Wednesday, November 30, 2011

neo-victorian office manager

I decided to make a humdrum workday more exciting yesterday by an interesting combination of Victorian-inspired and color-coordinated pieces:

I apologize for the bad quality of the photos- I was in a rush to take these before I went to work and didn't have time to set up a corner of my apartment for an actual photo shoot.   I hated how my hair turned out, so after this "shoot" I changed my hair to be half-up, half-down.

I also did not wear the hat to work... I just wanted to play around with it for these photos. I think the little hats tend to look better on one when one's hair is let down.

I received compliments all day about the color combination of the red shirt with the red umbrella, the blouse itself, and the thigh highs.  The heels, however, were not a fun work addition.  I was so thankful when my day was done and I could remove those pesky heels.

Overall, I think this outfit was a success.  I just need to work on my hair styles.  Any recommendations?

Ruffle blouse: vintage, $5.00
Pleated skirt: Victoria's Secret, a gift from my boyfriend Scott 
Rose-patterned thigh highs: Halloween store, $6.00
High heels: DSW, $40.00
Red Umbrella: vintage, $4.00
Necklace: vintage, $4.00

Note: All vintage items were previously featured in this post.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

holiday steampunk ball in da 'burgh!

Come one, come all, to The Steel City Society's Midwinter Ball!

So deck yourselves out in your steampunk finery for a night of steel and steam in Pittsburgh's South Side neighborhood on December 15!

Monday, November 28, 2011

valley of fearful writing

With the upcoming Sherlock Holmes movie quickly approaching, I have been trying to get in  my Holmes fix in.  This is easier than it sounds, as I have been rereading stories of the famous detective to my boyfriend Scott since the last Guy Ritchie film on the topic came out.  We finished all but His Last Bow and The Valley of Fear several months ago, and as a result moved onto other books.
image source: Open Letters Monthly

Partially out of excitement for the newest installment of the current blockbuster Holmes saga, and partially to avoid having to read another Salman Rushdie novel out loud to Scott so soon after having finished Shalimar the Clown (Rushdie is an amazing writer, but he's so artful with words that my tongue often cannot keep up, and I end up getting a headache) I recently found myself yearning for more Holmes as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle told it.  So I raided my absent twin sister's closet and pulled out an old novella- her copy of The Valley of Fear.  I hadn't read the story for nearly ten years and couldn't remember what it was about, but eagerly brought it back to my apartment.

Scott and I finished The Valley of Fear last night.  What an utter failure.  I get the impression that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote it for two reasons:
  • To make cash
  • To write an outlandish romance/adventure novel and ensure its publication by encasing it into a Sherlock Holmes story
I don't think this rationale would be incorrect if the story was actually good.  It's no secret that Doyle despised Holmes, considering him a blinder to what he perceived to be his worthy contributions to literature, such as The White Company.

The problems with The Valley of Fear are few but significant.  Let's take the story in its two parts- the detective solves murder case story, and the murderous gang in the coalfields of somewhere in America story.

The first part is very enjoyable.  With the exception of Doyle's inattention to detail- in this story, set before "The Final Problem," Holmes gives a detailed description of a Professor Moriarty and his status as the most devious criminal ever, even though Watson supposedly had never heard of Moriarty until the events of "The Final Problem."  As many Holmesians know, ACD was not one for chronology and The Valley of Fear is no exception.

The premise is terrific- a man is hunted down by killers intent on exacting revenge for a past wrong he has done them.  Holmes thoroughly deduces each clue until he has figured out how the murdered man at Birlstone has been killed and who was responsible based not only on bloody footprints at the scene of the crime but the behaviors of the inhabitants of Birlstone.  Mystery cleanly solved- exactly what Holmes readers are looking for.  But why was such a crime committed in the first place?

Instead of a nice little synopsis, instead Doyle inserts a narrative much like that added to "A Study in Scarlet," where the resolution of the mystery is followed by a story of adventure, romance, and murderous Mormons that takes place years before the events in which Holmes is involved.  Insert "deadly secret society a la a romanticized version of the Molly Maguires" for "murderous Mormons" and you have the makings of a somewhat similar narrative.

The hero of this second part, John McMurdo, a counterfeiter and man-on-the-run from the Chicago police for murder, joins the Scowrers, a secret society that terrorizes the citizens of Vermissa Valley through extortion, threats, and murder.  Soon McMurdo is one of the most popular of the members- he can binge drink with no bad effects, has a fierce temper, violent tendencies, and a notable criminal past.  He even manages to get the prettiest girl in town to fall in love with him.  But the Pinkertons are on their trail and trying to close in.  What will happen to our amoral hero?

The main problem with this part is that neither McMurdo nor his girlfriend seem to be believable characters.  Even though the girl, Ettie, hates the Scowrers, she cannot help but love McMurdo and remain his, albeit reluctantly.  McMurdo, meanwhile, is not only a Mary Sue character of sorts to his gang friends- he is just too damn good at coming up with ideas, too filled with bravado, and too obviously eager to show off his violent side and announce that he is a criminal for one to think that this guy is what he says he is.  Sorry Doyle, Scott and I saw the ending coming from miles off.

