Nov 072014
 

As you know by now, the three of us decided on a Red Riding Hood theme for our costumes this year. Looking at the pics, you can probably tell what my least favorite part of my outfit was: that damned belt.

The Belt and Armbands

It all started with a pattern. Specifically, Butterick B5371. Oh, the image promised good things:

Specifically, the belt on the top left and the bracers on the bottom left. A simple little waist-cincher and matching armguards. What could possibly go wrong?

Everything.

Everything could go wrong.

That belt has the minimum amount of sewing possible. You’re meant to cut out the lining and outer fabric and fuse them with fusable webbing rather than stitch the edges. I can sew a straight line with a machine, but leaving the edges raw meant every wobble of my scissors showed. Plus, the fabric I picked didn’t like heat, so it was awful trying to get the webbing to stay.



You see the problem. :/

I picked a white lining, which I discovered was a mistake: the straps need lining to give them enough heft to close anything, but the lining totally shows, because unlike every other strap anywhere ever, instead of stitching the lining to the fabric right-sides together and inverting, you just fuse and pray.

The pictures you see above? Those are finished, according to the pattern. 100% complete. Yay belt. I couldn’t leave it like that. I did what I could, trimming the edges in ribbon and clipping some of the straps, but it still doesn’t look great.

Of course, that leads to the next problem: in a belt that wide, there is no tapering whatsoever. With my corset on, I have a pretty severe hourglass sillhouette. It just gapes badly.

Oh, and what’s with the straps being like 6 inches longer than the belt?! Blech. I had loose bits flopping about all day when I went to work.

Capes and Vests

The two capes, on the other hand, were MUCH nicer patterns from Fleece Fun. Funnily enough, the Woodsman is wearing their Red Riding Hood pattern, with a hook instead of ribbon; I wanted a floor-length cape, so I went for their Fast Hooded Cape.

These are the best cape patterns I’ve ever seen, and I keep coming back to them again and again. They’re free, they’re simple, and including printing and taping, you can knock out a cape in an afternoon. You do have to be a little careful when taping; you’ll need to trim the margins, though I like to only trim one side so I can overlap the other margin underneath the trimmed one when taping two pieces together. Otherwise, all is great.

The vest was McCalls 2447; I had Chaos help me with the math to upsize the pattern to fit him, making this now the vest that fits him the best. We meant to put buttonholes and shiny buttons on it, but the buttonholer is apparently made of witchcraft and dark sorcery, so we have to wait until the right moon phase to make the darn thing work 🙂

Axes

DSCN0929

Kae did this all on his own while I was at work 😀 He went and got some sticks, spray-painting them gold, which instantly made me think of The Honest Woodsman, definite A+ from me. He then used styrofoam blocks to make the axe-heads. That’s when he ran into a little trouble: he had some trouble finding the remains of our scattered paint collection. He decided to use Rub n’ Buff on the heads, but it took him some time to find our black spray paint to go underneath. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because he mentioned this to Chaos, who reminded him that spray paint melts styrofoam. Instead, he grabbed duct tape to make a solid surface and then painted over it with the Rub n’ Buff. Works for me!

Makeup

Chaos doesn’t like things touching his eyes, so he’s never worn stage makeup before. We were going to go for a minimal look, but after browsing minimalistic makeup tutorials with a Wolf theme, he declared that they all looked stupid. I convinced him to try the full-face getup, and it paid off 🙂

We used the following makeups:

  • Ben Nye cl-26 grey
  • Ben Nye cl-25 steel grey
  • Ben Nye cl-29 black
  • Wet n’ Wild a042 pagan angel lipstick
  • Wet n’ Wild 392a tunnel vision eye-shadow palette

I took a photo of his face without glasses and ran it through GIMP filters to make a basic outline of his face, which we planned out the look on. We were trying to emulate the look of a wolf’s fur pattern, which more or less worked; I’m definitely not a makeup expert, but it looked pretty good. Later we mused that furry ears or a tail would have completed the look.

And there you have it!

Sep 262014
 

Chaos got me to watch Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, a show about… well… it’s not really important what it’s about 🙂 The show’s all well and good, but I fell in love with this hat:

Tell me that’s not the most awesome hat of all time!

