Tea & Automatons

Diana Vick's corner of the interweb

Tips on doing a Steampunk Mashup Costume

Steampunk Rescue Rangers – 2015

During a talk I did recently I was asked if I had any advice on how best to do a Steampunk mashup costume.  For those who don’t know, a mashup is two different genres in the same costume, say steampunk and super hero.  If you don’t do enough of both it can often be confusing to the viewer.  Ask yourself what would “your character” look like if they were in a Steampunk story. The thing to remember is that costuming is a visual medium.  You are storytelling visually and while you may have a great reason for everything you did, it needs to clearly read to the viewer.  You are generally not going to get a chance to explain yourself. I feel there are three steps to doing a great Steampunk mashup costume.

  1. Victorianizing it.
  2. Characterizing it.
  3. Steampunking it.

First you should add elements of clothing that clearly look Victorian/Edwardian.  Hair styles, hats, corsets, bustle skirts, gloves, parasols, laceup boots, etc.  Having this silhouette will create a great base for your costume.

Steampunk Poison Ivy – 2009

Secondly, take a good look at the original character you are planning on creating.  What are their primary unique visual cues?  Choose at least three to ensure a clear interpretation; the three visual things that most convey that character to an audience.  I did a Poison Ivy costume once and for her I feel that you need ivy and or plants in abundance, her clothing should be shades of green and she should always have red hair.

Robotic Zipper – 2015

For the third step, you need to add elements of Steampunk.  This is where you can get creative.  Have some fun.  Steampunk is essentially a science fiction genre, so add some science fiction or even fantasy.  Some people feel that simply adding a corset makes it Steampunk, but it really isn’t quite enough in my opinion.  While some feel they are cliché, adding goggles is a good start if it makes sense for you character to wear them.  Again, just adding goggles to a costume is not going far enough either.  You should try and incorporate two or three elements of steampunk if possible.  Gadgets are generally the best visual cue for a Steampunk costume, so try to incorporate a few. Full disclosure, I often feel that I am weak in adding steampunk gadgets, and gizmos.  It can truly be the most important and most difficult part.    My favorite creation so far was the robotic Zipper on Monty’s shoulder that I created for our Rescue Rangers at ECCC.  He is pretty fragile though.

I try to add only one hand held prop per costume so you don’t have to constantly put things down and potentially lose or break them.  The next great place for a prop is on a belt.  I often will have a brass compass or cosmolabe hanging from my belt.  Also, belts don’t just have to be at your waist.  You can use them across your chest, around your hat or as a collar.

So there is my two cents about what you can do to make a great Steampunk Mashup costume.  I hope this helps and I look forward to seeing your endeavors.

I have created a Flickr group for Steampunk Mashup Costumes.  If you need inspiration go and take a look  HERE!

My Busy Spring

I hope that you have been enjoying this crazy season.  I feel like I have either been prepping for events or attending them non-stop for a while.  Still a few more to go too.

First there was the Steampunk Exhibition Ball run by the Center for Sex Positive Culture.  It was held in the new location for the Museum of History and Industry. People were so very well dressed.  It was quite a treat.  I do miss the old location for it’s multiple spaces.  The new space is nice and very open.   The prohibition on flash photography was also a bit annoying but we found light where we could.


We went to a dress up event at the Raygun Lounge called Shindig.  I am not really a game person so it won’t be a standard haunt for me, but several of my friends were moving away soon, so it was a great excuse to hang out with them.  They had tasty food and beverages for sale as well, so it was a nice night.

Lastly, there was Steampunk University last Saturday.  We had classes and a store full of great merchants.  Attendance was decent, despite the many scattered showers.  I got a lot of good feedback from people who came to find out what this steampunk thing was really all about. They seemed very enthused.  We sold a lot of memberships to the convention!

Although I am steadfastly saving every penny for my birthday trip to Paris, I did buy a gorgeous mini pith helmet from my friend Amanda Forbes.  It was too cute to resist and it will go well with Steamcon V’s “Around the World” theme.