And the speeches of love between Ettie and McMurdo were so disgustingly ridiculous that we could not believe that the same genius who had created Sherlock Holmes and dozens of other well-written characters and stories would spew out such crap.  We almost stopped reading the novella entirely as a result- I ended up speeding up the words and dramatically exaggerating the pitch of my voice to get us through it with some dignity.

Overall, this detour from the original mystery story is just totally unnecessary and pretty bad writing to boot.  Bad monkey, ACD.

If you are a true Holmes fan, I doubt that any discouragement would get you to stay away from this story.  And as far as bad stories go, this story was better than most.  But if you are a casual reader of the Holmes stories, I would suggest that you give other, better stories such as The Hound of the Baskervilles and "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" a shot before judging ACD as a writer.  If you do want to read The Valley of Fear, then my suggestion would be to read Part 1, read a synopsis of Part 2 online, and then read the Epilogue (which is still unnecessary, but at least reminds the reader of why you picked this book up to begin with by reintroducing Holmes to the story for three pages.)

Now, a book cover for The Valley of Fear that perfectly describes my feelings for the novella itself- inexplicably ridiculous:

image source: Hard Case Crime
Potential Reader: (looking at cover) He wrote erotica as well as Sherlock Holmes?

The little caption at the front doesn't help.  

Sunday, November 27, 2011

victorian headgear galore!

VictorianKitty at Sophistique Noir is giving away a beautiful black veil!  Check out her tutorial on how to make the veil and enter the giveaway here.

Thanks to Scott for showing me this very creative "Halloween" hat using a Tesla coil, timed currents, and music to create a mini electric light show on his head:

Check out more photos of the hat as well as the blog of creator Tyler Christensen here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


I apologize for the lack of updates in the past few days... stomach flu has kicked my ass from Saturday night until tonight.  Fortunately it has gone away in time for some serious Turkey Day gluttony!

Speaking of turkeys:

image source: Steampunk Costume

Better posts next week after this holiday, I promise.  Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving weekend!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

vintage finds

Yesterday morning at the crack of dawn my roommate Angelene and I headed out of Crafton, 20 minutes outside Pittsburgh, to check out an estate sale.  The flier made it sound like there would be loads of vintage items, especially clothing.  It also stated the address to be at 1939.

Well, after waking up a particularly unhappy young man at 8 a.m. and finding out that 1939 was not the correct address, we headed two buildings down and found the estate sale.

There wasn't much clothing or accessories that fit my Victorian tastes.  But what there was I eagerly snatched up, and all for about $20 total.

The first was a brilliant red polyester blouse with a beautiful pattern.  The pattern and the rich red color will be hard to see- apparently my camera doesn't like taking photos of things that are red:

The next items were a cameo-looking necklace and a brooch.  The brooch itself isn't particularly Victorian- I just really wanted a brooch and I loved the tear-drop pearls on it:

Then one of the sellers showed me this amazing umbrella.  It's a bit rusty on the inside, but the outside could be decorated with black lace.  It would look gorgeous:

But the final item I fell upon was one of those impulse buys- something that I would probably never find the likes of again and so should just pounce on it.  I'm not even sure what it is, am convinced that it is not Victorian (the woman who rang me up told me that she thought it was from the 1920s at the earliest) and certainly have no practical use for at this juncture:

It is a bottle surrounded by a metal chain case with a photo of an Edwardian woman on it.  The topper is metal and screws onto the glass bottle.

Methinks this item was supposed to hold some sort of cosmetic.  Well, whatever it is, it certainly looks nice sitting amongst my gold tea set in our living room:

Friday, November 18, 2011

drawing it all in...

Several random items of note:

It appears that steampunkers are giving Victoria (the Canadian province, not the historical era) designer Ian Finch-Fields flak for designing a steampunk-inspired armpiece for an upcoming Justin Bieber Christmas music video.  Check out the article about the teeny bopper icon's controversial gauntlet in the Times Colonist here.

In other news, according to a post by the blog The Steampunk Tribune, steampunk band Abney Park is coming out with a new album- consisting mostly of revamped acoustic versions of the songs many steampunkers already know and love. The band's Whitby Goth Weekend interview in which they discuss the new album, entitled "Off the Grid," can be viewed below:

I'm not sure how I feel about an entire album of essentially "old work."  While I usually love acoustic versions of songs because of their unique take on the music, the redone songs better be awesome if they want fans to buy an album that's full of songs they already have.  I'll probably have to give the acoustic versions of songs like "The Wrong Side" and "Aether Shanties" a good listen on YouTube before settling on buying it.

But the fact that the band already has 90% of the following album written is definitely exciting news to me!

Finally, I need to do a retraction of a review I wrote a few weeks ago.  This is my review of the movie Sucker Punch.

