A tall young man stood at the rear of the room, taking a long drag from the thick cigar clenched between his teeth. With his free hand he swirled his martini glass gently, the liquid remnants of a half-finished drink swirling round and round. The man was dressed rather well, though most of his attire was covered by a long dark coat and his face was unrecognizable, veiled in a shadow cast by his gentlemanly top hat. Despite the obscurities, his surprising green eyes shone through from beneath his brim and they remained fixed upon the curtained stage at the opposite end of the long room. The air was alive with soft voices carrying on menial conversation until a sudden silence swept across the patrons as the lights dimmed and the overture began. Where only moments ago the soft din of conversation filled the room, now the lively tune of flute, fiddle, brass, and percussion echoed through the space and all of the other gentlemen in the room were just as fixated upon the stage. In an instant, seven ladies strut across the stage, each corseted and donning boldly colored ruffled skirts and feathered headwear. The familiar tune which normally accompanied Orpheus on his journey to the netherworld blared through the room, impressively loud considering the small ensemble that was playing at present, but the sights were much more intoxicating than the sounds as the flock of can-can girls danced their way around the stage, kicking and whooshing their skirts back and forth as they moved.
The man at the back of the room smiled greedily at the maelstrom of colors that swirled around the stage, though his eyes seemed to most pointedly focus on one young woman in particular. She was no less fanciful that the others, but something about her look and demeanor showed that she was the queen bee in this lively hive. Many subtle hints pointed to a secret buried deep within the ruffles of skirts and the tight lacing of the corset. Her broad shoulders, muscular arms, and chiseled jaw revealed a subtle masculinity to the otherwise overpowering feminine energy that she exuded in the fast-paced number she so gracefully performed.
The number ended just as suddenly as it had begun and the lights dropped dramatically leaving only a single spotlight shining upon center stage where this exceptional woman stood singularly, the rest of the girls disappearing into the shadow that surrounded the brilliantly focused light.
“Good evening, gentlemen,” she said, her voice a deep, sultry tone accented with a strong Irish brogue. There was something inauthentic to the sweetness of her voice, but there was nothing forced about it as she continued on. “Welcome to the Velvet Rose. The good Lady Ophelia is at your service, and what a service she provides,” she said wryly with an exaggerated wink. With this gesture an eruption of applause and cat-calling came from the men who sat around the room, each at small round tables draped with dark cloth, many of whom were smoking cigars and drinking some cocktail or another.
“Oh, you flatter me, darlings.” She raised her painted eyebrows and flashed a smile to a young man in the front row. “I hope you’re all ready for a fabulous evening. My little chickies here are ready to dance with you all night long.” The emphasis on these last few words clearly hinted at connotations beyond the obvious meaning of her words and in an instant the lights flashed brightly upon the stage revealing the six other beauties, standing provocatively posed and in perfect stillness. Just as suddenly as the apparitions appeared, the lights were doused, leaving the stage in empty darkness once more, the picture-perfect image seared into the audience’s mind. “But we’ll get to that tango later.” Again many of the patrons called out and whistled at her bold statements as she made her way down the front stairs and onto the floor of the hall. The young man who she’d winked at earlier stood and offered her his hand as she descended the staircase. “Such a gentleman,” she said in her initial sultry voice, blowing a kiss his direction; “and dashing too. Maybe you can help me down a few other places later, honey.” The catcalls and whistling were to be expected at this point but the young man nevertheless blushed at the extra attention. “Now, now, dear, don’t be bashful. We’re all here for the same reasons after all, aren’t we boys?” The crowd now erupted with renewed fervor as the young man returned to his seat. The daring emcee seemed to glide through the room, stealing drinks from men’s glasses, getting a kiss on the hand every now and again, draping herself across laps, and never missing an opportunity to make a lewd comment.
Yes, it was quite clear that she was the queen bee around here, and as such the young man at the back of the room continued to stare from his tall barstool until at last she made her way back to him. “I think I found a nice seat for the next number,” she announced to the room, scooting her lavishly-skirted behind onto the man’s knee as it hung angled out from the chair. “So let’s let our leading ladies take things over again, I think I’ve had enough attention... for now. And if you need some special attention, don’t be shy, dearies; it would be a shame for anyone to feel lonely on a beautiful night like tonight.” The spotlight dimmed as the stage lights came up once again and without further ado, the ladies were shuffling across the stage once more, dancing to another lively tune, though their attire had shifted considerably from their first appearance. In the meantime, the young woman who’d made her way onto the gentleman’s lap at the back of the room arched her back and spoke softly to the man she’d made a chair of. “So, love,” she said, the low voice no longer masked by silky sweetness and losing its feminine quality altogether, “it seems you’ve got the good Lady all to yourself tonight.”
“Lucky me,” he whispered back as he removed his tall hat, kissing the back of her exposed shoulder blade. “It’s about time I got you to myself after these past few nights.”