Next weekend, the Abney Park and Steam Powered Giraffe show!

Dragoncon 2012 Recap

Copernia with Big Baby - photo by Mickey Desai

So a quick report on Dragoncon 2012.   It was exhilarating, exhausting, colorful, costumed, and such fun.  I had seven outfits, but I seem to have only gotten pics of half of them.  This seems to happen even when I have my husband along to take pictures, so I guess I can’t complain too much.  The two most popular ones were Copernia and the Bride of Frankensteam, although my Bride outfit got downgraded due to the difficulty of it, so I hope to do a full version for Steamcon.  As always Big Baby got lots of attention and I am glad I made an effort to bring it.

Veronique & I - Photo by Michael Blitch

Thanks to Q and his staff, the Alternate History track ran well.  My panels ran smoothly.  I really enjoyed the Gadgeteer’s Showcase.  The amount of creativity there was just amazing.  The Mechanical Masquerade was also fun. I got dragged off to the photo booth by Veronique Chevalier, for which I am grateful because I always forget to do things like that.  I got to catch the Lantern City panel, which looks intriguing and I got my workers card and key chain for being in line early.

Thursday Night's Outfit

Thursday night while buying shoe inserts (the most popular/essential item in the store) The girls in CVS Pharmacy asked what I was from and when I said the outfit was from my imagination, they told me no.  It was definitely from a movie.  Finally one of them gets very excited and shouts “Lemony Snicket!”  They all agreed, and whenever I would drop in to buy a snack, they would call out “Lemony Snicket!”  So, I guess I am codename: Lemony Snicket.  Who knew?

I almost ran over Felicia Day twice.  I got petted by a Fraggle.  Talked up Steamcon.  I mostly lost my voice from all the talking.  Got to hang out with friends I rarely see and meet lots of new folks.  Had my picture taken a lot, but of course have only found a few of them online.  Basically, it was a Dragoncon.  Huge.  Bustling.  Fun.

My small Dragoncon 2012 Gallery

Me & my "daughters" - photo by Brian Martin



I was asked to be on a few panels at Dragoncon in Atlanta this year, so I am busy planning outfits and packing like a madwoman.   Dragoncon is a very costume heavy event, so it’s a lot of fun to wander and people watch.  They have an Alternate History Track that has a lot of steampunk content like the Mechanical Masquerade.

Panels that I am on at Dragoncon. If you happen to be going, please drop in:

  • Everyone’s a Captain: Finding a Fresh Persona in an Alt. History World – Fri. 2:30p in Intl BC (Main Room)
  • Tesla and Edison: The Men, The Myths – Sun. 5:30 pm in Intl A (Roundtable Room)
  • Organizing Your Steampunks: Airships, Clubs, and Others – Mon. 2:30 pm in Intl A (Roundtable Room)

Go check out some of the past Dragoncon Steam pics.






Clockwork Alchemy

Me with my handsome husband

Recently,  I had the privilege of attending the first Clockwork Alchemy as their Fan Guest of Honor.  It was even more special because it was my birthday on Monday, a very nice way to spend one’s birthday.  It was slightly lessened by the fact I had a very mild cold and was on decongestants, but I didn’t let it slow me down much.  Clockwork was held in San Jose over the Memorial Day weekend in conjunction with Fanime, a large and long standing anime convention.

My husband and I arrived Thursday so that we would be ready for Friday’s festivities.  We are very well acquainted with the Doubletree hotel where CA was held because it had housed several fannish conventions in the past including Baycon and Further Confusion.  There was a meet and greet going on that night but since it was rather loud, we chose to sit in the bar and chat with folks instead. The bar in this hotel is centrally located and open to the lobby so people can easily find you and join in the conversation.  You’ll note a trend in behavior beginning here.

Kory - The very dapper con co-chair

Friday morning, we attended opening ceremonies.   Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett, the Author and Artist Guests of Honor were introduced and spoke briefly.  Kory the con co-chair said some very complimentary things about my role in west coast steampunk fandom.  I was touched and truly appreciated the recognition.  Erica “Unwoman” Mulkey, the Music Guest of Honor performed with her strap-on cello, which got a lot of buzz.

