Thursday, January 31, 2013

Dress Diary: Steampunk Cleopatra: Accessories

There were several accessories that were either necessary to this outfit or that I just wanted to include.

The ostrich feather fan was one of these.  I could theoretically do without it, but was such a great prop, I knew I had to do something like it.  Googling for ostrich feather fan is very difficult, since the only thing that you will get are huge burlesque fans.  But I eventually happened across something amazing: an antique fan handle that might as well be the one in the picture!  Ok, mine is probably smaller.  But it was too good to be true.  So I started bidding on it on ebay.  Unfortunately, someone else wanted it too.  I got into something of a bidding war.  Ultimately I wouldn't have ended up with it if my husband hadn't declared that I MUST have it because it was PERFECT.  So I paid more than I really should have for it. But it IS perfect.

It didn't come with feathers, though.  I was surprised how difficult it was to find natural colored ostrich feathers in grey, black, or brown hues.  Eventually, though, I found the perfect lot on ebay, for a very reasonable price.  I got all the feathers I needed for my fan, and then some.  I cleaned the remains of the original feathers out of the opening on the handle and then simply hot glued my feathers in their place.  I originally tried sewing the feathers together in the hopes of doing some higher class method of attaching them, but that pretty much failed.  Hot glue worked great.    I added a chain which I attached to a brooch, since the fan in the original is attached by chain somehow.  I left the fan handle as it was, except that a glued a round filigree piece at the bottom since it just looked like it needed something.

Another item I needed for this outfit was a good pair of boots.  I don't own a pair of black steampunk-appropriate boots.  And then I saw these gold and black boots from the FIDM museum.  How perfect would those be for my costume?  So I decided to try making something similar by painting some modern Victorian style boots.

The boots as I bought them..
Now I have a problem with heels.  I've never learned how to walk in them without seriously harming myself.  I'm nearly 6 feet tall, so I don't really need heels.  Plus I have feet that are built really weird and that make me prone to serious ankle injury.  So there's a reason why the only heels I wear are really blocky ones.

But because I wanted this outfit to really scream Victorian and Steampunk as loudly as possible, I decided to give some Victorian boots a try.  I found a gently used pair on ebay that had a chunkier heel than most similar boots.  Of course the heel is also quite high.  These are boots for standing around looking good in, not for walking, I told myself.

Then I did a little research on how to paint onto leather. Essentially I found that leather will take acrylic paint if you use sandpaper to remove some of the protective finish first.  So I set out to add some gold details to my boots.  I initially intended to fill in the area around the laces with gold, but ran into a snag. These are side-zip boots and the velvet laces are merely decoration.  There are no opening for the laces on the inside, so if I unlaced them, I wouldn't be able to relace them.  So I was stuck there.  Eventually I just improvised the painting.  I tried using tape to neaten my painting, but always got some bleed.  Tape just doesn't work well with a curved leather surface, although I found regular scotch tape worked better than masking or painter's tape.

Once I had my gold painted as well as I thought I could do it, I covered the whole boot in a couple of coats of Satin Shene leather sealant.  It really finished the boots nicely and they are now less shiny than they were before I did anything to them.  I don't know how well my paint will last; I suspect that depends on the location of the paint.

Finally we have the jewelry.  In the original costume, the woman is wearing two upper arm cuffs, attached by chains to bracelets on her wrists.  She also has a rather elaborate necklace.  I knew that on a budget I couldn't really hope to replicate her jewelry with any real exactitude, but I wanted a similar feel, at least.  My search started several months ago on one of my regular trips to Goodwill.  I looked in their jewelry case and they had a plethora of gold-toned bracelets.  I picked out two that I thought might work and they cost me $2 each.  You can't beat that.  Then I found a cobra arm cuff for a fairly reasonable price at the Texas Renaissance festival.  It's a pretty cheap piece, but it fit my budget and was the style I needed.  I later added some aging to it with some black paint.  I attached it to one of the bracelets with some chain I bought at a craft store.  I decided to go with only one arm cuff for budgetary reasons.

The necklace I was kinda intending to assemble myself from some chain and some charms, but I found a really lovely piece in the booth of my friend Lisa Turner of Turner's Tokens and fell in love with it.  It isn't as elaborate as the Victorian version, but I think it works.  I added a vintage Egyptian charm to the very bottom of the necklace, since I ended up not using it elsewhere on the costume.

There are several other pieces to the costume that might be called accessories, but they will be in another post.


  1. This project caught my interest from the your first mention of it. I'm genuinely excited to see your finished outfit.

    I suggest that the amount of effort and creativity you've invested warrants a liitle stretching of the budget to have a professional portrait photograph just like the one that inspired you in the first place. What do you think?

  2. I definitely wanted to, but the fact that I essentially finished the costume today and need to have the photos sent in to the Your Wardrobe Unlock'd contest on Monday means I was limited in my options.

    I WAS going to meet up with an amateur photographer tomorrow to take some shots, but my back went out so I can't make the trip. I'll be posing in my yard for now, although I still hope to get some pro shots of this outfit eventually.