|Corset ca. 1864 via The Victoria & Albert Museum|
You never take into account the "character" you are dressing as or being. Steampunks love to create a character complete with backstory. I have one for my steampunk character as well but I have also done what any costumer should; I have taken into consideration what my character does (hunter), the historical fashions of the time period I am based out of (Victorian) and the implications behind it all.
So for this arguments sake, we are going to deal with Steampunk based very heavily in the Victorian time period and for a woman.
The first thing you need to know is that every woman wore a corset. Yes, every woman and all the time. This caused many physical problems (like rearranging your organs) and health issues, especially concerning childbirth. Yes, corsets are the cause of so many miscarriages and deaths during childbirth.
|Langdon, Batcheller & Company, c. 1887.|
The third is that the corset is made to mold and shape your body to fit the styles and clothes of the time. The busk (aka the metal closure on the front) was curved, the boning was made out of whale bones and the lacing in the back pulled it all tight. A corset should not be tied by yourself or by someone who does not know what he or she is doing. A corset can bruise or break ribs if you are not careful. Also, you should never try to tight lace on the first wearing of a corset. You should tighten to where you are still comfortable, able to breath easily and can sit and stand without difficulty. After about an hour or two you can then go in and tighten a bit more. Alway stop tightening when you get uncomfortable or it's painful!!! DO NOT PUSH YOUR BODY INTO A TIGHT CORSET WHEN IT IS NOT READY FOR IT! YOU WILL HURT YOURSELF! Ideally the process to be able to tight lace (which I absolutely never recommend to do) should take weeks or months to do but this requires wearing a corset daily, which is a horrible plan.
Now that you know a bit about the corset lets talk about wearing one. As I mentioned before, when designing and creating a costume that requires a corset, try as hard as you can to not fall into the typical fashion trends of the people who are costuming in the same area you are. For Steampunk, this means that you need to make a conscious choice about how you wear your corset and don't just go right for the corset on the outside of your clothing because that's the trend.
|Original hand-coloured antique engravings|
Published for Bureaux du Journal Paris, 1872 - 1883
|Woman with camera - albumen print cabinet card|
- A.J. Davison - c. 1880
|Not Victorian but I wonderful show of|
what I mean.
So, in the end, there are some factors you really need to look at when it comes to designing your costume.
1. If you are basing it out of a time period, do some research into that time period. read articles, look at pictures, search for patterns. There is so much information out there and at your fingertips, use it.
2. Try and avoid the conventions of costume design that are out there and strong. If you turn the convention on it's head or utilize it in a different way then everyone else, you stand out more and people remember your costume.
3. Think through what your character does and what she needs in a garment. Does she need a corset? Would she show it off? (Most likely the answer is always no) Would she wear pants instead of a skirt? Is she formal? Is she rich/poor/middle class? Is she Steampunk or post Apocalyptic or historical or cyber punk...etc...? Does she care about societies rules? Is she proper?
Really, just take some time and use your brain. Don't be like everybody else and blend into a crowd.