London Alice (Alice: Madness Returns)

Things I have discovered upon trying to kick myself into blogging here again: you can definitely, definitely get out of practice with this sort of “skill”, if you want to call it that.

Second thing I discovered: I give good advice that I should occasionally take myself some time 😉

As soon as I started playing Alice: Madness Returns (about a week and a bit ago) I knew I wanted to try out Alice’s London outfit. Firstly, I didn’t have a blue dress anything close to the one she’s known for wearing, and secondly, I knew I had all the elements of the London dress in my wardrobe. (As an aside, for each level Alice has a different dress to match her surroundings, but they’re pretty special and you’re probably not going to find anything that looks vaguely like em sitting in your wardrobe. I couldn’t even find the elements of her steamdress and my wardrobe is pretty damn steampunk.)

I actually thought this was going to be the easiest outfit ever and actually an easy peasy “get back into the thick of things” post for NaC. Uh no. So while I had the black skirt, striped top and apron, as soon as I put them on in that combination I knew it wasn’t working. It looked, to be honest, kind of shit. It was very much “why the hell is this person wearing an apron outside for no reason” rather than “slightly creepy, plain, Victorian-inspired get-up”. I couldn’t in good faith post a picture of it here and tell you I would genuinely wear it out because I absolutely wouldn’t have.

So today I got a bit of a brainwave. I realised I was doing this wrong because I was dressing too much to the specific items of clothing (ie. it has to be a long-sleeved, striped top, it has to be a knee-length gathered skirt, it has to be an apron, etc) rather than roughly dressing to the shape, silhouette and blocks of colour of the outfit. I was getting too caught up in the details rather than getting the gist and bigger picture across.

So remember, back in the day, when I annotated like this?

What I used to do was follow my instincts and then work backward to to create the annotated image above. This time, I found it useful to draw a little stick figure in my head of what she was wearing and the shapes she created. Alice’s torso is somewhat square – which told me that I need a top that was tight-fitting in order to create the contrast of the more triangular skirt area. This would also be helped by having a belt-like piece of material to really emphasis my waist. As for black skirts – I would need one gathered at the waist and I would need something that was longer than the apron I owned (which is actually stupidly long).

The Outfit

Here’s the breakdown of what I’m wearing – at it’s a lot more than you might imagine:

  • Long-sleeved striped top – $6 random clothes store
  • Dress – $10 from ASOS
  • Underskirt – $2 from Cotton On
  • Bodice/Vest Top – ~$10 from Target
  • Striped tie belt – Actually a scarf I thrifted for another outfit *coughKnivesChaucough* but it was long enough to be used here as a belt. $3.
  • Apron – This had a torso section as well, but I had to fold it down and also tuck the rest of the bottom bit under the white top because it was so damn long! $2 thrifted.
  • Stockings – Leftovers from High School, yep. $10.
  • Boots – ASOS ~$40.
  • (Bottle necklace – Diva $5.)
  • (White Rabbit plush – by Funko ~$10)

As usual, everything is layered to the max. The striped top went on the bottom – that was easy – because it’s all we really need to see is the striped element on the sleeves.

Next I added a black dress (whose black short sleeves you can see) because it had the most triangular shape of everything I had. Unfortunately it was a little short, so I added another black underskirt to increase the length, puff out the skirt and give the bottom a bit of added interest. When you’re doing stuff like this, I would recommend picking an item of clothing that has a wildly different colour or texture to the material above. You’ll unlikely get two items of clothing with exactly the same material, and going for “as close as possible” usually means people notice the variations more and it looks weird. On the other hand when you combine two thing that are wildly different in some way, it looks deliberate and therefore not so noticeable (weird, eh?). You can’t really see here, but the dress is made out of a slightly shiny polyester material, whereas the underskirt is cotton lace.

