Dragonfly Designs by Alisa




Steampunk Geisha


I usually get my best ideas once I go to bed, and last night, with my brain overloaded with steampunk images, I came up with my own design!

Here’s a couple of sketches:

So basically, I’m combining steampunk with a little bit geisha. The top will be kimono, with a back that changes into a flowing Victorian bustle.  The bottom is an unbuttoned skirt, revealing lacy bloomers, garters, and over-the-knee stockings.  Spats, of course! I envision the colors as burgundies and browns, stripes and patterns, brocade and linen.

Then, of course, I want canvas and brass wings – that unfold like a fan from my back.  Pair this with goggles, a compass, and whatever gear-y odds and ends I can fit in!

I’ve already purchased this wig:

It’s time to start looking for the perfect fabric!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Possible kimono fabric?

I have a sample of this embroidered faux silk dupioni ordered.  We’ll see how the colors actually look in person!

It may be too “pink” or “salmon” to match my burgundy, but it does appear to have burgundy in it…. At any rate, I think it’d be outrageous with a striped corset!


I won my first steampunk prop on ebay!

It’s a gorgeous tiny combination sundial and compass, that folds to fit inside a leather case.  I always wanted a personal, portable sundial – but never had an excuse to buy one before!

In other news, I’ve been scouring the internet from top to bottom and am completely unable to find a striped fabric l like for the corset (or at least, one I like that isn’t $150 a yard!).  I may have to sew stripes together myself and make my own – which might very well look better, but would be a massive consumer of time.
It’s always a pain to shop for the perfect fabric I’ve seen only in my head, rather than letting the fabric simply appear out of the blue and suggest its own idea of what it wants to be. (What?  You mean you weren’t *planning* to sew a 1700s pirate ball gown?  Too bad, because here I am, and I’m on sale!)

Embroidered fabric….

I got my sample piece, and it’s not burgundy at all – the flowers are shades of copper, and much lighter than they look in the above photo.  I like the colors, but I’m unsure it would work at all with my burgundy scheme.

Option #1: Change my color scheme.

Option #2: Look for new fabric.

I’m going to take the swatch out to my studio and rummage through my fabric bins and see what works with it, and whether I’m going to be satisfied.  I do think it would look fabulous bustled in a Victorian skirt, so maybe I’ll decide to keep it….

Fabric part 2

I watched tv last night with my embroidered dupioni on my lap, stroking it during advertisements and visualizing it as steampunk.  For awhile I thought I was going to fall in love, but today I came to the conclusion that I just don’t love it enough.  Gah.  Back to square one.  At least it’s not totally a waste, the fabric sample is large enough to make a corset…just not for steampunk.

Results of scouring the internet

I found these fabrics, none of which scream “buy me!!”, but I do like them, so…

This one is simply a patterned silk brocade. I did really like the idea of actual embroidery, though.

This one is embroidered, it’s described as being peach flowers on a burgundy background.  I also can’t tell from the photo how big the flowers are!

This one has light colored embroidered flowers on a burgundy background.  I like the ”trailing” effect of the vines, but the flowers themselves don’t seem as pretty.

And this one is THE ONLY burgundy stripe I have been able to find that works at all.  I was envisioning burgundy striped with another color, but perhaps two shades of burgundy would be as good, or even better.  The size of the stripes looks about right.

Huh.  I’m reluctant to order samples of all these fabrics, because I would have to buy a minimum of a yard from these sellers, and they’re just pricey enough that I don’t want to waste my money on fabric I probably won’t use!  I need to choose a favorite, and order just that one….

The Chosen Fabric!

Or at least, I hope so.

I decided to buy the  first possible fabric, the embroidered copper colored faux silk, because I just could not find anything I liked better, or even as much. I emailed the seller and asked if she had 6 yards left.  She emailed back, No she didn’t, but…she did have 6 yards of the same pattern of embroidered fabric in BURGUNDY, if I’d be interested in that!!!

Why yes, I am interested.  Very interested, as it happens.  So right now I am in negotiation about price and shipping.


Fabric is on its way!

Six yards of burgundy embroidered faux silk just left PA and is on its way to me as I write this.  I am so frickin’ excited to see what it looks like….I guess I need to start thinking of how I am going to manage a geisha bustle!

Fabric is here!

And it’s perfect – JUST what I wanted.

Now I have a decision…stay with the striped corset, or use the other fabric as corset!  What do you think???

It looks very pretty and very asian when the colors are overlapped.


I went looking for a good (easy) Victorian corset pattern – because, however much I like to just drape fabric on my dummy and cut my own patterns, you just *don’t* do that with a corset!  Ever.  I’m still looking for the right corset pattern, but I stumbled across this one for a 5-gore skirt:

I actually adore this entire gown, but the skirt looks perfect for my desire – there’s a side-front seam, exactly where I want to put buttons, and while I wasn’t thinking of a skirt so long, I could either cut it shorter, or leave as is.  I love trains on gowns….okay, I’ve talked myself into this pattern.

In other pattern news, I also adore these, even though they don’t fit this costume.  Future steampunk????

Above is a curaiss bodice with waistcoat styling.

And this one is a tail bodice – love it *almost* enough to buy the pattern, even though I’m not making it…right now.  (It was in my shopping cart until I forced myself to delete it.)

Kimono Top Muslin

Used Simplicity #4080 (kimono pattern) as the beginning base for this, but then re-cut the shape radically. I’m very please with how it looks, so next begins the cutting into the actual fabric…always a little scary!  The corset in this picture is not the one I will be using; I used it only to give the top a better “finished” look.  I kind of like how it looks in white, too – maybe I’ll save the muslin and make a real top of it sometime…


So I haven’t ironed this, or finished sewing the lining, but here’s the basic kimono, sewn out of the pretty fabric!  The black corset is the beginning stages of a properly-fitted corset, and the striped section on the corset is a color test of how a striped corset would look.  If you look on the dummy’s neck, you’ll see a square of light colored “gold” fabric (without the camera flash, it’s actually a pale green the same color as the stems and leaves of the fabric).  I’m thinking of making the corset out of this color, for more contrast.  It’s a really gorgeous color, 2-toned silk dupioni in “lime/fuschia”  – which I know sounds terrible, but actually matches perfectly.  I’ve ordered a yard of fabric from my fabulous eBay silk dupioni supplier:  Fabric Freak

The kimono is lined in a copper-y satin.


