Be warned, this is somewhat long-winded.
But since when have I ever been short-winded?
Back in July, one of my good friends surprised me with a request to be her best girl at her wedding.
She said “Steampunk!”
I said, “Hells YEAH!”
Well, it wasn’t an actual steampunk wedding as such, it was more of an east-meets-west-carnival-type thing. Our bride, a lovely Russian girl (complete with that accent that seems to make any level-headed male melt into a puddle of goo), was planning on being a Russian gypsy. Her husband-to-be was a dapper English gentleman sort…
It really has the hallmarks of a typical romance novel, eh?
So we were set for an awesome February, late 1800s New Orleans-esque type wedding carnival.
Except for one little hitch.
At the time of asking me, the bride didn’t realise she was already more than a little bit “up the duff” and would already be a mum come February 2014. So clearly there was suddenly way less time for everything because this wedding needed to happen before the “little monster” hatched into the world.
Due to a plethora of other reasons, a lot of thinking about the wedding after this point was put on hold but a couple months out we finally got our crap together and went on a shopping trip to find some inspiration and some clothes for me to wear. Unlucky on that day, I started to worry. Where in hell would I get a costume worthy of a wedding? A little under two months out from the day, I didn’t have time to order from my favourite online steampunk shops.
At a loss, I looked through my cupboards to see if there was something that I could fashion into some sort of a costume.
Unfortunately due to the fact that I am several sizes smaller than I used to be, most of the clothes I remembered having had already gone to good will at least 18 months before. Alas and alack, all I found was a grotty old skirt (that was too big for me) which I had meant to put on ebay ages ago.
It was clearly not enough on it’s own but I figured I could do something with it. Maybe. After a bit more fiddling around and looking up steampunk reference picture after steampunk reference picture, I figured out that I could build the costume in layers – and I think that really is the key to good steampunk fashion. It’s all in the layers.
Kinda like dressing for Melbourne weather.
So using the skirt as a jumping point, I started searching for corsets (because corsets go with steampunk like tomato sauce goes with meat pies) and found this “sleeved” number at Angels and Divas who provided very good customer service, I might add, when I asked them a question about sizing.
So then we had this:
Ignore the mess behind me! And yes, my bra is stripy.
A little more tavern wench than steampunk at this point, I know. But the ideas were forming! Unfortunately they were forming in ways that I had no idea how to recreate.
So… at a loss, I went to the Stitches and Craft Show here in Melbourne and bought a most excellent book called “Steampunk Your Wardrobe”:
Steampunk Your Wardrobe, by Calista Taylor
The projects in the book centre around re-purposing old clothes and basic stitchery to create steampunk fashion, it’s bare-bones stuff but it was what I needed to cobble together the rest of my ideas to form my outfit. I knew I wanted a shirt to go beneath the corset and an underskirt so that I could bustle up the brown skirt into some sort of Victorian-esque masterpiece.
The only real problem was that I really don’t sew. Really. I don’t own a sewing machine and my hand-stitching doesn’t go beyond darning socks and stitching buttons back on.
So who ya gunna call?
Yes, mum to the rescue!
Mum was awesome and calmly suggested that we go to Spotlight (the Aussie version of shops like Joanne’s and Michael’s, except sucky by comparison) and look at patterns and see if we can come up with any new ideas for the outfit. In the end, we picked out a couple of Simplicity patterns:
Simplicity pattern – 4046 Misses Costumes. The pattern is actually a dress, however we cut it off at the waist as it was going under the corset I was wearing.
Simplicity 5006 Misses Costumes, Misses Lingerie
A warning about the above patterns – if you’re new to the whole sewing bizznizz, do find someone with a little experience to help you decipher the pattern instructions. They are not very clear and for a complete newbie they may be mind-boggling – unless you’re a natural adept at sewing in which case I’ll shut up and let you figure it out.
For the underskirt we chose a basic black satin and added some lace around the edging and for the shirt I chose a lovely warm beige (as white would have been too stark) lace material with a matching cotton to line the bodice. Following the instructions from my new book, mum and I bustled my brown skirt into the aforementioned Victorian-esque masterpiece and then made the underskirt and shirt based on the patterns we bought.
Of course, while all of this stitching fun was going on, I went looking for accessories.
Because what is steampunk without a hat, AMIRITE?
Well, I found one.
Beautiful steampunk mini top hat by Corinne of ChikiBird.
I died. Well, not really, but after a week of staring at this thing, I bought it. Couldn’t help myself. Corinne makes the most sublime fascinator hats and mico mini hats. The level of detail in them is exquisite and I totally recommend her. I had my hat arrive from the States to Melbourne within days. Sadly on the day of the wedding my hair simply would not cooperate and I could not wear it, so it stayed hidden away but I definitely look forward to the chance to use it when I play dress-ups again!
The last thing I needed was a belt – as all steampunk costumes need some sort of utility belt. Unfortunately there was simply not enough time (two days out from the wedding at this point) to fashion a proper utility belt with pouches and such, so I bought a cheap brown belt from KMart and attached all manner of brass chains and huge charms bought from Kays Artycles to it, with the finishing touch being a cheap set of goggles that the manbeast bought for his costume but didn’t use in the end.
A pair of fishnet stockings and some awesome new Bennetts “Jia” Boots later, we had our costume!
The finished product! With a parasol!
Photograph by Lisa Otteraa.
A little bit wenchy, a little bit piratey, a little bit steampunky!
And just so you can see the awesomeness that is the skirt and my boots:
The gypsy bride herself and her steampunk best girl.