Dealing with the heat is bad enough, but dealing with it in steampunk costume? That's a whole different thing. In general, I'll admit I avoid events that require me dressing in full steampunk rig in the summer. At least in the outdoors. But given that I've also attended events in December where the temp was in the 90s, I still have some advice for dressing steampunk when it's hot.
Tip #1 - Wear cotton.
|The outfit in question: bare shoulders,|
but dying from synthetic fabric.
I personally learned this after one day at the Sherwood Forest Renaissance Fair when the temperature was climbing. I chose my outfit based on the weather, leaving my arms free instead of wearing something with sleeves. But both my skirt and the sleeve-less jacket I wore were made of two layers of polyester and it trapped all my body heat against my skin. I became ill that day from the heat, when I'd normally have been fine.
On the other hand, my Victorian bustle dress is made from all cotton, and even with appropriate period layers (or, ok an undershirt, a petticoat, and corset) it wears very well in the heat.
The reason is that cotton breathes, while synthetic fabrics do not. Cotton wicks heat away from your body and allows air to get to your skin. This is why you should always line all your clothing with cotton, even if the exterior is synthetic. If you look at how actual Victorian-era folks survived the heat, it's because they had natural fibers in their clothing, in particular cotton next to their skin. My husband has reported that his one pair of wool trousers are actually cooler to wear than his synthetic cargo pants because they are thinner and breathe better.
Tip #2 - Adapt your outfit for summer, or create a summer outfit.
Are there parts of your outfit you can do without, like jackets, coats, gloves, etc? You will normally see steampunk gentlemen remove their coats and roll up their sleeves in the summer, but keep their vests. Because VESTS.
Ladies, now is the time to wear an overbust corset on its own and to hike up those skirts. It's easy to convert a long skirt to a shorter one with the assistance of garters or purpose-make skirt hikes. Or tuck them into a belt.
But what about making a summer outfit? It's a great excuse to experiment with shorts, short skirts, bloomers, and other underwear-based looks. Look into the Steampunk Lolita look for inspiration.
My go-to summer outfits are either my bustle skirt or my patch corset outfit. The corset is thick, but it leaves my shoulders and arms completely bare, and the extremely ruffly petticoat and overskirt are short, 100% cotton, and also completely period, since they are actually accurate can-can skirts.
The downside is I've found myself freezing indoors at some conventions because of high air-conditioning. So I'm adding a light hand-knitted shawl to this outfit for those situations.
I've seen other smart steampunk summer outfits, from a Native American steampunk outfit to variations on saloon girls and "I'm running around in my underwear" costumes.
|I'm actually freezing in this picture,|
hence the neck wrap.
Tip #3: Pay attention to your body's "hot spots"
The human body loses heat from some places more than it does from others. So think of all those areas that you've been told need to be especially protected in cold weather: your head, your neck, your hands and feet. These are areas you should pay attention to when designing clothing for high temperatures as well.
We all also have individual differences in where we will be bothered the most by being overheated. For me, it's my feet. If my feet are too hot, I'll be miserable, which is why I never wear closed shoes in the summer. Someone may be very bothered by having their head covered, while someone else is comfortable with it.
But consider what your steampunk outfit normally covers. This is especially relevant when it comes to hats. For many, a hat is a necessity for a steampunk outfit. But a high-quality wool hat is going to cause overheating in the summer. Leather also traps heat and doesn't allow your head to cool. So consider leaving your hat off. Or modify it, by adding air vents (I've seen this done in a few stylish ways). Or, perhaps best, get yourself a style of hat better suited to summer. Pith helmets were originally designed for hot climates, and the large-brimmed ladies hats of the Edwardian period are ideal for keeping the sun off.
Shoes are a bit trickier, but see my post on Steampunk Summer Shoes for some ideas.
Tip #4: Incorporate cooling accessories into your outfit
This is steampunk, right? Gadgets and whatnots are enthusiastically encouraged. So why not include some accessories that will help keep you cool?
retractable badge reel. Gentlemen may feel a hand-fan is too feminine, but they always seem to appreciate a breeze from one.
Parasols were another period solution to avoid heat. Check out my tutorial on recovering a parasol.
Finally, we're steampunks, right? Why haven't I seen anyone with a steampunk'd portable mini-fan yet? You could build a brass one, or if you are less mechanically inclined, paint up a little plastic one. Great....one more thing I need to do now. :)
Stick around. All this week and next I'll be bringing you posts about how to steampunk in summer.
Anyone have any other tips to share? Do you have a summer steampunk outfit? Email me a picture at steamingenious (at) gmail.com and I may post it on this blog next week!