Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Brown & Cream in Santa Clara ~ Nova Albion Steampunk Convention Outfit Day 2

Cream and brown is a lovely color combination, I don't know why I don't wear it more often.

 1916  Nasjonalmuseet for Kunst, Arketektur, og Design

I haven't worn this particular outfit, in it's full form, in about a decade, if ever. The Rack instantly reminded me of this fact, Fashionable Reader. I mean to say, I knew I had ever expanding tracks of land but this gown took it upon itself to insult me with how far my empire has expanded!

Would you look at that? Sheesh.

It took not one, not two, but three assistants to wedge me into the bodice of the underdress!

This outfit is comprised of:

  1. A full train lace petticoat (made by attaching a lace skirt and lace curtains to one of those cheepy polyester petticoats they make for brides)
  2. Brocade with crochet trim and long train underskirt (made from a thrifted wedding dress - bodice was stained and didn't fit - and the crochet from a tablecloth)
  3. A satin under dress with brown satin and cream lace trim, velvet belt (from the robe) and brown ribbon piping
  4. A brown overdress with crochet detailing (made from a vintage velvet bathrobe and more of the crochet tablecloth)


I paired it with my tan pocket belt, the Brute Force Studio's leather fan, a Ruby Blackbird Handmade pineapple reticule, vintage brown leather gloves, a deco style necklace set, a broad-brim highly decorated Ivy-ish hat, and my big cream parasol. The parasol is my biggest and best but doesn't fit into any suitcases so it never travels with me. (It's wonderful, though, the "Penelope" $46, from Lace Parasols and Fans, where I buy most of my vintage looking ones.)

Sweet Romance necklace set (no longer available); the newly steampunked earrings. 

I integrated the pearls that matched my necklace with a pair of steampunk dangles made for me by a fan. (I do love gifts but I am hugely allergic to nickle and most other metals used in earring hooks. I can wear gold and silver for short lengths of time, but the only thing I can wear for more than a few hours is surgical steel.) Anyway, I subbed the posts for gold hooks and since I already had the needle noses out I added the drop pearls on the bottom. I think they came out rather well.


I've taken to wearing this lovely vintage-style pocket watch necklace all the time now. I like having the time around my neck, although it clangs against my necklace pen. Of course, it should be upside-down and isn't, and I discovered while wearing it with cream that it tarnishes my costume at the neckline, so I might have to put on a different chain. Still at $15 it's kind of a bargain.


The boots are cream brocade I picked up in the 80s, probably bridal. I replaced the laces with brown satin ribbon. I forgot how comfortable these are! I might change the laces again for ones of plain cream satin so I can wear them with more outfits.


The hat is that plastic buckram stuff, from a thrift store, probably 1970s bridal. I bent it into that shape by wetting it and stuffing it in a small empty ice chest and leaving it in the sun. The I got out the glue gun and attacked!

Jewell models the outfit.

And now, some of the issues I discovered with this costume. The thing is, I hadn't worn it is so long I didn't realize. Jewell's worn it more recently (pictured above) and she is taller and smaller chested than I, with narrower shoulders, so it looks far better on her.

Before and after 
  1. It took three of us to get me into the top part of the under dress, it really it too small now
  2. I'm not happy with the length of said under dress. It think it dips too low in the front and I want to try and bring it up
  3. We discovered an immovable stain right in the front (conveniently covered by badge), when I shorten it I'll try to do so in a way that drapes out that stain. (And before you kindly offer a million tips, I know my stains well and this one is not going anywhere.)
  4. My corset laces untied at the bottom and unlaced themselves shortly after I got the thing on, they really need to be replaced. I didn't have time to change completely, so I just took it off from under and went without. The under dress zippered up much easier without the corset (the bodice shape is more natural). 
  5. However, the plastic stays of the bodice were not strong enough to hold the Rack, flattened it oddly, and it buckled unbecomingly at the waist when I sat. So I added a big cream leather belt to hide the warp.
  6. I'm going to have to panel in the back of the bodice somehow (which has a zipper and I HATE dealing with zippers). 
  7. Then, it's either take the time to re-bone the darn bodice with steal instead of plastic (and it's fully lined), or hope it fits better over one of my other corsets.
  8. The brown robe, always delicate, ripped at the back of the neck and under the arms... again. I swapped it out for a little brown shrug and longer gloves.
  9. The whole upper part of this dress, as a result, has turned into A PROJECT. Sigh. Not sure if I have the time, energy, or interest in salvaging it, especially as these are the very pieces that don't travel well.

