Monday, April 22

Sunday Pseudo-Steam for April 21, 2013

Skirt by Onanya, on Etsy
Jacket by GAP
"Tahra" boots by LaCanadienne
Earrings by Elaina Louise, on Etsy

After months of screen-shopping on eBay, hunting for whatever neo-Victorian treasures might be found there, I have finally begun to be tempted to buy.  One of my new acquisitions--the lightweight corduroy jacket I wore today--was an initial disappointment.  The jacket was listed as "pink," and it does look pink in photos--but when it arrived, I found it is actually icy lavender.  I never would have knowingly purchased anything in icy lavender, even at the super low price at which I snagged this jacket.

And yet, it grew on me quickly, and now that quirky color is now one of the reasons I like it so much.  Those of you who have been reading for a while might remember some of the pale pastel jackets I have posted previously;  there is something about that particular juxtaposition of steampunky style and so-not-steampunky colors.  It's unexpected.  Fresh.  Playful.  And besides, those pale pastels look amazing with the rest of the colors in the "traditional" Steampunk palette.

Look at the adorable lines on the back of this jacket!  And the little peplum detail!

Here I was trying to show how those fabulous earrings echo the shape and metal tone of all those tiny, functional metal buttons.  And the aubergine in the earrings' drop bead complements the purple undertone of the jacket, but warms it. 

gratuitous beauty shot of those fabulous earrings

"Cocoa-nuts" skirt, found at Clockwork Couture, and tambukiki on eBay

My Dear Husband photographer was patient while I tried the look with two different skirts.  Both work, but I like the darker brown gathered skirt best.

So now I have a second dressy pseudo-Steampunk look that I really like--and best of all, it is in colors that are perfect for the transition between winter and spring. 

Wednesday, April 10

Your Basic Brown Steampunky Skirt--on eBay

I have been haunting eBay for the past week, seeking cute and practical Real World Neo-Victorian clothes for my eldest Mini-Minnie, who is just starting to get big enough to wear the tiniest adult sizes.  But of course once I start looking for her, I start looking for me, and then I start finding, and in particular yesterday I was thrilled to find a great selection of basic brown steampunky skirts in my size.  Because I have a long brown skirt, but no knee or above length skirt, and that is one basic I think my Real World Steampunk Wardrobe needs before summer. 

I have found that with the current color trends (neon! blech!), it is near impossible to find any brown items, let alone well-made, in good fabrics and Steampunk-compatible.  But just look at the great selection on eBay:  

by Elevenses, found here

All the skirts in this post are size 4 or 6.  Most of them are under $20--many of them are under $10!  And as you will notice, I'm not interested in any boring skirt.  I love texture and detail, so while a very plain skirt can certainly work well in a RWSW, I prefer to choose pieces that will subtly add layers of visual interest while not detracting from the other elements in the ensemble.  Like this very pretty and quiet scallop detail on the hem in the skirt above.

by Nine West, found here

The color combination on this skirt is fabulous.  OH so Steampunk!  You would have to take off that ugly belt and put a brown leather one in its place, but that would be so simple.  I seriously debated bidding on this skirt, but since I am toying with the idea of getting the Marin boots in "coffee," and those would be the boots worn with whatever brown skirt I get, I fear the effect would be too matchy-matchy.  But for someone with plain dark brown boots--gorgeous.

by Ann Taylor, found here

This is a perfect example of a plain skirt that is not boring.  The way it sits on the waist is flattering and hopefully you could work with those belt loops to accommodate a wide brown leather belt.  The shape of this skirt is flattering too, and excellent for pseudo-Steampunk, and could even be gathered up with skirt clips, if you wanted to layer it over another skirt for a more Lolita effect.

by Banana Republic, found here

This is a light-weight skirt, which would be great for summer.  I'm not crazy about the elastic waistband, though, so you would need to hide that with a bustier or corset belt.  In the ideal RWSW, that is!

