Cut! – The Duchess – Military inspired

Oops!  I thought that I had shared all of the costumes from the Cut! exhibit from The Duchess, but when I was looking through page two of my drafts – I found the last (I hope!) one that I had overlooked!

The military-inspired dress from The Duchess

This is the military-inspired dress from The Duchess, worn when she was campaigning for Charles James Fox.  The movie is set in England in 1774-1784, and the poster reads as follows:

Poster, click for the full version

The Duchess is based on the life of Georgiana Cavendish, Duches of Devonshire.  Whiel the duchess’ beauty and charisma made her famous, her extravgant tastes and appetite for gambling and love made her infamous.  Married young to the older, distant Duke of Devonshire who was platently unfaithful, Georgiana became a fashion icon, a doting mother, a shrewd political operative, an intamite of ministers and princes and the darling of the common people.  Cosume designer Michael O’Connor described his process for creating the right look for the film:

‘Eighteenth century clothes were really quite extraordinary, but in the film the characters are speaking dialogue that needs to be paid attention to.  You can take inspiration from the past, but you have to play down large patterns and bright colours.  You don’t want the clothes to distract, though in reality they were probably extremely distracting.’

Dark blue silk chenille is used for this military-style day ensemble.  The jacket has leather trim with gold braid ‘frogging’ and brass buttons.  To show her support for the Whig party at a political rally Georgiana wore this suit lined in orange with a buff leather waistcoat since blue, buff, and orange were the colours of the Whig party.  Fox fur was used for her muff and hat to illustrate that she was campaigning for Charles James Fox.”

Sleeve cuff

Fabulous cuff detail.  There appears to be several layers of white lace at the sleeve edge, a similar fabric to the jacket/skirt body used for the cuff turn-back (the description suggests it’s leather, but it doesn’t look like leather to me…), with layers of gold braid highlighting a white bound buttonhole and large non-functional brass domed buttons.  More trim on the cuff edge as well.  The sleeve also appears to have been cut on the bias, since the welts of the chenille are on an angle.  (Bias cut sleeves also fit better and have more movement in them… though take a lot of fabric!)

Waistcoat and jacket hem

The waistcoat is in the buff leather with brass buttons, navy blue piping and blue bound buttonholes.  The jacket has a drastic cut away, with the same contrast blue fabric reverse facing, and the elaborately braid-trimmed white bound buttonholes and non-functional brass buttons as the sleeve cuff.  You can just barely see the bust dart from the jacket edge to the bust point, to shape the jacket.  There is also the top of what I’m calling the ‘garter’ – of course in 18th century England, stockings would have been held up by a ribbon tied around the leg, not by things hanging from the waist like a modern garter… but I don’t know what else to call these!  Not to mention, I have no idea what they are ‘for’ – other than to look pretty!  (Can anyone fill me in by leaving a comment?)

Jacket and waistcoat

Another shot of the waistcoat, jacket, ‘garters’ and the top of the skirt.  I didn’t really get any specific shots of the skirt, since it seemed generally unremarkable.

Another shot of the 'garter' (?)

Here’s a full-length shot of the ‘garter’.  Although it looks elaborate, it’s really a black grosgrain ribbon, with a number of brass filigree elements added on.

Close up of 'garter' (?)

I should have gotten a better photo of this – sorry!  But, here’s the ending to the ‘garter’ – with the cameo hanging from the end.  You can also just barely see some of the hand stitching holding the brass filigree elements to the black ribbon.

'garter' (?) and jacket lining

Although the garter is out of focus, this shot is mostly to show the orange lining of the suit.


A shot of the impressive wig and hat.  I really would have liked to get a better photo of this, but the display was on a stand and impressively tall, too tall to get a closer look or a better photo.  Here too is a closer view of the jabot, with a big white bow and loads of white lace (like the sleeve cuff).

Photo from the Jane Austen Film Club, click for original

And finally… a publicity photo from the movie – this one found on the Jane Austen Film Club blog, showing the costume in action.