I bought a yard of the 2-toned silk dupioni, and have cut it out, ready to embroider. I’m thinking ribbon embroidery, with tiny real watch gears as the centers.

Not being finished in any way, it looks reeeally bad right now, but that will change soon!  I also purchased a metal busk. The corset will lace in the back, and close in the front using one of these:

I’ve never actually sewn one of these gadgets in, so I’m somewhat apprehensive.   For that matter, I’ve never even worn a corset with one of these!

Instead of using metal or plastic boning *made* to use in a corset, I went to my local hardware shop and bought heavy cable ties. Mine are white, because oddly enough, the black ones cost $2 more a package.  How weird is that?  They were exactly the same, except for color.

I’ve heard cable ties work just as well, and are massively cheaper.  Money saved on the areas that don’t show, mean I can justify spending more on the areas that do.  The hardware man was quite surprised that I needed two packages of such super-duper ties!  Never in a million years would he imagine what they’re going to be used for!  😀


I have the skirt all cut out, and ready to sew.  It’s burgundy taffeta, with a black taffeta lining.  Me being me, I’m going to alter the pattern a bit, so fingers crossed it turns out! But then I hardly ever follow pattern directions; I just glance at how the pieces fit together and then sew it my own way.

Hard to tell from this pic, but it’s going to be beautiful.  *fingers crossed*


I’ve been twittering around with my corset today, pinning different things on it, and I’ve come up with a fabulous new idea for it!  It’s so gorgeous – I wish I could show you a picture, but it’s still largely in my head.  If I took a pic of what’s pinned on the dummy, you’d be thinkin’ I lost my mind.

It involves buttons.  Lots of buttons!

Eesh.  Now I have to go BUY all those buttons!!!


The kimono top is officially done – except for hemming, once I decide how long it’s going to be.  I ironed it finally (I hate ironing!) and tried it on.  It fits! I dipped the collar in the back a little, to give it a “geisha” look.  The nape of the neck is considered quite sexy in Japan.  I think I’ll add a little wire into that collar, to ensure that it stands properly upright.  It feels so nice on…silky and slinky!

I’ve got the boning sewn into the corset, and I’m so happy to be done with that part.  It’s not really difficult, but it is tedious to sew all those channels.  I’m happy to report that the cable ties are working perfectly!

And I’ve started to embroider the corset front.  Here, have a look:

The colors turned out kind of wonky in the photo, but you can sort of get the idea.

Also, and (yay me!) I found my buttons.  I went to the dollar store, and found these cool metal-look buttons with sort of…well actually, I’m not sure how to describe the pattern.  They look very steampunk to me, though.  I’ll get pics tomorrow and post them.  At the same dollar store, I also got skull and crossbones buttons (in both brass and silver colors) and these flower patterned ones.  All six buttons for a dollar.  I adore great deals.


These are the first choice for buttons.  Even though they’re flowers, they sort of look gear-ish to me.

Or these.  These also look steamy!

$1 per packet of six.  I’m happy!

10 Buttons, 10 Buttonholes

I was dreading finishing the skirt, because I would have to do ten buttonholes.  I thought I hated buttonholes, only having done one in my life before…which of course must be why I decided to make an outfit that calls for twenty-six buttonholes all together!

But heck.  Buttonholes are way easy on my sewing machine.  They are actually sort of fun.  So here’s the skirt, done except for hemming (I need to decide on shoes, still) and the one little hook and eye at the waist.

Here’s a close up of the buttonhole-ness (because I still can’t believe that they’re done):

Yes, I went with the gear-like flowers, largely because I’m saving the wire-like buttons for “Steampunk #2”.  I don’t have enough for both outfits, and the other one isn’t “girly”, so it required the more masculine buttons. I’m getting into buttons in a big way!

With the kimono top sort of pinned into place (no corset yet, so I can’t really make it look right yet:

And the back of the neck.  I did a geisha-type neck – the Japanese think the nape of a woman’s neck is one of the sexiest parts!  I think I’m going to slip a wire in the top edge of the collar, just to make it hold the shape better.  And my hair’s definitely going to have to be short, or pinned up.

Now I just need to finish the embroidery on the corset, and then I can start working on the bustle back.

That Bloody Corset

I put off doing the embroidery on it for ages because I pretty much despised doing the style of embroidery I picked.  Finally, I made myself finish it…and it’s gorgeous.  So gorgeous, that I may even do this type of embroidery again, once the trauma of doing this one wears off. I timed the second half, it took four hours.  So eight hours to embroider the entire thing.  Not so bad.

BUT…the nerve-wracking thing about this corset, was that it was a new pattern.  Which meant I wasn’t *entirely* sure it was going to fit me right.  I can’t try it properly on, you see, until I put in the grommets and can lace it up, and I can’t put the grommets in until I’ve done the embroidery.  So basically, some people sky-dive as their risky behavior…I do corsetry without a safety net!  (As I’m way too lazy to put grommets in the muslin).  If it didn’t fit, there’s eight hours of tedious embroidery and one yard of dupioni silk wasted.

Today I was finally able to try it on, and it fits!  Yes!  Huge relief.  So here’s pics.  Bear in mind that the front of corset will be steampunk’d up with my new secret design, and the bustle back is not done at all.  I’ve just wadded up some fabric and pinned it for a sort of general idea.

Corset and Shoes

I may add a bit more trim to the button front, but otherwise, it’s done at last!

And there’s a long thin hidden pocket, just right for slipping a fan or stiletto out of sight until needed… Below, I have the top of a fan sticking out.

Now that the corset’s sorted, the problem becomes one of footwear.  I was going to go with victorian-style button-up boots, but now I’m thinking I’m going to stay with the Japanese theme, and wear traditional Geta.

Like these:

With those cute little toe socks, of course!  (And, bonus, I’ll re-use the geta later on, too, when I make my Geisha costume.)