The sad thing is, I truly agree with nearly everything I wrote in the review.  But the main thing I've realized is that I was wrong about the movie having a deeper meaning.


Because I can't stop thinking about it.

In the weeks following that review I have found myself replaying scenes from the movie multiple times in my head.  Certainly having purchased most of the soundtrack music from iTunes has facilitated these mental images.  But I have also been YouTubing deleted scenes from the movie, and reviewing scenes as well.  During my afternoon runs, with "Where Is My Mind" and "White Rabbit" blasting in my headphones, I've been thinking more about the message of the movie.   have to agree with Designer Diva, who commented on my review:

"The main messge was that sometimes there is no way out, life isn't fair, and bad things happen. It was an artful approach to real life. Life sucks, fight hard, but in the end just remember, no one gets out alive."
But I also think the important thing to remember is that part of the "fight hard" aspect is that those who fight have not given up hope- they still think there is a chance they will get out alive.  In many ways the entire movie can be a fitting description of any physical and emotional struggle one may have.  For me the struggle is a continuous fight against depression.  When one stops fighting depression one has given up hope.  I have had several instances of giving up hope.  I guess I never fully gave it up, as I am still here and now at a relatively safe place in my mental and emotional status for the time being.  But it's a terrifying feeling to think that there is absolutely no reason for you to continue existing on this earth.  Every day is a fight.  Sucker Punch shows those fights in a metaphorical sense, not hesitating to show that many people eventually lose the fight one way or another and never make it out of whatever struggle they may be going through alive.

So Sucker Punch, I retract what I said about there being no real depth to you.  I still think it was silly to plaster numerous scenes with scantily-clad females.  I still think you appeal more to men than to women.  But I do applaud you for obviously making an impression on me weeks after I've viewed the movie in a way that I cannot recall a movie having done so before.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

teslacon II

From November 18 to November 20, 2011, a unique event will take place in Madison, Wisconsin.  Ladies and Gentlemen, I now present to you the return of TELSACON, an event I heard about months ago but wish I had had the finances to attend.

For those who are unaware, TeslaCon is a steampunk convention that was only started last year to bring steampunk fans and fanatics together for a weekend of sci-fi and fantasy fun set in the 19th century that never was.  Admittance is by ticket purchase only.   It was so popular among attendees last year that the creators have decided to go for another year, increasing the amount of tickets to be sold.

For TeslaCon II the theme is 20,000 Leagues Beyond the Aether, a weekend long trip exploring the steampunk world of the convention:
Our trip will begin onboard the HMS Trident, the newest underwater vehicle built by the Bobbins Dirigible and Balloon Corporation. A virtual submergible that will transport you, the attendees, across the globe with a stop in Egypt then a diplomatic mission to a new underwater city and, finally, we will finish our underwater voyage by arriving in the exotic city of Peking in China.

The convention will transport you into a Steampunk world where staff and ship’s crew will assist you during the weekend in full regalia. Courteous ship’s valets will deliver your luggage to your state room while my staff will make sure your weekend aboard the HMS Trident is full of panels, adventure and, of course, the fun you will only find at TeslaCon. Even the food to be served will be planned to fit our excursion and points of interest.
Attractions and events to be featured at TeslaCon II include:
  • Body art
  • Ball dancing lessons
  • Costume contests
  • Bartitsu lessons
  • Steampunk merchandise vendors
  • Panels on Jules Verne, costuming, "antiquing,"steampunk comics, naval warfare and more
  • Victorian Science Fiction wargaming
  • Readings by authors Gail Carriger (Soulless series), George Mann (Time Hunter series) and Paul Magrs (The Adventures of Brenda and Effie series)
  • Performances by musicians such as Eli August, UnWoman, Dublin O'Shea and Veronique Chevalier
  •  Numerous theatrical performances
And, of course, a Tea Room and the TeslaCon Ball.

All tickets were pre-registration and have been sold out for weeks.  Some of the members of the Steel City Steam Society will be in attendance.  As for me, I chose going to the much cheaper Goblins & Gears Ball over TeslaCon.  Couch surfing and traveling to Maryland are much cheaper and less time consuming than a trip to Wisconsin, although I am sure that the money spent will be well worth it. 

I am so jealous of all of you who are going to this amazing convention!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

professor moriarty in da 'burgh

As I was traveling along a highway the other day I came across a huge billboard advertising the performance of a play called "The Mask of Moriarty."

Of course I had to check out the details, knowing that the play was probably specifically chosen to coincide with marketing and hype for the theatrical release of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011).

Performed by the Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theater (PICT), "The Mask of Moriarty" is, apparently, much more comical than the upcoming Guy Ritchie film.  Labeled a "Holiday Comedy for the Whole Family" on their website, the synopsis is as follows:

The 2011 holiday show features two characters as widely known as any figures in history—the dynamic duo of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson! Holmes and his faithful sidekick come up against their most brilliant and dastardly malefactor in The Mask of Moriarty, a comedy thriller by beloved Irish playwright Hugh Leonard (Da, A Life). Leonard throws everything into the mix from mop-headed hunchbacks to Hitler’s secret parentage—even the identity of Jack the Ripper!—in this fiendishly fun caper fit for the entire family (now say THAT three times fast).