Steamcon promo table

Martin and I set up our promo table for Steamcon and chatted with the few folks who came by.  Attendance was light, but it was only Friday.  I did a talk called “Modding for Wimps” that was not well attended, but still enjoyable.  I did it as a Powerpoint presentation since bringing all my props down from Seattle on a plane is too difficult.

Fanime attendee

That night we took the opportunity to head over to Fanime at the convention center to check things out and do a little shopping.  The folks at Xcentricities have a fabric with a gear pattern that I had asked about getting it in purple with copper gears.  They made it as a waist cincher and my husband graciously bought it for me as an early birthday present.  My friend Margaret gave me some gorgeous purple lace and feathers to deck out a hat I had bought from her at another show.  I bought a curly purple wig to go with all the purple.  We met up with Paul, Anina and two more friends and headed off to dinner.  After food, we went to a private club and had cocktails.  The other patrons were completely enamored of the steampunk look and I think we made some new converts.  One gentleman offered to buy my goggles, and since they were a pair that I made, I was very flattered.

The Guest of Honor Group Interview - Photo courtesy Jean Martin

Saturday after breakfast I was booked on a large block of programming.  From 11:00 – 1:00 Jean Martin did a group interview of the Guests of Honor.  Kathy and Shannon O’Hare from Neverwas Haul were the Maker Guests of Honor and told stories from Burning Man and other events.  Paul and Anina talked about Boilerplate and their new book Frank Reade: Adventures in the Age of Invention .  I talked about how Steamcon got started and how that lead to me becoming a speaker, an educator and many other improbable things.  Erica spoke on her music and to my delight gave Steamcon a nod for getting her a start in the steampunk community.

I ducked out a little bit early to grab a quick bite (not an easy task) and get ready for my “Steampunk Litmus Test” talk.  It was a large and enthusiastic crowd and we had fun discussing the various things that really make a story steampunk.

Unwoman & I

The rest of the day, we talked to folks at the promo table and I managed to get some interest in my book, “Steampunk Archetypes.”  We had dinner at the sushi bar again and then I changed into the new corset and wig for the concert.  My feet were tired and my cold was wearing me down, so we adjourned to the bar with some new folks to chat.  You spotting the trend yet?

Sunday, we again manned the table and talked up Steamcon.  In the afternoon I did my talk on “Seven Steampunk Fallacies.”  I had not done that particular talk before and being a Sunday, I wasn’t sure how popular it would be.  I guess the title piqued their curiosity because the room was packed and stayed that way.  I took questions after I went over the initial points and the audience seemed entertained.  Afterwards we were supposed to go to dinner with the con chairs, but Spencer’s was unexpectedly closed.  Martin and I eventually resorted to bar food once again for expediency.  Shortly afterward, I spoke to a reporter from USA Today about all the fun that is steampunk, so that is something to watch for.

I changed into my copper gown for the Ball, but since I don’t dance we ended up in the bar chatting with some fabulous people.  It was a good weekend for lively conversation with fascinating people.

My Monday outfit

Monday morning, the con was still going, but many people used the day for travel, so attendance was light.  I hadn’t completely lost my voice yet, but it was getting squeaky and it hurt a bit to talk.  I was supposed to be on two back to back panels but they were both full of lively panelists, so I suspected that I would not be missed. Besides, it was my birthday and I wanted to celebrate a bit.   My husband and a friend took me over to Fanime to do some actual birthday shopping.  The majority of the booths were filled with figurines, and anime videos.  I love looking at the art books, but they are quite expensive.  The costuming is mostly too small for me, but I did find a gorgeous copper colored corset at Timeless Trends and my husband got it for me!  Two corsets for my birthday!  I am so spoiled!  I bought myself a couple of small Re-ment boxes of tiny food and a tea service, indulging in one of my hobbies.  I also got some colored reflective lenses for my goggles.  We took the opportunity to eat away from the hotel for lunch.  By the time we got done, the con was basically over and the dealer’s room was closed.  We took a few pictures at the picturesque Sainte Claire hotel before heading back to the Doubletree.  We found Paul and Anina in the bar and we spent a pleasant while chatting.  A friend whisked us off to a Teppanyaki place for dinner.  Prawns!  Yum! Then back to the hotel bar to chat.  My loving husband had procured a red velvet cupcake for my birthday.  No candle, but they are really unnecessary, not to mention a fire hazard, after a certain age.  Ahem.