 All that said, wait until you see what I manged to do with the outfit for that evening, I think you'll be proud of the phoenix from the ashes results.  

But for now, let us leave this dis-dressing experience behing and explore...

Outfits for the Characters

For Alexia after the events in the Parasol Protectorate series...

1880 Afternoon Dress  The Museum at FIT

For Ivy...

1887-1888 Evening Dress The Victoria & Albert Museum

For Countess Nadasdy...


1889-1892  Redfern,   The Philadelphia Museum of Art

For Prudence in the Parasol Protectorate Abroad...

1895  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Monday, April 29, 2013

Teal in Santa Clara ~ Nova Albion Steampunk Convention Outfit Day 1

 For the first evening of Nova Albion I had intended to wear my Fancy outfit, but certain shoe-related issues meant that I swapped it for the teal, and bumped the fancy to Sunday. Shoes, as I am sure you are well aware Fashionable Reader, will do that to one's careful plans.

 Full teal outfit showing boot; and what's under the jacket

 My teal outfit is one of the few that I did not completely cobble together or make myself. The jacket and skirt were bought ready made. I know I know, shocking. I did order the jacket in a large and have it professionally tailored to meet the demands of the Rack. The satin teal jacket and draped bustle skirt are from Donna at Clockwork Couture. For those of you who don't know, Donna is the amazing proprietress of that establishment and also my model for the Orbit covers of the Parasol Protectorate series.

 Cover of Changeless & the dress of the same

The cover for Changeless is my favorite color combination of all the Orbit covers, I think. Lucky me the Science Fiction Book Club appears to agree, as they chose the same scheme for my first Omnibus cover as well.

Cover of Omnibus & silly Gail

The traveling gown as I have it is a custom color, but Donna does still have this dress for sale in Navy, Olive Green, Rust, and Wine. I love mine, it's more durable than my self-made steampunk outfits and fully lined. (Yes, I purchased mine in full, and I don't get a kickback for saying nice things, I don't approve of those kinds of shenanigans.) Donna did work with me as I needed a small skirt but a large top. Since each gown is made to order by Clockwork Couture, she is often able to accommodate this kind of thing. I do recommend being very careful with all your measurements, and if in doubt order a size up and pay a little extra to have it professionally tailored after you receive it, particularity if you intend to wear it with a corset.

Speaking of which . . .

Under the jacket

The Underdress: 

As a base, I wear a Max Studio silk chiffon cocktail dress with 1930's caplet detailing that I picked up from an outlet mall years ago and then accidentally shrunk in the wash to an unwearably scandalous length. I like the way the little cape floats over the top and back of my corset.

The Corset:

This Dark Garden corset is a fully customized Pointed Victorian with Straps in pinstripe suiting material with waistcoat points, hidden watch fob pockets, full back, and specialty buttons on the straps. It is amazing to wear, but I do require a bra for the Rack with it. 

The Accessories:

Over the corset busk I am wearing Ruby Blackbird's corset buttons. These are currently out of stock but I will surely let you know when she is in production again. They are a bit dear, but they are basically impossible to find or make yourself easily and in a manor that does not damage the corset. I invested in a several sets from her a few years ago, so that I have some that match all my different corsets. I like them because I think they are the refining touch that makes one's stays go from underwear to outer wear.

The hat is a mini black fedora ordered from a supplier online (here's a super cute similar pin striped one for $8) decorated to within an inch of its life. Those dangling beads are from an old pair of earrings. There are some vintage teal buttons, peacock feathers, and whatnot also in there. It's perhaps a bit messy, and heavy, but I love it.

 With the adorable John (who was mistaken for Lord Akeldama in this outfit)

Necklaces include my black octopus, which is sadly hard to see as the neckline of the dress is too high (I forgot to tug it down before putting on the corset). Similar but even cuter, Sea Devil Black Octopus Necklace $18. (Want more about the octopus jewelry?) I'm also wearing the hair clip and teal watch necklace I got at AnomolyCon at the beginning of April.

