MLX10 Hangar Dance

Someone emailed me through the site the other day and I was all 😀 😀 😀 😀 I was always going to post another update but I made this more of a priority after people said nice things about me. Strangely my timetable has not freed up post-exams due to the huge number of things I’m juggling.

One of my current obssessions hobbies is swing dancing and as everyone on Twitter and Tumblr and Facebook already know I went to this amazing event organised by the Melbourne Lindy Exchange that was:

  • diesel-punk costume themed, and
  • located in a real airplane hangar, and
  • had a live big band playing, and
  • obviously, for swing dancing!

Bear with me if I’m repeating myself, but the outfits at the event were really amazing and if anything I was underdressed. That said, I dressed to the theme but knowing that I’d be moving around a lot and getting very warm and sweaty.

(And yes, that is a real plane in the above picture. It is an aircraft hangar after all.)

Dieselpunk

Over on the BrassGoggles forums I once came across this timeline of -punk addages that seemed… excessive, but anyhow dieselpunk is the alternate history version of WWII, the period from about 1920 to 1950 (think Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, the mOBSCENE video, and even um this Christina Aguilera videoclip) but it often gets lumped together with steampunk since there’s a lot of overlap between people interested in retrofuturism (which is also why I’ve stuck this under the steampunk category).

Where steampunk has the frills and ruffles of Victoriana, dieselpunk is a lot more utilitarian to reflect the wartime. Clothing shapes are very fitted against the body in comparison to wide skirts and puffy shoulders, and the lines tend to be very clean and straight rather than curved. You see a bit of brown here and there, but I’d say the staple colours are army green, beige, tan and all the shades of camouflage. Navy blues are also popular (to continue with the military theme) and bright reds are nice on Rosie The Riveter style outfits.

The Outfit

When I first heard about the event I immediately knew what I wanted to wear, and that I wanted to go with a more militaristic look.

  • Backless, sleeveless shirt-halter vest thing – $10 from a random clothing store
  • High-waisted skirt – $35 from a Dizingof sale (!!)
  • White scarf – under $5 from thrift store
  • Olive Military Jacket – Westco, bought from eBay for $10
  • Goggles – $10 from eBay
  • Fingerless leather gloves – $20 from Sportsgirl
  • Boots – My $100 favourites from Tony Bianco

In terms of building the silhouette, everything is quite close-fitting, and I got more of that pinched waist look by the high-waisted skirt (which also has a bit of boning at the front which really helps keep the shape). The skirt is especially military-esque because of its colour, but also because of the position of double rows of buttons on the front. That’s something to look for in both your jackets and tops and bottoms (you’ll notice my olive jacket has two rows of buttons as well), and something you can definitely recreate by stitching button on existing items if you don’t have anything especially military-esque.

For maximum maneuverability I decided to forego a corset or a fitted belt, and similarly for dancing reasons I decided on wearing this halter-shirt-thing instead of an actual long-sleeved shirt and a neck tie, even though the latter would probably look a lot more formal.

If had the time I would have made myself a garrison cap (this pattern was originally from HMA Badger website, but the site is down as of this post which is why I’ve reuploaded it), but the goggles did a good job of keeping my hair back and the cap possibly would have just fallen off.

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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

Steampump Part 1

This post is meant to be read in conjunction with Part 2.

The Steampump event was so huge, so brilliant that it definitely warrants two posts. Part 1 will be a picspam of fashion from the night and some general observations about wearing and putting together an outfit. Part 2 will be the specific deconstruction of my own outfit.

I’ve re-uploaded a couple of my photos of favourite outfits on the night below. There were a lot of other people who wore wondrous things – actually pretty much everybody – but I didn’t manage to get a photo of everybody and you can’t really see what people are wearing in some others. You can find my full gallery here, and there’s links to different photographers here should you wish to peruse more pictures.

Create Your Own Steampunk Outfit 101

The Base

The key to many steampunk outfits is layering or at least the illusion of it. If you think of the areas of your body as a canvas, the layered look involves showing as many different colours, patterns and/or textures on as many different areas of your body as possible. A lot of the bases start with a simple button-up shirt or plain top. I would recommend something long-sleeved since your arms are another place to display a layer, but this is definitely not a hard and fast rule, especially since you can use long-sleeved jackets and shrugs to the same effect. Similarly, you can also start with fairly plain bottoms – a skirt or trousers – and add layers on them although I find it slightly difficult to layer bottoms.

Clockwork Insect by In Sectus

Layering

The best items for layering are ones that cover a small area and expose the items under it. For example cropped jackets and shrugs are quite popular in steampunk fashion because people want to show off their corsets or belts. Vests, singlets and waistcoats cover the torso but not the arms and many leave the upper chest exposed. If you start with a simple long-sleeved top you can cover it with a short-sleeved shirt and then stick a corset over the top.

You can experiment with adding skirts and underskirts and bloomers by wearing several skirts of different lengths on top of each other (that also gives the upper layer more volume). Alternatively a lot of people like to pin up or tie with ribbon sections of a long skirt (I’ve used a garter belt to achieve this effect in the past). Not only does this reveal the different underskirt but you can safety-pin multiple sections to give a plain skirt a bustle-like cascading effect.

Layering trousers is a bit more difficult. You can roll them up and wear funky knee-high socks or tuck them into some boots. You can also make something like this. Accessories play a big part: a hip-height messenger bag can add to the overall outfit, or maybe a holster for your Nerf ray gun. If you have some spare material or lace you can create sashes, neckties and cravats. Extra belts can be worn around the hips or worn over the shoulder like a bandolier.  Suspenders can hold up trousers or skirts, or can hang loosely from your waist for a laid back look.

