Saturday, September 18, 2010

Let's Do Steampunk Lolita!

Disclaimer: All images taken from Google Images, I do not own any of them!

Well, due to my recent post on EGL asking about corsets in Lolita, I decided to do a little guide on something that both the Lolita and Steampunk community aren't sure what to do with: Steampunk Lolita!

Now, the Steampunk community complains that it's too Lolita, the Lolita community half of the time complains about the same thing, and the other half complains about it breaking some of the 'rules' of Lolita. So we're going to try and appease both groups and get started~

First things first, it's probably better to stick to the Lolita "Rules", that is modesty (even EroLoli is modest compared to other "Erotic" styles), the bell-shape silouette, and the overall "Cuteness" that seems to exist in all things Lolita. However, when you do this, you need to give heed to the Steampunk asthetic, which is the historical roots with the modern twist. Newtonian laws rule here, so keep that in mind! Overall, you should probably know a good amount about both styles before randomly deciding to mix them. Now let's break this down!

Character: One thing I've noticed in Steampunk: Most people have characters (or as I like to call them: Steamsonas. Yes. I'm serious.) Think about who your character is first (this may cause a rift with some of the Lolitas, who prefer the style as a fashion over costuming. You're free to continue this as a fashion, but think about how you want to portray yourself. Some people prefer the "Cutesy" aspects, while others want to look like youthful royalty. It's probably good to have this character {or portrayal} in mind before you start dressing yourself.) Is your character an airship mechanic? Probably best to leave out the extreme frills, and go for something a little more subdued. Conversely, is your character royalty? Deep, rich colours, and fancy clothing is almost mandatory here!

World: Steampunk has a rich and diverse world, and several people tend to make their own worlds for the genre. Think about where your character comes from. Is it a generally peaceful place? No need for toting ray guns then if things are always so quiet. What about an adventure-filled land with danger around every corner? I doubt you're going to be without a few weapons and shields (or at least some nifty gadgets disguised as ordinary accessories.) Always pay heed to where you are, and where you're going, this will influence the outfit.

Now, I've already probably lost some of the fashion-centric people right here. Don't fall asleep just yet! There is fashion goodness to come, however, if your outfit is mis-matched and doesn't seem to flow (hence where the characterization comes in), then you won't look very good. See? A bit of forethought is necessary for the fashion aspect.

Hair: More historical styles are valued here. Save the pink Himegaryuu wigs for other styles, because there's very little that can be done to make it Steampunk enough for SteamLoli. Sorry, love you all, it's just NOT a good idea overall. If you can do it? Great! Send me pictures, and I'll show the world how wrong I am, in the meantime? Best to avoid it. Historical styles in natural colours are best, Steampunk itself tends to go into the "Punk" asthetic, but for SteamLoli, it's better to focus on the "Steam" aspect. Do some research to historical hairstyles, braids were common, as were decadent curls. Find ways to make them more Lolita, perhaps small bows adorning a French braid. Here are some photos of styles for you:

So on, so forth. Also, check out any hairstyle tutorial done by Torrin Paige. Her styles never fail to amaze me with their beauty, and easy to follow instructions~

Lolita in general requires a lot of thought that go into ensembles, and that includes things like hair, and makeup. Don't just let your hair sit in a regular ponytail, jazz it up a bit!

Makeup: This is where you have to start thinking of your character again. Your noble is going to wear a lot more makeup than your airship mechanic (can we tell I love using those two examples?) Likewise, makeup should go with your outfit, and at least look somewhat natural. Remember, more Steam than Punk here.

If you want to have a little more extreme makeup, using metallic tones on your eyes are a great touch. Brass, copper, gold, even silver can look wonderful. It's usually best to keep a sepia tone in regards to makeup, but you can have a bright contrasting colour in light amounts.

Likewise, for things like meetups, or parties, you could easily go a bit extreme, but this isn't recommended for day-to-day life. (It is justified by it being a special event, however, so it's only natural you would get dolled up~)

With the basics out of the way, let's get to the clothes!

Blouses: Any white, offwhite, or sepia-toned blouse could work here. Offwhite and white are the most common, but that doesn't mean it's all you can do. The blouse should keep the Lolita elements to it, with a Steampunk flair. Both short or long sleeves can be used. Lace is fine, just make sure it's high-quality (I shouldn't have to go over these basics, I'm assuming you're all seasoned Lolitas here.)

