Thursday, May 31, 2012


Thanks to my friend Luke for sharing this comic with me, and for reminding me what my parents must really feel about my steampunk interests:

image source: Questionable Content
Check out the above webcomic, Questionable Content, by Jeph Jacques, at this link.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

sewing projects: black pleated skirt

My second major Victorian sewing project on my sewing machine was the skirt part of Simplicity pattern 2172- a Victorian inspired pleated skirt.  Although I began it in February, this project was delayed in great part to other projects- part of the coat used in this pattern, for example, as well as the gun holsters and Victorian purse I made last month.  Never mind the fact that I messed up cutting one of the the longer pieces correctly, and therefore had to order more material from since the stores didn't seem to hold it anymore, and so had to set the project aside while I waited for it to come in.

I chose black for the material, as I don't have any long black skirts at all in my wardrobe.  Here's the skirt in full.
Yes, my face is naked and my hair is lazily pulled back because I just showered
 after a long run and was going to bed soon after this was taken.
Who cares?  You're supposed to be focusing on the skirt, not the model!  
The hardest part about this skirt was definitely the pleats.  I misread the directions on several steps of this skirt, especially when it came to measuring and pinning the pleats, and ended up having to redo hours of work as a result. 

There also seemed to be a few unnecessary steps, such as the slipstitch on the waistband (which can only be done by hand rather than machine) that I think could have been taken out entirely.

But I am pretty happy with the skirt overall.  Now I know how to make pleats, the gathering stitch on this skirt didn't give me any trouble at all because my experiences with making my first Simplicity skirt taught me how to properly do it, and now I am totally prepared for anything involving pleats.  I also didn't mess up the waistband of this skirt this time, although now I have to learn to be more patient while reading instructions.  And even though I put in the zipper in a completely wrong way (as I don't have a zipper foot for my machine) I still think I did a pretty awesome job.

Now to finish the coat, which is a lovely white and black damask pattern.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

memorial weekend tea party

For some reason we seem to have mostly skipped spring here in Western Pennsylvania, going straight to summer with muggy and humid weather and temperatures of 80 degrees F and higher on many days.

The sweltering heat, however, did not deter any neo-Victorian activity this Memorial Day weekend on the part of my friends.  My dear Nim Derringer organized a lovely afternoon tea party, where we would participate in the sports of tea dueling, gossip, and general nerdiness.

For this event I had some difficulty choosing an outfit, as I wanted to look somewhat Victorian and still remain cool in the extreme heat.  So I went with my brown hand-made skirt, a Black Hearts Clothing corset, and a lilac blouse from Forever Twenty-One with brown heels.  No stockings, no petticoats, and hair pulled up:

Although my rather minimalistic makeup started melting even before I left my apartment:

Dear Nim arranged her house beautifully for the party- with plenty of fans, hot and iced tea options, and a wonderful spread of munchies for us to enjoy:

The blogmistress with the Stitch 'n Bitch ladies Lydia Lamplighter and Narla Thotep:

For the tea dueling competition I served as the umpire, or "Tiffin Master."  Here is a shot Nim took of a duel between Norman and Narla:

Nim with Lydia's pink wig:

Lovely parasols and wigs to match these lovely ladies!

Norman and Stephanie (the winner of the tea duels) wielding their weapons:

It was the perfect gathering and we all had so much fun.  Thank you Nim for hosting such a lovely event!

Friday, May 25, 2012

victorian scandal: the original "mrs. robinson"

image source:
Kate Summerscale, author of The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective, has come out with yet another book about scandal in the Victorian middle classes and the public reactions of the day, as well as gender inequality.  The subject of this sordid tale: Mrs. Isabella Robinson, the woman who dared to lust after another man within the pages of her own diary.

The Edinburgh Evening News wrote an overview of the new book in the article "How Victorian mother rocked Edinburgh with divorce scandal," which summarizes the tale of the disgraced Isabella.

Living in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the 1850s, the wife and mother of two lived a lonely, unfulfilled existence as an upper middle class Victorian woman.  One night she met a man who would change her life for the worse in the Victorian mindset:

[Isabella Robinson] was introduced to Lady Drysdale’s daughter Mary and her husband of three years Edward Lane, a medical student ten years younger than Isabella and who, she wrote in her diary later was “fascinating”.