A quick word about fabrics: there were some very cute skirts that had the right shape or look for Steampunk that I did not include here, because I am a fabric snob.  I not choose to wear synthetic fabrics, whenever I have the option of natural, because of the way they feel--and the way I feel in them--but also because of the way they look.  Most synthetics look like what they are--cheap imitations of better fabrics.  And the really high-end synthetics have a silky drape that is very modern, and inappropriate for Steampunk looks.  The best fabrics, that will subtly enhance the realism of a steampunky outfit, are those that really would have been worn back in the Victorian days.  My favorites are cotton and linen for skirts--they hang and fall just right, are comfortable and breathable and easy to care for.  

by J. Crew, found here

by The Limited, found here

A lot of the photos of these skirts are not very helpful--you have to look closely to see the detail that elevates an otherwise almost boring skirt.  In this case, it is the triple-layered ruffle on the hem.

by CAbi, found here

In this skirt it is the subtle vertical texture, and the lovely raw hem.

by GAP, found here

And in this skirt it is the waffle-weave--subtle, does not act as a pattern visually and therefore does not compete with other patterns you  might wearing with it, and yet adds very nice texture.

by Maeve, found here

In this skirt it is the carefully shaped construction and the hem detail.

by Elevenses, found here

by Alberto Makali, found here

Just lovely for the jungle adventuress!

by CAbi, found here

Ha--looks like I liked this skirt so much I accidentally posted it twice.  Hmmm, perhaps this means I should seriously consider it for my own wardrobe. . . .

by Free People, found here

Now this skirt is intriguing; you can find it online both with and without the front embellishments.  I like the embellished version because those "flowers" look subtly like gears--which is perfect for someone like me, who is really drawn to large gear designs on clothing but does not like how. . . obvious they always are on a skirt.  They always seem stuck there, inorganically, proudly proclaiming, "Look, I'm a Steampunk Skirt!"   This detail on the other hand simply suggests.  And worn with some jewelry that incorporates real gears--or real gear buttons on a jacket--the visual connection would be complete.

by LOFT, found here

The careful construction on this skirt is also what makes it appealing--a little patchwork feels a little dystopian.

by BCBG, found here

Again, I love the waist on this skirt--so flattering, and the texture on it is lovely.  You could wear this one either with or without a belt.

by Charter Club, found here

A more unique shape, but would still work well for psuedo-Steampunk.

by H&M, found here

Another hideous belt--ugh, I cannot bear to look at it.  But the skirt is so cute, and a wide brown (or black, depending upon the rest of the look) leather belt would be great.

by Old Navy, found here

Another skirt that would be so cute layered over a cotton petticoat.  Could be cinched up or not.  This skirt is also an excellent example of the importance of fabric; this is clearly cotton, and the eye can tell.  If this exact same skirt were synthetic, it would not work at all. 

by Tommy Bahama, found here

Now you have to be careful when choosing tiered skirts like this one--very easy to look too tribal, or too late 1980's.  Best to translate to Steampunk if you are already working a prairie girl look.  But look at the gorgeous pattern on this one--so pretty, so elegant!  This skirt would need a jacket with it--for example, a bone high collared jacket with small dark bronze buttons, and plenty of them, either semi-fitted at the waist or cropped.

This is just a sample of what I found in an hour of looking yesterday.  So next time you need to find something basic like this, just sit down with a cup of tea and enter something really vague like "brown skirt" in your size in the search bar.  Don't be daunted by the fact that 13,000 hits come up--just narrow it down to women's clothing and set it to search by "price--lowest to highest" and sit back and window shop.  You will be surprised at what you can find, even under $10. 

(In case anyone ever wonders--no, I get no financial compensation from eBay and other companies for all my recommendations to their goods.  I just share with you all what I do myself, hoping it is helpful to someone else.  Let me know if it is--that will be reward plenty!)

Tuesday, April 9

Steampunky boots--Caterpillar on Amazon

I just recently realized that now has a boot shop.

With a great selection.  And free shipping and free returns.  And so far the prices are better than other places online.

Ooooooh, dangerous.

Esp. considering the beauties I have discovered!

