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Handcar Regatta Costume Guide!

I've been a bit slow on the blogging front lately ~ and simply put, it's because of the approach of the Great Handcar Regatta, merely days away.

Handcar Regatta

So alas, no time for blogging! But I did write an article on costuming for the Regatta Aetherweb site, so I'll reprint it here for my fair readers (sans local shop references, which can be seen in the original here, along with many more images).

As our most-favoured local faire the Handcar Regatta approaches, your Choklit has been besieged by faire-goers wishing for advice on proper Regatta attire. So I've compiled a brief guide to how to outfit oneself for this most auspicious occasion.

Steampunk has a thousand definitions and a spectrum of devotees from purists to novices ~ but in my humble opinion, the very joy of the steampunk genre is the fantasy and flexibility of it. So I present this guide only as a playful suggestion, ideas for the curious, and not as any sort of definitive tome. Onwards!

Inspiration and Character

When starting from the ground on a costume, I would advise choosing a character ~ not that one need play that role all the day, but it can help keep one focused. Are you a mad tinkerer? A street urchin? A vaudevillian vamp? A dandy aristocrat? An intrepid explorer? A soiled dove? Last year's Regatta played host to a fine cast of characters.

The basics for any steamy costume are historically inspired, from the Victorian or Edwardian period. Look up costuming resources online for images ~ the Costumer's Manifesto, the Greater Bay Area Costumers Guild, and Truly Victorian are good starting points. The good news is that the basics are rather simple - long full skirts and blouses for the ladies, dress shirts, vests and high-waisted pants for men. Natural fibres like cotton, wool, linen, and leather are ideal, and many steampunks tend towards earthy, natural colors - browns, khakis, creams - but bright colors can also be used to great effect.

Where to Find the Basics

If you're going for an authentic look, there are a number of online shops for re-enactors that provide reproductions - try Gentleman's Emporium or River Junction Trade Company. But if you're on a tight budget, or short on time, some creativity at the mall or in thrift shops should yield plenty of ruffly tops, long skirts, vintage vests, and simple dress shirts.

Accessories for Gents & Dandy Cross-Dressing Ladies

But it's really all about the accessories for a steamy look. Let's begin at the top: hats of all kinds are key to the steampunk aesthetic. Top hats and bowler hats are common, and aviation caps and newsboy caps are also a lovely direction. Online, look at the Village Hat Shop.

Small touches like suspenders, fingerless gloves, ascots, jabots, and spats can go a long way, and can be found at vintage stores or quite easily online at places like Gentleman's Emporium. One may also find fine sleeve garters in the same spots, or in my own Etsy shop, ahem.

Accoutrements of a Fairer Nature

Corsets and bloomers are key to the steampunk wardrobe for ladies. Well-made corsets can cost a pretty penny and the custom kind take some time to make, but you can find less expensive versions in thrift shops and off-the-rack. Meschantes Corsetry and Timeless Trends are two makers who offer off-the-rack spiral-steel-boned corsets, but one could certainly start gently with the spandex kind found in your standard mall lingerie shop.

Stripey socks are great for anyone, Sock Dreams has a dizzying array. And don't be caught in the sun without your parasol! Bella Umbrella has gorgeous pagoda styled umbrellas, or paper parasols are inexpensive and sweet.

Putting the 'Punk' in Steampunk

And lastly, don't forget to punk it up! Add a modern twist to make it anachronistic - fishnets, torn edges, spikes, gears, feathers, rayguns, asymmetry, combat boots. Goggles are so common among the steampunk set that they are approaching caricature, but it's an easy way to say, "Tally ho, I'm about to go adventuring!" Your basic cup-style brazing goggles from a hardware store will do the trick, but if you'd like to find more elaborate fancy ones, I'd recommend BoilerGoth, the Neverwas Store, or searching eBay for vintage ones.

A true Victorian lady would never wear her corset on the outside, or reveal her bloomers (much less the striped stockings underneath) ~ which is exactly why we do it.

For your further edification: Aether Emporium has a jaw-droppingly long list of online resources. Steampunk Costuming, Deconstructing Steampunk, and How to Dress Steampunk are articles worth perusing. And Threadbanger offers a fun library of DIY costuming videos, including episodes on making your own steampunk outfits, spats, and gloves. And finally, here's the Flickr group for Steampunk Costume, and away you go!


Tom Banwell said...

Great article!

ArtSnark said...

great post! If you don't mind I'll post a link on my next random thoughts tuesday