Tank Girl (Tank Girl)

After tackling Noodle1 I thought I’d pay homage to Jamie Hewlett2 again by having a Tank Girl post3.  I’ve not seen the film which apparently barely resembles the comics, but internet stills tell me that she dresses similarly. Also she’s Australian and dates a kangaroo that should still count for something these days.

You guys may remember that I said in my Noodle post I really disliked shorts. You may have seen me wear shorts in my recent Tonks post but that’s okay because they aren’t short shorts and they used to be jeans anyway. This time I will go another step further to say I actually kinda like shorts and my previous biases were probably due to not finding the right pair of shorts. The pair of shorts I wear in this outfit were found at Cotton On on sale for ridiculously cheap, so it just goes to show.

You’re On Your Own

The reason I’ve got a whole bunch of pictures here is because I’m not going to do my usual outfit breakdown. People who costume/cosplay as Tank Girl tend to go with the target shirt and fleece hat but dude, she’s an anarchist. She’ll wear whatever the fuck she wants.

While I kept some of the accessory staples “I’ll wear whatever the fuck I want” is pretty much how I approached this outfit, “I” being “I, Tank Girl” of course. Start with some brightly coloured plain bases like t-shirts, singlets, bras and shorts, and wear em together even if the colours clash. Especially if they clash. The reason why Tank Girl looks like a punk anarchist is precisely because the colours and patterns are all over the place.

My primary concern was that the outfit would be unsuitable for winter because she usually bares so much skin. But after Googling some images like the ones above, I realised that it wasn’t always the case. I highly recommend patterned armwarmers, leggings or socks to keep your arms and legs warm. A favourite trick of mine is to wear fishnets over some warmer opaque stockings (and then knee-high socks for a third layer if you’re really cold). Stick on some combat boots over the top and you are ready to beat up a gang of ‘roos.

Accessorise with fingerless gloves, (utility) belts, funny hats, goggles and glasses, bandaids, unisex jewellery and a cigarette4. And a motherfucking tank if you have one.

The Outfit

The Breakdown:

  • Long sleeved shirt with camouflage pattern (I have no idea where I got this or for how much – I think it was cheap.)
  • White tank – $25 because it was official Emilie Autumn merch.
  • Brown shorts – $5 from Cotton On (yay sale!)
  • Navy leggings – $8 from Target
  • Mismatched striped knee-high socks – ~$8
  • Fleece hat – $3 from thrift store
  • Goggles – $10 from eBay
  • Red suspenders – $10 from Target
  • Fleece jacket – $5 from thrift store
  • Doc Martens – $7 from Camberwell Market

I think this outfit would have worked a lot more if I hadn’t insisted on wearing it during the start of winter. During warmer days I’d have swapped out the long-sleeved top for some armwarmers or fingerless gloves5. Definitely should have gone with more colour and more fishnet stuff using old fishnet stockings.


Footnotes:

  1. By the way the blog stats show that my Noodle post is by far the most popular getting hits from Google. It’s getting about 300 hits per week (no shit).
  2. As people say, it’s not Tank Girl without Jamie Hewlett.
  3. I am ever hopeful that Hewlett is the new black and my blog and I will become famous overnight on the Googleplex.
  4. Don’t smoke kids!
  5. At the time of wearing this (which was actually more than a month ago from the date of this post) I had not yet acquired my leather fingerless gloves.

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

Melbourne Zombie Shuffle

I’d been wanting to go to the annual Melbourne Zombie Shuffle for several years, but this is the first year that I actually made it! I cut up some old thrifted clothes and go as a fairly straight-forward steampunk zombie. My outfit was based on an actual outfit that I regularly wear but caked with fake blood. I had the most awesome time scaring the bystanders and the crowd was very friendly. At one point I ended up getting into a “braaaaaains” groaning match with a fellow zombie.

There were pretty much every type of zombie under the sun. Characters included Lady Gaga, Barber Shop Quartet, Rocky, Rambo, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Domo Kun, Marie Antoinette, Jesus (of course), Silent Hill Nurses, Zombies vs Plants, Indiana Jones, Freddy Kruger etc etc etc. The effort some people had gone to was amazing. Other people had fairly simple costumes but were just always “in-character” so the strength of their, um, personality made them stand out in the crowd.

FAKE BLOOD RECIPE

My fake blood recipe was a combination of stuff I’d read on the internet and some helpful suggestions from friends. I didn’t measure anything, I just sort of mixed everything together until I felt it was the right consistency.

You’ll need:

  • Cocoa powder
  • Glucose/corn syrup (I found it with the baking stuff in the Supermarket after looking everywhere)
  • Corn flour
  • Red food dye
  • Blue food dye
  • Yellow food dye
  • Hot Water

I started with about half a cup of hot water and gradually mixed in a few tablespoons of cocoa and maybe one heaped tablespoon of corn flour. The cocoa will give the blood a deeper colour and help with the crusting (and the taste). The cornflour will thicken the mixure but not colour it.

I added glucose syrup next, until the blood dripped with the right consistency. The syrup will also allow the blood to shine and crust after its dry on clothing or skin.

I added a tiny, tiny bit of red food dye. The first batch I had to throw out because I added too much red, then too much blue, then more red and the colour was really too bright. Mix in a tinier bit of blue and even tinier bit of yellow, and then add more red until you’re happy with the colour.

Bottle it! It’s edible so you can gurgle and and spit it out of your mouth. It’ll also crust and flake once it’s dry on your skin.

As nice as the red-blood-on-white-shirt contrast is, my favourite zombies were the ones who looked liked fairly ordinary people who’d been infected doing daily stuff. Cyclists, artists, tennis players, business men, schoolkids, etc. And there were some really snappy-dressers there, even covered in rips and fake blood.

So without further ado, the best of undead fashion:

ZOMBIE DRESSING TIPS

Blood: The easiest way to create realistic looking blood spills is to spit it from your mouth and let it dribble down, or to hug fellow zombies. Blood pools in certain areas (like around the breasts) and there’d be more blood on the front of the body than the back because most of the blood would come from you attacking a victim from the front. Think about gravity and the source of the blood when applying it to clothing.

Clothing: A zombie has torn clothing usually because it’s brainless and will get their clothing caught on obstacles but keep shuffling. Tears are most likely to happen on either the joins of the clothing pattern (ie. where things are stitched together) which is relatively weak OR on loose material that could be pulled or caught on things. On my dress there were more tears around the edges because they’re more likely to catch onto things than say, close to the waisband.

Skin and Wounds: I used PVA with liquid foundation, purple and green eyeshadow. That looked okay, but I actually liked the simple bruising that a lot of zombies had. Around the knuckles and eyes are darkened with purple, and you can blend the edges in with some green. I also used a thin layer of white facepaint that just gave me a sickly pallour.

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.