But…one has to make one’s geta steampunk, so I think I’m going to add spats, somewhat like these:

I’m not entirely sure how to work that out, but it seems cool and very original in my head.  I know I’ve done a zillion different versions of “geta-steampunk” google searches, and haven’t found a thing.   So,yeah.  Something to think about!


I made a pair of lovely white bloomers for my “Faerie” costume with the idea they will also work for this one.

I love white with cream trim – so pretty!


Designed a lovely new “travel style” bustle – one that folds for easy packing.

It has a black duck fabric backing, with ribbons sewn together for the boning channels. For boning, I used round basket maker’s doweling.  Not sure how well that will hold up for repeated wear, but I like the idea of the natural materials, and it *seems* pretty solid.  I have to really work at it to snap one of the dowels – since it’s made for basket-weaving, it’s very flexible – and it seems to hold its place well.  I sewed smaller ribbons to link them and hold them in the proper position.

See how nicely it folds?

Then, I finished sewing lace on, for that pretty look. 

I’m well pleased with it.  If the wood boning proves to be too weak, I’ll figure out something else, but use this same design!


One spat is done.

Shown with my tabi socks and geta-style wooden flip-flops.  The shoes will be sanded down (too pretty in pink!) and repainted in colors to match my outfit.  But hey, the whole English spats with Japanese footwear is looking good, I think!

The back lacing is largely for show; there is a hidden zipper underneath the button panel.

Finished – except for accessories!

I still need to finish one spat, make a white lace collar (I think it will button up with the same little black buttons as the spats), and paint the shoes.  And iron.  Lots of ironing needs to be done!

Inside the skirt is a built-in white petticoat. (Bonnie, this is where your steampunk skirt went!)


Hair 10/5/10

I’m doing a major push to get this one finished – SOON.  I’ll be very glad to have all the bits and bobs remaining done.  Basically, I have to:

1) Sew trim along the hem of the skirt

2) Make a collar and a new ruffled jabot. The jabot in the pictures wasn’t made for this, and when it’s on me, it’s a tad too short. I want it to actually tuck into the top of the corset.

3) Finish painting the geta shoes. Done, almost. I need to paint the sealer on them, and cover the pink straps with something that matches the dress.

4) Make a thigh (or possibly an arm) holster for these plastic ninja knives I bought.

5) Paint the ninja knives so they don’t look plastic.

6) Make a secret pocket to hold my cell phone, camera, ID, and money.

7) Make my hair.

That last one is what I’m working on now.  I bought a cheap black bob wig as the base. Then I made a half circle frame out of half a foam wreath base sandwiched between layers of foam board, wrapped in wire.  Over this, I wrapped fake hair, bought by the hank on ebay.

I left the ends of the hair hanks dangling long. I’m probably going to do something with these ends…I don’t know what.  Six wooden chopsticks (painted red and topped with dangly bits) later, I have the beginning of my headdress/hair.  The flowers are not going to be that color; they were just the closest flowers I had to hand.  The back needs lots more hair and decoration.  I’m still working on that!

The resulting hair will be sort of Japanese, sort of Chinese, sort of fantasy-Asian, which works, I think, for steampunk. I just want it to look cool, not particularly historical-correct. 🙂

New Hair

Due partly to the fact that I’m now planning a Chinese Steampunk outfit, I’ve decided to change the Geisha Steampunk’s hair to something a little more traditionally Japanese.  Just a *little* more traditional, though!  😀

Also I bought this awesome cockade from Clytemnestra’s Closet, and it didn’t look well with the previous hair idea.   So here’s the new pics:

The dangles are gold bead caps, strung together on chain, then fastened onto a pair of chopsticks.

I’m pretty pleased with the overall look!

Woot!  Five more days until Steamcon, and then I’ll have me-wearing-it pictures to share!

Wearing it at Steamcon II – 11/20/10

This was my most people-popular costume EVER.  Wow.  So many wonderful comments, and I couldn’t walk 5 feet down the hallway w/o being stopped for pictures! One guy was so cute: he complimented me on it, saying it was a “perfect mixture of Japanese and Victorian”.  I asked if he’d noticed the spats, and when I lifted my skirt a little to show him, he squealed in delight just like a little girl!  Heehee. 

Here I’m lifting my skirt REALLY high to show off my little steampunk revolver in its thigh holster….

The above picture is from this blog.

One thing I’m ticked off at myself for – I completely forgot to wear the little “gold bell” hair sticks I made!  I packed them in a different place from my other jewelry so they wouldn’t get tangled up, and then forgot to put them on! I didn’t remember until the end of the day, when I was taking the outfit off….

But the travel bustle held up perfectly – two days of wear at the con, and I wore it home folded up under my saloon girl skirt in the car – and it’s still in perfect shape.  I’m so pleased!

Steampunk Saloon Girl

Saloon Girl

This will be Steamcon II costume number 3.  I first talked about it here, on my blog.

Today, I got the corset cut out and partially sewn together.  Then, rather than finish the boring bits (like adding boning) I got distracted by all the pretty trims I could use.  After dumping out my trim box and sorting through it, I chose this for the front:

Very roughly pinned together, but you get the idea!  The back will have a big poofy bustle of the same red silk, and a long train – probably floor length.

I’m really excited about this one, because I think it’s going to be gorgeous!  Lots of ruffles, bustling, lace, and trim!

Corset Finished (except for a bit more detailing)

I spent the morning out in the studio and got the corset boned, trim sewn, grommets grommetted, and edges finished.  And I’m really pleased with how it looks.  I think I’ll end up adding a little more trim to it (along the bottom edge and perhaps the top) and sewing on some jewels or beads into the lattice braid.

The buttons disguise the zipper underneath.  I swear, whenever I’m not being all super-historical, I’m always going to put zippers in my corsets!  It makes it so much quicker and easier to get dressed!  The back still laces up, but now it’s more ornamental than functional.

So now I did some more playing with trim, and here’s a pinned-together show of possible options.  First off, I have just enough remaining trim to do this:

I think the top section is a go, I’m still on the fence about the bottom part.  I suppose I’ll wait to decide until I get some of the ruffled skirt done and see how it looks.