“Heh, it will be nice not to have any clients tonight. I’ve seen more peckers the last week than I could fit in a pickle jar.”
“Oh please, don’t act like you don’t enjoy your job.” The young man said playfully, planting another soft kiss on the back of her neck; she chuckled at the statement.
“Well, I can’t much argue with that, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate my nights off.” This time she took her turn and spun her head around to kiss him on the cheek, leaving a dark scarlet print on his face. “Well don’t you look like such a naughty boy,” she smiled mischievously at him. “You know you look just like any one of our fine patrons dressed like that.” As the two of them carried on, the lights dimmed once more and the music slowly faded to silence. Chuckling, she said her final goodbye to the young man before adding, “looks like I have to get back to work.”
This is the opening to the steampunk novella that has not yet been written, and given my usual habits, likely never will be. But it gives you a good first glance into my steampunk persona's... well, persona.
I've been into steampunk culture for several years now, and as I'm sure comes as no surprise to any of you, it was the fashion and costuming that got me into it. The intricate details and beautiful color palates drew me in and I was hooked right away. I started trying to put together outfits out of fun things I found at the thrift store, and making vests and all kinds of silly stuff. But it wasn't until some time later when things finally came together; I was having trouble forming some sort of cohesive look and I finally realized what I was missing: a story. I had lots of interesting pieces of outfits but somehow it wasn't coalescing until I developed an actual character who was intended to wear them. Thus was the birth of Gabriel Angelfire (aka Ophelia Up/Lady Ophelia).
Now I have yet to successfully put together a drag/performance outfit for this character, but I've been donning lots of fun steampunk duds for the last several years. I have made some significant strides on that front though so I'm hoping that by my next big steampunk event I can rock out my Lady Ophelia garb.
Now I've made you read all this junk and I know you just want to see photos, so let get to looking. Here are some of my steampunk costumes, along with some other awesome folks from my group, the Cleveland Zeppelin Union including most prevalent-ly my dear mother. Consequently, when I commissioned the chibi art of myself, I got both of us. Aren't we just precious.
This was the first steampunk outfit I put together, and I made almost everything you see here. I made the vest, monogoggle, jabot, and cane myself, most of which are still in my current steampunk rotation. I also added the adornments to my hat, though I don't use that one any more as a fedora doesn't fit as well into the victorian era as the bowler I use nowadays. I also painted and embellished my first nerf gun (in a long ling of painted guns), and gave her the title "Leviathan." My friend and I wore these to a ren faire and got lots of comments, despite not really looking medieval at all.
That first outfit was put together before I joined the Cleveland Zeppelin Union, but shortly after I put it together, I came to the realization that there must be more steampunkers in the general area, so with the ubiquity of the internet, I found them. As a mattter of fact, right around when I started chatting with people online is when the group materialized more solidly in the real world. What I mean by that is it really only existed online prior to that point, and people were wanting to start meeting up and doing stuff together. I was very pleased to have a new, somewhat more frequent, excuse to don my steampunk duds.
Another of our earlier events was a fantastic photoshoot at the arcade downtown. Mandy, of Altimus Pond Photography was putting together a storybook with a series of re-imagined fairy tales, and her Sleeping Beauty was steampunk in style. We all functioned as members of the kingdom as part of the photoshoot. As a bonus, we got some fantastic portraits as well, as a thanks for participating. The Maleficent was fantastic, by the way.
This was my entry for the costume competition at the Steampunk Symposium this year. I got to wear my headdress again, which got lots of comments. And I got to carry around all of my unusual little bobbles and gadgets together, when I usually only have room for one or two. Also: capes. That cape is actually Henry's from Fire Emblem, but since I retired that cosplay I didn't feel bad modifying the cape to fit my purposes.
The group grew and we kept doing more events. As a result, I got to expand my outfits more and more, and am continuing to do so. As I said toward the beginning, my intention is to put together Lady Ophelia's outfit next, which sadly the thrift stores have not been as helpful as I'd like thus far. But thankfully, I have plenty of time to figure it out.
As another note, now that I'm vending regularly with my Kilted Katana Productions business, I pretty much always use that as an excuse to don my steampunk gear too, because why not wear a fun costume? Again, my mom usually splits the table with me so you'll see her a lot in here too.
As you can see I'm a fan of large and/or unusual creatures and I've started moving more on the fantasy/magical side of steampunk stuff quite often. My love of Harry Potter, and the recent spike in popularity of Fantastic Beasts has given me some good excuses to expand my wares as well as my wardrobe. And let's face it, Newt Scamander is pretty much me; if wizards were real you all know I'd be a researcher of magical creatures. As such, I've been making a bunch of them for my Harry Potter weekend in October. One of these days when I have enough time to make another post (and I've had a chance to work on them some more), I'll show you my menagerie.