Improvising Steampunk Fashion, or the Murder of a Perfectly Good Jacket
You wouldn’t believe it from my posts so far, but originally steampunk was meant to be one of the major topics of this blog. Guess I got carried away with the fun of weird history. After all, there’s a reason I went to school for six years studying it.
I hate patterns. They’re tedious. They also require me to do things like match up curves to other curves that don’t match (like adding sleeves to bodices). I am the mistress of the straight stitch, but no more. Hems? Sure. Straight seams? No problem. More than that? at the very least, not without complaining
I’m also not interested in spending a lot of money on my steampunk wardrobe. I do presentations on how to affordably dress for events. So, over about five hours today, I created two new pieces of costuming.
Go Shopping! Goodwill is Awesome
Goodwill is a steampunk seamstress’s dream. There’s an amazing selection available for not a lot of money. Not only does that make your outfit affordable, but you also don’t have to fret over screwing up something expensive. Do something truly awful to it and you’re still only out about $5.
Also, Goodwill is just an awesome organization in general. Not only does it provide affordable clothing, but the profits are reinvested into Goodwill programs such as job training. They also employ those who have difficulty finding employment, such as the mentally challenged.
Avoiding the Corset
I’ve heard several female would-be steampunks lament that they can’t enjoy the hobby because:
- They can’t afford a corset. (Corsets with plastic bones, also known as fashion corsets, are actually pretty affordable. Steel-boned one are more expensive, but I just always wait for a sale at Corset-Story.com.)
- They feel their body type precludes a corset. (Generally untrue. Corset sellers commonly have plus-sized corsets, and there’s also the option of a tailor-made corset, although that gets expensive.)
- A parent wouldn’t let a minor buy one. (Corsets are, after all, traditionally underwear.)
Corsets are not required. A lot of us wear them, but we do it because we want to, not because we feel forced to. Victorian corsets were about limitation and containment. Steampunk is about expression and choice. Never wear something you don’t want to wear.
So how do I attractively join and shirt and skirt when I don’t have a corset? Almost all of my waistbands are elastic and ugly. I don’t want people to see them.
For me, one answer is a very wide belt given to me by a friend. It’s certainly workable, but you have to have the right belt. (Goodwill is a decent source of belts too.)
For today’s project, I started with this:
Don’t just stick to your size when shopping. This jacket was marked XL. I’ve never worn an XL in my life. Half of the stuff I get at Goodwill are Mediums.
My first step was to put on the garment and visualize how I want the final product to fit. Then I cut the jacket in half horizontally just above the button below the breasts.
Now, I want this to fit snug, so I’m going to have to take in some fabric in the back. However, while I’m sizing up other things on my sewing dummy, I cheat:
Now I start pinning how I want to shape the top and bottom hem. I could have totally left both straight, as displayed two images up, but I’m a glutton for punishment.
I’ve decided to bring the top hem into an upward point (which is looking rough here) and shaped the bottom hem.
This jacket does have the issue of pocket flaps. They lay pretty smooth, however, so I’m leaving them in. It would be a major pain removing them.
I will also eventually replace that top button with something that doesn’t look like plastic. I will probably keep the bottom button because it’s flat and no one’s going to see it under the belt.
Let’s move on to the top portion of the jacket, which I’m going to turn into a bolero.
The first side is easy. The hurdle for the second side is to make it symmetrical.
And…onto the dummy it goes:
To get it to better fit my body, I continue shaping the front by making the bottom hem considerably shorter in the front and with more curve. I’ve also entirely removed the bottom lapel and shaped what was left to flow smoothly. That was a pain-and-a-half, BTW.
The final step was to add trim to the hems. Trim immediately makes something look richer and more finished. It can also cover up mistakes and rough spots. Trim varies tremendously in price, but the stuff I used here was $3-$4 per yard.