Now what do I mean by Steampunk flair? Accessorizing! In this case, pins, brooches, and embroidery are your best friend. Likewise, if your blouse has a regular pointed colour, here are some ways to dress it up. Likewise, there's embroidery, maybe you want to embroider cogs and gears, or other delightfully (and perhaps a little cliche) Steampunk symbols. Get creative here~ The blouse isn't necessarily the main attraction, but that doesn't mean it has to be boring~

Skirts: I'm going to say it right now, Blouse+Skirt combinations are much easier to use in SteamLoli, you get a few more options for a lesser price (most of the time), and they just hold the asthetic better. I'm not saying that you can't wear jumperskirts and OPs with SteamLoli, just that it will be a bit harder.

All the same, skirts! Skirts should have the bell-shape (obviously), and contain the basic Lolita silouette while containing all the delights of Steampunk. Bustles are great here, so are screenprinted designs, or (more) embroidery~ Bonus points if you match the motifs on your blouse to your skirt. Skirts are generally a shade of dark brown, but that doesn't mean you can't do lighter colours! (Protip: If you want a splash of colour, and aren't interested in a contrasting corset, try making the bustle whatever colour you want!)

Jumperskirts: Underbust JSKs are probably your best bet here. While you can still (somewhat) rely on your blouse for some Steamy coverage, the JSK itself should be Steampunk enough to stand on its own. Motifs and colour scheme are great here.

One-Pieces: These are probably the hardest to coordinate, seeing as the OP itself has to be Steamy enough to stand on its own. (Otherwise it's not as much SteamLoli as it is Lolita with Steampunk accessories. If you want to go that route, fine, but it's not really Steampunk Lolita, where the two are mixed rather evenly.) Like with JSKs, you'll want to really hit it home with the motifs and colour schemes. This will be the focal point of your outfit, so make sure it doesn't disappoint!

Hats: Oh man, don't get me started, hats are for those of us who don't want to do extreme things with our hair, short-brimmed, wide-brimmed, it doesn't matter what it is, so long we're putting it on our heads! Hats should coordinate with your outfit, and make sense for the "Character". (Yes, I'm still going on with that, there's more rants on that later.) For Steamloli? Take any of those hats you were about to wear, and shrink it down to about half the size. Trust me when I say it works. Mini tophats, mini tricorns, need I say more? (Likewise, accessorize on both of them! Feathers are amazing things, you know. Or if you don't want to spend a fortune on hats alone, buy a basic one, and then make the accessories detatchable!)

A note on goggles: I know everyone and their aunt loves them, but goggles really do need to make sense. An avaiator would need them, a mad scientist (oh man. I want to see a Lolita mad scientist now) would need them, an airship mechanic (I'm using it again) would need them. Your little princess does not need them. (Unless she's secretly sneaking out to fly airplanes, run experiments, or work the graveyard shift repairing the airship.)

Corsets: You all saw this coming. Corsets, yes, corsets. First things first, get that fetishy dancer out of your head, we're talking good-quality corsets that can make or break an outfit.

Corsets are best in Blouse+Skirt combinations, and underbust tends to look best. (Overbust CAN be used, but please please please please please get all overbust corsets fitted specifically to your body! An ill-fitting overbust can hurt like no tomorrow and possibly even cause health problems. Please don't take that risk!) The corset is where you should hit home the colour if you so desire. Do you have a predominantly sepia ensemble? The corset is where you could add that emerald you were after, or maybe that amethyst purple. Jewel-tones look best, but you really could do this with many colours.

Something to keep in mind: Corsets as outerwear are starting to become cliche in Steampunk. They're too much of a staple to be abandoned forever, but some people might roll their eyes. (Besides that, do remember that corsets were underwear back in history, and no person would ever show it. Fashion corsets in today's society are a bit different in that they're meant to be shown, so don't fret too much.)

Colour: I'm not going to lie, the Victorians loved colour, and often were a little... unfashionable with it at times. However, the Steampunk asthetic tends to use things in sepia. While many Steampunks are trying to get away from this stereotype, it's still well-known as a Steampunk thing. If you're trying to do SteamLoli, I would recommend staying in a sepia-toned outfit. As I've said in many sections above, you can still wear colour, little splashes of it here and there can really make an outfit lovely. However, certain colours are just not going to work very easily.

