2011 – Ending the Year with Steampunk – Part 1

Since I only had sporadic posting from November on, I thought I would do a couple of follow-up posts with the last few events I attended.

November brought with it the second year of Teslacon, the Steampunk Immersion convention in Madison, WI.  I attended with Swimmer this year as everyone else was busy the weekend before Thanksgiving.  Having the start of the 6 week cold during the trip (which I kindly gave to Swimmer) didn’t help, but Junior Mints and Kleenex can make anything bearable.

This year’s Teslacon had an undersea theme, including stops in various ports of call like India, Egypt and China.  There was a mummy, an evil bad guy, and a fashion show.  And more fezzes than you could shake a stick at.

I arrived early the night before and planned on attending the Victorian Bathing party by the pool.  I found an old drawing of a bathing suit on a tumbler blog, but was unable to find a link to where it originated.  I liked the fact that unlike other bathing suits this one had a defined waist.

I also liked the fact that you can see the back of the outfit as well, in that mirror-like image behind the main figure.  I did some research as to what colors other than black or navy blue were around back in the day and found several outfits that were done in bright pink with black.  I decided not to do the outfit in wool as I didn’t want to line it and wool makes me itch, so I went with a polished cotton that I found at Joann for $4.00/yd, and black fleece pre-made binding for the trim.  I had a black embroidered wool that I used for the underbust style corset.  I also decided to skip the hat due to the time constraints.

I used a basic A-line dress pattern for the top and my go-to pants pattern for the pants.  For the underbust portion I used the Truly Victorian 492 Corselet pattern and drafted long tails that were sewn onto the back ends.  It is hard to see in the photos, but the corselet has the same rumpled look as the one in the drawing.  In the future I will use a fabric with more drape for the main dress as it seemed a bit tight over my chest, as well as for more volume.  I originally sewed ribbons to black flats for shoes, but the ribbons did not work well with my large calves so I removed them.  After doing some research on the shoes people wore for bathing I decided the flats were close enough – I didn’t own a pair of black rubber shoes.

The next morning we were supposed to “set sail” from England, so Swimmer and I wore our explorer outfits.  Mine was mostly thrifted, except for my glorious hat, which is a  Canadian Mountie summer campaign hat made of a stiff straw.  I made a decorative bauble for the front of the hat out of bits and pieces I found at our local Ax-Man store and some tulle I had sitting around.  I kind of love it- my Steampunk faux Edwardian hat!

I also discovered the value of a well placed safety-pin when the tiny little black pearl buttons on my blouse popped open and I had a minor wardrobe malfunction in a room full of people.  Considering what other people were wearing (or were not wearing), my malfunction was likely not very noticeable.  At least I like to tell myself that….

The “ship” made its way to India, and this of course required a change of clothing.  I had a black taffeta skirt with built-in crinoline I had found at the thrift store that served as the base of the skirt.  I had found a lovely green sari at the thrift store for $5.00 and turned it into a bodice using TV 490 – the 1892 Ball Gown Bodice for the base, and drafted the sleeves myself to show off the gold trim along the edge of the sari.  I used the rest of the sari to make a pleated overskirt with a small band that snapped in front under the bodice.  I found some gorgeous green stone Indian jewelry on eBay for $15.00 and wore that with the outfit.

The Other Laura sewed all the buttonholes on the back of the bodice for me the night before I left because my sewing machine had Massive Buttonhole Failure, and I sewed all the little buttons up the back the night before I wore it.  The bodice fit really well (I LOVE Truly Victorian patterns!) and the sleeves were fun.  I tied a black silk sash around my waist and did my hair in ringlets, mainly because I needed them for my hairstyle  for that evening’s change of costume.

The previous year at Teslacon there had been a Rococo Salon, and we had all dressed in 18th century outfits.  It was an underwear themed Rococo Salon this year, but since I had no festive underwear, I went with my floral polonaise I had made for Costume Con in 2010.  I call it the Gore-Tex Polonaise as the fabric is outdoor fabric and can withstand a windstorm and a rainstorm.  But the pattern is so pretty…

My hair had fallen by this point, but the rest of the outfit still looked pretty good.  The underskirt is silk batiste and the “Scandal” fan is from Blasphemina’s Closet.  The lovely Swimmer met up with the Egyptian mummy guards at the party in her festive undergarments:

They really were very shiny.

The next day the “ship” was supposed to be in Egypt, but to be honest, I had not found anything very inspiring to wear.  So instead I went with a Turkish style outfit that I made of a silk sari and other silk fabric from India, to include the cloth of gold that El Jefe brought me last spring.  The portrait I was inspired by was this one:

Image ID: 1239222, Femme de l’Ile de Tine [Tinos]. [82] (1223-1242 [1808-1826])  (image source: NYPL Digital Gallery)

How amazing is that?  From the hat to the vest to the turned back cuffs… LOVE it.  However,  I didn’t have all these colors on hand, so I went with what I had.  For the overcoat, I used the blue cloth of gold with gold trim that was also from India.  I lined the sleeves with the blue lightweight Indian taffeta and secured them back with buttons.  The pattern I used was a modified version of Simplicity 2159.  Underneath I wore a white linen blouse I found at the thrift store.  On top of that was a red silk corset style bodice that I made using a bridal pattern that is no longer in print.  I made it so I could lace myself in it from the back, and added the graphic trim at the top and bottom.