After months of rolling about my head, I came up with this sketch I like:

Image (3)

It shouldn’t be too hard. I have plenty of black slacks, so it’s just a matter of making a vest and round three at hat-making 🙂

Dec 042013
 

Hey everyone. Chaos here, and I wanted to welcome everyone to the new site layout. Hopefully if you’re new here you’ll take this chance to look through some of the older posts and catch yourself up. Don’t worry, we’ll wait.

*crickets chirp*

Alright, great. Now that you’re caught up I’ll go ahead and introduce myself for those that didn’t look at the backlogs and are just going ahead with this. I’m the prop builder of the group, in so much that they let me paint over nerf guns and make interesting things that may or may not light up and make sound. I modify pieces or items we can find to fit characters (mostly weapons at this point) and in some cases I’ve even created bits from scratch. I kinda fell into the job since I’m going to school for an Engineering Master’s degree and I really can’t make costumes, but it’s actually been a lot of fun.

Bob- Gun and Holster

The gun was modded personally, but the holster was purchased.

I’ve done a few posts on what I think about when coming up with pieces for character costumes, but this is actually something that I ran into when going over my next project. I was talking with Yami about some of the ideas I had and she mentioned that it wouldn’t really work because if someone WAS wearing said prop as a real thing, it would be really hot and probably burn whoever was wearing it. I countered that Steampunk is somewhat fantastical so I didn’t see what the problem was, but she insisted that it didn’t make sense. We eventually settled on another design for the prop that worked with something less problematic, but it got me thinking. How much do the props we wear in Steampunk have to worry about real-world physics?

Not a clue what's it's for, exactly, but who cares? For SCIENCE!

Not a clue what’s it’s for, exactly, but who cares? For SCIENCE!

There’s some merit in not worrying about how props would actually work in the real world. There are a lot of props that you see at Steampunk conventions wouldn’t really work by the strictest sense of science, but they have enough grounding in them that you can see how they work with just that dash of outlandish that makes them interesting. Personally, I’ve always liked science fiction and the more outlandish the design, the more interesting I find it. I always find my mind wondering how such a device would work. Could you make something that actually functioned like that, and what sorts of science would have to be changed just for that one piece to work. It could just be my years of being facinated with sci-fi and robots and ray guns and all that stuff that makes me worry more about ‘what would look interesting’ rather than ‘what makes sense for the characters and setting’. Not that you can just ignore setting or characterization if you’re trying to make a coherent world.

Lucasbuild1

This is Lucas Warren. He’s my steampunk character and is something of an amoral businessman. He’s high class and does everything he can to keep it that way. Lucas knows all the right parties to attend, the right people to impress, and the good business sense to press an advantage when he has one. He has his prejudices, but they’re mostly to those he would find useless to his goals. If you provide him with an advantage, he has little qualms with what else you do. If you become a hinderance, he will not hesitate to cut you off and cast you aside. If you have something he requires, he will find every way to relieve you of it, and it will all be done with business deals and subordinates.

Lucas is a very particular character with a set of goals, characterizations, traits, and themes and while I’d love to give him something like a steampunk crossbow or some sort of mechanical display that hangs from his hat, I wouldn’t because it doesn’t fit his character. I think it would be cool, but it would just clash with everything that the character presents. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be some interesting additions to the props later (mostly once I get a bit more time) but anything he has needs to fit his character and theme. You have to strike a balance between ‘what looks interesting’ and ‘what fits the character’. It helps with making pieces that ‘fit’ a character rather than making a prop and trying to jam a character around it.

Ultimatly, it comes down to the goal of a prop. I think that if it’s something that’s supposed to go with a character, you need to keep the prop within the bounds of what the character would carry around. If you’re making a prop to just go ‘hey, that’s an interesting idea’ then I’d say the sky is the limit. Let your imagination run wild and see what sort of contraptions you could make.

I’d like to welcome anyone to give me their take on the topic. Do you think that props have to be bound to a specific set of rules or can they be completely unbound from any one interpretation of Steampunk? Do you think it can be both? Do you want to just share some ideas you might have on props you are/would like to make? Go ahead and leave a comment with your ideas and here’s hoping you’ve all enjoyed my little introduction to my side of the group.

