Jul 30, 2011

Crafting! a few steampunk tutorials

I'd wanted to make at least one tutorial for the theme. However, all the crafting I know I learned from other tutorials that are far more instructive than any copy I made would be. Instead, I picked my two favorite tutorials to share.

The first is the all popular goggles. I dislike adding random goggles in order to call an outfit steampunk, but they can be really lovely if they match your outfit well. The trouble, especially for those that love keeping the lolita in steam loli, is finding googles that match just right. I was certain that cream colored goggles would be amazing, however, they weren't available. So instead I decided to make my own! I used this tutorial by Fenris the Red Wolf on deviant art as a basic guide. In the end, I substituted the jar lids for the tops of wedding favor tins and I covered the leather with cream colored canvas fabric. I also attached them to a headband so I had more freedom with my hairstyling and added a loop of ribbon so I could easily clip on bows or flowers to match what I was wearing.

Threadbanger, the youtube DIY channel, did a steampunk series a while back and while most of the projects focused on how to make a cheap steampunk costume, this on was rather nice. Also take notice of the gorgeous dresses in the background - it's the same place that made that amazing Moby Dick dress.

Jul 28, 2011

Books for Lolitas: Worldshaker

I had a hard time deciding if I would write about this book. I really don't like to review books I haven't finished, but as Matt pointed out, if I can't be honest and write about my experiences then I'm not doing a good job reviewing things. Still, I hate to be negative about books that are honestly trying. Especially when they come so close to being good.

Worldshaker by Richard Harland

The book has a rather interesting concept. A society that exists inside an enormous machine. The ones literally on the top and the ones literally on the bottom, which never mix. Indeed those that live on the bottom aren't spoken of in polite society. Eventually those being mistreated rebel with the help of the heir to the most powerful position within the machine. It's a rather cool concept in theory. It would have been a great concept in practice, too, I think, if there had been even just one hook within the first fifty pages. Anything. It didn't even need to be a major plot event. Just a phrase. Heck, I consider 'the sky was the color of cat vomit' to be the hook in Uglies.

Don't get me wrong. After I reached page fifty something it started to pick up and I began to get more interested. Unfortunately, by that point I was so frustrated with trying to see if it would ever pick up that I peeked ahead so as to not be clueless in conversations regarding the book, thus killing any desire to read the rest of it. This isn't to say it's a bad book to read, exactly. In fact I had saved the book for this month because I had so many people tell me how great it was. So perhaps I'm just too harsh. Or perhaps my writing teachers drilled the need for a hook at the very beginning into me until I can't like any book without one. Or maybe it was my desire to shake sense into the main character, who at least seemed to be improving when I put it down but was somehow uninteresting and asking for a blunt object to the head at the same time. Not to do damage, mind you, but to rid him of the desire to question things right in front of him twenty times. 'Can these people talk?' You just had multiple conversations with one! Aaaah!

I will give the book points for world building, which is rather well done and creative. And to be fair I may have loved the book told by another character. I can't say I recommend this book, however, there were so many people that recommended it to me that there must be something to it.

Edit: I realized when putting up today's post that I had mistyped the scheduled date for this post. I'm really sorry, dear readers. I hope you can forgive me that it was late.

Pretty of the Week: Sale Dresses That Work for Steampunk

For the last Pretty of the Week focusing on steampunk, I wanted to point out some dresses that would work in a steam loli outfit. Then I decided to do one better and point out ones that were on sale. Enjoy!

We'll start with Innocent World if only because I'm tormenting myself by not opening the package right next to me until I'm done with the post for today. This one is the Pictor jumperskirt, and it'd be perfect if you want a simple dress to show off some truly great accessories. I'm a fan of keeping things simple and having only one or two stand out pieces when it comes to steampunk, and this dress perfectly fits that aesthetic.

These two, the Heidemarie and Regine jumperskirts, made the list for the same reason, thought I love that these are much more elegant and ladylike even while being simple.

While it's very much like a skirt version of the first dress, I wanted to point out this skirt for it's color. There never seems to be enough color in steampunk, so I'm rather drawn to it even though skirt typically don't work for me. (Oh how I envy you, people who look good in skirts.) Sadly, they are sold out of this color. But I'll put it here to be admired anyways.

Can you tell that I love red and blue in my steampunk? Especially reds with browns. This dress has a beautiful mix of earth tones that make it both lovely and easy to coordinate with steampunk accessories but still stand out with the pop of color. Sadly, they are sold out of red. But I'll put it here to be admired anyways.