Edward Lane was 27, Canadian-born and educated in Edinburgh. A lawyer, he was busy training for a new career in medicine. He was, wrote Isabella, “handsome, lively and good humoured”. And that might well have been that. But something had stirred deep within this lonely young mother.

Her husband Henry, she complained in her diary, was often away on business, yet even when he did come home she felt alone and unfulfilled. He was, she wrote, an “uncongenial partner”, “uneducated, narrow-minded, harsh tempered, selfish, proud”. Not only that, but she later discovered he also had a mistress and two illegitimate daughters.

Edward Lane was dashing, young, clever and with his interesting Canadian background, no doubt represented all she did not have.

She noted how she’d chat to Edward about all the things she loved: poetry and philosophy.

Edward became Dr Lane, a pioneer homeopath and proprietor of a hydropathy establishment in Surrey. And Isabella, of course, became a visitor.
While there is not any clear evidence of an affair, Isabella left a record of what was considered to be adulterous behavior when she recorded in the pages of her diary her passion for Dr. Lane, including descriptions "of trysts and stolen kisses, of secretive meetings and lust."

When Isabella fell sick for a spell in 1858, her husband, Henry, fell upon her diary.  Scandalized by his wife's  written yearning for another man, he filed for divorce.  

He was the 11th British citizen to do so in the new Court for Divorce and Matrimonial cases in London.
“When the new Court for Divorce and Matrimonial cases opened in London in 1858, it was the first time divorce had been made affordable to the middle classes of England,” explains Summerscale who researched Isabella’s diaries for her book.

“Until then, only a couple of divorces were granted a year to the very rich because before then they required a special private act of parliament for dissolution of marriage.

“The new law was designed to make divorce fairer, more transparent and rational and yet it did preserve a double standard for men and women,” she adds.

“The husband was suing for divorce on grounds of his wife’s adultery. But he was an adulterer, he had a mistress and two illegitimate daughters as I discovered when I read Mrs Robinson’s private correspondence. But this was never mentioned in court.”
Dr. Lane escaped reproach because there was no suggestion in his own papers to support any claims of an adulterous relationship with Mrs. Robinson.  His colleagues rallied to his side.
image source:
For Isabella, however, her name was dragged through the mud, her diaries held up as the disturbed fantasies of an insane woman- for what normal woman would want to lust after a man who was not her husband?  
“Medical manuals at the time associated strong female sexual desire with insanity,” explains Summerscale. “When this case came to trial, Isabella Robinson’s lawyers argued that the diary in which she apparently recorded her adulterous affair was itself a symptom of disease and that the sexual scenes she had written had never really happened but were hallucinations of an erotomanic imagination.”
As a result of the assumed "insanity" of Mrs. Robinson as shown through the pages of her lasciviousness diary, the courts found no grounds for divorce.  No physical adultery had been committed, they determined. 

It was only until 1864, when Isabella was caught with her children's young French tutor in two hotels, was Henry Robinson finally able to divorce his wife.

I will be on the lookout for this book, as Kate Summerscale does excellent research on obscure aspects of the Victorian era.  Not only does she focus on the protagonist of this true story, but she also researches the 19th century public mindset through the literature, newspaper articles, correspondences, and other primary sources of the day that might give light on what the majority of the Victorian middle class was thinking in regard to divorce and sex at the time.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

trailer for "dishonored"

Bethesada Softworks (makers of Skyrim and Rage) has recently released a trailer for Dishonored, a supernatural video game set in a neo-Victorian/steampunk universe.  Set to be released in October 2012, the game pits a supernatural assassin intent on revenge against those who wronged him.  Check out the trailer below:

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

vsf wargame- official version

The year is 1878. The mad scientist Dr. Alset hatched a cunning plan to take over London using vile automatons, but was foiled at the last moment by new consulting detective Sherlock Holmes. The inventor has since fled England and taken up residence with Cacshwayo, King of the Zulus, in Zululand. Agents of the Queen have instructed Lord Kelmsford to come up with a reason to invade Zululand and bring the doctor to justice. British forces have advanced through Zululand, finally reaching the tribal capital. As Kelmsford, the British army, and a handful of special agents approach, the Zulu nation pours forth the pride of its warriors to maintain their sovereignty. But Dr. Alset has a few steam-powered surprises of his own in store for his British adversaries...
Or so the description of the VSF wargame Scott put on for the Steel City Steam Society on Sunday went.

