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Created for and debuted at the 2016 Big River Steampunk Festival.

What’s that on the bottom of that skirt? Could that be…a ruffle?

This is one of those costumes that came out of an offhanded remark, then just had to be – I’m not even sure how I got there now, but I commented to a friend that I bet I could turn Louise’s pink bunny hat into a steampunk-style pink bunny aviator hat. Challenge accepted, self!

This costume was also a pain in the ass largely because finding the right materials for it was a pain in the ass. Louise wears a knee-length green dress that I decided to steampunkulate by making my standard six-paneller in a single layer, so that it could be bustled up to be a short dress or worn long, along with a quickly-drafted peasant blouse. After looking in several places and not finding anything in the right shade of green, I gave up and settled for a swath of olive-ish panné. Panné. like costume satin, is pretty but hell to work with – it’s that “crushed velvet” you see on goth gowns and Halloween costumes, and it loves to roll and shed its edges. Because it’s a stretchy knit, it needs to be sewn with a ballpoint needle – none of which was really a problem until I got to the ruffle.

Ah, yes. The ruffle. You may recall from the Time and Space Hunter costume that I’d sworn them off until I got my hands on a ruffler foot. Online? Sixty bucks. At Joann? Fifteen – so you better believe I snatched that thing up and ran to the checkout like my bustle was on fire.

If H.P. Lovecraft designed sewing tools, the ruffler foot would be it. I’m not sure where my picture of it has gotten off to, but it is a thing of madness. You can’t just pop it on and off like you can a regular foot – the entire shank has to be unscrewed and swapped out. There are levels and gears and teeth and it kept birdnesting but we could never figure out why (that’s usually a tension thing, but tweaking it didn’t help here), and when I finally got it done, I had far, far more ruffle than I could ever possibly need for a single-layer six-panel skirt. I think the rest of it is still floating around somewhere, waiting to be unearthed like an ancient sleeping god.

The hat was even worse – pink pleather was nowhere to be found in the world of flesh-and-blood shops, and we finally had to order it online. I hate shopping for craft supplies online, because I can’t see or feel it to know what I’m getting is right, but there wasn’t much choice. The colour and texture turned out alright, but by the time I’d cut the pattern – adjusted the pattern because the thick fleece of the lining made the lining too big when cut the same size as the outer layer – made little snappy pockets that actually open and close and could be functional if I had anything small enough to go in them – and shoved it under my needle, even my Singer Heavy Duty (codename: Grimlock) that I use for putting corsets together could barely go through it all. The wire I’d bought to shape the ears was too thin to support such heavy materials, and the thicker wire my roommate pulled out of his supply box was hard to cut and hard to thread into place. The hat went across the room at least twice because I was so over it, and I couldn’t stay over it because it wasn’t done yet. When it was finally finished, it was so unbalanced I had to add an elastic strap to it so it wouldn’t just slide right off my head.

Like the Time and Space Hunter skirt, the Louise skirt is bustled via ribbons run through channels made by folding the panel side-seams out and stitching down. The shirt has elastic in self-casing at sleeves and neck, and is accented with a a pastel pink bow (because why not). The green velvet corset is an off-the-rack item purchased from the Artifixer booth on the last day of the 2015 festival – it was greatly marked down and is no longer listed on their site. While I like it – even being an off-the-rack, non-custom item, it’s still my first ‘real’ corset with a proper busk and steel boning – I somehow managed to bend one of the busk-hooks almost immediately (seriously, explain to me how I BENT STEEL when I can barely open the bottle of ibuprofen I need after doing something like that), and there’s a place where the busk has rubbed a hole in the velvet. I’ve repaired it as best I can with some quick hand stitches, but… That’s not going to last forever, or anything even close to it, and I’m a little irked that it happened so quickly.

The accessories for this one, at least, were fun – my roommate has a 3D printer, and he designed and printed a Mason-jar-sized Kuchi Kopi that he then coated in glow-in-the-dark green paint. It doesn’t glow quite as much as hoped, but he still makes a cute “lantern”! A skeletal salad tong from Dollar Tree’s Halloween display, painted with gold acrylic and antiqued with black, became a weapon of choice for slapping someone’s stupid beautiful face. We also bought a small chalkboard, gave the edges a faux patina with more acrylic paint, and came up with a suitable Burger of the Day for hungry adventurers:

It’s doubly fun because there actually is a riverboat cruise during the Festival! We’re right on the Mississippi and the boats come and go already, so every year, the festival commandeers one for an evening’s use.

I used a chalk marker to write the “menu” – regular chalk was neither fine nor bold enough. I also cracked the board at some point – probably during tea, when I was seated for an extended time – and I’m super-sad. We picked up some chalk tape on the way home to keep the pieces from falling out, but the damage on the front is still visible.

Even the belt is a custom creation – I couldn’t find anything suitable in-store, so I whipped it up myself out of more brown pleather (though not the same brown pleather as the Time and Space Hunter corset). The straps attach with gold snaps and can be moved around on the belt to carry…whatever I’m carrying at the time. Today, that was the menu board, the slapper, a fan, and my copper mug. The pocketwatch, goggles, boots, and striped stockings (with hidden ruffles and more pink bows) all come from my own wardrobe. As does the pink fan, because I have a fan to match every outfit.

This is easily the most popular costume I’ve ever done – thanks to her trademark bunny hat, Louise is immediately recognizable to any fan of the show (and probably even some people who only know it in passing). While I usually get at least a few compliments and requests for pictures no matter what I’m wearing, I’ve never had so many people come up, shriek my costume’s name, and want to get a shot with me. To make things even more special, we printed out a bagful of smaller Kuchi Kopis (again with the GITD paint!) that could be handed out to Louise’s fans.

You know how awesome this costume was, srsly? This awesome:

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Posted Tuesday, September 6th, 2016 at 12:24 am in Cosplay / Fandom, Steampunk.

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