May 052013
 

Erika is…. hmm.

I have two characters named Erika. They were meant to be the same character, but the first one went far to one extreme and so I made the second rendition so different they  no longer feel like the same character. The second Erika is the canonical one; the first character happens to be using her name. The first character is an alien shapeshifter, so she’s used a lot of names.

The first Erika was, however, paired closely with Lucas. Lucas being a villain, I wanted to give him a sidekick as awful as he was, so that they’d basically deserve each other. She was of a race nicknamed “Cuckoo” for their ability to change shape and blend into an adopted society. They mate for life; Erika in particular is an Obsessive-type yandere who has fixated on Lucas to the point where she’s impersonating him to “help” run his business and killing staff members who displeased him. That’s a bit much for any other game, so rest assured, Erika Stark is not like that.

The second Erika was made for a much more lighthearted game, and this time, was not meant to be a villain. Chaos had a character who was a Chaos Mage, and so I made him a hapless lab assistant who he could comically abuse (If you’re a fan of EGS, something like Amanda). I needed a reason for her to be desperate, so I had her flunking out of her graduate studies at the magical university and therefore needing the credit she’d get for being his assistant. The game didn’t go much of anywhere, but their scenes were fun.

The third Erika was for the New World of Darkness game that Radiant Vanguard plays. Erika Smith was a grad student who was flunking engineering, so she took some lab credits to raise her GPA so she didn’t get dropped from the program. She ended up under a Genius who took her on under the hopes that she’d become a Beholden, which Geniuses use as sort of brainwashed lab assistants. Instead, she awakened as a proper Genius. She was at the beginning of her career, half-trained, dependent on her grouchy unhelpful Mentor for most plot-based exposition, and generally a little ditzy. The other two characters, both Hunters, rapidly ceased to trust her assessment of the situation.

We lost our first adventure into the unknown. The three slunk out of New York and changed their names, forged and shaped by their failure in some way. For Erika, a showdown with her Mentor had occurred as a result of a near-breakdown; now, she’s more determined than ever to prove her worth as a real Genius, not just a Beholden or a dropout screwup, but someone who can create great and wonderful things. To that end, she named herself after Tony Stark.

Which brings us to Steampunk Erika. Her backstory involves her father being a genius (no capitals this time) inventor and her having inherited his intelligence and aptitude for science but being often disregarded due to being a “silly girl”.  She walks a thin line between being fashionable and rejecting her place in the world, between being an inventor and being feminine. I try to have her outfits reflect that to some degree: they’re not just practical, but also somewhat stylish. She’s not rejecting her femininity, after all, only the idea that she’s weak or useless or just for decoration.

Mar 172013
 

Let’s talk about the process of character design, shall we?

When Kendandra and I first started talking design for his steampunk persona, I mentioned that we don’t have a pilot for our airship and that might be a good role for him. I’ll admit, I was picturing a freelance pilot-for-hire, something inspired by pirate designs because pirates are sexy-awesome. But he was thinking something more in the vein of a military badass in a greatcoat. At least we agreed on the greatcoat idea!

The Royal Air Force (RAF) was created as a separate military branch in 1918. The general fashion inspiration for my costumes, however, has been the 1840’s or so. I considered not bothering to reconcile that and just having him be RAF, but first I dug a little deeper. Before the RAF, there were two separate air-force initiatives. The first was the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), which was an arm of the British Army (the only branch of the armed forces not to have ‘Royal’ in the name). The second was the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS).

The idea of an airship pilot being a navy man sat well with me, so I began researching the RNAS. It turns out the RFC is a lot more popular; I could find out a ton of information about the RFC without hardly even trying, but the RNAS required more digging. Wikipedia, at least, has a good deal of information, but where Wikipedia leaves off it takes a lot of digging to find more.

However, the RNAS actually had airships. 😀

HMA R23, courtesy of Wikipedia

(Okay, so did the RFC and the RAF, but still.)

