Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Piecing a Costume Together from Secondhand Finds

Had a wonderful time at Clockwork Con this past weekend in Austin. Met many great steampunk'rs and saw some amazing gadgets. Also got to show off the awesome hat and a new dispenser belt for my "bustle bar", aka "rum bum" that my sweetie made for me. I think I'm going to have to look into why he's being so nice these days. ;)

For this post, I want to share the progression of my first attempt at a Steampunk costume. You may remember it debut in this post. This particular outfit has gone through the most drastic transformations of any of my pieces. And, it's been doubling as a Victorian ladies day dress and (if you've seen my post about the medals here) a unique military uniform for what I'm now calling a Major General character. I like the later character especially because there seems to be an overabundance of airship captains and sky pirate about. I can now say I outrank the captains and can commandeer their ships for my own purposes. Muwahaha! :D

This outfit actually started as two knee length (80-90's style?) professional dresses (neither of which were my size to begin with) that I had originally bought for the buttons when I needed them for a pair of arm warmers Crafterella knitted for me here. :) I liked the colors and print of the dresses so much that I decided to use them in a costume. And, I surprisingly did very little to alter this costume, really.

I thought it would be nice to make a short jacket that wouldn't cover up all the detail of the corset. If you have an existing shirt, dress or jacket, it is pretty simple to convert it to this style. I cut the smaller of the two dresses into the jacket just below my bra in back. I used bias tape to finish off around the bottom edge.

I liked how the upper portion of this dress was much more fitted at this small size.
Modern clothes tend to be a bit baggy and untailored in fit. It did make the sleeves short, but I have noticed that there are many pics of Victorian ladies wearing their sleeves at 3/4 length like this. I like this due to keeping them out of the way of gadgets like my NERF dart bracer.

I opted to leave the shoulder pads in to make it more square at the shoulders. The epaulette on the shoulder was made from the black velvet sleeve cuff of the other dress. I had planned to add them to both shoulders, but thought it looked more interesting with just the one. I just ripped out the shoulder seam wide enough to add it in and sewed it back together.

The second matching dress, which was much too large was made over into an over-skirt to hide my drink dispensing "bustle bar" that I discuss here. (It's gone through some changes as well that I'll have to share another day, including the belt I mentioned above.) I really like how the style of the front of the skirt turned out. I may have to revisit this idea for another outfit at another time.

Putting the neck of the dress at my waist, it hung pretty well over the tanks without much alteration. Just some adjustment of the hem and removing the darts and waist ties. I sewed the ties to the collar so I could tie the skirt on in front under my corset.I used the leftover scrap fabric from the first dress to add a gathered draping front panel using the existing button holes down the front of the dress as a button up design element on the sides (I had to add matching button holes to the opposite side.)

I turned the
sleeves to the inside of the dress and sewed the ends shut making really long pockets on my sides that I hide with another ruffly black bustle skirt (made from the skirt of yet another 2 piece outfit) that ties over the over-skirt to and adds fluff. Being super deep pockets, they've come in really handy for holding sodas and other odds and ends.

BTW, not wanting to waste, I made
this easy capelet from the shirt of the 2-piece black set by ripping out the seam from the sleeves down the sides. Then, with a little trimming, sewed the sleeves open to the sides. Trimmed the whole bottom edge even and added some trim.

The black under-skirt with the silver stripes started life as three knee length skirts that I reconstructed into one longer fuller skirt. Originally made for my belly-dancing outfits, I thought it looked rather nice with the shiny silver in the corset.

I guess the point of detailing all of this construction is to make a point. Many costumers just design an outfit, buy/draw up patterns and make it from scratch. But, you can make a decent costume out of things you may have or can find around, and it doesn't take a lot of sewing experience. Actually one great benefit is deconstructing garments to see how they were put together. I really enjoy re-purposing discarded and out-of-date things, too. This outfit could, I'm sure, be made (and perhaps better) from scratch. But, I get much more reward using existing items. Nothing in this entire outfit was purchased new (save my under garments and tanks under the skirt) . All the buttons, cord, fabric, leather, metal were reused and what I purchased totaled less than some people would pay for just one simple shirt. And, another great part is that I may just have enough printed fabric left for a nice bow in the back or on my hat.

Thanks for taking a look. I'll have to get some pics of the new drink dispensing belt for the bustle bar. My man really outdid himself on the belt. With many SP gadgets only being props, lots of folk were very surprised to hear that this one was completely functional. :)


mieljolie said...

There's a great pic of the side of the bustle bar belt at an article on Clockwork Con. It's the 5th pic.


Brenda, Domedweller said...

Wow!! Terrific re-design, Mieljolie! I used to do costumes for a local theater group and there is something so satisfying (akin to "god-like") about taking something drab and breathing new life into it.

mieljolie said...

I would totally agree, Brenda. Now, I must go and target my mighty thunderbolts at some new finds with potential to be zapped into something spectacularly new. ;D


MissingWillow said...

You look stunning! Well done, you.

The Cardboard Crafter said...

A girl after my own heart! I love scavenging pieces to put together into a great costume :) You did a great job!

mieljolie said...

Thanks MW and TCC!

I just recently found an Ike jacket from WWII and a couple other pieces I want to think up something for "dieselpunk". It's so much fun , it's distracting me from other projects. :)


The Cardboard Crafter said...

My Texas cousin was at Clockwork Con too and said she remembers your costume :)

mieljolie said...

Cool. Whose your cousin, TCC? Perhaps we met?


Creepy Creations by Jamie Moore said...

You did a fantastic job on the outfit! Love it!!!

Anonymous said...

Wow wow wow! That is gorgeous!! I'm so jealous, you look amazing

Juliet A said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this inspiring post! I hate building costumes from scratch, and the ideas you've shared here make me think that maybe I could piece together something steampunk!

mieljolie said...

Your welcome, Juliet. So glad your thinking of trying your own.

BTW, when reworking clothes, I found that it's easier starting out with darker colors & prints, because they can hide a lot of mistakes.

One really great part in making your own costumes out of secondhand items, is that there is so much to choose from and no two people seem to envision the same thing. I think it's wonderful how many unique ideas can be created using basically the same garments to start. So many possibilities.

My Insanity Jewelry said...

Wow, what a great creation. I am still new to the "Steampunk" world and your dress is great.

mieljolie said...

Thanks, MIJ! Welcome to the world of steampunk! Hope your journey is a fun one. :)