Me & Thatch, the other con co-chair

It was a wonderful way to spend a birthday weekend.  My thanks to the convention organizers for having me as fan guest of honor.  I was quite proud to be instrumental in the launch.  For a first year convention, there were some hiccups, as there always are, but it ran quite well on the whole.  The staff was friendly and responsive.  I expect great things from this convention in the years ahead.

The main problem was not the con itself but primarily the hotel food.  It’s a decent hotel, but it’s major flaw is that it has very little food within walking distance, if you don’t count Denny’s which I don’t.  There is a coffee shop, a coffee bar, a nice bar with a sushi bar in it and a pricey steak house all inside the hotel, but as they cater to mainly business clientele the offerings became less each day through the holiday weekend, making it very difficult on those of us without vehicles.   The bar menu shrunk by half its selection after the first day and the sushi bar is closed on Sunday.  Spencer’s was closed Sunday and Monday.  Sprig’s, the coffee shop was only open for breakfast and lunch.  There was supposed to be a “grab n go” for quick sandwiches and such, but the hotel decided not to run it all weekend after it didn’t do well enough the first day.  The coffee stand was open sporadically and the sundries shop ran out of many things fairly quickly.  We muddled through as best we could, but it was frustrating.

Aviatrix at the Sainte Claire Hotel

I think I would have possibly forgiven all of it if it wasn’t for Tuesday morning.  I was feeling quite run down from my cold so grabbing a coffee and pastry for breakfast didn’t seem like a good idea.  I needed a real breakfast to get through a day of travel.  We went to Sprig’s in the hotel since getting to Denny’s seemed a bit daunting.  The waitress waved us at a table but didn’t bring menus.  When she finally came over to help us, still not bringing menus, she said simply “buffet? implying it was easiest on her, so we shrugged and nodded tiredly.  She then quickly waved in that direction and muttered something about the hot buffet was not out.  Slow restaurant, she said and did we want eggs?  What kind?  Anything else?  We both said scrambled would be fine and bacon for him and sausage for me.  She left and eventually we got two plates of scrambled eggs and hot tea for Martin.  Martin went and got a bowl of fruit for us.  My drink was missed, but the busboy kindly brought me an iced tea. We never did get any meat.  As we finished the eggs she came and asked if we wanted potatoes, but we really didn’t want to wait around and eat in shifts.  This was beyond ridiculous.  I went and got a bowl of oatmeal.  I really wish she had just given us menus to begin with and told us they didn’t have a hot buffet that day.    Martin said he had difficulties with that particular waitress earlier in the weekend.   I find it odd because most of the staff was fantastic despite the issues.  The waitress in the bar was so good that we felt compelled to give her manager a compliment about her.  I do understand the economics of the situation, so I am not surprised, but it definitely negatively impacted my weekend.

There was a mishap with a transformer in downtown San Jose on Thursday night, that didn’t affect us.  The five hour power outage did cause problems for Fanime, but they soldiered on from what we heard.  It caused registration to get way behind and by far the most oft heard complaint was about registration and having to go to the convention center.  I know the organizers have heard this and are working hard to make it better next year.


The photo Gallery for the pictures taken by my husband is here.


Whatever Shall I Wear?

