Our Take on Steampunk Costume and Garb

Posted: April 6, 2013 by Mary Lin in Uncategorized

Part II of a series on Costuming our Steampunk Opera

Since we’re all pretty familiar with the costuming clichés of steampunk, I thought I’d just offer a quick rundown on how we’ve riffed on each:

-Goggles – as steampunk goggles get bigger and more ornate and ridiculous, we went smaller and more refined, and made them from humble household objects. I guess it’s my (Mary)’s private joke that I used tea strainers, considering I’m a lifelong tea and teapot lover, tea parties being a minor trope of steampunk.

Admiral's Costume for QVII Opera

The Admiral’s costume (in progress, early stages)


-Utility belts – we went for minimal and used handcrafted Western belts for a unique look. (Long live Firefly).

-Boots– Some of the boots are actual historic handcrafted boots with a Western/Victorian feel.

-Hats – rather than tiny tophats, we went for oversized Edwardian silhouettes and incorporated some festive plumbing/tubing. Apparently Edwardian ladies figured out that a giant hat would make one’s corseted waist appear even smaller. We agree.

-Clocks – as is typical in steampunk, clocks and dials are used in over the top fashion but cleverly  so, we hope. We could say we used the clocks with some restraint – used in focal points on hats and control panels, but the absurdist in me won, and the Admiral’s hat incorporates the face of an Admiral’s hat clock.

-Corsets – the corsets are simple, with focal  point on the “control panel” rather than super complex edifices with hooks, snaps, pockets, grommets. The control panel emphasizes corsets as control of women and nature/biology.

-Bustles– We did go a little overboard with bustles, but with an emphasis on their utility. For example, Lady “Hen”rietta, the mother hen of the show, carries eggs in her basket.

-Costume materials – made with all natural materials as much as humanly possible, and never ironed, for that rumpled “ I live on a ship” effect. Quite a few actual Edwardian and Victorian petticoats, etc are incorporated into the show.

-Atlantean merwomen – the mishmash of styles/cultures references (Greek, ancient Egyptian, modern tribal) references the way visual and cultural references are collected and reassembled into fears/projections onto “others” as well as our fear of the unknown and  dreams of the future. (more on this in a later post)

-Sailor Costumes – The “seamen” wear swabby pants and tops, but the costume is more like children’s navy suits- pants are cropped to knickers, striped stockings. It’s  as if the sailors are playing at being sailors. I guess it’s my personal desire to see all military reduced to vestigial, ceremonial roles. It’s hardly necessary to have a military when there are no nations to fight one another.

In our next blog post we’re look at how some of the props reference our love of science and the gadgetry of science.

  1. Love what you’re doing Mary!! 🙂

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