For those of you who remember my post about the VSF tabletop wargame Scott and I had demo'ed back in March at Legions Hobbies and Games in Wexford, our game on Sunday was the same exact scenario, meant to be played by members of the SCSS.  Unfortunately everyone declined due to other commitments except myself and one other person.  

But two players, and steampunkers at that, were enough.  Scott ran the game and Jack and I, the gamers, asked questions and moved pieces around the table.This time I played the Zulus while Jack took the Brits and their allies.

It was a hot day in May, but I decided to dress appropriately for the occasion as a gun-slinging Wild West steampunk adventuress.  The fan was completely necessary- despite Legions being located in the basement of a shopping complex, it was still rather muggy down there.  Jack didn't want his photo taken.

The Brits:

The Zulus:

Jack had never wargamed before but had played various card and tabletop games before, so he picked up on what to do very quickly.  Scott is an excellent GM for running these games, and helped instruct both of us when we forgot the rules or didn't know whether a move was possible/legal/practical or not.
In the end, though, we had to leave early without determining a winner.  I thought the Brits were going to win, as they wiped out a great deal of my Zulu warriors by forming up in a tight line on the left flank.  But on their right flank (my left) they lost several native units, their cavalry, and had to face the slowly approaching dreadnought, which I did not manage to get into the game as it was unable to cross the river in time.  But it was loads of fun, and Scott is the sweetest for putting on the game.
Next option might be a Wild West gaming scenario.

The photos from the Zulu/Brit game have been posted below.  It looks as if Scott took some while I was busy playing, as I don't recall him ever handling my camera.  And he even managed to get a sneak shot of Jack!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

steampunk world's fair

Alas, I was unable to attend the annual Steampunk World's Fair which took place this past weekend in Piscataway, New Jersey.  But for your enjoyment here are some photos from the event.  I love the young children costumes and desert Darth Vader especially:

image source: gothamist

image source: gothamist

image source: gothamist

image source: gothamist

image source: gothamist

image source: gothamist

image source: gothamist

image source: gothamist
image source: gothamist

And last, but not least- my crush, Steampunk Boba Fett- WITH ANOTHER WOMAN!  *grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr*  But what steampunk lady could ever resist his charms?

image source: gothamist

Monday, May 21, 2012

steampunk symposium outfits

I just realized that I had never given a complete overview of the outfits I wore to the Steampunk Empire Symposium at the end of April.  For your viewing pleasure I will feature my three main outfits.  

Day 1-Steampunk Safari Adventuress with the clockwork guns and holsters I made:

Photo by Nim Derringer.  Photo used with permission. 
And me with Steampunk Boba Fett.  Most people who come in contact with him, both male and female, seem to develop crushes on him.  I am no exception.  He has the most addictive and flirty personality.  I love you Steampunk Boba Fett!

Photo by Nim Derringer.  Photo used with permission. 
Day 2- Near-sighted Red Lady (a.k.a. the Big Bustle Butt Outfit.)  I think I made the bustle too ample, which worked perfectly for my "performance" of "Baby Got Brass" but otherwise still doesn't look right.

My friend Narla Thotep lent me the flower and, later on, the top hat.  As mentioned previously I purchased the glasses and the purse to go with this outfit.

Photo by Nim Derringer.  Photo used with permission.
Photo by Nim Derringer.  Photo used with permission.
Photo by Nim Derringer.  Photo used with permission.
The following photo is my absolute favorite- so candid and yet getting such a good view of my face at the same time:

Photo Larry Green.  Photo used with permission. 
There was an outfit for the Masquerade Ball on the evening of the second day, but I forgot to take a photo of it. 

Day 3- Elegant Aristocrat (featuring this Recollections ensemble):

Photo by Nim Derringer.  Photo used with permission. 
Photo by Nim Derringer.  Photo used with permission.