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; cake design

Ombre nails in neutral browns. I love this idea and intend to do it soon.

Suite  Gérard  Christie’s

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

Steampunk Month ~ High End Couture

I see steampunk everywhere, Fashionable Reader, and I have always had a taste for what I'd call industrial jewelry.

 Gucci horn bracelet visit gucci.com

 Fallon micro-spike cluster earrings at ebay.com

 Fall 2013 Runway

 Gyvinchy from a magazine

Restoration Hardware


 astier de villatte paris
 




 Vicky S 2013 runway

 Boy. vest with tails shopbop.com $995


Tokyo street style

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