RedAs I said in my last post, it’s that time of year.  So many events to attend and the big question is “What to wear?”   Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy figuring out new outfits for steampunk events.  I may enjoy it a little too much, but that’s a different topic.  It’s just that I don’t really want to wear the same thing over and over.  Or at least not in exactly the same way.  Many of my steampunk clothes can be mixed and matched to make new outfits. I have been wanting to have a large gallery of all my outfits that I can view on one page.  Unfortunately my computer doesn’t seem inclined to help, so I played around with some photo storage sites.  I finally found one that would let me do it.  Photobucket’s albums lets you view an entire album on one page.  Go and see my daunting 61 outfits all on a page!  That isn’t even all my outfits, but I don’t have full length photos of all of them.  It gives me a good overview to make decisions from.

Marshall & Bear

Marshal Hunter & the Bear - photo by D. Vick

The other huge question is what will work for the particular environment?  Will it be all indoors?  Outdoors?  Will it be too warm?  Too cold?  Steampunk clothing is generally layered and so fairly warm, often too warm.  Hats, gloves, corsets, tights, boots and such will all add to the warmth.  It’s great for fall, but summer can be tricky.  So each event poses it’s own problems.   I am working up a few outfits that are a bit cooler, with lighter fabrics for the outdoor events, but I am never quite as happy with them.

As they say at the Adventurers’ Club “Sometimes you eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats you, but always dress for the hunt!

And then there’s what to take to a convention.  Travels a curse!  But that’s a post for next time.

Upcoming Steampunkery

As usual this month marks the beginning of the whirlwind steampunk event season.  I was very sad to miss both Victoria Steampunk Expo and Gaslight Gathering this year, but it’s being made up for by my wonderful birthday weekend adventure in California.  I have been asked to be the Fan Guest of Honor at Clockwork Alchemy!  I am going to be doing a few talks, and panels and we will be running a promo table for Steamcon all weekend.  It should be quite a nice way to spend my natal fete, getting to dress up, see my California  friends and help initiate a brand new steampunk convention.

While there are lots of steampunk events happening all over the country, I am only going to list on the ones that I might have a chance to attend.  You may want to check out the Airship Ambassador’s site for event listings for things that are further afield. If you are on the west coast or even better in Seattle,  check out the events below and click the links for more information.  I hope you can join us for some of these splendid steampunk events!

* May 20th – Annual Seattle Steamrats Train Outing – Northwest Railway Museum

* May 25th – 28th – Clockwork Alchemy in San Jose, CA

*June 9th – The Brass Screw Confederacy in Port Townsend

*July 7th – Abney Park & Karina Cooper Rock Bellingham

*August 4th – Steampunk University and Store – All Pilgrim’s Church

* August 17th – 19th – GEARcon – Portland OR



Steampunk Exhibition Ball

On Saturday, the hubby and I attended the Steampunk Exhibition Ball, put on as a fund raiser for the Center for Sex Positive Culture.  It’s an event we look forward to each year.  Most people dress to the nines and tens, so it’s a very fun people watching event.  It’s held at the Museum of History and Industry which is quite a fascinating place.  There is a room for dancing, a small merchant area, a photo area, several bars and the main auditorium held the music and burlesque this year, but it was always packed and the low lighting made it almost impossible to make your way to a seat safely.  My main focus is talking to folks, so I tend to mingle all night.

This year, I was asked to be one of the judges for the costume competition.  There are three categories per their website:

  • Most Impressive Beard and/or Moustache: Judging criteria includes size, styling, originality and incorporating steampunk themes,such as how facial hair complements the overall outfit. Preference will be given to naturally grown facial hair, but an amazing prosthetic moustache can still win.
  • Fabulous Hat: Our judges are looking for not only the most fetching hats, but also most original, marvels of engineering and hats that compliment the overall theme of the outfit. Preference will be given to milliners sporting their own haberdashery (hats you made yourself).
  • Enticing Ensemble: New this year is the Most Enticing Ensemble competition. We want you to show off your steamiest attire for our viewing pleasure. Judges will choose finalists based on the overall look of the ensemble, not just a sexy corset, flattering trousers or appearance of the wearer themselves. This isn’t about if you got it, it’s about how you flaunt it.