Considering that PICT did an excellent theatrical rendition of Jane Eyre two Decembers ago ( which I reviewed in this post) it promises to be at least an enjoyable production.  Tickets are expensive though- $50.00 for weekend evening performances and $46.00 for weeknight and matinee performances for Adult tickets.  Fortunately I still quality in the Youth category, for ages 25 and under, so such a performance would only cost me $20.00.

The play will  be performed at the Charity Randall Theater on the University of Pittsburgh's Oakland campus from December 1 through December 17.  One can purchase tickets online by clicking on this link or checking out the PICT website.

Monday, November 14, 2011

the benefits of being a neo-victorian lady attending a ball

This past Saturday evening your blogger attended a Victorian House Ball at an abode in McKeesport, Pennsylvania (just outside the Steel City in which she resides).  While there she partook of delicious delicacies such as spaghetti and tomato sauce, pretzel bread, and New York Style cheesecake.  She also learned the basic steps of tango, having much fun amidst some indelicate stepping on several of her partners' feet.  At least the bustle train situation with her ball gown has been resolved with an artful arm loop gathering she's now mastered.

There were also some wonderful DIY items for auction- key necklaces and fascinators handmade by Gwilliam & Black (the "company" of the head of the Steel City Steam Society).  Several cravats, handmade by the hostess Desiree', were also available, but your blogger was outbid in the cravat she had hoped to procure for her favored gentleman, Scott.  She did, however, manage to nab a beautiful brass necklace and a lovely fascinator complete with ribbons and artificial bird:

As an aside, driving noticeably confused at an intersection at 1:00 a.m. is liable to have one pulled over by the Pittsburgh City Police as a suspected DUI driver.  It also doesn't help when the officer has noticed that your  bustle skirt got caught in the car door.  But getting out of the car in all your Victorian ballgown glory and demonstrating just exactly what kind of "house party" you just came from and how easily one's train can get stuck in a car door apparently gets the officer to stop questioning the veracity of your formerly proclaimed alcohol intake.  And results in some surprise and ogling on the policeman's part.

And when the officer gives you directions to safely get back to familiar territory and then tells you that "You're too pretty to be in this neighborhood at this time of night," your night has just been made, and you can't help but give credit to your fashionable neo-Victorian tastes.  

Sunday, November 13, 2011

naked november

I certainly think this Naked November homework "challenge" presented by Le Professeur Gothique is well worth taking- revealing your "naked" face in all of its glory to the world.

I'm not trying to look hateful... I literally just woke up before I shot this photo.  I didn't even brush my hair.
My skin care routine is literally just soap and water.  I've tried various cleansers over the years, but I never noticed any one of them working more effectively than the others or, for that matter, better than soap and water.  Before I go to bed at night I wash my face with a soapy washcloth.  No hard scrubbing- just enough to get the makeup off.

When I wake up in the mornings I wash the area around my eyes with a wet washcloth, and then soap it up to get everything else.

I am a true American mutt- roughly 37.5% German, 25% Serbian, 25% Lithuanian and 12.5% English and Welsh.  There are also rumors that my mother's side has some Turkish in them, which is not surprising as the Turks managed to rape their way across the Balkans for centuries before my ancestors left Serbia.  There could also be a healthy mix of French, Polish, and Russian thrown in, but it's so inconsequential at this point I don't even count them.

Ironically enough, the German and Lithuanian aspects of my appearance are what shine through most vividly- the blonde hair and blue eyes, the height (I'm 5'8") and a healthy average weight.  And the small nose- two of my sisters received larger, Serbian noses thanks to genetics and are both shorter than my twin sister and I.

What I like about my face is my nose, my high cheekbones, and my forehead.  The nose had to grow on me- my boyfriend started praising the perfection of my nose years ago, and only recently have I come to agree that it's small enough and symmetrical enough for me to appreciate.

The youthful appearance is also something I can look forward to as I grow older- both of my mom's parents, first-generation Americans and full-fledged German (grandfather) and Serbian (grandmother) received excellent genes that made them look like they were in their 50s even as they were in their 70s.  My mom received the same trait- once even managing to get asked out by a 16-year-old boy at one of my high school's football games when in her mid-40s.  I never even got asked out in high school based on my looks!  As it went, when I was 18 I had the ignominious discomfort of being mistaken as being 12 years old by a neighbor of mine.  The neighbor was mortified when I informed her that I would be graduating high school within months, and then tried to fix her mistake by telling me that I would look like I was in college when I was in my 30s.