The thing I wanted to know most is what the uniform looked like. Obviously, as the RNAS was a branch of the navy, it was navy blue, though later I learned they had alternate uniforms created in khaki for when they’re stationed overseas. You basically have two types of people: pilots and observers. Obviously, this new character would be a pilot. Both types held a rank in the Royal Navy as well as an appointment on a given ship, and the insignia they wore reflected the appointment rather than the rank. Skimming over the appointments, we decided that “Flight Lieutenant” had a nice ring to it, and Kendandra decided on the name “Ricky Glaive” to go with it.

Of course, then we had to figure out why he’s on Sir Lucas Warren’s ship instead of in a military vessel. After serving a term in the armed forces, it was fairly common during peacetime for naval officers to step down into the Navy Reserves, also known as the Wavy Navy thanks to their using wavy trim to show rank instead of straight trim like normal officers. “Wavy Navy” being ridiculously fun to say, we decided that was a reasonable backstory for him that freed him up to have adventures while still being a military man at heart.

Fun fact: The British Army would issue you a uniform that remained property of the Army and which would be replaced every so often as it began to show wear. The Royal Navy, on the other hand, would issue you a uniform that became your personal property and gave you money to make the necessary repairs yourself. This is my excuse for making alterations to the historical design: Ricky has altered his greatcoat somewhat since he joined the Reserves.

Flight Lieutenant arm insignia, courtesy of Wikipedia

 

So, the uniform. Wikipedia has very little to say about the uniform design, which is a damn shame since the information they do have about the RNAS is fascinating. Searching google for “RNAS uniform” eventually brought me to a site called The Vintage Aviator, whose layout is terrible for finding things but who contains the single most useful page I found on the interwebs during this costume design. They’ve gone to great length to prevent saving or embedding their images, even watermarked, so out of respect for their apparent wishes I’ll let you open the site in a new tab/window to follow along instead of embedding.

The image called “RNAS tunic” has become the main focal image of the design; most of the coat design was based off this photo, as it’s in color and shows a significant amount of detail. The arm insignia shown isn’t the right rank, but wikipedia was able to provide me the correct one. The fabric color, buttons, sleeves, and neck style were chosen based on this image, though we did modify the neck based off the patterns we had available (For some reason, a basic suitcoat pattern was not to be found at my local fabric shop, and I wanted to get started ASAP. When I do a short coat, I’ll probably buy a new pattern online.)

The German uniform, ironically, was also a big influence, primarily because it was a longer coat design. We decided we liked the longer rather than the shorter, but never fear, RNAS officers were also provided with a greatcoat for winter use.

The French outfit also looked promising, but get a load of those cardinal-red pants! Lol.

The RFC helmet and goggles looked like a promising start to some accessories, and of course, the RAF cap, modified to be in a more naval pattern, would look dashing atop Kendandra’s bright red hair. The RFC flying coat might make a good alternate costume for later.

 

 

If you’re going to design a military character, I highly recommend Osprey Publishing. They have books on EVERYTHING. The particular book I purchased was from their Men-at-Arms series: British Air Forces 1914-18. It was hard to find, and I ended up buying from a site that was badly laid out and frustrating to use, but the book has been immensely valuable. It contains both text descriptions of uniform pieces as well as color illustrations and black-and-white photographs to give you a good idea what you’re looking at. It had the following to say about the RNAS Officer’s Greatcoat, for example:

RNAS officers wore the long RN double-breasted greatcoat which fell to 14 inches from the ground. It had six pairs of buttons set 4ins apart at the waist and gradually widening to 5 1/4ins apart at the shoulder. Shoulder boards showed rank lace with curl exactly as on the jacket cuffs, plus, in due course, eagle and star badges as described above. The coat had a half-belt at the rear with gilt buttons on either end, a full-length back pleat and a vent which fastened with four small plain buttons. There were no pockets or cuffs, but a horizontal slit for the sword to emerge when worn with Full Dress appeared at the waist.

(Incidentally, while looking for the book I bought, I found another book I want: Royal Naval Air Service Pilot 1914-18. I’ll probably buy that in a week or two, I’ve got costume materials to buy this week.)

So there you have it: Ricky’s Greatcoat influences, from start to building.