I was asked to choose a few finalists for the last two categories and I found some wonderful contestants.  Winners were chosen by audience vocalization, which I find to be an incredibly unfair and inconsistent method of judging, but there you go.  The first two competitions went well and suitable winners were chosen.  In the last category however, the announcer failed to make it clear that you had to be given a finalist chit to enter and the stage was flooded with people, mostly women in skimpy outfits.  Having been instructed to look for sexy, but well thought out ensembles and ask about whether they had a hand in the construction, I was a bit disconcerted.  I went to the contest official and voiced my concerns, but when the MC was apprised, he blew it off entirely.  So what?  As long as the audience is having fun, who cares, right?  Well, I didn’t appreciate putting work into something that was then completely ignored, so I departed.  I had better things to do than watch a competition that was now so obviously going to be the steampunk equivalent of a night at Hooters.  I am told that despite the chaos, the winner was one of the other judges picks and her costume was quite good and showed almost no flesh.  I am glad to hear it but surprised at it.  I guess one never knows the mind of a mob.

Aside from that, the evening was very pleasant.  I met a lot of wonderful people and had some great conversations.  The outfits were grand, people were convivial and the absinthe was flowing.  All the ingredients that steampunks appreciate most.

My husband only took a few photos but you can view them here.

International Steampunk Day?

Today, I’ve noticed that the internet is filled with cries of “Happy International Steampunk Day!”  While I am all for the celebrating of the genre that I love, I had to wonder about the reasoning behind choosing June 14th to be ISD.  After all steampunk clothing is generally layered and quite warm.  When looking at dates for Steamcon, we tried very hard not to schedule it in an extremely warm time of year so that our attendees could go all out and not roast. My steampunk ensembles tend to include boots, tights, gloves, hats, wigs and then several layers of clothing.  Sweating is not very dignified and so we do avoid it, if we can.

I did a little digging and I still cannot figure out whose knuckle headed idea it was, but I did find out why they chose this particular day.  It is H.G. Wells’ birthday.  Mystery solved.  Although, if you wanted to choose a birthday to honor steampunk, why wouldn’t you choose Jules Verne’s birthday?  After all, he is even more associated with the genre and his birthday is February 8th!  That is a much better time of year for steampunk regalia!  And if you will notice there is not a fabulous Google doodle for the day like there was for Monsieur Verne’s birthday.

I am not sure who to petition about this matter, but I would like to see this day re-scheduled to February 8th.  I am not even going to discuss the “Worldwide Strut Your Steampunk Stuff Day” that is proposed for July 10th.  Aside from a terrible title, it is once again an uncomfortable time of year to choose.  Not that I won’t join in, but it will take a bit of work to find the right clothing.  Summer steampunk events are already the bane of my existence, but I will do what I must.

So, I will stop my whining and go back to my steampunk task filled day.  No outings planned and I have no voice so it’s for the best.  Plenty to do though and almost all of it genre related.  I hope that you enjoy yours in whatever manner suits you.  Happy Birthday Mister Wells!


Hold the presses!  Wells wasn’t born on this date.  He was born on September 21st?!  Okay, then why the heck is this IDS?  it makes absolutely no sense at all.  I am baffled.  Can anyone tell me why they chose this stupid date then?

Training Day

Today I have a mild head cold and have lost my voice, but I am determined to finish a few things.  My day was brightened by finding out that I was singled out on my other blog site for what they call the “Lens of the Day” for my article Dressing Steampunk.  It’s nice to get recognition and it’s helping a lot of new folks find out about steampunk as well.  Yay!

On Saturday a group of us from the Seattle Steamrats went up to Snoqualmie and rode the train.  Naturally, we dressed up for the occasion.  You can see the entire gallery here.  Afterwards many of us went to the Woodman Lodge for lunch.  The food was great and the staff was very accommodating of our large group.  I highly recommend the place if you are every in the area.  It was a wonderful day even if I did lose my voice.


About The Author

Diana Vick

I am an illustrator, writer, costumer and steampunk enthusiast.
I have done illustration for comic books, animation and collectible card games such as Magic the Gathering and Legend of the Five Rings. Currently, I do art for my own line of cards and gifts in my Zazzle shop.