My dislikes include the color of my eyes- they're just boring for blue eyes.  They are a grayish blue, and I would rather them be a darker blue.   I also don't like what I term "my Russe redness" or "my drunk Russian cheeks"- a red tint to my cheeks that I tend to think makes me look like a stereotypical cartoon image of a Russian peasant lush on vodka.

Axe-wielding Russian with red cheeks attacking one of Napoleon's officers
 during the failed 1812 campaign against Russia.  image source: The Oprishki

This redness means that blush is usually unnecessary in my makeup regimen.  It also means that I have many photos, especially when taken after a strenuous activity like dancing, where I look red all over as a result.

Overall I am not too bothered by the appearance of my face.  I often go without makeup on the weekends, and sometimes even avoid wearing it for work.

Check out Le Professeur Gothique's nakedness and the other bloggers who bared it all for the sake of her homework assignment on Le Professeur Gothique's blog.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

ea, stop sneaking concert information by me!

So I  have finally found a friggin' use for Twitter... (*grumble*)

Apparently Emilie Autumn put up tour dates for her "Fight Like a Girl" North American Tour 2012 on The Asylum website SEVEN DAYS AGO!  Where was my Asylum email notification (which I signed up for over one year ago) regarding this tour?!  If I was still on Twitter I at least would have received a tweet about the tour. Great.  I've found ONE useful need for Twitter so far in my life.

As a result I lost the chance to even consider doing the VIP experience a second time at Mr. Small's Theater in Millvale, PA.  Not a major loss, as I wasn't sure if I was willing to fork over another $75 a person for a VIP experience.  Not being a VIP also means that I now have extra cash with which to justify purchasing overpriced concert merchandise.  

Ironically enough, I just ordered two corsets earlier today. A new Unlacing the Victorians Asylum outfit is now officially in the works!

My little sister Jordan is already planning on attending this show with me and this time around I am a member of a Pittsburgh steampunk group with which to spread the good news!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

review: my halloween outfit

So I promised I would write a review of the neo-Victorian ballgown I had made for the Goblins & Gears Fantasy Ball in Glen Burnie, MD, on Halloween weekend.

The outfit was part of an eBay item I bought in mid-September to have a steampunk/burlesque style bustle dress made in time for Halloween.  The seller offering this deal was one madam_fitchestiches.  After some online communication about questions I had regarding the bid (there was some initial confusion about a problem with Paypal and her account and such) she gave me her number and asked me to call her to discuss verbally what I actually wanted in the dress.

I called her and she was very sweet and helpful.  She listened to my desire for an off-the-shoulder dress with a bustle.  She suggested a top hat as well- something I have been on the lookout for- and offered to make that to match the dress she would end up making for me at no additional cost.  I was ecstatic.

Then followed a lengthy discussion about the corset to be used- she had three corsets of varying sizes and I wasn't sure which one I would fit into- a black and turquoise-striped number or a plain white one.  She then recommended, based on my description of my weight and height, a greenish/bluish/purplish prom dress that she had converted to include a flower patterned train, a draped dark blue material on the front, and a beaded bodice area and blue lace trim on the hem.  I had seen the dress advertised on eBay before, but I had not been able to bid for it before time ran out.

After sending me photos close-up photos of the dress, I decided that this dress was definitely the most unique I had seen and more along the lines of what I was looking for- something that was an unusual color, an unusual design, and still held that neo-Victorian look.

After that initial phone conversation and flurry of emails that went back and forth as I gave madam_fitchestiches my measurements (including head measurement for the hat), discussed the creation of a bustle and another piece of cloth to be added to the train as well as the addition of clockwork parts, there was an expected several weeks of silence.  Photos of the hat were sent, and I was extremely satisfied.

At the beginning of October she gave me an update that the dress was done- sans clockwork parts, as she could not find any- and would be sent the following week.  There were some issues with the mailing, but the dress arrived five days before I was to go to Rockville, M.D. to spend the weekend with my friend Emily and attend the Goblin & Gears Ball for which the dress had been commissioned.

The dress fit like it was especially made for me- just perfect in its height and width.  The bustle certainly weighed it down a great deal, something that, in retrospect, should have been expected, but was surprising to me at first.  Overall I was very satisfied with the colors and the dress.  And the hat was simply gorgeous- it fit my head perfectly, and was masculine with enough feminine touches for my tastes.

There were, however, two oddities associated with this dress upon delivery:

  1. The seamstress had left a threaded needle dangling from the bustle.  A tad alarming, but an honest mistake nonetheless, and no harm was done.
  2. There was a cotton wad with a plastic spider entangled within the actual meshing underneath the dress.  Also an honest mistake- looks like the dress may have picked it up from the seamstress's house in the process of being carried around.

I have received so many compliments for this dress- everyone thinks I made it, and seem somewhat disappointed when I tell them that I don't have the skills to make such a dress.  That being said, there are a few flaws with this dress that have created some problems and have me somewhat disappointed in my purchase.

The first are ones that I do not attribute as being mistakes of madam_fitchestiches because they could have been prevented by me giving her more details or because neither she nor I were aware that such a thing would be a problem at first.

