed in style during the course of the Queen’s reign. If you’re going to use a bustle you might want to know exactly what decade (or in some cases as little as five year span) your character is from.

In the early Victorian era, women’s dresses didn’t even sport bustles. From the period of 1837 to 1860, skirts were still the wide-hooped variety you’d see in the costuming of the movie Gone With the Wind. It wasn’t actually until between 1865 that skirts, though still wide with extra crinolines, thank you, started sporting extra fullness toward the back, with an overskirt pulled back over an underskirt.

US patent 131840 circa 1872

Closer to 1870, this had developed into a padding placed beneath the skirt to accentuate that fullness toward the rear. From 1870 to 1875 you begin to see skirts of enormous volumes of fabric (like those designed by Worth) that is in cascades, and bunches, drapes, folds and dragging trains, augmented by a low-placed bustle (that actually would have hit about at the back of your knees – oh joy) to provide fullness to the fabric arrangement.

Dimity bustle of 1881

By 1875 to 1880 the skirting becomes more fitted to the form and nearly cylindrical in the front, yet still gathered in trains toward the back, with low fitted bustles that are more padding to augment the long-curved bodices in fashion. Ruching, pleats, full draping of fabric is still in vogue as are slightly smaller trains.

From the height of the bustle's glory

In 1880 to 1885 the bustle begins to emerge as more of a necessity as the gowns, nearly now all floor length unless you happen to be dragging about a train for an evening gown), sport even more of the overskirt gathered to the back in ever elaborate arrangements, which are so heavy that they drag the skirt down without proper support. The look of a shelf off the back of your bum is at it’s height and bustles come in any number of arrangements from collapsible wire cages, to ruffled, many layer long bustles meant to run the length of the skirt and be secured about the waist.

While still part of fashion, the bustle begins to shrink a bit in 1890 to 1895, probably in response to the enormous ballooning of the tops of ladies’ sleeves (in what’s called the Gibson girl or mutton sleeve look). The skirts still have also widened out a bit into more of a bell shape and are not so confining as they were in the 1875-1880 period, leaving room to wear a bustle without it being too evident, yet allowing it to make the waist, which is nipped in, look smaller. And really, by about 1893, the bustle has been reduced to just a pad.

A variety of mesh bustle designs

In 1895 to 1900, the sleeves shrink back down, big hats take center stage and the bustle is more of a remnant designed to add fullness, as the silhouette slopes forward in a changing corset style which also forces the rear to stick out.

The bustle still remains a fashion item up until about 1905, in the Edwardian period, when waistlines and the silhouette begin to meld together into a more tubular type skirting.

Like fashion, bustles were an evolving item. Knowing just how much to put behind you, and how to make it look, can peg you character from early to late Victorian. So, how much bustle will you be sporting?

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

Building a Steampunk from the grubby ground up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours truly,

Captain Donna Ricci of the S.S. Clockwork Caravel


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

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


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

Yes and no.

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

The question I find myself asking is: so what?

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

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

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

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

Now about those goggles on your top hat…


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

I wasn’t always into connections.

I started in the world of Goth…

Long Beach, CA  1996

Long Beach, CA 1996

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

Remember, have fun.

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On day two of Steampunkapalooza I am honored to introduce to you Truls Stokka, the owner of a fabulous clothing company called DraculaClothing http://draculaclothing.com/! Their clothing is amazingly well made and gorgeous! Their prices are also very reasonable and they are so nice! I highly recommend visiting them for your corset needs!

 Lolita Elizabeth: First off I want to thank you, Truls for gracing our blog with your presence and indulging me with a few questions! We are so happy to have you here with us at Steamed! to celebrate our one year anniversary!

 Truls Stokka: Thank you for having me here, I love your blog.

LE: Lets start at the very beginning as they say, how old were you when you first developed a love for alternative fashion? And when did steampunk enter into the picture?DraculaClothing

 TS: My first encounter with alternative fashion was when I watched, Bram Stokers Dracula when I was 16 (1992) and The Crow two years later. I hadn’t heard about goth at that time, but in 1995 I started going to Gotham Nights in Oslo, I have always preferred the Victorian aristocrat side of the Goth culture, but I guess the first time I heard the word steampunk was 4 or 5 years ago.

 LE: Was it your love of alternative clothing that drove you to start DraculaClothing? And what sparked the idea to start sharing your fabulous clothing with all of us?

 TS: What made me start DraculaClothing was two events. I had a trip to India in ’98 where I met some amazing tailors that created some suits and coats for me from some drawings I made, the quality and price was unlike anything I had seen before and I thought about opening a shop for suits, but for some reason I didn’t.

