Thursday, November 1, 2012

Deconstructing the White Queen

As the title of the blog may indicate, one of my many hobbies is steampunk costuming.  For those not familiar with steampunk, it's basically Victorian science fiction - the future, as imagined in the late 1800s by writers such as Jules Verne, HP Lovecraft, and Orson Wells.  Also, there are often a lot of buckles and gears (for reasons I can't entirely explain)....

I've been trying to do more serious costuming and sewing recently, both to develop my own skills (and maybe even get to the point where I can sew well enough to make real life clothes too), and also because it helps being able to make the items you can imagine rather than relying on others to do so and hope they get it right.  I had the idea at Baltimore Comic Con of trying to do a Steampunk version of the X-Men's White Queen, formerly of the Hellfire Club and now one of the leaders of the X-Men Academy.  How times change, right?

Now, the goal when I try to adapt an existing character to a steampunk version is to meet two criteria I have for "successful" costuming:

1.  Does it look properly Victorian/Steampunk?  (AKA does it look good)

2.  Can people tell who you're actually supposed to be?

Obviously the first rule is fairly self-evident - did I make a costume that looks pretty, and that I'm not embarrassed to wear?  Oddly enough, this is the easier part of my two criteria - making something that looks good and fits well is a fairly straightforward enough goal, with enough practice.  In the picture above, there are definitely things I want to still improve - the cloak I think came out very well, and I'm very pleased with that, but the corset fit could stand some improvement.  Regrettably (I think), there's a little more me than the top allows for, so I could stand to enlargen that part.  I used lace as a quick-fix to get a bit more coverage on the bust area, but in an ideal world I'd like it to fit better - enough so that I'm not terrified to bend over.  Also, while you can't see the skirt (as I had my cloak covering my legs here), it's one of two pieces that were *GASP* store-bought, and I need to make a proper, draping Victorian skirt to really make this work.  The boots were also purchased, but they are leather and my leatherworking skills in no way extend to making footwear - so this, I can live with.

The second part of the equation is the trickier one - can people tell who it is you're supposed to be a Steampunk incarnation of?  I'm pleased to report that at least three people at the party from above did compliment me on my Steampunk Emma Frost outfit, so I think I'm on the right track so far. I was worried people would ask if I was supposed to be some sort of bride (all in white, after all) - and only one did, so as long as more people can correctly recognize the character, I call it a win!

For those not familiar with the character, this is a fairly iconic version of the original White Queen (in her pre-good girl Emma Frost days):

Now obviously, I wanted to tame it down some - no way at my age I want to be prancing around in a little bikini!  There's still a lot to work with though, and adapt for steampunk purposes.  As far as the individual components of the above - the first thing I tried to do is identify the main or key elements of the original character, and adapt from there.  In the White Queen's case, there are really three main parts to her classic outfit that stand out visually.  One is the long cape with the fur collar, the second being the front-lacing corset, and the third being the very tall white boots.  So that's where I tried to begin, in terms of developing the costume - items that I needed to keep very prominent in my adaptation so as to recall the original.

The boots, for now I just kept as long white leather boots.  I did actually sew a pair of thigh-high white spats, to see how those would work out in terms of incorporating the look but adding more steampunk flair, but I didn't finish them before the party - so those are for v2.  The corset I made, though I stayed with a traditional back-lacing corset rather than a front-lacing one as this was the first corset I've made.  The cape, I decided to construct out of white linen, to be lightweight and breathable, and then added a vintage fox fur stole I found on eBay.  I went with linen rather than wool because it runs a little more true to white (wool can run more cream-colored), and also because most Steampunk events and comic cons tend to be in the warmer, summer months than the winter ones.  Plus, I can tell you wearing it on a cooler evening in October - even with the linen cloak, the fur will definitely keep one warm!

What I'll try to do in the coming weeks is to draft out patterns for what I did and how, in case any other aspiring Steampunk costumers ever come across this and want to try working on their own character adaptations.  For now though, I figure even posting this much is a start!

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