Well, I Feel Sheepish…

I started this blog a long time ago, hoping to have things to put here to entice my prospective clients.  Funny, I haven’t put anything here.  And I have no clients.  That’s gotta change, eh?  SO.

Let’s catch up with what I’ve been working on in the last couple of weeks and why.

For the last two years, there’s been a new convention in the Seattle area, one which excites the heck out of me: Steamcon.  As an avid steamrat, myself, I relish the idea of getting together with a bunch of other Victoriana-centered revisionist historians.  Well, and revisionist fashionistas.  Last year was my first attendance at the convention, and I can honestly say it was the best convention I have yet been to.  Sure, I’ve been to Sakuracon, and PAX, and they were large and full of people, some of whom were dressed up.  But anyone who dressed up at PAX, Sakurakon, Otakon, Katsucon, Dragoncon, Emerald City ComicCon, or any other convention I’d ever heard of, was dressed as SOMEONE ELSE’S CHARACTER.  This is key.  On top of that, only maybe 20% of the attendees chose to go in costume.  Myself included, of course; couldn’t keep ME away from the sewing machine.

I’ve also been involved in a tangential way with the Society for Creative Anachronism, known familiarly as the SCA.  My many friends involved told me about their activities, and there were certain restrictions involved that kept me from joining their ranks.  Restriction one: you are limited to a time period before the 17th century.  Restriction two: your character must be chosen from your own ethnic background.  Restriction three: your character is your character forever in the confines of the SCA, and you are not free to personify someone else.  Restriction four: your costume must be as historically accurate as possible for the locale and time period your character has been chosen to reside in.  This includes all cuts, color choices, and most notably fastenings.  Zippers and Velcro are decidedly unwelcome.  Restriction five: you and your character are now part of an existing social hierarchy, and you are to be assigned duties and responsibilities according to your rank.  It’s a JOB.

Here’s why Steamcon, and steampunk in general, are different.  Steampunk is based in the Victorian to Edwardian time period, but loosely, the idea being that technology continued to evolve on the basis of what existed then, and not the introduction of things like plastics and computers.  Glass, brass, and clockwork are the order of the day.  Fashion-wise, you have free reign, so long as you hearken back in some way to the time period.  For instance, you can be covered in a black leather catsuit with a huge keyhole to show off your breasts, as long as it has a high collar and puffed sleeves.  Hmmm, next year, remind me to go as Steampunk Catwoman.  Heh.

SEE?  It’s creative.  You can be whoever you wish to be, for that day.  You can be a cowboy, a sailor, a doctor, a diver, a playboy, a whore, a hero, a writer, a lady, a tramp–ANYONE, so long as they existed between 1850 and 1920, or you can make them look like they did.  You choose your name, you design your ensemble, and you can be as accurate or inaccurate as you please.  Strangely enough, what this led to is MORE participation on the fashion front.  In point of fact, I don’t recall a single attendee who was not in some way in costume.  That, to a costumer, is staggering and encouraging.  Beyond my preexisting love for adaptation of historical lines, this kind of community enthusiasm is just what the doctor ordered.

So, this year’s theme is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  Generally speaking, anything remotely nautical goes.  Well, nautical journeys make me think of the Odyssey, and given the Greek revivalist overtones to much of Victorian fashion, I ran with it.  I chose to become a steampunk Calypso, the sea nymph whose charms kept Odysseus prisoner for seven years.  There are so many ways to do this, and I’ve gone through several ideas in that vein.  Here’s my first sketch, done in January or so:

First iteration.

This involved a corset I had seen on Ebay, a gathered skirt, a shrug made of a ratty scarf, and some creative hosiery.  Of course, the best part of the outfit would be something someone else had made.  That would simply never do!  I’m a designer and seamstress!  I want to impress my fellows with something of my OWN creation!  Well.  I knew the teal and gold color scheme was a good one, based on the color of the Mediterranean Sea and the sands of the shore.  I came up with a different plan, a little simpler:

The second iteration.

This involved less work, but more originality.  The dress is, again, something I found on Ebay.  I happen to be a big fan of Ebay, because often it helps me get what I want for very little money and even less labor.  I also found a certain seafoam green brocade there.  And those nude-colored fishnet stockings–I thought they’d convey the thought of old fishing nets.  I bought the dress and the stockings and promptly decided that what I needed was NOT the simple little bust harness, but something a little more supportive and tucking in the waist area.  I loved the spats, of course, and those became a reality.

Seafoam Spats.

At first, I found a pattern for a belt that mimicked the neatness of a waistcoat with buttons and points.  I drafted this to fit my natural waist, but encountered a problem: I’d given enough length to MEET, but not OVERLAP.  Drat.  Well, waste not, want not.  I elected instead to add a little boning to the belt and lace it up with grommets.  I also looked hard at the back of my costume and decided that the flat, smooth, satiny posterior was in DIRE need of some interest.  I happened to have several fun fabrics sitting around as scraps, and I threw them together into a layered, multicolored bustle skirt.  I attached this to the now-corset belt, and voila!  A centerpiece!

All together now!

From the back, with underthings peeking.

So, this is what I have now.  I believe the shrug, which was also an Ebay find, though not specifically for this costume, will not stay but be replaced by brown leather suspenders.  I am missing, in this photo, two things.  One of those is the delightful seafoam-colored wig that I have done in an art nouveau/Greek revivalist style, and makes me look very much like an Alphonse Mucha painting, if he had ever painted a sea nymph.  I am very happy with that.

The other thing that is missing is a pair of matching wrist braces.  Over the summer, I was holed up at my in-laws’ house with not much to do but surf the internet.  I developed carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands.  I have, since then, been wearing some very unattractive medical grade wrist braces, all day and all night.  They’re very ugly, and certainly do not go with the costume.  Tragedy.  And I know that I cannot go to Steamcon, in a week and a half, without them, or else I’ll spend the convention in terrible pain.  No, what must be done is, I must create something that will do the job and still look good.  I’m actually excited about this prospect, because it is something that I could easily market to consumers, being an increasing portion of society, and an untapped market.  No one makes CUTE wrist braces.  There are medical braces and cute arm warmers.  There are cute covers for medical braces.  But why not something that does both?  I’m going to make it happen.  I have more of the brocade for an outer fabric.  I have soft cotton jersey for an inner fabric.  I have scraps of fake leather for stability.  I have buttons and D-rings for adjustment and fastening.

So, that is my task for the day.  I will post with pictures when I finish them, and I will make several more once I cement a pattern.  Look for them in my Etsy store soon enough!

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