Next we have a look with a couple kinds of lace/braid – this would be part of the chemise/blouse underneath the corset.  I was originally thinking of making something more plain for underneath, but maybe I like the lace???  If I did, I think I’d tea-dye it a darker shade, more like the lace rosette trim.

Isn’t that lace just the prettiest thing ever?  Thrift-shop find, $1 for about 1.5 yards! Oh, and the closeup gives you a good look at the real color of the silk. In all the other pictures, it’s way too light.  It’s more of a dark cherry…so luscious!

I love how gaudy it’s starting to look.  You really can’t have too much gaud for a saloon girl!!!

Flounces – A Beginning

Played around with lace, braid, and silk today, and think I know what I’m doing now.

Sneak peak:

Instead, though, of having two layers of red, I’m going to have one red on top, then two each of blue and purple.

Ruffles 6/5/10

Did a lot of work. Got all the ruffles sewn together and the lace underskirt bustle petticoat thing done.

The gold trim along the bottom of the red ruffle is sewn on; the gold trim at the waist is still just pinned – and right now there’s two different kinds because I’m deciding which I like best. I may also put a much narrower gold trim at the bottom of the other ruffles as well.  I’m also deciding if the waist needs some silk flowers and ribbons sewn on!

I’m also in the progress of figuring out some sort of leather chest harness. That’s two belts, there.  I really like how I joined them..  I just threaded one belt through the loop of the other. It’s very secure, and looks so frickin’ cool!

Red Bustle Skirt – 8/21/10

Finally done with all of the major sewing on this costume – all that’s left is some trim, and all the accessories.

I made a blouse.  Just a quick, simple one, because I wanted it to have that ‘undergarment’ feel!

I also got the chest harness done – except for accessories. I’m thinking it needs a gun holster….  As per usual, when it comes to anything in the chesty area, the dummy and I just don’t fit things the same way!  Grrrr. It fits higher and tighter on me!

Then, I figured out how I wanted the skirt to go, and sewed it together.  It still needs trim along the hem, and a cream flouncy underskirt under the long back portion of the skirt.  I’ve got extra fabric left over from the blouse, so I think I’ll use that.

It needs ironing SO BAD!  And this color of red just won’t photograph true. It’s a darker, richer red!

There are three hooks on the back bustle. Right this moment I have a brass bell hanging from the middle one.  No clue what, if anything, I’ll hang from the others, but I like the look.

Red Bustle Trim – 8/26/10

Got the gold trim sewn on the bustle.

Those hooks are going to be handy…so fair I’ve got the bell and a fan attached….

All that’s left to do on this costume is decide if/how I’m going to do a gun holster, make the matching top hat, and sew the silk flowers that will decorate the waist.  Oh, and sew some tassel trim onto the hem of the red bustle to add weight and swing.

Wearing it   11/21/10

This was my Sunday dress at Steamcon II. 

Steampunk Ottoman

First wearing – Steamcon 2011

You can read about my adventures here – I won “Best-Dressed Female” at the Wayfarer’s Brunch!

These pictures do not capture the colors – I didn’t realize how much the yellow hallways affected the shots until I saw them on my home computer!  Oh well, I’m wearing it again on Halloween, so I’ll try for some better ones then!

Beetlewing Vest 9/29/11

The vest is done!  I enjoyed the embroidery on this a great deal; quite a satisfying project.  I know I want to do more!  So here are the pictures:

Forgive that it’s still a bit lint-y; I need to get another of those sticky roller things!

The beetlewings are outlined in small gold beads, and couched gold braid is the stems. Also, I finished the front of the waist cincher with faux leather straps and buckles.

This one is officially done now – expect to see pictures of me wearing it (with the turban!) after Steamcon III.  I’m wearing this one on Sunday because of the Wayfarers’ multicultural brunch, so if you’re also coming to Steamcon, be sure to come up and say hello!  I’ll have badge ribbons to hand out!!!

Beetlewing Embroidery  7/25/11

In my push to get this costume finished *before* Steamcon III (so I have time to work on some other projects) I decided I really need to get started on the final layer…the vest.  This was originally going to have elbow length sleeves, but I like what I did with the sleeves on the red coat so much that I don’t want to cover that up.  So the vest is going to be sleeveless.

I’ve been fascinated by the idea of trying out beetlewing embroidery – which is exactly what it sounds like).  The wings are shed naturally, and in certain countries, at certain times of the year, these gorgeous glittering wings literally litter the streets by the thousands.  I don’t know if the Ottomans were into this type of embroidery, but the Victorians certainly were, so I’m saying that’s good enough for steampunk!  You can buy the wings on ebay at a very reasonable price – about $5 for a hundred wings.  Here is a picture of my wings, as they arrived:

You have to steam them for about 5 minutes to soften them enough to punch sewing holes through them, and also trim them into your desired shape.  The process isn’t difficult, but it is a bit tedious, as you can only do about three before they cool down too much.  I left the pot steaming, and dipped out a trio at a time to work with. Here they are, trimmed and punched:

And here’s a bit of the (still unfinished) embroidery, on my black velveteen:

It’s almost too shiny for my camera to capture.  The wings are outlined in little gold beads, with larger oval gold beads on top. At the base of some, there is a faux pearl, also surrounded by beads.  The wings are really so pretty – and the colors are very changeable, sometimes bright blue, or green, or even bronze!

As an embroidery trial, I made a small Victorian purse, which is up for sale here.

First Wearing – as a Pirate! 5/21/11

The bare legs and sandals were not my preferred look, but it was too warm to wear with the stockings and shoes I *plan* to wear with it.

I wore it to my library workplace, for our second “Pirate Fun Day”.  Yes, we just randomly dress up in costumes for fun!

