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

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Out and About

Last night I went to Steampump and took so many photos I don’t know where to begin. I am thinking of doing a multi-parter on steampunk fashion, but unfortunately I forgot to take any good full-body shots of myself so we’ll have to wait till the official photographer comes out with the full-body shots he took.

I did, however, meet up with Lily, a friend and reader of this blog. She’d made her own fascinator following some of my instructions! It looks pretty different and I heard at least one other person compliment her on it that night.

The moral of this story: if you want to be on the blog contact me and you too can be e-famous. I feel flattered enough when people tell me they actually read this blog, so the thought that people are actually taking my advice is pretty mind-blowing. Thanks to everyone for your support and enthusiastic comments, and most of all thanks for reading!

DIY Fascinators

Fascinators from department stores can easily start from $50 and go into the hundreds. Those are ridiculous prices for some relatively cheap components and putting together a fascinator yourself is easy. I have been complimented far more times on my homemade fascinator than any ones I’ve bought and the materials cost me only about $15.

I realise that fascinators come in many different styles and use a lot of different materials, but I’m going to teach you how I fudged my own and then you can experiment with different styles and shapes.

Planning

Google some images and figure out a general shape for your fascinator and this is really the hardest part of “making” the fascinator.

Some questions to think about:

  • Which direction do you want your feathers to go?
  • Do you want the feathers to stick out above your head, towards the back or follow the curve of your skull?
  • How long do you want your feathers to be?
  • Do you want layers of feathers with different types, lengths or colours?

Decide on a centrepiece of the fascinator – basically something that will cover the glue and the ends of the feathers. It can be just some ribbon, it can be an old pendant or stamping you don’t use, an old brooch, some beaded trim, a fabric flower, etc. Your feathers will extend out from this item so to some extent this will determine the minimum length your feathers will need to be.

I chose a silk flower that I already owned with some clips at the back, but you can make fabric flowers and add the clips yourself or buy them on your shopping trip. Alternatively if you have any fake flowers lying around you can snip off the stem (and sometimes the stem is made to be be detatched) and use some glue or duct tape to secure the ends.

Your planning doesn’t have to be very detailed and you don’t have to decide on everything at the moment but these are some things you should start thinking about so you don’t get buyers’ remorse. At the very least decide on the length(s) of feathers you need and a colour scheme.

Shopping

Your local craft or fabric store should have everything you need. Grab a few different feather choices and muck about with how the feathers and arrangement might look. You might also want to look into some Russian Veiling, different sort of clips and bases. If the craft store doesn’t have it, or you’re not sure what it’s called then check Etsy.

Fake/silk flowers seem to be the default centrepiece, but if you want a more upmarket sort of look you might want to go to thrift stores for cheap vintage-style jewelled brooches.

Assembling

I’m going to show you how I specifically created my own fascinator. You can follow my instructions exactly if you want to, but I encourage you to experiment a little or a lot.

Supplies:

  • Silk flower: $5
  • Cocktail feathers: $7 for a pack of 6
  • Emu feathers: $4 for a bunch
  • Ribbon: $1 for a short spool.

I chose emu feathers because they were short and very small, thin and light. The centre of the feather has very little support and so gravity pulls them down. They curve downwards when worn instead of sticking straight out of the back of my head.

I chose these cocktails feathers because they were longer than the emu ones, had good support at the base but also had a little curve at the top. I didn’t want them to stick straight out above my head.

The emu feathers came tied together in a bunch, so I had the brainwave of using another tiny rubber band to tie the cocktail feathers onto the emu bunch. A lot easier, secure and less messy than glue. It also means the bunches can come undone if you make a mistake.

I tied some ribbon over the rubber band to hide them. It will also make the feathers easier to glue and attach onto the flower. I left a lot of ribbon free so it would actually form part of the fascinator and hang down from flower.

The back of my flower had a clip and brooch attachment which meant that that I didn’t have to use any glue. I simply attached the ribbon to the brooch needle. If you don’t have that option you could also use a needle and sew the ribbon onto the back of the flower, or take a bit of material (or more ribbon) and glue it over the back of the flower and the base of the feathers. If your flower doesn’t have a clip you can attach it in the same way as the feathers.

This fascinator has got me so many compliments and it took me only all of ten minutes to make! Awesome!

Awesome Face:

Let me know if you have any problems with this tutorial!

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.