The Viennese Rose jumperskirt may seem an odd pick for this list, but I think that it would be perfect for the super elegant steamy look. It's a bit harder to pull off, but it ends up with such nice results. The dress is pretty simple and the floral pattern is so delicate that there's a lot you can do with this one.

I almost left this one out. Prints aren't a common theme, even crossing with lolita, but this one seems like it could be made to work to wonderful effect. The design looks a bit like heraldry, which kind of gives it a romantic feel. And vertical stripes are both visually interesting and flattering. It's much more detailed than other dresses on the list so it would have to be coordinated very carefully. With light accessories, however, it might just be the best on the list.

Moving on to look at the Baby the stars Shine Bright sales page, there was a bit less to list. However I did find two lovely dresses that fit rather well. This one just makes me think of picnicking in faraway places (with a lace parasol of course) and walks in exotic gardens.

This dress has a more dramatic elegance to it that could work very well in steampunk. Again, it's a rather simple dress. Even so, this feels like it would be the stand out piece of the outfit all on it's own.

Jul 21, 2011

Pretty of the Week: My husband is amazing.

You see this? This is just one reason why. He is amazing and the fact can't be argued.

I was browsing for Pretty of the Week ideas in keeping with the theme and happened to stumble across this gorgeous new Innocent World dress. And fell head over heels in love with it. Hearing the squeals of utter joy, my wonderful husband looked to see what was making me hyperventilate. After a moment he uttered words he's yet to say of any other dress I have or have made him look at. "I like that."

Knowing then that my fate was sealed and that this beauty MUST find a way into my closet, I began pulling out the payday/need-to-pay charts and seeing just how soon I could own it. Unable to figure a date that didn't have me sniffling with worry the dress would sell out (I have VERY bad luck with this) I went and began weeding my beloved but now impractical winter dresses from my closet. Sometime during my panic attack over the idea of selling my nightingale dress, Matt asked how much I needed to buy the piece of fabric heaven. And then bought it. Aaaaah! I adore him so much!

At any rate, this dress is perfect and is a perfect piece around which to build a steampunk coordinate. And is on its way to me. And I love my husband.

Jul 20, 2011

Off track for just a moment...

But is anyone else getting excited about seeing The Hobbit? I mean, I am a HUGE fan of the books (All of them. Yes, all.) and the LotR movie(s) completely blew me away. With new character images coming out and the arrival of the new Blu-rays at home, I'm really starting to re-catch the fever that had begun to fade. I simply can't wait to revisit Hobbiton and see some of my favorite characters again! And mostly Smaug. I mean... SMAUG. My heart races just at the thought.

What? This is who? Really? Really? Yay!

I also want to talk about dwarves, if I may. Because lately, they rock. I mean, you have the above example. And you have the other, non-pictured Hobbit examples. And then you have this:

Varric Tethras. The best thing in Dragon Age since Alistair's lamp post line.

So when exactly did the trend of awesome dwarves start? Last time I checked they were the hilarious characters with the beer that you didn't want to get angry unless they were aimed at your enemies. Sure, they often had great lines and were lovable in their own way, but they were gruff and poorly mannered and occasionally spilled drink in their beards. This new take on the fantasy standard is strange, but very welcome. At least in my opinion. I'm beyond happy with what I've seen in the released pictures and glad to see that Varric isn't the odd dwarf out anymore. Keep the well groomed, awesome looking, full-of-attitude dwarves coming please!

Jul 19, 2011

Books for Lolitas: Steampunk Style Jewelry

An entry for the crafty lolitas out there! This is a fantastic book. It's got great crafting ideas, even if the style isn't precisely what you go for it still teaches useful techniques. It also has lovely images and articles for many different aspects of the culture, making it a great read for anyone with an interest in steampunk even if crafting isn't their thing.

But it made it to the list partially by including an article on lolita! It's interesting, as it was written by someone outside of the lolita community and so not 100% accurate, but still handled rather respectfully. It does amuse me greatly that it refers to lolita as the 'little sister' of steampunk, though as an aesthetic lolita is the older of the two - though the phrase 'steampunk' and lolita fashion both appeared around the same time.

All in all, its an interesting book with a variety of different articles, tutorials, shopping suggestions and images. It's worth a quick in-store read at the very least.