Ready for first wearing! 5/14/11

I’ve been working hard on this one, and here’s the results:

The undertunic/coat, with blouse:

The blouse is cropped at the waist, because I really didn’t care to add more bulk around there.  It’s a crinkly cotton gauze.  Thanks to one of the fabulous people I met through this website, I found the perfect frogs:

The next two layers are the overtunic/coat and the waist cincher:

The coat is DONE.  Yay!  The waist cincher still needs some work.  It doesn’t actually cinch my waist…since the boning isn’t completely in, and I still haven’t decided if I’m going to use buttons (as shown) or some other method of closure.  It is “done” for now, though, because my goal was to finish enough of this outfit to make it wearable by May 20th – which is a “Pirate Fun Day” at my workplace.

So here are pictures of it “pirate-ized”:

This last one is funny, because I was just wishing I could hold the sleeves out so I could show off the embroidery, when a gust of wind came up and blew one out – and held it out, long enough to get a picture!

Since my dressmaker’s dummy can’t wear pants, I can’t show you pics with the turkish trousers on, but here’s a sneak peek:

I used the tutorial from Multiculturalism for Steampunk and added buttons on the leg cuffs.  These aren’t quite done yet, either…there will eventually be spats.

More pics of me wearing the pirate version will be posted after 5/20!

Progress 4/28/11

Lots of progress!  I’ve *nearly* finished the next layer – and you can see the blouse underneath, although that is just pinned, and the sleeves aren’t there at all. 

It’s made of cotton “homespun” (WalMart has it for around $5 a yard) with embroidery in a gold color.   The collar is not done; it will be heavily embroidered, as will be the bottom front part of the coat’s hem.  I drew the design on freehand with a black sharpie, then embroidered over it.

The waist cincher is mostly done too.  I just have to install some sort of front closure, and I’m not sure whether I want buttons, frogs, buckles, or clips….so I’m saving that until later.  Notice there is a long narrow pocket on the right side (I have a knife in there now) and a watch pocket on the left.

I lined the sleeves in green stripe.  And notice the two little buttons at the elbow bend of the sleeves.  They are completely not functional….but they look so cute!

There are also two pockets on each side, also embroidered, and each will button.  I’m ordering buttons from Turkey (how awesome is THAT for an Ottoman outfit!) so I’m waiting for those to arrive.  There will also be buttons up the back:

Also, I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here, but the short bolero-type jacket will be black velveteen – and I’m going to embroider it with goldwork and beetle wings!  I got the wings in the mail from Thailand, and they are so pretty!

Progress 2/21/11

I cannot remember, now that I sit down to type this, what this type of tunic/coat is called.  So I will simply say that it is the middle layer of the Ottoman outfit, it goes over the shirt but under the sleeved coat.  Pretty much, you will only see a little bit of it around the neckline and the sides of the front.  It still needs the collar finished, hemming, and possibly more embroidery down the front sides and hem.  We’ll see.

And a close up of the embroidery…which is actually a crazy-quilt stitch!

I was given this fabric by a co-worker who no longer wanted it.  I’m back to square one, however, on the fabric for the sleeved overcoat.  My taffeta stripe turned out to be very stiff and didn’t drape well enough.  So I re-purposed it into an underskirt for the “Venetian Elf Courtesan”, and am hunting for a new stripe.  I’d love something woven, with maroon as one of the colors.

MOAR Inspiration photos – and fabric! 12/25/10

The below style is called a “ghawazee coat”.  So pretty!

The below is interesting; it’s a photo of a Victorian lady dressed for a costume ball. Not Ottoman, but so pretty I’m sticking it in here anyway as an example of how fascinated Victorians were with all things “oriental”.  This outfit would make a fabulous reproduction costume for someone!

The below is a bedouin woman, but the veil with coins is just so awesome.

Also, I completely adore this costume from The Kingdom of Heaven:

And, I went shopping on the Denver Fabrics website, and found two awesome fabrics for my outfit.  This one, for the outer coat:

And this one, for the inner coat:

Probably, they will be for the Ottoman.  If I don’t end up liking them for this, they will likely become something else.  I love striped fabric!

Inspiration 12/24/10


I’m not sure when I’ll actually make this one (perhaps late 2011 or early 2012?) but until then, I’m starting to collect some inspiration art.


The above images are taken from a book called “Ottoman Women: Myth & Reality” by Asli Sancar.  I highly reccommend it; it’s packed with interesting information!  I also have more pictures I’ve nabbed off the internet; I’ll post those later.

Here are a few internet links I found inspiring/helpful:

Multiculturism for Steampunk 

16th Century Persian Women’s Clothing

Ottoman Women’s Clothing

The Beautiful Necessity

Ottoman Clothing Information

If anyone has any other good links, feel free to leave me a comment or drop me an email at MiddleEarthFan (at)

Finally, here is a preliminary sketch I made with some of my current ideas:


The vest will be heavily embroidered/beaded with a design something like this (taken from the same book as the photos):


Steampunk Hufflepuff

Steamcon 2012

Now with 100% more hat and owl.  I just love this costume SO MUCH.

Finished! 10/21/12

I’ll be wearing this to Steamcon 2012. I already wore it (minus the hat which wasn’t done) to work for a Dress Up Day.

Thank you to Charlene and Hannah for being Harry Potter geeks with me!

But now the hat is done, so here are pictures!

I decided to use McGonagall’s hat as my inspiration.  Older ladies tend to slow to adapt to new fashions, so I figure the “pointy witch’s hat” used to be more common in older days.  Like, say, in the Victorian time?  Anyway, that’s why MY uniform has a hat.  That, and because I just wanted to make one….  😉

The owl does have a light that blinks in his brain box, but that didn’t show up well in the bright outdoor light.

Lookit my little owl stamp!

I also made a book to carry with me.  The cover has taken from the Harry Potter “Film Wizardry” book.  That book has a ton of reproductions/pullouts in it.  (And btw, they are printing an updated version that has stuff from the Deathly Hallows in it.  So I guess I will have two copies of this book soon.  Sigh.)

But surprise!  It’s not a real book!  🙂  It is secretly a way to carry my phone, camera, etc while I’m at Con.

Video tour here:


Robe 8/24/12

The robe is done…except for hemming! 

Really, I think this is going to be one of my favorite costumes of all time.

The robe has two pockets.  A small breast pocket on the right side, just large enough for money, ID, and credit cards.