 Then about three years ago I was walking around in Camden planning to buy some clothing, I was less than impressed with the design and quality of nearly everything I saw and the prices where horrible, so I decided that I would make a shop that would sell quality clothes at a reasonable price.

 LE: Well I am sure I am not the only speaking here when I say that I am so glad you started DraculaClothing! Do you create all your clothing designs? What inspires you when come up with designs?DraculaClothing

 TS: Ida and I make most of the designs ourself, we had a few other people who have made 1 or 2 corsets, but it is mainly us. The Victorian and Edwardian age is the number one inspiration although I try to do some new version of it, like the male V-shaper that is a mixture between a traditional vest and a male corset or corsets that have panels that hides the busk like Steampunk Officer Underbust.

LE: I personally love to blend the goth style with steampunk, do you like to mix and match the two styles or do you keep them separate?

TS: I love to mix all kinds of styles, the Goth Lolita scene has a lot of interesting elements, the Rococo age had some extraordinary outfits, if I want to design something masculine I always look at military officer uniforms, and even modern designers like Alexander McQueen (very sad that he died) have some interesting elements. I am working to create some steampunk outfits that look steampunk by themselves. Most of the steampunk outfits I have seen are steampunk because of the accessories, and the clothing itself is mostly victorian.

LE: Being a lover of all things Vampire I have to ask, why the name Dracula Clothing? Are you a fan of Vampires or just Dracula in specific?DraculaClothing

TS: Bram Stokers Dracula is a masterpiece for me, and when I think about that movie I think about elegant clothing aristocrat lifestyle and Winona Ryder;), and I wanted a name people would remember that was available.

 LE: Well who didn’t love Winona Ryder in Bram Stokers Dracula? She had such a fabulous wardrobe! If you ever decide to recreate the red dress she wore in that movie let me know! What first pulled you into the steampunk subculture?

TS: Difficult question, I don’t think I have been pulled into a steampunk subculture, I have been in a goth subculture and some of them have started dressing steampunk occasionally. I would love to go to some steampunk parties in the US though (feel free to invite me) 

LE: Have you heard of this gathering known as Steamcon in Seattle, WA? You could set up a booth there! And it is a totally fun steampunk party all weekend! Ok, last question! Any tips for us corset wears out there? I have yet to be able to lace my own corset tightly by myself, should I practice yoga to become more limber or does it generally require an extra set of hands?

TS: Ida is the expert in that area, she manages to lace herself up easily, I think we have to make a video of that and post it in our blog.

LE: I would adore you forever if you made that video! Might save me from dislocating my shoulder! Thank you so much for joining us! I speak from personal experience when I say your clothing is lovely! I adore the steampunk princess corset I got from you!

TS: Thank you!

 I hope you enjoyed this lovely chat with Truls Stokka owner of DraculaClothing! Stay tuned for more exciting guests as our Steampunkapalooza marches on!


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Hot topic steampunk jacketIs it a good thing that steampunk is popping up in so many very mainstream places? I found the jacket and the timepiece ring at Hot Topic which for hosting a plethora of goth/alternate clothing is beyond mainstream! I am a little on the fence about this topic, because I feel that steampunk is a very D.I.Y. subculture and feel it takes away from it when you can just go into a store and procure an entire “steampunk” outfit. On the flip side though, for those with limited time or are less than crafty this provides them with a way to enjoy steampunk fashion. I have seen it pop up everywhere, from store window displays to magazines to commercials all very mainstream places and so many more people have at least heard of steampunk. It is also catching on with the teen crowd. I do have to say as an author I am kind of stoked, because well when I contract my steampunk book I will have that many more readers. But after attending Steamcon 2009 and seeing the amazing effort people put into the wardrobe and how they adopted the mannerisms and feel of the steampunk subculture so well, I can’t help but wonder what this fabulous and amazing subculture is going to morph into as more and more people take it on. It has reached so far into mainstream that the lovely half-naked angel with the amazing wings is actually a model strutting her stuff at the Victoria’s Secret fashion show! For the record I want her whole outfit, wings included! I suppose what it really boils down to is we should be glad that so many people are able to find some joy in steampunk and we know that those of us with the love of steampunk firmly rooted in our hearts will still be standing after the fad has faded. And yes I will always be glad that this has informed so many people what steampunk is….it will make marketing so much easier! 🙂 So what are your thoughts, is it good, bad or ugly that steampunk has come barreling into the mainstream on a steam-powered locomotive? ~Elizabeth

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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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