A black corduroy pocket belt is about my hips. I usually wear it with the floofy-ier spoon corset outfit. I'm going to have to tailor it in a little, with all the dangling bits-and-bobs it would keep slipping down the satin skirt. You can make your own pocket belt following these step-by-step instructions.

Speaking of dangles, I have the parasol holster and folding tilt parasol with me. And dangling from the belt are also my awesome tea strainer goggles from Brute Force Studios and some spoons and other useful items.

I'm wearing black cashmere Moe Munroe mitties. I talk about her work in this blog post on packing steampunk.


The outfit is finished off with Amelia Miz Mooz boots. I got mine about a decade ago but these boots became so popular you can still buy them online in a wide range of colors: black, brown, camel, green, and red. In my experience, these shoes run true to size, and my foot is average, not wide. (If it helps, I cannot wear Fluvogs because they are always too wide for me.) They are made of a garment leather, which is not too thick, so they conform quickly to the shape of the leg. I like this, but to some buyers  it comes off as inexpensive feeling. I've had mine resoled twice now, and I suggest upping the grade and thickness of the sole when you do, to add a bit of cushion.

And that's the teal outfit!

Something for the Characters

For Sophronia in the Finishing School series...

1854-1856  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

For Ivy in the Parasol Protectorate series...


 1872 Charles Fredrick Worth  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

1905-1910  Les Arts Décoratifs

For Prudence & Alexia after the Parasol Protectorate series has ended (Biffy go hold of them both)...


 1885 Girl’s Dress  The Metropolitan Museum of Art; 1885-1886 Riding Jacket  The Victoria & Albert Museum

For Rue in the Parasol Protectorate Abroad series...


1895  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

And a gift from her dotting Dama...

1900s  Lang Antiques

Retro Rack is also on facebook where I post additional images and fashion thoughts.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Then & Now ~ Oxblood Dress

Then 


1960s  Timeless Vixen Vintage

Now


Duchess in Oxblood Dress

Retro Rack is also on facebook where I post additional images and fashion thoughts.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Steampunk Month ~ Gail's Octopus Collection

The octopus, while not intrinsically steampunk, has become associated with the aesthetic quite strongly. I blame Lovecraft. Not to mention Captain Nemo. Some blame me. Why are there octopodes in my books? Because I love them. They are cute and smart and strong and, best of all, tasty. (I am a particular fan of the Greek style slapped, marinated, and grilled octopus.)


My love affair with the octopus did not begin with the Parasol Protectorate books. Oh now, it has its roots in a squeaky rubber octopus purchased for me at a carnival by my best friend over twenty years ago.


You can see him above, sitting on top of the Parasol Protectorate boxed set, as if he were very well aware of the madness that would result from his presence in my life. Yes, he still squeaks, although not very well, and he used to be purple.

But you did not come here, Fashionable Reader, to hear me burble on about octopodes in books. Oh no, you came for the octopus fashion! Here is a glimpse at my collection.


 Similar but even cuter, Sea Devil Black Octopus Necklace $18


All gifts for different people over several years they are all the same octopus, but they are all different: brass, black, and silver with a double chain. I used to have a broach too, but it broke at AnomolyCon.


 I've now re-purposed it by sewing it onto a hat. I do love this octopus form but I find he has become very common about the interwebs and I am becoming more and more intrigued by craftsmen and artists with create their own octopus shape.



These are two fun ones, gifts from readers. The red one is new, isn't he cute? Here's a similar little guy in ring form.


Although technically he's a quintopus (he doesn't like to talk about it). The pink one is adorable too, kind of ethereal and lovely. If an octopus were a fairy...

 Similar Vintage Bronze Octopus Ring $4.50; nothing similar


Because I wear gloves a lot I don't get to wear my rings much. These were all gifts, the big sparkly one was given to me right off the lovely lady's finger! I wear that one over the black evening gloves on occasion for a true statement look.

 Gail's Octopus Collection

I have a  number of other octopus pendents, and buttons, and broken jewelry bits as well that have been sewn onto hats, or pocket belts, or dresses.


The stated idea is to ensure that at all times, whether steampunk or not, there is an octopus on my person somewhere.