Pastels come to mind. I can already hear the Sweet Lolitas crying. It's not that you can't do pastels, it's that you'll have to work very hard to incorperate them correctly. Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing a sepia-toned outfit with a pastel pink corset, bustle overskirt, and a pastel pink feather in the hat. That is pastels done right. A "Steampunk Lolita" (I use the term loosely here) outfit that is completely all pastel pinks and blues? ... It's just not going to work here. As I keep saying, jewel-tones and metallic colours are best when you want to add colour. Doesn't mean you can't use your pastel-pink goodness, but you just have to use it in moderation, and know when something just isn't Steampunk anymore.

Prints: As a fan of solid-colours (and the occasional floral), I'm a little biased. Either way, solid colours with a few screenprinted designs are best. Prints are iffy, they either work or they don't. Dancing teddy bears just isn't going to be Steamy enough (now... if they wre mechanical teddy bears... alright, I'm done.) Innocent World came out with a lovely "Antique Book" print awhile back, that could work. Angelic Pretty's "Sugary Carnival"? Not so much. Where prints are concerned, sepia-tones are best, and more archaic, historical motifs are best.

Brands: Alright. (Again) the Sweet Lolitas are going to hate me. AP is pretty much entirely out. If someone wants to do a really well-done SteamLoli ensemble with AP, then please go ahead and prove me wrong, but from what I know of the brand, none of their dresses/skirts/et cetera would cut it for a Steampunk Lolita. Some Innocent World or Mary Magdaline could work. However (and this may just be my inner non-brand lover talking) your best bet is going to be through an indie brand, commission, or making it yourself. I'm sure there are brands with designs that are perfectly good for SteamLoli, I just don't research brand enough to really know for sure.

Fabrics: This may be one of the few times I encourage someone to break a rule. Shiny fabrics can be okay. Now, I'm not saying you can go get the cheap satin, not at all. High quality bridal satins, taffeta, brocades and the like can be used in moderation. You see, have you ever had a metallic in a matte fabric? It doesn't tend to look very metallic, now does it? Mettalic usually implies shiny, so a bridal satin in gold, brass, whatever would actually be perfectly fitting. I can already hear the enture Lolita community facepalming, but this is one of the "Rules" that can be waived when used in moderation and done right. (I swear though, if I catch you making your entire SteamLoli ensemble in cheap satin and blaming it on me, there'll be heck to pay~)

Now, what about the substyles of Lolita? I'm going to focus primarily on the main three. (Seeing as I don't feel like Steaming up Wa-Lolita right now. Someone else who actually wears Wa-Lolita can do that for me~)

Sweet: This is going to be the hardest to Steam up (and even harder if your heart lies with OTT Sweet.) First things first, put the rainbow-vomit AP prints away. It's just not going to work, I'm sorry. Shrink the pastels down to an accent colour, and turn down some of the frills. Instead of oodles of lace, try a few lace ruffles, and an overskirt in your colour of choice. Now about the deco craze? Just replaces those cupcakes with hourglasses, those cookies with cogs, see where we're going with this? Unfortunately, Sweet is the hardest to make Steamy, and I wouldn't recommend it for beginners.

Gothic: Luckily, you can still keep your darker colour scheme, but the accessories will have to have a bit of tweaking. First of all, you know that lovey miniature tophat with the veil on it? Let's add a few motifs to it, and that cross? Shall we try making it mechanical for the fun of it? Gothic also benefits most from a corset, so feel free to use one~ (It also helps if you want to trade in the black one for a jewel-tone, or if you keep the black, make sure it has a few motifs. I've actually seen these lovely black corsets that have a ribcage design on them, they're perfect.)

Classical: You guys have it easy. Classical is the easiest to turn into SteamLoli. (Actually, the main complaint is that most outfits are just Classical with a few Steamy touches.) Trade in the JSK for a blouse and skirt, and maybe add a corset. Likewise, you're also going to have to use the motifs, and I woudln't worry much about your colour scheme, you tend to stick to neutrals most of the time anyway. Oh, jewelry, you'll need a lot more jewelry, maybe a long chain with a nice pendant at the end or something?


All the same, this is an intricate and difficult style to pull off, I wouldn't recommend it for beginners, but if your heart is set on it, I won't stop you. I hope this guide helps out a bit~

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