To create the more square look, I opted to go for the white bodice which fit me quite tightly. As mentioned previously, I was able to fold and tuck the apron under the bodice as well as try for that more trapezoid shape (which isn’t quite conveyed in this photo). In retrospect I would have probably used some safety pins to secure everything in place and ensure that it looked exactly like how I wanted.

Lastly, I think the long, trailing bow at the back of Alice’s apron is kind of a trademark. I couldn’t find any white material that was the right colour/texture/length, but I opted for the scarf because the stripes were a repeating motif. That scarf is pretty long, but it could actually be much longer for the bow at the back. I think in this case instead of having an in-between length bow, you might have to choose between a really large, wide bow OR really long trails. I tried to get the both worlds (not that you can see in this picture anyway) and it ended up looking kind of half-assed. UP TO YOU THOUGH.

edit: Here’s a simpler alternative version. I am really out of practice.

Came up with this when I was taking off the outfit and facepalmed myself so hard it bruised.

This is basically above without the dress and tucking the extra length of the apron into the skirt I’m wearing. Because the skirt puffs out, a little extra padding underneath isn’t really noticeable.

You’ll notice I changed the top from the tight-fitting bodice to actually a quite loose-fitting white tank! I actually think this top works better when the dress is absent – the looseness is just about right to create that square shape, and I think it mimics the relative free-moving apron so you can kind of trick people into thinking it’s part of one thing.

Tank was from Big W for about $5.

Bring Your Own Attitude.

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Steampump Part 2

This post should be in conjunction with Part 1.

I work backwards when I’m writing this blog. The outfit and ideas come first and I try on pieces of clothing without really understanding what I’m doing. I take some pictures, do some doodles and then a sit down in front of my laptop in an attempt to articulate my mental process. If you found my Part 1 post confusing or too vague hopefully this post will make everything clearer and provide a visual understanding of how my particular brand of steampunk fashion works.

If this outfit looks somewhat familiar it’s because I basically designed my zombie costume based on it. While this particular outfit has a lot of luxury items meaning I am wearing approximately $400 worth of stuff you really don’t need to spend a lot of money to get the same effect. My zombie costume cost under $20 (and that was mostly the ingredients for blood) and you can easily recreate a similar look by creatively using suggestions from Part 1. Thrift stores have a lot of cheap items that you shouldn’t be afraid to mod, pin or even *gasp* cut up.

Unfortunately the only full-body shot I got of myself was very blurry so extra thanks to Joshua Button for allowing me to use his photographs on this website!

Layers and Silhouette

The reason I’ve overlaid the picture is because it’s extremely blurry AND so you can more clearly see the layering effect in action.

Top: I am wearing four layers of clothing and the reason it looks so layered is because you can see all of them simultaneously and that’s because I chose to wear a lot of “cropped” items. My white shirt was the base item, the next layers were the corset that only covered my stomach and the shrug that covered my back and shoulders. The harness partially covers the corset with straps that go over the shoulders.

Nothing’s wrong with wearing a very pretty shirt and not-layering. But if you’re on a budget and have a lot of plain-looking items you can definitely create effective steampunk outfits by layering them up. You’ll want to use items with complimentary colours and textures but ensure each item stands out against each other; for example you probably wouldn’t want to put two items of a similar shade on top of each other because from a distance it’ll look like one item rather than something layered.

Bottom: The skirt tiers are made up of individual layers in order to give a more layered and voluminous effect. The ruffles become clear separator for the layers – without them the layers would lie flat and you wouldn’t get the same segmented effect. You don’t necessary need a skirt with actual layers of material because the illusion of layering can be created by having a skirt with clear panel separators.

Look at the bottom of this skirt. Although there’s only one layer of material the segmented and ruffled areas kind of look like there’s an underskirt. Be on the lookout for items that use different textures and colours to give a multi-tiered illusion.

Here’s something to thing about: the top half of my outfit uses many plain but differently-coloured items to create a layered effect, but the bottom half of my outfit uses one elaborate multi-textured items to create the same effect.