Over this was the vest.  I started with a basic vest that I had purchased at the thrift store, and due to the sheer and stretchy nature of the lightweight sari I had purchased from eBay, I simply appliqued it on top of the two front panels of the vest, which I modified to get the correct shape.  The same gold trim that is on the overcoat runs along the edges of the vest.  I originally cut the vest as long as the vest in the drawing, but it looked very odd proportionally on my body, so I shortened it.  I chose to use a leather belt to hold the vest in place to give it more of a Steampunk feel.  The overcoat snapped onto the vest at the side bust and side waist locations.  Originally I was going to wear just the pants made of the sari fabric until I discovered that they were AMAZINGLY sheer once they were put on.  So I wore them underneath the blue silk skirt I had made for my Esmeralda costume, which was the same silk lining on the coat.  I tied a silk sash around my head as I didn’t have time to make the hat in the photo, or a back-up fez.  (Doesn’t everyone need a back-up fez?)  I thought about a turban, but I didn’t have a piece long enough for a true turban.

For my shoes I bought a pair of gold ballet flats at Target in the clearance section for $3.29 and took apart a decorative bracelet I had in my jewelry stash and sewed the pearls and gold settings to the shoes.  Then I wore all kinds of crazy jewelry around my neck, and big dangling earrings in my ears.  We didn’t get very good photos of this outfit, but I guarantee you – it was very BRIGHT.

I have been following a blog called “Multiculturalism for Steampunk” since it started almost a year ago.  It has tons of useful information and great examples of how Steampunk doesn’t have to just be Western European in design.  The difference between the costuming at Teslacon 1 and Teslacon 2 was astounding.  I think it likely that I was the only person wearing a turban last year (and that was by accident) at Teslacon 1.  This year there were so many people wearing turbans and fezzes and various other non-Victorian Steampunk outfits, and I attribute most of it to that blog.

That afternoon was the big fashion show and costume competition.  I had planned on entering my Doctor Who costume, but due to time constraints it did not get done.  Swimmer entered her Victorian Lady version of #5, and won 2nd place.  I love this green screen photo of her and a Dalek:

She looks like she is scolding him.  Also note his top hat and mustache – clearly he is in disguise.

I wore my new black bustle (which needs some adjustment to the length and was made from TV 101 Petticoat with wire bustle), and an apron (from TV 301 – 1870’s Tie Apron Overskirt) made of a black embroidered linen fabric with some white trim around the edges.  Swimmer called this my “French Maid outfit.”  I wore a white blouse that I thrifted, and my black satin underbust corset from Corset-Story.  My earrings were handmade by Princess A, and my feather fascinator by Artistic Edition.  The fur stole was also thrifted.

That evening was the Time Traveling Ball.  Swimmer wore her new underbust from Corset-Story with my black taffeta skirt, and her thrifted blouse and a jacket she modified into a bolero.  I based my outfit off of several fashion plates.  One had the tiered skirt, and the other had the underbust style bodice with loose blouse style top.

I had purchased several yards of cotton voile fabric from a vendor on Spoonflower with the intention of making a Regency Steampunk outfit.  I decided it would be more comfortable to make the fabric into a blouse and use the rest for an apron (same TV pattern as before). I used a basic raglan-sleeve chemise pattern (I actually saw a fashion plate with a raglan-sleeve style blouse in it) for the top and sewed lace along the neckline and the sleeves.  I gathered the sleeves with a lace casing on the outside so they are adjustable.  The apron has coordinating trim around the edges.  The underbust was the same TV pattern as the corselet, and was made of a burnt orange taffeta with black grosgrain pleated trim along the edges.  I had lengthened the corselet because my torso is so long, but I think an inch needs to come off.

The skirt was made of the same orange taffeta, with rows of crinkled taffeta in burnt orange and dark burgundy with the same trim.  The pre-crinkled fabric was cut with a pinking blade on a rotary cutter and then gathered by machine onto the skirt.  The back was cut in a slightly longer sweep to give a bit of a train.  I used the TV101 pattern for the basic pieces.  My jewelry was made by Princess A in coordinating rust colors, and my hair involved several curled hairpieces from Lacey Wigs in NYC.  It was a very fun and bright outfit.  The only thing I would have changed was to get a tighter fitting bra.  Some of the side view photos were NOT pretty.

Swimmer and I shopping in Dickens-era London.

Looking over my shoulder to see who is following me.

The next morning the “ship” was in port in China, and I wore my last outfit.  The blue Chinese print fabric was purchased in San Francisco for $5.00/yd.  The lining was red taffeta I already owned.  I found the buttons on clearance at Joann.  The blouse was thrifted.  The underskirt was one I wore last year at Teslacon with my blue kimono, made of heavy cream-colored satin.  The apron was the same TV pattern, with coordinating trim as the bodice.  The bodice was the TV405 – Vest Basque pattern minus the sleeves.  It was much easier to make than I thought it would be, and it fit well.  I wore my red beaded shoes and jewelry I had bought on eBay for $5.00 with asian coins on it.  I made my headpiece using various bits from Michael’s, Joann, and from an online Etsy vendor.  The inspiration for the headpiece came from various photos of Chinese wedding headpieces.

I spent a great deal of time checking designs, fabrics, etc. to make sure that I was not making/wearing something offensive to any particular culture.  I made concessions on some fabrics (the Indian silk for the Turkish outfit) because of what I had on hand, and if it had the same look/design style of what I was going for.

My original designs for several outfits changed as I went along.  I worked hard to make sure that I had coordinating shoes, accessories, etc. for the outfits, and that I took the time to plan out my hairstyles.  It was more work than I had anticipated, and WAY more luggage than I had anticipated.  One bag alone for shoes!  If I had been able to take better photos (my camera had some serious problems) and hadn’t been sick, I would have been very happy with the trip and my outfits.  I focused more on basic accessories and hair, and next time am going to focus more on adding more Steampunk to the outfits.

All in all it was a nice trip and I got to spend a fun weekend with one of my very best friends.

Next up is Part 2 – The Steampunk Christmas Carol Fezziwig’s Party.

One thought on “2011 – Ending the Year with Steampunk – Part 1

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