  1. The first issue is managing the train.  It's not a long train, but it certainly is long enough for myself or another person to trip over.  During the Goblins & Gears Ball my friend Emily must have stepped on my train about four times in the first hour that we were there, including as we were crossing the threshold into the event venue.  Having worn one dress with a train before, I know how difficult it is to maneuver a train and the importance of keeping it out of the way for certain movements.  What I should have done was requested for the seamstress to put a plastic ring on the underside of the train, around the buttocks area.  With a ribbon sewn three-fourths of the way down the underside of the train, all I would have had to do was pull the ribbon through the ring, creating a mini bustle for my bustle and gathering up the extra material of the train so myself or others would not trip over it while I was moving about.  Fortunately I can make this sort of alteration myself for very cheap without affecting the outward appearance of the dress at all, and propose to do so very soon.  For now I've just been carefully gathering up the train in my hands every time I walk from one point to another.
  2. The second issue is regarding the steel boning for the bodice of the dress.  Unfortunately the bustle is so heavy that the tips of the boning around my armpits are actually slightly poking out of the material, rubbing against my skin in a rather painfully uncomfortable way after about an hour of wear.  The seamstress herself would have had to wear the actual dress for an hour to notice this, so I don't blame her.  As for this issue, I am not sure how to fix it.  I would like to file the boning down, but that would involve taking apart the top part of the boning and possibly damaging the outward appearance of the dress around the armpit area.  The area is also too hard to hide to justify padding the area so the boning doesn't scratch against my skin.
The second set of problems has mainly to do with the condition of the bustle itself.  I was disappointed when parts of the bustle were actually going lopsided and either unraveling or falling down when I put the dress on for Halloween.  Attributing it to people stepping on my train during the ball, I stapled the parts of the flowered draped material that was falling down to the dress (I was at work and had nothing else on hand) and went on with my day, resolving to make the necessary fixes later.

I finally got around to the dress this past weekend.  To my unpleasant surprise, I discovered that the draped parts that had fallen were not actually sewn on, but glued on.  So I began a close examination of all of the seams on the dress, focusing especially on the bustle.  Yes, the dress was sewn in many places, but it was often not a very neat or secured job.  And the liberal use of fabric glue on the flowered material on the train had me convinced that that part had fallen off the train had just been poorly attached to begin with.  I spent a good amount of time on Sunday making repairs, either reinforcing loose material or entirely fixing the fallen pieces.  I also discovered that the bottom of the train is not hemmed.  Without hemming, that material will eventually unravel into an unsightly mess of material.  So now I have to hem it.

While I am very satisfied with the communication I received from madam_fitchestiches and her willingness to make this dress to my liking, I would have liked to have known more about the use of fabric glue on this dress and the lack of hemming on parts that are more susceptible to wear and tear with each use and, therefore, should be hemmed.  For the $200.00 I paid for this dress I don't think that I should be doing as extensive of a repair job as I will end up having to do to make the train last.  

That being said, I will not send it back to get repaired, as that will include shipping costs that I don't want to pay and the inability to use the dress for several more steampunk events I plan to attend this fall and winter. Next time I'll probably just go to a local seamstress to ensure I can chase her down without breaking the bank if a commissioned dress starts falling apart.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

engineering a new look

Here are several photos of me experimenting with a new look made from a mismatch of items already in my wardrobe to create a female Victorian engineer!

For this look I employed several tips VictorianKitty of Sophistique Noir gave me about taking photos.  I used a blank wall (with the exception of the futon frame- it will be leaving my apartment by Thanksgiving), used my five-headed lamp to light up the area, and set up a mirror on the wall opposite so I could take the photos.  I am overall pretty satisfied with how they came out.  Thank you VictorianKitty for your photo setting advice!  And many thanks to Ray Feather, whose tips for relaxing during photos I have really been trying to use over the past few weeks.

The outfit includes the lace sleeved top ordered from eBay that I featured in this post, a maroon vest I found in a thrift shop, my steampunk goggles, a pocketwatch, leather work gloves recycled from my boyfriend's 2009 Rorschach Halloween costume, a brown flowy skirt from another thrift store, and handmade clockwork earrings and a choker with a skeleton key on it.

The makeup is Clinique foundation with powder, blush,eyeshadow, and eyeliner from an Ulta makeup kit.  I usually just pick three bizarre eyeshadow colors and attempt to make them work together- often trying to match three colors in my outfit.  As this outfit was mostly shades of brown, however, I decided to go with three more random colors instead.  This time I chose a shade of white, a shade of violet, and a shade of light brown with black eyeliner and a white and bronze mix of face powder with a more neutral lip gloss.

How do you decide what sort of makeup shades to wear?

