Thrifting Steampunk: Elegant Evening Wear

In my last post, I showed you two of the costumes I created for day wear at the recent Dark Victorian Romance Steampunk Immersion weekend. They were easy to put together, because they were entirely thrifted pieces that required no alteration, or—in the case of the cream skirt—part of a costume I had already done all the work on.

The evening clothes, on the other hand, were extremely time consuming. Mainly, I must admit, because I wanted them to be super sparkly under stage lights, which meant using beading.

The Cabaret Gown

The skirt of this gown was an empire-waisted prom dress from the Salvation Army. I loved the color, but the silhouette was completely wrong. I ran across a beaded dress at Value World that was the exact same green, so I bought that too, then spent several days trying to figure out how to make them work together.

The cabaret gown was constructed from an old corset, a thrifted prom gown, and a beaded dress. Photo by Matthew Mayer Photography (http://matthewmayerphotography.zenfolio.com)

The cabaret gown was constructed from an old corset, a thrifted prom gown, and a beaded dress. Photo by Matthew Mayer Photography (http://matthewmayerphotography.zenfolio.com)

I finally decided to turn the long gown into a skirt and recover a corset I already had in the beaded material.

First I made a paper pattern by tracing each section of the corset and adding a seam allowance, then I cut and fit muslin to make the final corset cover pattern. I bought some green taffeta to serve as the backing for the beaded material, basted each beaded panel to the taffeta panel, then hand stitched the whole thing together, stitched the cover to the corset, and added satin blanket binding at top and bottom.

I contemplated adding an overskirt, but I was getting pressed for time. I spread Gem-Tac on the back of the beading on the remaining scraps, then cut out sections to use as appliqués. The Gem-Tac holds the bead threads in place and prevents the beads from falling off. I hand stitched those little suckers in place.

Those feathers in my hair are Christmas floral pics I bought 90% off in January.

Total cost: $5 for the skirt dress, $5 for the beaded dress, $15 for taffeta and binding, and several days of my life I’ll never get back.

The Ball Gown

After nearly going blind on the cabaret gown, I wanted to do something less time-consuming for the ball gown. I bought a new red corset for the top, then reused the black thrift store skirt from a day costume. I wore a thrifted crinoline under it to give it some form.

The ball gown was a new corset trimmed with salvaged beading, plus a thrifted skirt embellished with appliqués from another thrifted skirt. Photo by Brenda Havens.

The ball gown was a new corset trimmed with salvaged beading, plus a thrifted skirt embellished with appliqués from another thrifted skirt. (The condom was part of a punchline.) Photo by Brenda Havens.

I found a black silk skirt that had black-and-silver velvet appliqués, so I cut those off spent an entire day hand stitching them to the skirt while watching both RED movies, Sahara, The Mummy, and both Ghostbusters, and two of the Indiana Jones movies. (I like explosions when I sew.)

I trimmed out the top and bottom of the corset with the edging from another beaded dress. I used Gem-Tac on the back of the beaded material before cutting it out and fitting it to the corset. The beading on top only covers the front panels. (Beads CHAFE, my friend.)

Total cost: new corset $45 (a splurge, but corsets never go to waste), $4 for base skirt, $5 for appliqué skirt, $4 for beaded dress I used for trim. I bought the crinoline at Goodwill Outlet, so it was probably about $2. The tiara came from a garage sale; I spent $4 on it and the matching comb.

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