Steampunk “Charlotte”

A few weekends ago, I went to Space City Comic Con here in Houston, and man, wasn’t that the perfect excuse to fix up my steampunk costume?

A few years back, I made a steampunk Chuck Hansen costume for a convention in DC.  The con was kind of a bust (and my now-ex boyfriend crashed the party without my permission), but I really loved the costume.  If you’re not familiar, Chuck Hansen is the Aussie version of Iceman featured in 2013’s Pacific Rim, and I love him to death.  (I have a lot of Chuck thoughts.  Best not to share here.)
For the unfamiliar, this is Chuck Hansen:
When translating this dude into a steampunk character, there were a couple of essential elements I needed to keep in mind: his bomber jacket and kill count, his dog tags, the general messiness of his clothes, and his boots.  Those drool-worthy Hi Alpine motorcross boots.  Man, I love those boots.  I can’t find a photo of those boots that does not involve him getting punched in the face, but they’re sweet. Plus, I wanted to do a femme version, as I cannot pull off the androgynous look to save my life, which meant underbust corset on the outside of my clothes.
This is a terrible picture of my first costume in 2014:
Chuck 1
I was working on a really tight budget and my Singer Featherweight back then, so I was a bit limited in what I could do.  The bolero and Kaiju head medals turned out great, but the jodphurs left something to be desired, the purchased corset was too long for my torso, and I hated the way the boots turned out.
This April, I was just coming off that insane 1830s dress and wanted something easy to work on.  How hard could it be?
From the skin out…
I decided to wear my 1860s corset to avoid the crotch poking, uncomfortable fit, and bathroom, err, conflicts of the purchased corset.  This meant I needed a chemise to go under it, in order to hold the girls up properly and remove the possibility of washing.   I made this the night before the event out of scrap fabric in the stash, and then tea-dyed it to give it this cool pinky-tan color.
This thing is definitely more comfortable than my off-the-rack underbust.  Also, no need to worry about bra straps showing!  Fortunately, I made this last summer.  After the break-up with the ex who ruined my first con.  Needed something keep myself busy!
Peasant Blouse:
I made this last summer as well.  It’s a simple thing, like you’d make for the Ren Faire, but I like the way it works with the costume.  Chuck’s wearing a t-shirt, right?  This is basically that…
Swiss Belt:
This was my solution to the underbust corset we normally see in steampunk.  Corselets and Swiss belts are seen frequently throughout the mid to late Victorian period, and are essentially just fitted, boned belts.
For the Swiss belt, all I did was make up my altered corset pattern from muslin, cut away at it until I got the shape I wanted, and draft that up.  I added width in the back and lessened the seam allowance from 5/8″ to 1/2″, so it would fit snugly.  The fashion fabric is a scrap of upholstery silk, the lining is plain Kona quilting cotton, and the binding is single-fold bias tape I cut from left-over linen.  I used 1/4″ steel boning to hold the shape.
Then came embellishment.  I bought those leather tabs from Hobby Lobby.  I finished them off myself (beveling, staining, burnishing), adding the hardware and notions after.  I also whipped up a small 3/4″ belt from a strap I bought at Tandy Leather, to hold my gun.  The tabs are fixed but the belt is loose, just in case I want to use it in another project.  I’m quite pleased with how it turned out, and with the exception of the leather belt, everything came out of my stash.
This is original to the first costume.  Yes, I sewed all that fur with my Featherweight!  I also used the buttons off my cadet service dress jacket.  Overall, I really like this bolero.  If I could change anything here, it would be making this out of leather.  Maybe someday…
The bulldog “patch” on the side is Worbla, and I made that back in 2014.  Dear lord, that thing gave me a ton of trouble.  And I think I need to paint the eyes.  The name badge is painted Fimo in a scrapbook notion.  I like the effect!
Courtesy of Hancock’s going out of business sale, I bought two yards of gray linen and a pants pattern and went to town.  I altered the pattern to button up at the side seams, the way jodphurs traditionally do, a wide waistband, and added double welt pockets large enough for my iPhone to fit, with tabs to keep them closed.
Unfortunately, I didn’t realize the pattern called for inch seam allowances until after I had the things cut out.  Wasted a lot of fabric, but it did give me plenty of room for tailoring.  It was easy to take the calf areas in, but no matter what I did, the sides didn’t hang right.
My solution?  A set of extra-large hook-and-eyes, riveted in place.  Looks very steampunk-esque, plus shaped the sides very nicely.  These are obviously way too large for true jodphurs, but it’s a costume.  Exaggeration is perfectly acceptable.
I did make the poofs too short though.  Jodphurs are to allow your thighs to expand while sitting, so really, the poof should end at the knee.  Had to take the seam allowance out to almost nothing to make up for that mistake.
I could do a whole series of blog posts on these boots, and I just might do that.  For something so straightforward, they were extremely complicated.  They went through three or four iterations before ending up here, in their finished state.  The hardware alone was a nightmare, much less managing the Worbla.  I’m extremely proud of how they turned out; even went back to the con on Sunday in jeans just to show them off on their own.
The boots themselves are faux leather cheapies from Amazon.  The front plates are molded Worbla Black finished with automotive primer, Rub’n’Buff, and acrylic clear coat.  The light brown leather that the plates are affixed to actually came from an old men’s jacket I bought at Goodwill.  It’s about the only thing place I saved money here (Worbla is not cheap).  I was able to do most of the sewing on my machine, which was a life-saver but a bit hair-raising, as I’ve never worked with leather like this before!
The Gun:
Again, this deserves its own blog post.  I’m going to demonstrate the technique I used on a lightsaber alteration I’ve got planned.  Put simply, I wanted a gun to go with my outfit.  There’s a scene in the movie where Chuck and Herc shoot a Kaiju in the face with flare guns, so I figured that was enough of a connection to justify this.
This is a $9 bubble blowing gun I got from CVS.  I sanded it, hit it with automotive spray, and applied Rub’n’Buff.  It was way too shiny at first, so I used a couple layers of watered-down black acrylic paint to give it a nice patina and “used” finish.  A few notions and E6000 finished off the look.
The leather holster I patterned, cut, beveled, sanded, burnished, sewed, and finished off myself.  This is my first attempt at real leatherwork, and I made a ridiculous number of trips to Tandy Leather for the correct hardware.  The stain job would be inexcusable on anything but a steampunk accessory.  Sewing this thing was a beast, and I had to redrill the holes twice.  I finished it off with a Worbla plate that reads “FLARE CAUTION” to maintain that tenuous connection.
Again, adventures in making mistakes!
The finished costume:
All in all, I’m incredibly pleased with how this outfit looks.  (However, I am not happy with how the photos turned out, ugh)   Take the medals off the jacket, or leave the jacket off altogether, and it’s a great general steampunk get-up.  Put it on, and it’s a great cosplay (for the six people in the world that know the movie).  I can use these pieces in other outfits if I’d like too.
Of course, since this was the big Sons of Anarchy reunion weekend and Charlie Hunnam was there, I kind of wish I had done the dress from Crimson Peak instead.  That would have been awesome.  But oh well, that’ll just have to go on the list…

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