And a wand pocket on the left.  Oh, I also need to embroider a label for under the wand pocket that reads “Madame Malkins, Robes for All Occasions”.  That is the hilt o my wand peeking out the top, there.

Then, I started work on my owl. I was going to use a copper owl bank I found on ebay, but it turned out to be too heavy when it came.  However, I pulled off the eyes and copper ‘forehead/beak’ piece, and combined it with a bunch of bought/found items for my own steampunk owl.  The body is a tomato paste can!  I’m not quite done; it still needs something on its head (perhaps a light?) but here’s a peak.

The wings are the lid of the can, cut in half, turned so the brass underside shows, and trimmed with tin snips into a wing shape.

Now, onto the hat!

Bodice Finished! 8/15/12

The bodice is done, and the skirt is mostly done.  Yay!  All I need to do on the skirt is hem it, and sew the ruffled bustle on the back.

Then I can start either the outer robe or the hat.  I’m super excited about beginning both!

On to the pictures!!!

Now you can see the colors better – and see that the tie, indeed, does need to be dyed!  🙂

In case I didn’t mention earlier, I drafted my own pattern for the bodice, although I did modify my favorite skirt pattern in all the world for the skirt: Simplicity 8375.  It’s out of print, but still available from ebay and etsy.

The pocket watch has its own special fob: a golden snitch!

I put it together myself, from two wing-shaped jewelry finding (from Michaels) and a ball locket.  I bought a bunch of the ball lockets off etsy.  There is a seller who paints the most marvelous little images inside hers…I may do something like that inside mine.  Or I might do something like this.  Who knows????

And here’s the back, although that will change, once I add the butt ruffles!

And now I need your help!  Since I’m wearing this to Steamcon, I need ideas for a Harry Potter phrase to have printed on my giveaway badge ribbons.  Something cute or funny…perhaps a quote from the books?  Needs to be very short, as those ribbons don’t allow a lot of room.

Progress 8/12/12

I’ve decided to finish this in time for Steamcon IV in October.  So excited about this costume; I think it’s going to be a blast to wear!

What I have done:

The gold underskirt just needs to be hemmed, and snaps sewn on the waistband.  The overskirt needs its frilly butt bustle, hemming, and the side with the buttons needs to be finished.  Right now that side is just pinned together.

The bodice needs some binding, some buttons, and a collar.  And the patch sewn on.

Bad pics do not properly show the color.  At all.  The sun is setting outside, and I could not find a good angle that didn’t wash it out.

But it was either bad pics or no pics, and I was really, really wanting to show you guys what I’ve been doing!  I promise it’s really SO much more prettier!!!  🙂

It also will have a blouse under it.  The blouse is already made; it’s the one I used for my Steampunk 10th Doctor outfit.  And I need to dye the tie the right color (not that you can tell, but the stripes are white, not gold) and make it into a cravat like I did for the 10th Doctor’s outfit.

Steampunk Hogwarts Uniform

I am a Harry Potter addict, a steampunk enthusiast, and an ardent Hufflepuff.  So of course these things had to come together eventually.  Here’s the concept sketch for a Victorian Steampunk version of a Hogwarts uniform, from the Hufflepuff house.

Even though I have no plans yet on where to where this, I couldn’t resist starting immediately!  Due to Pottermore finally letting me in on the Beta testing (I’m HexErised30) and the it-will-be-delivered-to-me-tomorrow book: Harry Potter Page to Screen which I am so frigging excited to have, I am back in a Harry Potter frenzy.

I bought some dark grey wool mix fabric for the skirt and vest, and some faux silk in a mustard-y color for the lining and underskirt.  I also have a black wool mix for the robe itself.  Before Steamcon III, I was able to cut out most of the skirt (using my ever-wonderful and sadly out of print pattern: Simplicity 8375) and make a muslin for the vest.

Everything is just pinned together in the above picture.  I also want to make a metal “mechanical” owl for the hat, and a steam-powered broom.  I’m pretty sure how I’m going to do the owl; but the broom is still very much a thought-in-progress.  If I’m going to take it to conventions with me, it really needs to collapse – or come apart for packing.  Hmmm…..

Steampunk Ghost

Ghost Me at Steamcon IV

I was a *little* worried about how this costume was going to fit me.  I’d never tried on all the pieces together, and the jacket sleeves in particular had given me endless trouble.  I was afraid it was going to be one of those costumes that just feel awkward and slightly ill-fitting to wear…even if it looks fine to the bystander.

Well, it was fine!  It fit comfortably and the only annoying part of the costume was the makeup.  I’m always touching my face, normally, and it was a constant struggle to remember stay hands-off!

I had a lot of compliments on my box pleats, too!  As well as many, many people expressing how they themselves would never have been able to stain it with blood.  🙂


Finished!  10/21/12

All that’s left to do is wear it…which will happen at Steamcon this coming weekend.  And now – on to the pictures!

I love how the blood turned out.  I ended up using paint.  I used a dark wine color, added in a rust, and then some brown shades to get an “old blood” look.  Real old blood would be even more brown than this, but I wanted it to still have a redness to it, so I cheated a bit.  I then thinned the paint way down with water and applied with a brush and my fingers.  Right on the left side of the collar, I made a raggedly “knife cut” in the fabric, with the idea that my ghost had died of that injury.  I then completely saturated the fabric over and near the ‘wound’ (if you do this, remember to put plastic underneath your costume, so you don’t bleed through to your corset or dummy!)  Then I brought the blood down as if it had run down her skirt.  I also drenched the brush and held it up near the skirt, so that the blood would naturally drip down.

I had so much fun playing with the blood!  Something must be wrong with me….  🙂

It  was a little intimidating to begin – I knew I had one shot at getting it right, since once the blood was on, it was there to stay.  Where’s Dexter when you need some advice on blood splatter????

So, now you can see how the chest tech looks.  The idea is, after she was murdered, her mad scientist husband (perhaps filled with regret? Was he the one who killed her?) created this Corporeality gadget.  It doesn’t bring her back to life, but while she wearing it, her spirit is made visible/tangible.  There is a vial of her blood, to draw/bind her spirit, and a flashing light.