Jul 14, 2011

Words for a Wizard

I wanted to take a brief break from the steampunk theme to say a few words about what was a huge part of my life.

In middle school I was introduced to a book about a boy who went to a wizard school and had wonderful adventures with his friends. I was loaned the first two books by a friend right before a family trip, during which my brother and grandfather were in a car accident. They were both ok, but there was a week of sitting in a hospital waiting room before we were sure of this. I read those two books maybe ten times each and I’m certain they saved my sanity and were all that kept me from constant panic attacks.

I remember begging parents to take me to the midnight book releases. I also remember breaking my promise of going to sleep right after getting home and instead reading the books through the night, despite being in a zombie-like state. I remember crying like a baby when certain characters died, throwing the books across the room in anger when others did. And any time Umbrige opened her mouth. I remember jumping around and cheering on the twins, and Molly Weasley.

I remember seeing the first films and being swept up in the magic, despite the horrible special effects. And ranting about said effects. And being in line buzzing on a sugarless sugar high as soon as the next film came out. I’ve hosted Harry Potter parties, made up theme prizes and trivia games. I took a million online sorting tests and then proudly wore my Hufflepuff scarf until it was an unrecognizable knot of fuzz. I made not one, but two Harry Potter themed coordinates just so I could have something for both hot and cold weather conditions.

I spent hours talking with friends, and can tell you from memory which of my high school group belongs to which house, even which have changed houses as they changed in life. Even come up with (semi)witty Harry Potter related comebacks.

Yes, Ravenclaws might be smart, but this Hufflepuff was smart enough to marry one.

I spent a day at Harry Potter World, was picked for the wand show, drank butterbeer until my stomach hurt and had an amazing time on the rides and in the shops. For a while I forgot we were in the middle of a move I didn’t want to make and figured out that it would all be ok after all, that it was going to be fun if I wanted it to be.

And it isn’t just my personal experiences, either. There’s a world full of people just like me. There are kids that are reading that wouldn’t be without their favorite wizard. There are books out there that are popular that might not have been published if Harry hadn’t proven that kids will read, and that they’ll read long books. There are movies that wouldn’t have been made without the success of the Harry Potter film. The things this series has done is awe inspiring.

But tonight I’ll be in line for the midnight premier with my husband, likely with my phone on speaker talking to another friend in a premier line states away. I’ll be eating my official Honeydukes sugar quill I’ve been saving for the occasion. And it will be the last time. Tonight something wonderful and amazing is ending and I felt it is only right to make some small tribute to it’s passing.

So thank you J.K. Rowling. Thank you so very much for all those wonderful stories and the memories I wouldn’t have without your books to bring them together. Thank you for the friendships made by having an interest both sides enjoyed. Thank you for the kids that think reading might just be interesting and cool because of your books.

If you can, take just a minute and share your own Harry Potter experiences and remember everything it’s meant to you.

It has been an amazing journey and a wonderful adventure.

Mischief managed.

Steam Loli Dos and Don’ts

Use color. I’ve seen way too much brown and gray in steampunk. But what about pinks, reds, greens and blues? You don’t have to give them up to add steam to an outfit.

Look for vintage or handmade items. Steampunk doesn’t revolve around brands the way lolita does, so you want your outfit to have a one of a kind, aged feel. Search thrift stores, antique stores, flea markets and garage sales for hidden treasures. Then be creative with what you find! The world may see a beat up pair of boy scout uniform spats, but I see my brand new corset!

Remember gadgets. You can keep them small, and certainly don’t feel you need steamy guns or portable engines. Trying being creative and making a steampunk version of something that would be useful to you. I’m in the process of making a steampunk sewing box, for instance.

Have fun with the shoes! Spiky heeled boots with buttons or buckles might not work for normal lolita, but they’d be perfect for steampunk. Or find a pair of mary janes with over the top aged looking buckles. You can go with practically anything as long as it matched so pick out awesome shoes!

Try using sturdy fabrics. Steampunk is a bit rougher than typical lolita, so maybe add in a bit of leather. This isn’t to say you need to leave the delicate laces and such out entirely, but add in pieces that would be more practical for, say, and airship adventure.

Stick gears on things just to have gears on things. This is the equivalent of tacky cheap white lace on a costume quality too-short dress. It might resemble steampunk ever so slightly, but it isn’t anywhere near the real thing and you’ll be embarrassed about it later when you learn more. While a tasteful gear incorporated into a piece of jewelry can be just the right touch, plastic gears glued at random to things or prints with gears (rather than items that would have gears with perhaps a gear or two visible) normally come off as somebody trying to be steampunk without knowing much about it.

