Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Alexia Tarabotti Steampunk Ensemble

Friday night at Renovation (WorldCon) had a great Steampunk dance lead by the wonderful James and Cathleen Myers who run PEERS.

Having recently read and enjoyed the first 3 books of Gail Carringer's Parasol Protectorate Books, I decided I wanted to dress as the main character Alexia Tarabotti. These books are set in an alternate Victorian London with supernatural characters and some steampunk technology.
In Souless, in my opinion the best of the series, Alexia is described as wearing a green ballgown with a cuirass bodice and carrying a brass handled frilly black parasol with purple satin pansies. She also wears wood and silver hairsticks in her hair.

From the stash:
  • silk organza curtain (dyed green, purchased from Goodwill at least 5 years ago)
  • 3 yards green polyester lace (White Elephant Sale)
  • purple satin ribbon (from The Hobby Shop when I took Candace Kling's class)
  • brass sheets and metal findings (Pearl, before it closed)
  • Chopsticks (takeout)
  • aluminum tape
From the costume stash:
  • long black brocade skirt
  • black leather and "lizard skin" effect corset
  • black polyester organza shirt
Alexia is described as a proper Victorian young lady so she would be properly dressed in a late 1870s gown over a bustle. I initally got out my Victorian bodice pattern and started to alter it so it would extend lower on the hips the way you see cuirass bodices after about 1877. However, it became increasing clear that I would not be able to finish an entirely new dress in one week. At this point I decided to make a couple of new items and go with more of a steampunk look using items I already had. I started with a long black brocade skirt that I often wear for dressier steampunk, a short sleeved chiffon shirt that works well with underbust corsets, and what I call the Medusa corset. This is an underbust corset I made to wear for Halloween as part of a medusa costume, it is constructed of garment weight black leather and a shinny copper/green lizard skin-effect plastic that comes in approximately 6 inch wide strips. I have no idea what the original use of the plastic was, but I got it at the bolt end fabric store in my neighborhood in several differnt colors/effects. The new pieces are a draped green overskirt, the addition of green lace on an existing top, and a parasol like the one described in the book.

The green drape is a silk organza curtain I bought at Goodwill. It was initially a chartruse color, but I dyed it darker using Acid Dyes from Dharma Trading Co. I also dyed a bunch of other light colored dupioni so I would have extra silk to create additional flounces. These extra bits came out as entirely different colors, despite being in the same dye load. I suppose this comes down to the different composition of materials; lesson learned.

The purchased parasol is frilly black lace. I added a dowel to extend the length and covered that with a brass mesh sheet that I believe is used as the base for making clay models or for constructing model train sets. The handle is a brass colored finding I got at a yard sale. The purple satin pansies are made out of either satin or ombre wired ribbon. I made these using the instructions from my two favorite ribbonwork books, The Artful Ribbon by Candace Kling, and Ribbonwork - The Complete Guide by Helen Gibb.

Alexia also wears two very pointy hair sticks, one of wood and one of silver. These are prudent accessories with vampires and werewolves living in London. Mine are made of chopsticks, one plain, ond the other covered with aluminum tape.


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