Friday, November 4, 2011

modern herero women and the victorians

My sister Leigh sent me quite a rare treasure of an article on CNN about African tribeswomen who are inspired in fashion by the Victorians!

image source:
According to the article, the Herero women of Namibia have adopted and altered Victorian fashions for over 100 years, assimilating the long, conservative dresses of the Victorian period into a fashion that is now considered to be the traditional dress for the women of this tribe.

Surprised?  I was.  Apparently the Herero women used to look more like the Himba tribeswomen, pictured below:

image source:
So why the drastic change from sparsely garbed to modestly dressed?  The answer goes back to the days when Germany colonized Namibia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries:
"The Germans in Namibia brought people in to work for them so they took the local communities and gave them work in their houses and on their land," said [Tim] Henshall, who runs Kamili Safaris [a British tour operation].

"Instead of the Herero being topless and barely covered, which would offend the modest attitudes of Victorians at the time, they wanted them to be covered up," he added.  Henshall added that the women showed no sign of being bothered by wearing the outfits, even in Namibia's tropical climate.
A quick skim of German-Namibian history online shows that a war broke out in the area in 1904, leading to a genocide that killed nearly 75 percent of the Herero population.  One would assume that one of the results of such a conflict would be the disrobing of such European styles of dress as the population was made to wear in the colonial period.  On the contrary, the Herero women wear the dresses proudly as a symbol of national identity, as well as a woman's awareness of her responsibilities to her husband and children:
[Blogger Mwalimushi Kamati-Chinkoti of My Beautiful Namibia] wrote on her website: "These outfits are regarded as proper dress for traditional married women. By wearing the long dress, a newly-married woman shows her in-laws that she is willing to take up the responsibilities of a Herero home and will raise her children to respect their heritage and their father's family."
Besides, the dresses are so colorfully decorated and paired with horn-shaped hats (to represent the cattle that is so important to them) that the Victorians would have never worn that these outfits have, from all appearances, become uniquely Herero.

image source:
These dresses are so popular as a symbol of Herero women that some of the women even make dolls in the dress as souvenirs for tourists:

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To read the article in its entirety, click here.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

queen vicky's unmentionables for sale!

Yesterday an auction at the Lyon and Turnbull auction house in Edinburgh, Scotland, had many lots that consisted of many unique pieces of authentic Victoriana memorabilia.

But who knew that the collection would include a framed pair of Queen Victoria's silk bloomers?  Or that said bloomers would bring a bid of over 9,500 pounds?

image source: Reuters
According the Reuters, the undergarments were quite an unexpected hit at the auction, as were
The Princess Chained to a Tree, an 1866 painting of a white-robed girl bound to a garden tree, by [pre-Raphaelite] English artist Edward Coley Burne-Jones... [and a] renowned painting of Victoria astride her horse with her Scottish servant John Brown holding the reins went for a surprise 120,000 pounds, compared with an estimate of around 30,000.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Monthly Theme Post: Gloves/Armwarmers

As part of Sophistique Noir's Monthly Theme Post for November, I have decided to feature two of my three "sets" of gloves.  

The first is a pair of elbow-length evening gloves purchased at a neighborhood variety store this past Friday for only $1.98. They were the final touch to the outfit that I wore to the Goblins and Gears Fantasy Ball and for passing out Halloween candy to local schoolchildren:

The nice thing about these gloves is that their simple but elegant appearance means I can pair them with so many other neo-Victorian fashion pieces- whether they be corsets or full-length dresses.  They were also perfect for keeping my hands and arms warms on what was a rather windy fall afternoon in Pittsburgh- so much so that I did not take them off when I went back into the office to finish the rest of my workday.  Typing in comfortable gloves is fun.

As an aside, my boss said that my neo-Victorian Halloween "costume" did not look like a costume at all.  And the plethora of compliments I received from people, both on the street and accompanying the trick-or-treaters, was astounding and very flattering.  Although go figure, many kids asked me what I was supposed to be and two young men asked me if I was supposed to be Mary Poppins.

The second "set" is actually a single glove:

This particular piece is my first attempt at neo-Victorian DIY clothing, made for my first Emilie Autumn concert in December 2009.  It was just a piece of material that was on the back of the gold and cream colored corset that I wore to the concert.

I had originally cut the piece off of the corset because its only purpose was to cover up the skin on one's back that normally shows between even tightened corset strings.  I actually like "revealing" that bit of skin, so the material was useless to me.  But I kept it and instead used the entire piece to fashion a glove of sorts for myself.  I already had gold roses to sew onto the glove, and then broke apart an old gold beaded bracelet from The Limited and sewed the beads onto the glove.  Since I only had enough material for one glove I thought it was fitting to make it asymmetrical on my hand.  A nice little clasp located on the right side of my wrist, and I had a glove/wristband of sorts to complete an odd Asylum outfit for the concert.

Have you ever tried to make a glove for yourself?  How did it turn out?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

goblins & gears- not your average humdrum charity event

This past Saturday evening my good friend Emily and I attended Team Wench's Multiple Sclerosis Fantasy Ball in Glen Burnie, Maryland.  We drove the 50 minutes from her apartment to the event at Michael's Eighth Avenue, wondering what we would find and if we would freeze to death since it was apparently cold enough to snow in the DC area this weekend.

