Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What's On Gail Carriger's Dummy? In Which I Talk About Crafting Steampunk!

This is an occasional feature wherein I prove to you, Fashionable Reader, that I am not being a costume slacker. And that all those projects I mean to do are, in fact, getting some attention. (Generally when my brain is no longer working for writing of an evening.)

Lately, with WorldCon imminent (I set off tomorrow morning) I've been slaving away at yet another Steampunk outfit, this one for the Girl Genius Ball on Thursday Night. But first, a retrospective.

So far, my collection is comprised of the following . . .

First we have my Teal. I ordered the top and skirt in a custom color (to match Changeless) from Clockwork Couture. It was a long an involved process and ended with me having to have the jacket tailored by my friend Sarah (the goddess seamstress) because of my ridiculous Rack ~ of course. In the first picture you see it with only the skirt. I paired it with my custom Dark Garden pinstripe pointed Victorian under-bust with vest detailing, over a Max Studio dress from several yeas ago. Later I added in more bustle and a darker velvet over-skirt, which you can kind of see at the bottom left. The last picture is at Seattle Steamcon with my vintage 1930s umbrella. The hat is a teeny tiny black buckram fedora which I decorated to within and inch of its little life.

The Original. For this outfit I took an old torn lace ready-to-wear sweetheart Dark Garden corset and just sewed a ton of brass buttons and beeds all over it, and spoons on the Rack. This was well before I was an author and had deadline demands. The jacket is a vintage 1940's puppy that is tacked and turned and trimmed with 1950s copper paperclips and ribbon. The black skirt and taffeta over-skirt are both thrift store scores. Shoes are Via Spigas from Nordstrom Rack, $50. Hat is a straw blank from Ben Franklin's Doll section decorated with lace and so forth via the trusty hot glue gun.

The Autumn. Seen with Cupcake Goth in the first photo, I love this outfit because it is so cheerful. The first shot shows the most common way I wear it. In the second I have it with some belly dance gear because the theme for Nova Albion was East Meets West. The shirt, vest, and skirt were thrift store scores (the skirt clearly a bridal item) and I pair it with my favorite Dark Garden corset of all time, a small corselette that looks very like a Swiss Waist. The hat blank was from a thrift store, I think meant to be a wall decoration which I stripped and redecorated. The belt is made from a pair of cargo shorts, nice to have all the pockets!

And now, on to the dummy. You see I have another corset that I love, called the Fancy. It's a Dark Garden custom with custom fabric, the Alicia style with Princess cross back straps. (Someday I will tell the story behind all my corsets, I have many, but not today.) Here I am wearing it at Nova Albion one evening.

Because of the Asian theme I went very simple with a kimono robe. But it didn't feel very steampunk to me. So I decided, one last time, I needed to spiff it up. Coincidentally this was concurrent with me finding a second full skirt in the matched iridescent taffeta at Village Thrift in San Francisco. Clearly, I was being instructed by the universe to make an over skirt. You all remember my tea dyeing saga to make the shirt to go under the corset?

Well, here's what I've been doing to finish the rest of the outfit. First I had extra bed ruffles so I decided I need to make the underskirt more fluffy.

It's hard to see with cream on white (and my camera is crappy) but I used the excess ruffle to build out a bit of a bustle at the back.

So here we have the finished under portion. Now for the over-skirt.

Ticks, lace, frills! So much fun, and so much hand sewing. But there she is.

For the bustle I had some excess from the custom corset. I layered it in with more lace and a curtain tassel. Again, this is is all stuff I just had lying around. I picked up most of my trim from a major score at a church sale in San Jose back in 1996. It has been lying around since then and as I hope to move house by the end of the year, I've decided it is finally time use it or loose it. This outfit is rather frilly as a result.

Sorry, my dummy tilts (it's old and sad) but you can kind of see the final with bag and hat. I also have a shawl in the same fabric as the corset, not shown.

The hat is a teeny tiny bucrum which I recovered with more of the corset fabric and decorated with a fake humming bird. Shown with the goddess jewelry, also from Dark Garden. The boots are vintage Kenneth Coles, and were possibly the greatest shoe sore of my life. My BFF bought them for me in High School from Buffalo Exchange on Telegraph in Berkeley for a cool $20. They are patchwork velvet and brocade, Lord Akeldama would be proud. And, shockingly, they are comfortable!

Well, my dear Fashionable Reader, I hope you find this at least a little inspiring. I'll catch you all in a week when I get back from Reno!