I like how the blood looks on the embroidery!

Here’s a video tour of the costume:

After Steamcon, I’ll post pics of me wearing it.

Almost Done! 10/13/12

I’ve been bad, and not taken any progress pictures.  But here are lots of ‘nearly done’ pictures!  The only things left to do on this is apply liberal amounts of “dried blood” and finish the steampunk tech that is going to fit in the center of the chest.  That’s what those tubes are for, sticking out.  Ignore those for right now….

Also excuse the many wrinkles.  I’m sorry, but not even for love of YOU will I iron when I know I’m just going to wrinkle it up again while finishing it.  🙂

You can admire all the box pleats, if you want.  I was box-pleating FOREVER.

Or admire the embroidery.  I’m so sick of doing grey-on-grey embroidery!!!!

There will be a brooch on the collar.  I have a gray cameo on order that I hope will work.  The lace is a doily, dyed to match.

This jacket is entirely my own design.  No patterns here.

Then I made a hat.  I was going to make one from scratch, but then I found a cheap Halloween top hat in grey.  When I got it home, it was just a little too light a grey, so I ended up spray painting it darker.  And then I cut it apart and made this.

Side view:

Other side:

The veiling on this side can be pulled across my face, which is probably how I’ll wear it.  More ghostly, don’cha know.

Back view:

The wig is this wig:

It was very cheap, and very GLOSSY and shiny.  I spray-painted it, too.  Now it looks sort of like it’s been powdered.  Very cool.  I’m so glad the American Duchess blog showed me how to spray paint wigs!

Then, I made a purse.

It still needs its chain, but otherwise, it’s done.  See – it even has pockets!

Those pockets came about because I’d originally been planning to have embroidered panels on the sleeve cuffs.  I finished one cuff, and decided I didn’t like it.  So, rather than toss it out and waste that work, I somehow devised the idea of wrapping it around the purse and making pockets.  There is one pocket on each side.  I quite like it!

As part of the costume, I will wear these gloves.  They only came in light tan, so I bleached them, then dyed them.

And for a prop, I have a LED candlestick. Ghosts do, don’t they?  🙂

Progress 7/26/12

I’ve been busy! First of all, while the vest/bodice is done, the jacket and skirt are still mostly pinned together….so if it looks weird, that’s the reason.  I hope…  😉 Also, ugh, wrinkles on the vest around the buttons.  I *think* that’s just because I don’t have it pulled down properly on the dummy.

Look at the buttons!  I embroidered little designs on them!

This is a close up of the collar.  See the fringe?  That is actually the selvage edge of the fabric.  I cut it all off and saved it, and now I’m sewing it back on as edging.  If there’s a pretty fringe on the selvage, I always save it.  The Steampunk Ottoman also has a selvage-edged fringe on its collar.

And the back:

That odd cut-out over the butt is where I’m going to add an embroidered peplum.

And I totally need to get better pics of this costume next time.  Wow, it’s actually SUMMER outside right now!  Other parts of the country may have been boiling hot for ages, but here?  It’s been pretty chilly and non-sunny most of the time.   It’s nice to be warm, but bright sunshine on grey silk?  Not so good for photography!

Bodice 5/25/12

I decided I wasn’t quite happy with the previous post’s muslin, so I threw it out and started again.  This time I draped it myself, without using any commercial pattern as a starting point.  I have a much clearer idea in my head as to what I want now.  And then I cut out into the fashion fabric and got the bodice pretty much sewn together.  I just need the collar (which I need to embroider first), the buttons (which I am also embroidering), and to finish binding the bottom. 

It’s going to be sleeveless, because there will be a matching jacket worn over it.

And here’s a peek at the lining.  I used to totally leave the inside all unfinished – because why bother if no one will see it?  But now, I’m discovering it makes me happy to have things quite perfect inside.

The lining is denim, because I wanted something pretty stiff to make up for the frailty of the grey silk.  I would normally use duck, but I was out.  The denim is pretty nice; I may use more of it for lining in the future.

This costume will finished in time for SteamCon 2012.

Muslin 1/13/11

So in the last post, I showed you pictures of two possible patterns. I decided to go with the one on the bottom…as far as the vest/waist combo.  (The skirt will probably be completely different.)  I started making a muslin yesterday.  Here is the results for the vest:

Also, since making a muslin is considerable effort, I’ve decided to turn it into a wearable dress…if all goes well.  I found several fabrics in my boxes that I have no plans for, so why not?  There is also a chance that I will need a Victorian dress in March, as a friend and I are considering attending the Port Townsend Victorian Festival.  What you see in the above photograph will be turned inside out and become the lining of the test dress.

After I made the vest pattern, I started in on the waist.  Everything is still very much pinned together/not finished, but here’s a pic of the fabrics I’m using, and an idea of the trim:

Since the weather is nasty and wet outside, I had to take indoor pics, thus the colors are not right at all.  The vest is actually a pale blue and gold brocade, and the waist is more blue than it looks.  The waist is also not finished at all regarding collar, lapels, or *anything* so it will look SO MUCH BETTER eventually! 

Possible Patterns – 11/23/10

This one:

Or this one:

More likely, it will be a variant of both, mingled with a bit of the massively pleated dress from the post of 11/14/10.

The Grey Lady  11/14/2010

I got the idea for this costume because I visited the Harry Potter Exhibit.  My favorite costume on display was the Bloody Baron’s.  He’s a ghost, so his outfit is solid grey, with the most amazing texture and detail.  You can’t properly see how GORGEOUS it was in this pic, but since they didn’t allow pictures inside the exhibit, this is the best online photo I could dig up.

The buttons have embroidery on them, the whole outfit is tattered and torn, and then there’s the spectacular spill of dried blood against all that grey!  🙂 What can I say? I sometimes have a morbid turn of mind…

I wanted to make it instantly, but I really did not want to make it as a man’s costume.  I wanted a grey and bloody dress.  I toyed with doing one of the other Hogwarts ghosts (they all have the same glorious grey outfits), but the only woman is The Grey Lady, and she doesn’t have blood on her.