Retro Rack is also on facebook where I post additional images and fashion thoughts.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Steampunk Outfits ~ Timeline of Inspiration

Here are some inspirational images, Fashionable Reader, from the past to, perhaps, guide one's creation of a Steampunk look.

 18th century lat Riding Coats The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Have a dress that fits on top but not the bottom? Turn the bottom into the peplum of a riding style jacket like those pictured above.

 1760s  Nasjonalmuseet for Kunst, Arketektur, og Design; 1775-1793 Court Suit The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 A great thing to do with ornate robes, dressing gowns, oversized jackets, or even shirt dresses is to cut them back and decorate them into tail coats.  I made the jacket of this dress from a brown velvet dressing gown of my late grandmother's.

 Jewell models it for me.


 1855-1865  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Godeys Dec 1872
"White velveteen jacket. This is a tight jacket, without sleeves, of white velveteen with silk; it is made with revers, and trimmed with blue cords and blue knob buttons not he shoulders and under the arms. A bow of blue cord with ends and tassels ornaments the front."

 1872 Godeys Sept 1872 
"Overwaist of blue silk, trimmed with black lace; it is to be worn over a black silk dress, and is very dressy and pretty."

 1879 Wedding Dress; and velvet 1887-1889  both The Metropolitan Museum of Art

I love the treatment of the buttons on the jacket part in both these outfits. Note the open front of the velvet one? This technique, a tapestry of some other kind of panel insert up the front with buttons down both sides, might be used to over-make a thrifted jacket that doesn't meet in the middle over the Rack. Just a thought.

1885-1886  The Goldstein Museum of Design; 1888 Afternoon Dress Charles Fredrick Worth, 1888  The Metropolitan Museum of Ar

Brown and cream and burgundy and cream are both elegant yet underused color pallets. In the first gown above, I could see a steampunk version made from a dress or robe several sizes too big.

 Boy’s Jacket and Vest  1870-1875  The FIDM Museum

 1888-1892  Augusta Auctions; 1890-1893  The Goldstein Museum of Design

 1890s Petticoat; 1893 Underskirt  both The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Pretty petticoats are fun, I like to make mine very elaborate under my dresses. My brown and cream outfit (pictured on Jewell above) goes from day to evening by removing the satin overdress and velvet jacket, putting busk cover buttons on the corset and adding a little lace shrug. The evening outfit therefore becomes all cream lace and brocade. I'll be wearing it at Nova Albion, so hopefully I'll remember to take photos of the transformation.

1894 Augusta Auctions

I chose this because of the slashing on the sides of the skirt and the counter sleeve. This is a great example of how two thrifted dresses might be combined to form one (larger) finished item.

Girl’s Dress  1876  The Los Angeles County Museum of Art

 1895  The Museum at FIT; 1896 Ensemble  The Philadelphia Museum of Art

And these show how trim can make a relatively plain base look period. The first two also are  examples of how an added hem, cuffs, and collar can made a gown longer enough if you thrifted something too short.


1899  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Military elements were popular in riding jackets and they are a great way to bring a masculine edge of a steampunk outfit. Easy to do, too, just lay on a whole bunch of cord and start stitching.

 1900 Dinner Dress  Jean-Philippe Worth  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Again, note the manipulation of the jacket? With larger assets up top, utilizing a jacket that is too small by paneling in ornate inserts along the front, to simulate a waistcoat, is a great away to stretch to compensate for the Rack. Also you can get these long lean lines down the front which are very slimming. The above dress carried the line all the way down the front with a single gore and embroidery detail. 

 1907  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

On the other hand taking a jacket that is oversized and tailoring it down with added decoration is an alternate option. Nip in like crazy and then cover up any mistakes in tailoring by adding belt and other embellishments and large buttons. Bonus for using a pocket flat as a collar. Be sure to check out the menswear section of any thrift store, men's jackets often come in very steampunk fabrics and can often be fitted down to the female figure.

Another thing to take from the above image is the fact that the skirt is a different shade, but tied back to the jacket by using matched buttons. So simple! Such an easy way to bring an outfit together.

1918 Military Uniform  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Retro Rack is also on facebook where I post additional images and fashion thoughts.