Treat it like a costume. It might be more of a special occasion wear than even lolita, but a lot of people get into the lifestyle the same way lolitas do. So even if it’s only something you do for cons or photo shoots, please be respectful. You wouldn’t like someone calling your favorite coordinate a cosplay, would you? Remember, we look just as strange to outsiders.

Forget to be yourself. A lot of steampunk revolves around uniqueness and creativity.  If you want to rock your sweet style in a steampunk sort of way, don’t be afraid to try.  Maybe it won’t work, but then again it just might be amazing.

Wear goggles without cause. I’ve seen a lot of people just throw a random pair of goggles on and call it steampunk. Don’t get me wrong, I ADORE goggles. But if you want to wear them, make sure they work with the rest of your outfit and look good, ok?

Jul 12, 2011

Books Movies for Lolitas: Steam Edition

I have a confession to make. The book I had planned to review had fifty pages of nothing happening. While it picked up a few pages after that, I’ve been having to fight through the beginning, making it a slow read. So I’ll be keeping at it incase it turns out to be something worth telling you about, but for this week I’ll be doing something a bit different and giving you a list of films you might want to take a look at – all with a little bit of steam thrown in of course.

Hellboy and Hellboy 2
Have I ever mentioned that I love a) urban fantasy, b) superheros, c) steampunk elements, d) beauty and the beast style romances and e) guys that look a bit like Legolas. (Side note: Why can’t my hair be that pretty?!) So these films hit a lot of the right notes for me, besides which they are well written and beautifully shot. I recommend the second film a bit more (on account of point e) but they are both wonderful and exciting.


Sleepy Hollow
Oh the setting on this one! I adore this film. It’s got ghosts and creepiness without being too much for someone who’s a baby about scary movies. Namely me. And the costumes and super goggles!

Can I have a short version replica of her dress please?

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events
This is just a clever movie. I’m a fan of the books too, and the movie is a very good adaptation. And, again, has gorgeous visuals. The characters are wonderfully amusing as well. And it’s just so clever! 

I was in love with this movie before I even saw it, I think. The book is so wonderful that I just knew the film would have to be at least fantastic. (Go read the book too!) It’s like a newer Princess Bride. Not as classic, certainly, and without lines that will forever melt the knees of girls everywhere, but just as fun and random. Also, where else can you see both unicorns and air ships?

 See? Unicorns AND airships! Yes!

Sherlock Holmes
I love Sherlock Holmes. I really do. And really. Tony Stark as Holmes? That’s almost as great as Batman as Holmes, only with Marvel instead of DC. I mean…um… the acting was perfect. Sorry, was my dork showing? 

Castle in the Sky
This is probably the overall best animated steampunk film, though there are others and some more obvious. But the animation is beautiful, the music sets just the right mood, the story is lovely and well told and it’s filled to bursting with flying contraptions of every shape and size. 

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
Dieselpunk at it’s most amazing. Matt loves this film more than I do, but we both enjoy watching. The deco atmosphere just makes me happy, and it’s got a fun, exciting story behind it. But really, watch it because it's just so darn pretty.

Golden Compass
Ignoring the religious protests to the film, it really was a wonderful movie. It was not, as many groups believed, an anti-Christian movie. I just want to point that out at the start as mention of this film does make some people go on a defensive and form opinions. Yes, the book was very strongly anti-organized-religion but even that aspect was largely ignored in the film in favor of coming off as more anti-corruption in government than anything. 

Will I ever get the sequel I deserve? It says no.

All the debate aside, the film was a wonderful fantastic adventure in a world with so much going on. The colors and the interesting gadgets! The fluffy animals being adorable everywhere! The colors! The characters were fantastic, and the story was magical, but it’s the setting that really shines in this film. I mean, the car! Watch it just to see that car! It is so awesome!

 I want to drive this.

Jul 7, 2011

Pretty of the Week: Operetta Bouquet Jumper Skirt

For some reason this dress always make me think of old fashioned travel. By ship or perhaps even a hot air balloon flight. I can't put my finger on why that is, exactly. Maybe it's the simple but detailed design, or the colors or even the little ribbon on the collar. Whatever it is, it's certainly charming.