Clockwork Hairpiece by Clockwork Butterfly

Final Touches

This no-sew collar tutorial shows just how important accessorising can be. 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.

World-famous Goggles by Maduncle Cliff

Ahh! It’s all too much!!

I encourage all of you to experiment, but sometimes we’re the most creative when we work inside limitations or structures. A lot of people find personas and roleplaying helpful. 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. These are definitely not rules and you should feel free to wear bright pink linen shirts and carry a raygun and a fan. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed or worried you’re not “doing it right”* an occupation might be a good place to start putting together an outfit.

*It’s very difficult to do “wrong” unless you miss the mark completely and think converse shoes, baggy jeans, t-shirt and a hoodie is a steampunk outfit. And even then it’s arguable.

Gemstone Kaleidoscope from Wunderkammer

Shopping & etc

There were some wonderful local vendors and exhibitors at Steampump and I would do them injustice if I didn’t give them some publicity. Thank you to everyone who worked on this event and volunteered their time to help because it totally went off. I can’t wait till the next one.

Unfortunately I didn’t catch the names of everyone who had a stall or performed. If you’re not on this list, let me know!

Part 2

Noodle (Gorillaz)

Noodle 1Plastic Beach is the new album just released by everyone’s favourite virtual band, Gorillaz. I’ve been listening to the music on repeat and I absolutely love Jamie Hewlett’s illustrations. (Yes, I realise not all of the illustrations I feature on this page are “official”.)

Noodle is my favourite character of the bunch – although I’ll readily admit that I tend to latch on Asian characters that break out of the stereotype – and her late teen style phase is actually pretty close to what I tend to come up with when I just throw stuff from my wardrobe on. Plus she’s also a cyborg who’s in a videoclip with Bruce Willis. She’s stylish, a mean guitar player, an awesome dancer and kicks butt. Who wouldn’t want to dress like Noodle?

Her look is quite an easy one to achieve because it’s mostly made up of wardrobe basics. Because it’s my first post I’ll try to walk through the steps of how I figure out what to wear.

1. Google some images

I found a whole bunch of different stuff, but these images were closest for the look I wanted to go for. There were definitely some items of clothing that mark of her late Demon Days look and I picked the items that I had in my wardrobe and I knew would suit me.

Here’s a rundown of what I found Noodle wearing most often:

  • Tops: Plain, occasionally striped, t-shirts and singlet tops – short, not long.
  • Bottoms: Short shorts, occasionally short skirts.
  • Footwear: Knee-high socks, Sketchers style keds or knee-high black boots.
  • Accessories: Military cap, neck bandanna, leather gloves, belts.

Additionally Noodle often rocks a sort of military look (sort of reminiscent of Hewlett’s Tank Girl in a way as well).

Now take out the items that you think would fit into a Noodle outfit and try them on together. Think about colour/texture/themes in her clothing.

2. Build a Silhouette

People who are familiar with EGL will understand this concept. Because we’re not cosplaying and we’re emulating a style, we’re more concerned with an overall impression rather than particular details like colour. This step is thinking about the clothing relative to the rest of her body. How much skin is showing? Where do her shorts and skirts end on her thigh? If you were looking at her animated shadow which shapes and corners are the strongest?

The bulk of Noodle’s clothing is concentrated around her torso and her arms and legs seem to stick out of a rectangular shape made by her clothing. Therefore we want a loose fitting, short-torsed t-shirt and similar skirt or shorts. Under-the-knee socks or boots are a definite because this is where there is a strong line break in the shape or colour.

Her hat seems to be one of those military caps however if you don’t own that particular style, any hat with a forward brim and flat-ish top would probably work. She sometimes wears a chunky belt around her waist.

3. Colour and Texture

Noodle usually wears plain, more low-key colours accented with brighter ones. If you wanted to go for a more military-cyborg Noodle you might want to stick to khakis, shades of grey and all the colours of the camouflage rainbow. Her clothing is matte, and in most cases you’d probably be looking for items made out of cotton or drill.

4. Alter the look so you’re comfortable.

It was a cold day when I walked out so I added opaque stockings under my knee-high socks, and a military jacket over the top of my t-shirt. The skirt was also pretty short, and I generally feel more comfortable wearing tights underneath. I opted for the skirt instead of shorts because I really don’t like the way most shorts look on me (especially short-shorts).

5. Wear Your Outfit!

Noodle Attempt

Items rundown:

  • Black Wool General’s hat – Camberwell Market $15 (+buttons and brooches I’ve collected – maybe +~$10)
  • Olive Military Jacket – Westco, bought from eBay for $10
  • Bandanna – Bought somewhere in San Francisco for $2
  • Brown T-shirt – Piping Hot from Target, ~$10
  • Belt – Buffalo Exchange in Berkeley ~$6
  • Grey Check Skirt – Thrift store, $2
  • Knee-High Socks – Target ~$5
  • Black Leather Boots – Tony Bianco $100 (they’ll last for years)

5. Review The Outfit

I don’t actually own sensible knee-high boots or keds either (that probably needs to be remedied). I had a choice between my mid-calf boots and black sneakers, and chose the former. This actually threw out my silhouette a bit because it cuts off the colour at the wrong place. Next time I’d go with my shorter length Doc Marten boots or the sneakers. I’d probably also wear my pair of leather gloves as well.

I totally dig the colour co-ordinating of the blue socks, belt and the t-shirt print though and was complimented by my swing dancing teacher on how much he liked the outfit!

So that’s the first post finished! Let me know what you think of the blog, if there’s something I missed out or included only boring bits or any general feedback you’d like to give me!