This post is going to feature just the adorable and oh-so-steampunky boots I found by Caterpillar:

Stella Boot in brown

Are these not fabulous?!  And they are full grain leather, made to last by the highly-reputable Caterpillar company.  If their boots are as good of quality as the ones my husband used to own, they will last for years of daily use.

I was admiring how they created that cute wrap-around effect just with the laces--and then realized they actually constructed the boot so you could do this if you want, with that little leather loop in the back for the laces to run through.  Such a nice subtle design element!  The only way I would improve this boot for Steampunk would be swapping out the classic Caterpillar construction-boot yellow laces for dark brown.  But really, even if you didn't do that, the effect is so steamy.

Bajan boot in bronze

On the post-apocalyptic end of the Steampunk spectrum.  And so tough and sophisticated at the same time!

Bridgetown boot in saffron/tyre

Same boot in "sunburst."  Somehow you can adjust the front leather piece--it unsnaps, I imagine--which is very cool.  And look at how the brass and buckles pop against the red!  The classic Caterpillar boot heel is putting me off a little--definitely tips the boot over into Maine woodsman--but overall the boot is so cute that one could easily choose to ignore it.  Oh, and those not-quite-red laces are off-putting as well--but again, not a big deal.  Nothing could be easier than swapping out for a pair of dark brown laces.

This is a very cute boot, although the grey is the only color option available on amazon--must be last year's style.  But I do really like the grey--and look at that sweet stitching on the heel, and subtle "patching."  The only flaw is the cheerful lining--great if this was a boot for a tween, but so not ok for a steampunk.  It looks like the purple would show the tiniest hint there on the edges of the boot flaps, which would be great if it was a desirable color, but as it is. . . sigh.

On the other hand, you could not get any more steamy than the colors in this boot.  Rich ruddy and chocolate tones, with brass hardware.  Slightly military, slightly equestrian--a nice practical tall boot.

Now this is a versatile boot--would work with jeans, leggings, and likely even some skirts.  This is the nicest black/brown combination I have seen in a steampunky boot--the contrast stitching ties in the black/brown perfectly, and the bronze hardware is just lovely.  And somehow that color combination is always dressier than either black or brown is on its own.

I can't decide which color combination I like better--the black/brown or the "chili" brown, pictured above.

Oooooooh, and take a look:

Marin boot in "coffee" found here

It looks like the Marin boot comes in the same lovely two-tone camel and brown variation as the beautiful Stella boot--the same lovely Steampunk touch without the heel!  This one is not available on Amazon, but directly from the Caterpillar website.  Again, I would definitely swap out the classic woodsman laces for brown.  Other than that, a fabulous boot.  One I am finding myself very tempted to try. . . .

Continued two weeks later. . .

I gave into temptation.  I ordered the dark brown version of the Marin from Zappos, since I wanted to try the boot without paying for shipping or returns if I did not like it.  For the sake of comparison, I also gave into my wildest foot fantasies and ordered the Vintage Shoe Company Molly Jump Boot:

Oooooooh, I have drooled over this boot.  When the box from Zappos arrived, I so eagerly tore into it--the first to be opened was the Marin.  I gotta tell you, it is a pretty ugly boot.  I mean, you can sorta tell from the photos of the three different Marin versions above that the brown is the plainest, but this was more than that--the leather is thinner than I expected, and rough and dull.  I guess I can see that in the photos now, but it was more so in person, and was disappointing.

The Molly Jump Boot was such a gorgeous beauty in comparison.  Oh, the thick but supple leather!  The velvety sheen, the antique construction, even the smell of the boot was heavenly.  I wanted to love that boot so so badly.  Even my husband was smitten and would not have batted an eye at the price tag.  Well-made, gorgeous, even made in the USA--nothing not to love.

Until I tried them on.  Oh, the sorrow!  Oh, the gnashing of teeth!  Alas, the boots just weren't comfortable.  I tried.  It seems my left foot is slightly larger than my right, and unfortunately just at the exact point where these boots are most heavily reinforced, which means they are not likely to ever stretch as much as I would need for them to be not painful.

