Let’s talk about Steampunk.
One of the things I enjoyed most when studying Theater was costume design and creation. I did almost all my practicum work in the costume shop, and picked up a lot of technique and even more ideas. I’ve been doing thrifty cosplay for years; only recently, however, have I had the means and the time to start working on costumes I’ve been designing in my head for years. So, naturally, I’m diving headfirst into steampunk.
This costume trio is based off 1840s fashion (I find when doing historically-based costumes it helps to have a specific decade in mind as a basis, even though I’m dealing with an alternate future setting for this specific design). I’ve designed their outfits off a specific adventure in their lives, one that brings these three disparate people together in much the same way as a roleplaying campaign would bring PCs together: one part chance to two parts “fate” (aka player fiat).
When I make costumes, however, it activates the same parts of my brain that have had years of practice making characters, both for roleplay and for creative writing. Therefore, I almost can’t help but ascribe personality and lives to the characters being portrayed, as though there was going to be a whole performance rather than just a costume. So I figure, what better place to showcase the backstories than my blog?
I’ll put up more pictures as I complete the costumes.
Sir Lucas Warren was born in London, the son of a highly wealthy entrepreneur whose early and wise investments in shipping and exported goods helped him rise from poverty in the Cape Colony to wealth, though not prestige, in the British Empire. His mother was a noblewoman who taught him to compensate for his dark skin with impeccable manners and a ruthless ambition for business. With the discovery of gold in the American Colonies, he was in a ripe position to expand his shipping business even further, hoping it would someday become the equal of the famed East India Company. However, a number of violent uprisings by those pesky Seperationists, still bitter about their country’s failed revolution, have recently disrupted his profits. Knowing that the best way to understand a problem is to see it firsthand, and with a taste for adventure inherited from his father, Lucas boarded an airship and headed for the Western Coast.
Costume notes: Lucas is a gentleman, upstanding, with fine clothing and even finer goods. Bright colors and dandy influences would show off his vanity and ego, while not stepping too far outside the bounds of polite society. I’m toying with the idea of adding an accident resulting in a replacement hand to give him something extra to compensate for and myself some cool design ideas.
Erika Smith is an engineer under the employ of Warren. She lives for her work; even when not on the job, she’s constantly coming up with ideas and sketching out blueprints. Warren snatched her up years ago in the hopes that she could improve the efficiency of his airships, and while she’s done well with that, she’s also invented some pretty nifty gadgets along the way. When Warren needed to ensure that his particular airship would not be sabotaged or suffer from malfunctions with him on it, he refused to settle for less than his best engineer at his side. Constantly.
Costume notes: This one’s proving to be a real challenge for me because most 1840s costume references focus on the upper-crust, white-collar or gentleman. What did working-class people wear? Depends on the job. What did engineers wear? Bloody hell if I know. My original design has overalls, but I suspect cotton pants with suspenders would be more period-appropriate. The costume itself will likely be fairly plain, but I get to go crazy with gadgets, goggles, and other accessories.
Robert Lee Owens doesn’t work for Mr Warren. Point of fact, he doesn’t work for anyone but himself. He’s a hired gun, plain and simple; one of the best, plus he knows the territory real well. He spends most of his income on his guns. He likes guns. He likes guns real fine. Warren hired him as a bodyguard, so for the moment he’s dedicated to the man’s survival; after this, someone else could hire him to kill Warren and he’d do it without a second thought. For the moment, though, the man’s safe: Bob never breaks a contract. That just wouldn’t be sporting.
Costume notes: This is where the American influence comes in. Bob’s a steampunk cowboy/gunslinger, with high-tech weapons being the main futuristic influence on these designs. My initial build for him let me down severely, however, as it turned out the coat I ordered was simply horrendous. I might end up making one myself rather than fall for misleading catalog images again; it’d be a lot of work, especially given I only have weekends to do it in, but it might be worth it.
This is the first take on the costumes; they’re still a work in progress, as I don’t have all the pieces I wanted. We wore these at Ohayoucon 2012 😀 I plan to improve them for the Steampunk Empire Symposium in April.