Emily in her steampunk attire.  Who would have guessed this was her first ever attempt at dressing steampunk?!

While parking we searched in vain for steampunk-clad participants entering the building.  Now we were thrown for a loop- were we even at the right place?  But the address matched that on my Google Map directions, and how many places called Michael's Eighth Avenue could there really be in Glen Burnie?

Once inside, however, two ushers greeted us knowingly and pointed us to the right banqueting hall.  We turned a corner, and- lo and behold!- there was a line of steampunkers ready to party like it was 1899!

The venue was a large banqueting hall with several dozen eight-person round tables.  We chose a table with a very nice couple who weren't quite dressed for a steampunk/faerie event- they had met Team Wench at one of the Multiple Sclerosis walks that this ball was meant to raise money for, and decided to come.  They did have full masquerade gear on, though, and took the rest of us steampunkers and faeries in excellent stride.  They decorated our table with balloons and a glittery peacock feathers centerpiece- certainly the most cheerful centerpiece of all the tables:

The ball seemed to be a mix of pure steampunk enthusiasts as well as people with Multiple Sclerosis and their families.  Most of the participants appeared to be in steampunk garb- so much so that I wondered if any faerie enthusiasts were there.  But after the announcer officially opened the ball- who thanked us, to much appreciative laughter, for coming to support the cause of curing "Hysteria in Our Time"- the Goblin Queen made her dramatic entrance as the "rift" between the steampunk world and the fantasy world was opened.  She certainly had Jareth's hair, although I couldn't exactly get a good photo of her because of the dang fog machine that made it nearly impossible to take clear photos for the next twenty minutes:

The Goblin Queen
She was followed by a mischievous entourage of flora-clad dancers (known as the Aubergine Dance Troupe), faeries, and even a goblin soldier:

The Goblin Soldier
And then the dancing and music began.  After the Aubergine Dance Troupe performed we were treated to music by Petal Blight, followed by the costume and mask contests and more music by The Clockwork Dolls.

Petal Blight & The Aubergine Dance Troupe

The Clockwork Dolls
There was delicious buffet-style food aplenty, a variety of yummy desserts, an open bar, and plenty of opportunities to donate more money and get something out of the bargain.  These were a plethora of bag raffles available where the purchase of a ticket could give you a chance to win anything from faerie figurines to a full chain mail shirt to a champagne basket:

Bag Raffle Table

One could also purchase pins, flowers, masks, slots in the costume and mask contests, a magician, self-portrait photos taken by a professional photographer, and arrest warrants to place fellow ball-goers in the "Containment Unit" for a brief span of time:

Not knowing anyone else at the ball personally and not having a previous history of deviousness towards each other, Emily and I thought we were safe from the arrest.  Alas, it was not to be.  Emily and I had just returned to our table after taking some photos of dancers and the band when a goblin approached us with two arrest warrants.  Our crime?  "The improper possession of illegal firearms."

Emily then began to accuse me of actually possessing them, while I accused her of bringing them into the hall in the first place as we were grudgingly led to the Containment Unit.  There the jailer refused to tell us when we would be let out and tried to get us to bribe him to be let out.  The bartender offered to bring us drinks as a crowd gathered to take photos of the two steampunk jailbirds:

"Nobody knows the troubles I've seen..."
I tried to get a toddler in faerie garb who was passing by to pull the pin that held the door closed, because I felt that it would be cheating to pull the pin myself.  Unfortunately my would-be liberator was incapable of pulling the pin sufficiently enough, and instead showed off how she could fit in and out of the bars and told us that we should do the same... duh!

Eventually the jailer let us out because we were "complaining too much."

I did enter the costume contest, and was pleasantly surprised when my costume was chosen as one of the six finalists.  The inevitable winner, however, was the Goblin Warrior.  I will post photos of that when I receive them- I obviously couldn't take photos during the contest as a participant- but Emily took some.

Overall it was a wonderful night filled with beautiful and elaborate costumes, lots of entertainment, and so much fun on the side.  Despite the fun we never forgot the reason we were there- at midnight there was a moment of silence for those who suffer with Multiple Sclerosis.  And throughout the night I could not help but reflect every so often about how this event was definitely beyond the kind of event that my grandmother would have ever attended even when she had not yet been diagnosed with MS.  But Team Wench did an amazing job- so much so that I fully feel as if the $50 I spent to attend the event was not so much a donation but an admission from which I got my full money's worth of food and fun.

The magician performing a card trick

A beautiful faerie with her hand-made wings
The winner of the mask contest, who fashioned her hand-made dress to look like Christine's dress from her debut song in The Phantom of the Opera (2004)

One of the dancers, trying to figure out how to put a paperclip on this guy without him knowing
Our tablemates.  The one next the Emily is responsible for our arrest.