Tea & Automatons

Diana Vick's corner of the interweb

Brass Screw Confederacy

On Saturday my husband and I made the trek, and ferry ride out to the lovely waterfront hamlet of Port Townsend, WA for their first steampunk festival, the Brass Screw Confederacy.  It is the brainchild of Nathan Barnett, owner of the Old Consulate Inn, natty dresser and long time Steamcon supporter.  Having injected a bit of steampunk into the town’s long standing Victorian festival, he then managed to convince the populace that they might enjoy a more fully fledged dose of steampunk.    Judging by the number of store fronts with steampunk displays, they were certainly eager to get into the spirit of things.

We arrived and got situated in time to attend a reading by Neal Stephenson from his book The Diamond Age at the Brass Screw Cabaret.  By my definitions, it is not so much steampunk as Neo-Victorian science fiction and perhaps cyberpunk, but it is still a wonderful book.  I read it a long time ago, but after listening to him, I may need to give it another reading.  His vivid descriptive prose is quite fascinating.  Neil himself was dressed in a very appropriate Victorian or perhaps Edwardian suit (I am no men’s fashion expert, by any means) and during the Q&A I asked him about it.  He confessed that he finds the style quite comfortable and will be acquiring more in the future.  Because my talk was immediately afterwards, I didn’t get a chance to speak to him at more length, but I certainly would have liked to.

I had been asked to give a talk about how to dress in steampunk attire.  I only had about a half an hour, so I tried to keep it to the basics, but during the question and answer portion it was obvious the audience really wanted more information on what steampunk really is.  I try to tailor my talks to my audience so I happily obliged.  They seemed to  both  entertained and educated, so I think I did my job.  I gave out flyers for my blog, shop and book at the end.  Denise Winters who is in charge of the Key City Public Theatre and the “cabaret” as it was called, appeared to be quite happy with me and asked me to return next year and possibly do my gun mod talk.

We wandered over to the Bazaar of the Bizarre  at the American Legion Hall next.  Most of the merchants were quite familiar, but it was a good variety of wares and the locals as well as tourists enjoyed looking at all the peculiar things.

A woman came up and asked if I was Diana Vick and I said yes.  She beamed and told me that her two daughters were big fans of mine and asked to take a picture of me with them.  They found my work in 1,000 Steampunk Creations.  I was quite tickled.  Several people who were at my talk came by with more questions throughout the day as well.   We also wandered the outdoor merchants, watched some artisans creating their wares and got some wickedly delicious doughnuts.  My purple outfit got a lot of attention and I used it to hand out Steamcon postcards.

We then strolled off to check out the quaint main street, which was marred slightly by all the construction work being done.  We found a pub that had gotten good recommendations so we had an early dinner.  The sun made an appearance so now the ensemble I chose was a bit too warm.  It is always difficult to decide what type of outfit to wear for events that have both indoor and outdoor components and a chance of showers.  It had been breezy all day, so my jacket and layers had been just about perfect up until now.   Due to budgetary constraints and far too many things to do this year, we had to make this a day trip only.  We said our goodbyes and made our tired way back home.  Hopefully next year we will be able to do more than just a day trip and partake of the evening festivities as well.

I think that the BSC has a lot of potential.  The town is charming and the inhabitants are friendly and open to the genre.  The organizers were calling this year zero, but that does this event a disservice.  You don’t really get to have a trial run for this sort of thing.  It’s jump in with both feet and hope.  I suppose if steampunk rewrites history then so can they, but for better or worse, it did happen.   Folks seemed to be having fun.  It will most likely get bigger and better over the years.

My photographer didn’t take many shots this time, but they are found here.

My Steampunk Archetypes Book Is Now Available!

For the past few years I have been dressing up in steampunk attire for events and gatherings.  I enjoy it immensely and try to be as creative as I can.    When I first got started I found it immensely helpful to imagine a few steampunk archetypes and think about what they would wear.  Since then I have been writing and lecturing about that topic.  Since I had so many photos, I decided to take advantage of the current print on demand services and make a little book on the topic as well.  You can preview and purchase a copy here. I hope you find it entertaining.

A Salute to Military Jackets

Captain Heliotrope

For a costuming like myself, who doesn’t sew, the abundance of ready to wear steampunkable faux military jackets is a god send.  I have been seeing and buying them all over, from Target to Nordstrom’s.  For the purposes of steampunk ensembles, we are looking for jackets that are either Victorian/Edwardian or purely fantasy.  I’m not a historical costumer, so the jackets I pick up are usually going to end up being airship or submersible captains or crew.  As the age of steam generally ends with the rise of diesel, world war one is generally accepted as the end of steampunk, so you want to avoid uniforms that look more modern.

Lately though, I’ve been seeing a lot of unacceptable jackets hitting the market.  I thought I’d share with you a few tips that I go by when buying jackets.  Material.  The jackets made out of sweatshirt material really just don’t say steampunk.  They say “ I picked up whatever was on the floor of the dorm room”.  You could wear one to slightly steam up an everyday wardrobe, but all out steampunk requires better fabric.   Also, denim, can be tricky.  Yes, denim existed, but it was not widely used and definitely not by the military, especially pale blue denim.  Another reason for nice fabric is structure.  You are looking for garments with tailoring and style.  A heavy cotton will look nicer for our purposes.  If the jacket has a cloth tie at the waist, take it off and dispose of it post haste.  It looks dreadful.  Replace it with a nice leather belt of the proper size or remove the belt loops if need be.  The trenchcoat is often mistaken for military, but it is too modern for our purposes.  Pass it up.

When deciding on color, the olive drab that many of them come in is simply too modern and camouflage is right out.  If the green is light enough, and you really like the styling, I would suggest dying it.  If it’s not synthetic this should be easily done.  Do remove the buttons first and reattach them after dying so as not to damage the finish, unless you want them damaged.  Try a shade of brown, burgundy or even purple.  Black or an emerald green would also work.  Not only will this fix the drab green problem, but you will have a much more individual garment when you are done.  On the topic of buttons, I will often replace the buttons on a jacket if they are not shiny brass or interesting.  Large plastic buttons just don’t say steampunk.  I recently exchanged the cloth covered buttons on a cropped corduroy jacket for brass domed buttons and it looks much sharper.  If you have enough buttons, you may add some at the cuffs for a more interesting look.  And epaulets, which look very dapper, will often have buttons giving you another area to add sparkle.  Also, avoid zippers when choosing a jacket.  Zippers just scream modern.  You can add hook and eye closures or a nice double ended clip to hold it closed if need be.

One way to jazz up your jacket is to add a faux medal or two.  You can find some of these faux medals in stores currently, or try your hand at making some.  Craft stores have a lot of fun things to utilize these days.  I’d caution you not to use actual military medals unless you earned them because it is quite disrespectful to those who did.  Patches can also add an interesting touch, and can be found in craft stores.

So, do search for a military jacket or two for your steampunk wardrobe, but keep my tips in mind for maximum steampunk style.  At ease.

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.