Jul 5, 2011

Books for Lolitas: The Looking Glass Wars

With the first post of July I'm happy to announce the beginning of steampunk month. Why, you ask? Well, mostly because I can. So I'll be talking a bit about what it is and what makes something steampunk, as well as how to try the style for yourself.

Steampunk is a re-imagining of Victorian era containing modern technologies re-invented using the methods and power of the time. Namely clockwork and steam engines. The culture focuses on themes of invention, creativity, beautiful craftsmanship and a positive do-it-yourself spirit. The fashion of steampunk is wide and has very few rules to define it. It ranges from metal limbs, cropped tops, soot stains and portable engines to delicate dress and fine accessories not all that far removed from lolita aesthetics. But before it got that far it had a beginning.

Books. Because it all starts, as most wonderful things will, with books. Steampunk was a literary movement long before it became the fashion and culture it is now. Which means that today I've picked a very special book to review. Not only because it's deliciously steampunk and has to deal with Alice, but because it's a book that I picked up in a cute used bookshop during my honeymoon. And today just happens to be my anniversary. See. It all fits into place.

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor

I'm sure most lolitas are at the very least familiar with the story of Alice. She is, after all, the girl most people relate with the fashion outside of the obvious(-ly mistaken) namesake. Even those who have yet to read the original books (do it!) are familiar with images of the Hatter and his tea party, grinning cats and card soldiers. And these are all wonderful and whimsically charming.

This book dares you to think about what a real wonderland might be - if the story we all know was a retelling, and much mistaken at that. The story begins with a princess of this magical and inventive kingdom, who flees when her family is murdered. She finds herself in Victorian London. There she is adopted and relays her story to a kind man, who promptly puts it all incorrectly into a book. Events unfold as a grown Alyss finds her kingdom again and must relearn nearly everything about it.

Much of the story revolves around imagination and invention, key ingredients in any decent steampunk novel. The imagery of some of the contraptions have a lovely steampunk vibe as well, from clockwork card soldiers to top hat weaponry. Mixing these elements with re-imagined characters and images from classic Alice makes it, at least to my mind, a perfect intro to steampunk for lolita readers. I consider it my favorite steam-loli novel.

Jul 1, 2011

Seminova jewelry review

I stumbled across this shop on etsy a while ago and ordered a few pieces of jewelry, which I received this afternoon.

Prices: 5/5
Cheaper than the mall even after shipping. The shop has great prices, but keep an eye on the shipping price as you make selections, as they ship internationally (at least to me). You will still spend much less than you would for similar items anywhere else that I've found. The entire order was only slightly over $20 (shipping included) and included 2 pocket watches.

Shopping and shipping: 5/5
Standard etsy check out. I very promptly received both a notice that the package had shipped and positive buyer feedback. The package Was very well secured with more tape and bubble wrap than I ever seen on such a small package.

Products: 5/5
The end products are beautiful! I had one issue with a jump ring on the snitch watch catching along the chain, but it was very easily fixed and hardly worth mention. They were perfect in all other ways. I have to admit the prices made me a little worried that I would be sacrificing quality, but they are all much nicer than I could have purchased at shops like Icing or Claires. Each item came in an individual black velvet bag, which I found to be a lovely personal touch. The package also contained an extra ring as a thank you gift and a thank-you letter.

The anchor necklace and pearl ring were bought to match my incoming sailor-styled dress. They are adorable and well-made. The second watch is even nicer than the snitch, and very elegant. It has a rosy-tan cover and the watch face on the interior is off-white. It's decorated with a precious bird charm and a tiny heart and pearl. The back of the watch has an elegant sort pattern. I think it is absolutely perfect as a finishing touch for elegant classic and steampunk coordinates, but could also be worn to finish off those that fall between classic and sweet styles. The rose ring was a gift added in, and it looks so adorable with the watch that I will be wearing them as a set.
The snitch watch is absolutely amazing! It's actually fairly heavy despite it's cute size.  It also has a brushed texture, though it is difficult to see in the photo. It's on a very long chain that I may shorten later, as the weight causes it to swing rather a lot. The wings are actually silver, rather than brass like the body of the watch, though the lighting is a bit wrong to show it here.

The pieces have a lot of charm and are fantastic quality, especially for the price, and I am absolutely thrilled with all of them. In fact, I was so pleased that I immediately purchased the necklace I had originally decided not to add to my original order along with a couple of gifts. I highly recommend taking a look at this shop if you want to find a few finishing touches.