Heagear, Footgear and Accessories: I think I covered this pretty well in Part 1 so I’ll just self-indulgently quote myself:

A cravat or choker can add extra class, a pocketwatch and chain makes a waistcoat look that extra bit awesome, and a hat, hairband or fascinator is almost a must! You might also want to think about adding scarves, shawls, gloves, pipes, cuffs, rayguns, watches, canes, parasols, fans, masks, eyepatches, goggles, spectacles, monocles, weaponry and a number of other easily-obtainable (or makeable) extras to personalise the outfit…

If you’re a “beginner” in steampunk aesthetics it’s useful to think about a character or occupation to impose constructive limits. For example a lady would tend to wear brighter colours, more elaborate textures like silk and satin and carry a parasol or a fan. On the other hand airship crew would have more practical clothing, wear matte textures like linen and cotton, stick to black, grey and brown, carry rayguns and goggles.

I’m attempting an Airship First Mate sort of thing which is why I’m wearing goggles, a military cap and a bandanna around my neck. I have an epic steampunk weapon but didn’t bring it that night since I had a SLR camera to lug around as well.

Item Breakdown


I told you this picture was blurry. Unfortunately this is the best (only) picture I have for an over all impression of what I wore:

  • Goggles bought from Wildilocks then modded. $25 + extras for paint and stampings.
  • Military cap, Camberwell market $15
  • Bandanna, thrifted $2.
  • White shirt, on sale $10.
  • Brown Supre shrug, thrifted ~$3
  • Corset, Louise Black ~$130 (from back in the day before she got famous)
  • Pleather harness, on sale $6 (this is actually the exact same harness from Clockwork Couture but I found a store in Box Hill that was selling these super cheap. Unfortunately they also run super small so it was tight for me even though I fall within “standard” sizing AND I was wearing a corset).
  • Gauntlets, originally gloves that got cut-up $4
  • Skingraft cotton ruffle skirt ~$180 from PostWarTrade.
  • Striped underskirt, secondhand Camberwell market $3
  • Stockings, Myer on sale ~$7
  • Brown ankle-length boots, Zoe Wittner on sale $40(!!)

Reviewing the Outfit

When I did this pose during the photoshoot Joshua said I looked kinda scary as if I was going to beat someone up with the cane. I felt like Guy Ritchie's version of Dr Watson.

Variations of this silhouette and these items have been my default steampunk outfit for a while. There’s been small changes over time I’ve gradually swapped out many items for new pieces I’ve acquired. The thing with freeform fashion styles (and why I love the steampunk aesthetic) is that an outfit is never “finished” because it can always be altered.

As much as I like stripes I kind of feel the underskirt is a bit much. I’ve wanted to make bloomers for this outfit for a while and never got around to it, but I recently bought a pair of shorts that might do the job. I’m not really happy with the guantlets/armwarmers either (as warm as they were) and ideally they’d be replaced with fingerless leather gloves I don’t own. But you know these are just nitpicky things and I’ve altered the outfit enough times to be really satisfied with it.

Some Final Words

There are a lot of different looks in steampunk and these posts are really the tip of the iceberg. I prefer a post-apocalyptic, hastily-cobbled look but there are other people dressed in Victorian re-enactment, Weird West, Lolita, heavily gadgets, military, non-Western, 70s punk, mad scientist, belly dance, burlesque, dieselpunk, etc etc that are all accepted members within the subculture. There’s a lot of room for exploration and creativity to fit within your own style of dress.

What I personally love about this aesthetic is the postmodern remix of old and new, often incorrectly described as “nostalgia”. Steampunk embraces the technology and discards of today to create beauty with elements of retro aesthetic. If you ask me steampunk is forward-looking with its upcycling and DIY ethos, and its positive use of technology to create communities and circulate information. My brand of steampunk isn’t nostalgic but a prettier-looking cyberpunk 😉

Part 1

KK (FreakAngels)

Sadly FreakAngels was not updated this week, but I have been following this fantastic free webcomic from the beginning. It is written by Warren Ellis, perhaps best known for the Transmetropolitan comic series, and drawn by Paul Duffield. Ellis’ work often feature cyberpunk dystopias, although FreakAngels is arguably steampunk in a very literal way.

