Steampunk Summer: Clothes, Costumes, and Fashions

One of my favorite parts of the Victorian era has always been the inherent contradictions in everyday life.  Nowhere is this more obvious than in the way they dressed, especially women.

You can see this on the Steampunk Carnival cover, too:

Every inch of skin from their necks to the tips of their toes is covered.  This is in keeping with the Victorian ideas of modesty and decorum.  (We're talking about a time when people didn't say "legs" in mixed company - it was considered much more polite and acceptable to say "limbs."  Victorians were so self-conscious about body functions, the first toilet paper wasn't printed with the company's name on it, avoiding an uncomfortable association, until the product became a success.)

But Victorian clothes and layers of underwear weren't completely designed with hiding the body in mind.  Women's figures weren't just clung to or gently padded, they were greatly enhanced into giant hourglass shapes.  Corsets and optional padding on top; cinched waists in the middle; big, bell-shaped skirts on the bottom.  It creates a thinly veiled version of sexuality that always seems like it's about ready to pop.

Steampunk clothing, on the other hand, isn't always about the silhouette.  It's oftentimes about adventure, creativity, uniqueness, and pain-staking details.  I came across a brilliant list of the 6 rules of steampunk fashion as set down by the one-of-a-kind writer GD Falksen.  (If you haven't looked into his books, I'd recommend him.)

For amazing pictures of how sewing and steampunk collide, check out this fantastic blog post by Leila Breton on her blog, the Three Dresses Project.  This lucky lady got to show off her hand-made outfits at a steampunk weekend in a beautiful Victorian-looking hotel (lovely pictures of that, too, if you like period furniture and buildings).

For fellow seamstresses in search of a pattern or more fashion inspiration, I recommend the Simplicity product line.  It has men's and women's costumes, coats, and underthings.  It runs the gamut from the saloons of the wild west to wedding dresses to airship captain-worthy waist cinchers, skirts, and jackets.  (Don't let the prices scare you.  Craft stores put patterns on sale on a regular basis.  Wink, wink.)

Have you thought about making a steampunk outfit?  Did you actually make one?  Tell me about it here or on Facebook.

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