So then I tried on the Caterpillar Marins--and while I wanted to cry, handling the poorer quality leather after the decadence of the Molly Jump boot, I slipped my feet in. . . and they felt great.  I doubt I would have to break them in much at all.  But the look of them just did not make me happy.

My husband tried to convince me to keep the Molly Jump boots, and pray I could break them in, which totally cracked me up.  But I completely understand--something so beautiful, that so fits our desires for the kinds of things we would like to have in our home, on our bodies, is hard to let go.  However, love of beauty could not override common sense, so I sent both pairs of boots back to Zappos--free of cost and even hassle, since the UPS Store drop-off is five minutes from me and on my way through town in the direction of most of my weekly errands--exactly why this company has my loyalty for now.  But the Marin is still in my mind. . .

I really dig the design of the boot, and now I know it feels great on my feet.  And the two-tone "Coffee" boot is sooooooo wonderfully Steampunk--the only reason I did not try it was because I would have to pay for shipping (and the potential return).

I might yet.  

if you have a Mini-Minnie, look here!

found here

It looks like it is for a girl somewhere between ages of 3 and 5. . . I'm currently on eBay looking for things for my own eldest Mini-Minnie, and so wish this was her size.  So cute, and effortlessly Real World Steampunk. 

Sunday, April 7

In Which Minnie Zephie Sees Something New

Because you know steampunky boots are never far from my mind.  Yes, I've been doing more boot searches, to wonderfully satisfying end.  I have more to show you, but these had to come first--the most original boot design I have seen yet this whole winter, and you know I've looked at a lot of boots!  Successful design is a tricky thing, and often the very nuances of shape, texture, embellishment that make a boot unusual are also what make it so unattractive to me.  This fascinating jumble of design elements work together--I can't even explain exactly why they work, just know that if they didn't, I would be able to explain to you what went wrong.  In particular I enjoy the brass metal choice on this green leather--somehow the brass and heel choice keep the overall boot well out of the "elven" category.  And normally I don't care for zippers on Steampunky boots, but with the laces in front, the zipper in back adds a punk edge but does not detract from the period-appropriate feel.

The Vaguely Steampunky Tee

Still here, still dreaming of my eventual Real World Steampunk Wardrobe.  I have not had as much time to blog of late, but that does not mean I've stopped thinking about it. In fact, this week--thanks to all the things I have been collecting to share with you here--I learned that there is such a thing as a full eBay watch list.  As in, I guess I have reached the maximum limit of saved items and eBay will not let me save any more items.  Who knew such a thing was possible?  Clearly, it's time for me to start sharing them.

I have been evaluating the progress of my RWSW, and have noticed that the pseudo-Steampunk looks I am drawn to the most are on the dressier side--skirts and tights, lace-up boots with a Victorian heel, corset and hairpieces.  My biggest challenge, as I attempt to sllloooowwwlllyyy build my RWSW, is finding clothing pieces I can just throw on for my everyday activities, without having to think about assembling an outfit.  I'm finding it fairly easy to get the looks I want for Sundays when I have reasons to gussie-up, but I'm finding it much harder to marry my ideal Steampunk Wardrobe with my Real World.

So I'm trying to evaluate the clothes I love to live in, and see if I can subtly "S'punk" them.

Current, less-than-ideal wardrobe staple #1 is the soft, practical, cotton knit top--with preferably 3/4 sleeves.  If you are ever needing well-made, well-fitting and well-wearing tees, made here in the USA to boot, I urge you to consider Three Dots.  Their British tee is amazing--so flattering.  But they are very basic tops, not in themselves contributing anything even vaguely steampunk to my outfits.  And I'm thinking on the everyday days, when I don't feel like wearing that corset belt or anything more quintessentially Steampunk--but also less comfortable when mommying and whipping up dinner at 6:45 p.m. and spending as much time as possible clothes hunting on the internet--I need a selection of casual, comfy tops that themselves contribute even a hint of steampunky flair.