  1. You look positively marvelous in a corset. Nothing better for embracing one's curves and proudly defining a waist. How well do they wear in the long term? My limited experience with a ren fair bodice always seems to get to me after three or four hours.

    If only they could make bras that were as effective at managing the largely endowed bust. *sigh* I live in dread of my next attempt at bra hunting. Oh well, I guess. Although I find it odd that a culture that is so bosom obsessed has such a scarcity of properly fitting undergarments for the naturally endowed. Sort of a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation, isn't it?

  2. I envy your corsets. And those boots.

    @frostfire: With corsets, you tend to get what you pay for. A well-fitted and -constructed corset will feel like a dream--a wonderful, supportive, back-pain conquering dream. Such a corset will also cost you. The Frederick's and ebay "corsets" will be cheap, but you will want to take them off in a few hours.

    And I hear you on the bras. I wonder if we can convince Ms. Carriger to do a round up of busty-friendly bra companies...

  3. The earrings look like marble nipples on chains, but like elzebrook I covet your boots

  4. Bras are such a pain because every company seems to have a different set of standards for their cup sizes. Before my latex allergy was diagnosed I tried all sorts of brands, including those Fruit Of The Loom ones that were suppose to be special for larger women. (Remember the commercials showing a bunch of "curvy" women in their underwear writing letters to the Apple about how beautiful they felt in their new FOTL bras and panties?) I swear that their so called DD was really an A cup. It was that small. And I tried their brand more than once.

    As for corsets - how does one measure for them anyway? I've tried looking up directions online because my niece wanted to get one to wear under her dress for winter formal. I found so many different directions I could not understand them at all. I finally told her me doing it just wasn't going to work and she simply MUST go to a store and be measured. (She had never even been measured for a bra either.) She was rather upset with me. More upset later on when we did get her measured at Nordstrom's and she was told to wear a size large in Spanx - the kind that look like bike shorts. She ended up buying a size medium "waist nipper" at WalMart and used the Spanx as a sling-shot. Teenagers. *sighs*

    Granted, that was for the modern type of corset, the ones they call "waist nippers." But I've always wanted a corset myself. Especially one that I could wear under my dresses to hold things in and up a bit more. My torso is short though and most corsets I've noticed go over my hips by a good two to three inches.

  5. Jami:
    Might I suggest (if you are so inclined) that you consider purchasing a custom corset from some place like http://www.meschantes.com/? That's where I ordered my very first custom corset from, and the recommendation comes via a long line of Solidly Curvy ladies who know just how hard it it to get a good corset if you are not average in size. Alternately, if you are feeling very crafty, there are a number of places online where you can order patterns and boning, all at once.

  6. Wow, those things are expensive. I was thinking more basic to go under clothing to hold in the middle jiggle and make things look smoother. That's why I wondered how to properly measure. And I can't sew so making my own is out.

  7. Jami:
    Most corsets are done by waist size. The hips and bust are average sized for most women with that waist size. The advantage to getting a custom corset is that it allows you to fill out the two pages of measurements and get one that fits best for you.

    If all you're looking to do is hold in the middle jiggle, might I suggest investing in a really good bra and an underbust corset like http://www.scarlettscorset.com/? This is an especially good compromise for women with a substantial rack.

    As for the expense, good corsets are like good bras. If you invest in a really good one and take care of it, you can wear it comfortably for many, many years.

    Heh. I really need to get my "How to Wear A Corset" class up online somewhere. Maybe I'll turn it into a blog post.

  8. All lovely outfits :) I think my favourites are the spoon corset (the picture of you in the Steampunk Bible is wonderful btw) and this new one. I think I will have to check out Dark Garden for more corsets for me! (I only have one and I'm sure that's not enough!)

  9. Hope your Reno adventure is one for the history books. I woke our hallway flooded & have spent hours in the TX heat cleaning instead of preparing my artwork & costumes for FenCon/Deep SouthCon!!!! Taking a break & reviewing all the tweets I've missed led me here!

    NOW THIS IS WHAT I'm TALKING ABOUT! I'm not beautiful, thin, & elegant like you - so I have an extra set of challenges - but we want to dress for the weekend. Haven't even begun to think of what my husband will wear!

    THANKS TO YOU, once the plumbers come/go, I now have enough inspiration to start digging through cach├ęs of fabric stashes and start dream-planning and maybe even finding patterns & getting started?

    I LOVE this blog so much and as a late in life newbie find it SO helpful. It's like getting to eat chocolate while on a diet! THANK YOU for sharing it with the masses.

    BTW: REALLY enjoying Soulless!!!!!


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