The comic is set in a post-apocalyptic future in a flooded Whitechapel, London and is focused around a group of 12 people with special powers – the “FreakAngels”. Even though this is a free online comic this is definitely professional project. The art is wonderful and very richly coloured. The storylines are compelling. You should read it from the beginning if you haven’t already.

KK is a loudmouthed, somewhat stubborn engineer FreakAngel. She’s probably not my favourite character (it’s probably Arkady), but she’s definitely the most featured. And I love how she dresses.

Breaking Down KK’s Outfit

Unlike Noodle, KK seems to be quite attached to this particular outfit and only this outfit:

  • Black short-sleeved loose black jacket with grey cuffs, mid-waist length.
  • Pin-striped corset or bustier with grey detailing and piping (??)
  • Short black ruffle skirt
  • Thigh-high fishnets, large diamonds.
  • Chunky mid-ankle shoes.
  • Occasionally fingerless black (leather) gloves.
  • Occasionally a brown pilot’s cap and aviator goggles.

Notice her jacket makes everything above her waist and elbows really bulky in comparison to the rest of her body.

The Outfit

Rundown of items:

  • Aviator goggles – $10 from eBay
  • Plastic-boned bustier – $10 secondhand from the Black Market
  • Pinstripe shirt – ~$15 from Kmart
  • Ruffle skirt – $20 from Tempt (on sale, it was originally $40)
  • Fishnets – ~$5 from Safeway (on sale, it was originally ~$10)
  • Doc Martens – $7(!!) secondhand from Camberwell Market (regular price ~$120)
IT ARE FACT!

A corset and a bustier are two completely different items of clothing, both of which can have boned structure.

Bustiers are the type commonly found in lingerie stores and are sold quite cheaply because they contain flexible plastic bonding.

On the other hand, modern day corsets will usually use steel boning (flat and spiral) and will cinch your waist in several inches. Good quality corsets start around $100 for a basic waist cincher and can go to many hundreds of dollars if they’re custom tailored to your size by a corsetiere.

Corsets are luxury items and usually preferred over bustiers because they retain shape and the bones don’t warp over time. However bustiers are fine fashion items, especially if you don’t want to invest money into something like a corset yet want a similar look.

Tip: if someone is offering a new “corset” for under $90 chances are it is a bustier with flexible boning. In rare cases corsets may be made with plastic boning, but this variety will be very different to the ones used in cheaper bustiers.

Review

Often compromises must be made when you simply don’t own the right item for the outfit. This is OK because, as the title of the blog suggests, we’re not cosplaying. I don’t actually own any short-sleeved jackets (or long-sleeved jackets I could roll up) so I opted for the loosest and least fitted of my shirts. While it isn’t as bulky and doesn’t hang quite as heavily, it’s the right length and gives a similar silhouette with the sleeves rolled up.

KK actually wears black canvas high-tops but my Doc Martens are the same colour and more or less the same length.

I do own pairs of fingerless gloves but they’re all of the knit variety. I plan on buying a pair of leather fingerless gloves very soon (oh so useful and stylish looking!) but in the meantime I wore my DIY armwarmers for a similar look without the sweaty hands.

The skirt is a little longer that I’d like, but I don’t own a shorter ruffled skirt. This is a signal to hit the sewing machine methinks and alter some old black skirts I don’t wear anymore.

The bustier could be substituted with an actual corset or alternatively a black singlet top with good support. The bodice’s cupped breasts are probably one of the more striking features of the outfit.

Aviator goggles completely optional, but could probably be substituted with a pair of aviator glasses instead.