Now, I realize that there is a great selection out there--on Etsy in particular--for the basic Steampunk T-shirt.  You know what I mean--a solid-color tee with a large old-fashioned printed hot-air balloon or octopus or clockworks.  I find most of them. . . meh.  First of all, subtle they are not. Second, they are often in tee shapes and colors that I think would look better on men than on women.  Metrosexual Steampunk?  Not my thing.  Third, they are all completely modern in look, and only Steampunk by their employment of iconic Steampunk images.  They seem like shirts for trendy, pure-blood Etsy types (the whole mustache phenomenon, anyone?) who don't really know what Steampunk is except it is cool.  Or for Steampunk geeks who are more into the ideas and motifs of Steampunk than they are into celebrating the look itself.

I am much more drawn to the suggestion of the genre, and enjoy trying to find clothes that have the feel of it--neo-Victorian in shape, design, and pattern, but with a nod to Steampunk in certain colors, or metals, or accessories.  It's like I used to tell my students when I taught college writing--don't tell me what you mean; show me. 

There's a certain style of top that was very popular a few years back, but which I don't really see anyone wear anymore, and certainly not on fashion-forward women.  And for the life of me I can't figure out why not--these tops are so romantic and attractive.  Since all the clothes currently available for sale at the mall (neon?  really?!) are so completely hideous this year, and not the least bit compatible with pseudo-Steampunk, it is clear contemporary fashion trends don't know squat about real style.   I am glad this style of top is considered unfashionable; hopefully this means I will have less competition for them on eBay.

Since I don't have a name for this style, let me show you what I mean:

Skinny Minnie makes the most lovely tops, and some of them even have fabulously steampunky designs, like this one with the hot air balloon!  But let's look at the other ways this top is so good for a psuedo-Steampunk wardrobe: antique-y colors, in this case lovely--and naturally Steamy--neutral browns and creams, with a hint of blue for interest;  also lovely feeling of distress in the pattern; and best of all, Victorian-esque script and floral illustrations.   

Now, not all of this style of top are compatible with Steampunk--often the styles and colors and metallic embellishments lean into other distinct genres, usually western, biker, and new-age/tribal.  Definitely avoid those--but if you are unsure if such a top is even remotely steampunky, try to look at it in the abstract, going with the feel of it.  If the colors and textures and images remind you of browned Victorian postcards, or tiny glass goblets of Absinthe in brooding libraries, or faded tintypes of the London Exposition--the top should be compatible, if not fabulous with in a RWSW.

Personally, I really like soft pinks with the traditional Steampunk colors of brown, copper, cream, black, olive, etc.  It's such a feminine and old-fashioned color--and this top has that lovely bonus Penny-Farthing for extra steamy suggestion.

Another lovely vintage hot-air balloon design--and this one with even more rusty tones then the first.

This one one definitely works more on suggestion than actual thematic elements--I just love all that winding floral and distressed/antique pattern.

The gorgeous pattern on this one is practically creepy--why do I imagine it as echoing some Victorian nightmare? What did happen in Paris that summer, that keeps coming back to haunt your dreams?

This is a much safer image, but with such lovely "distressing."  Have I mentioned I enjoy the distressing?  Now if only that were a tea cup instead of a coffee cup. . . (but then we would not have the charming hand-grinder in the lower front, which I particularly like).

Another black and white print--this one makes me think of faded photographic negatives.

This one is also nice rusty brown tones, although the overall effect leans a tad towards the tribal.  But the design on the front is definitely not--and the image there is worthy of Miss Havisham's musty fantasies.

I find it so appropriate that the favorite cities to feature in these tops are also those beloved to well-bred and traveled Victorians.  My favorite shapes on these tops have fairly high necklines, definite shoulders, and semi-fitted waists; these are the most suggestive of the feminine form celebrated in neo-Victorian clothing. 

So darkly pretty!

This one makes a blend of fabrics as well as patterns--I esp. enjoy the black lace panels against the more innocent blue, pink and floral ones.

Here's an example of one that strays into Western territory--but for a girl already working a prairie or cowgirl flair, this one in particular is still very Steampunk compatible.

Another good thing about these styles--sometimes they come in junior sizes (at least Skinny Minnie does) so that you can look for such pieces for your own Mini-Minnie.