I could cheat and add blood, and the costume IS spectacular, but for some reason I’m just not wanting to make one in this style at present.  Maybe someday….

Then it hit me: I’ve been wanting to do a full-on Victorian bustle dress, with all the bells and whistles and ruffles and pleats.  Like one of these:

Only, it would be all in grey, and have a spill of blood down the front.  I’d wear a grey wig, and do some sort of grey-scale makeup.  And then – the detail that makes me really happy: some sort of steampunk gadget that “brings ghosts back into the material world” so that they can interact with the living.  Oh, the backstory I could make up for this one!!!

Out of curiosity, I googled grey Victorian dresses and came up a couple:

That one’s too plain and too dark a grey (I want a light silvery color), but it is pretty!

This one, however, is more like it!  I think I’m going to need to make myself a pleating board….

And, of course, I’ve already spent some time looking around online to see what sort of fabric I can find in grey.  I haven’t chosen anything for the dress itself, but I did find (and buy) 4 yards of this grey embroidered tulle:

I’m thinking this will be the lace under the cuffs.  It looks like it will tatter and stain very nicely….

So this is Project #1 for 2011.

Red Velvet Birdcage Steampunk

Costume Con 30

I came, I saw, I wore a birdcage on my butt…

Red Velvet Steampunk Showgirl

This was put together very quickly for an upcoming Con, so I didn’t get any pictures in progress.

Except for a few before the buttons were sewn on:

The jacket/bodice is (of course) red velvet. The skirt is made from a thrift store white cotton sheet.  I draped all of this myself, without using a commercial pattern.

There’s a surprise in the back…are you ready?

I also call this one the “birdcage dress” because of the bustle.

The bustle is made of basket-weaving reed (basically super-flexible wood) that has been spray painted gold.  You can’t really see in the pic, but it’s also glittery! It’s held in shape by gold ribbon.

And then there’s a bird.  A glittery red peacock-ish bird that I bought in an after-Christmas sale.

After I sewed the buttons on, it looked like this:

And then I made a hat/fascinator, using another item I bought in the after-Christmas sale:

I’m taking this to Costume Con with me in May, so look for me-inside-it pictures coming soon!

Steampunk Mummy

Finally posting pictures 11/30/13

First, a few more detailed shots of the various parts.

The belt is made of Christmas metallic mesh ribbon, spray-painted copper, and laid over fabric.  It was then embroidered with beetle wings and other things.

I made the headdress by making a “cap” of plaster gauze, then cutting wing shapes from cardboard, putting the wings into position, then layering more plaster gauze over the whole thing.  After the gauze had dried, I pressed a thin layer of Paperclay over the whole thing, and carved decorative shapes in it.  Then I sculpted the cobra head from more Paperclay, attached it, and painted the entire thing.  Lastly, I glued on a bunch of beetle wing “feathers”.

It was fairly simple, and turned out pretty well.

I wore it Steamcon this October, and it was surprisingly easy to wear.  I was rather worried I’d be tripping over wrappings all day, but (for the most part) that didn’t happen!

The paper silhouette cutter did one of me in this costume – and said I might actually make it into the art book she’s currently working on.  Wouldn’t that be cool?

Professional photographers Thom Walls and J. Krolak were there, and they were kind enough to take a ton of pics of me.  Here are just a few.

You can read more about my adventures at Steamcon V here.

Almost done…and just in time, too  10/22/13

My costuming schedule was shot to hades this year.  After Gallifrey One was over, I just stopped sewing entirely and took a gardening-and-raising-quail holiday.  BUT I needed new costumes for SteamCon, because one always needs new costumes, right?  Usually I have at least three new costumes, and often four.

This year, I will have one.  This one.  And I’m only finishing it by the skin of my teeth.

I still need to finish the belt, the gloves, and the headdress (and I hope to make a mummified crocodile purse.)


It is a LOT of work to distress this much cotton.  So tired of doing it, by the time I was done.  And I could have done more, really.

The collar/necklace I beaded myself.  I could not find a cheap source of clay mummy beads, so I ended up buying a mummy bead egyptian collar off ebay, pulling it apart, and putting it back together my way.

The heart scarab has a bicycle safety light underneath.  I sculpted a top from Paperclay, painted it, and carved ‘cracks’ in it for the light to show through.

I love the front of the skirt.  It’s my favorite part.

I’ll be wearing this costume at SteamCon on Saturday, at least.  For the other days I’m thinking I’ll wear the Airship Pirate Steampunk (with a green wig and a little crocheted octopus in honor of Guest Brian Kesinger) and one other that I will probably put together out of bits and pieces of other steampunk outfits.

Come and find me.  I have ribbons and postcards from my Kickstarter!

Steampunk Mummy 6/1/13

I was intending to make this one for Steamcon last year, but it got dropped because I ran out of time.  Plus, I wasn’t *quite* sure how I wanted to make it!  But it is definitely going to Steamcon this year, and it still fits the theme “Around the World”.  What is more natural to travel than a revitalized Egyptian mummy?  😉

I started with three king-size cotton sheets picked up from the thrift store.  I made a button up fitted bodice – no hemming, no finishing of any kind – then tore strips of cotton, distressed them up a bit, and sewed them over the bodice.

This is how it looked.  The Egyptian collar is just for fitting purposes; I am going to make a much nicer antiqued collar myself.

Also, I have just pinned a band of fabric around the waist, to give the look of the waist-cincher I will be making later on.

Next, I made a cup of tea.  But not to drink!  I used the tea as a wash over the fabric, to give it a stained appearance.  This is how the fabric looked after:

I decided to do the wash after the garment was made, rather than before, because I wanted it to be very uneven, and I wanted to be able to control/choose where the uneven-ness went.

Then, I used the drippy tea bags to sponge over the fabric, giving a darker tint in certain areas.  Generally around the worst tears/rips, but also randomly over the fabric.

Then, I took dark brown fabric paint, diluted it with water until it was almost as thin as water, and sponged it into the worst of the distressed areas – and wherever else I thought it would look good.  Then I took a bit of less-diluted paint and touched it into a very few areas. 

Looks a lot more like ancient mummy wrappings, doesn’t it?

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