Steampunk accessories – raygun

So while thinking about raygun holsters, I really started wondering if the Nerf Maverick was really the best base to start with – if my persona was to even carry a gun at all…

Nite Finder - from the Toys R Us website

I took a look at the Toys R Us website just to start out, and there are a few different types of toy guns to start off with, and so I looked at the Nerf Sonic Nite Finder instead.  I haven’t seen it yet in person, but I like the idea of it having a light on it just for starters.  I’ll definitely have to take a look at it in person though, before knowing if it would actually work for what I could develop.

Sonic Reducer's Nite Finder

Since there were a lot of examples of what different folks have done with the Maverick, I thought that I would do a search and see if there were examples of what folks have done with the Nite Finder too.

To start out, here’s a simple paint job from a Deviant Artist called Sonic Reducer.  By looking at this, I would guess that he or she has removed parts of the toy – I imagine this would make it not usable to actually shoot the suction cup dart things, but it certainly makes it a sleeker, more simple-looking prop.  I kind of like the idea of keeping it functional though.

Idea Can paint job on a Nite Finder

Still though, the Sonic Reducer’s example is just a simple paint job – There’s a slightly more detailed version from a website called the idea can. Still though, looking at the original, it looks like it’s just a paint job, which after seeing some of the modifications on the Mavericks, starts to seem a little less impressive.  (Haha… kind of like the first gun I tried, which was just painted two-tone…)

On WalYou there is another mod – which again just seems to be a two-tone + grunge paint job and the glue-a-gear format that I’m not especially fond of.  That being said, I do like the use of colour, and it makes me think of using an absinthe green along with copper perhaps… hmmm maybe that might be interesting – especially using some of the resin features that I read about in one of the books I’ll be reviewing (soon! Promise!)

To avoid so much of the glue-a-gear format, I really do like these home-made gauges from The Steampunk Empire though – again, perhaps topping them off with absinthe green “glass” instead of clear? Hmmm I think I’m on a roll now….

Finally, more inspiration from Nerf Mods & Reviews – a bunch of different Nerf guns that have been modified – some with just paint jobs, some with more detail.  I really like the wood molding (I presume) on one of them, the cameo, the brass findings/etc… on some.  There are two modifications of the Nite Finder mixed in with Maverick mods as well (for instance: “Jules”)

I’m starting to feel as though too many of my posts are ‘inspiration’ posts though, rather than things I’m actually doing.  Blah this lack of crafty-time.  Also.. blah my lack of actually getting to Toys R Us to actually see what toy guns are out there and available!  Since the summer is now well gone, I have the sneaking suspicion that the inventory of toy guns (which seem to me at least to be a summertime thing – but I am hopefully wrong!) might be reduced.

So – what brands/names of toy guns are out there that you’ve seen modified well for Steampunk?  Let me know in the comments below!

Military-inspired Steampunk (part II)


So, with all of that controversy behind me, let’s take a look at some inspirational images! First up, I was totally loving the uniform sketches and photos on the Dr. Steel Toy Soldier fan site. For reference only, here’s some of the images from the site:

Female Utility Soldier

Female Utility Soldier

The first is the female utility soldier costume; black skinny jeans, platform boots, brown button up dress shirt, black pvc necktie, cap, utility belt, and the piece that I think makes the outfit – the embellished corset with the stripes and super-large buttons. In other photos (that you can see on the website) you can see that the shirt has some military-esque patches on the biceps of both arms, the utility belt pouch has a patch as well (like the shirt and cap) and the jeans have black pvc stripes on the side. (Like RCMP yellow stripes or black grosgrain stripes on tuxedo pants). Of the different costumes, I really like this one the best.



Military Nurse

Also super-cute (although a bit more revealing that I would wear personally!) – the Military Nurse costume. In this case it’s a brown pencil skirt with a high slit, a cropped brown dress shirt, the same black pvc tie, a cap, and a holster-style brown (leather?) waist cincher. (The cincher isn’t leather, but the straps look like they might be in this photo… I don’t think that I’d do leather personally…. but I really like the straps!) This costume doesn’t show any patches or decorations at all.



Winter Nurse

Last up (of the ones that I really liked) is the Military Nurse winter costume, this one is just a concept sketch, and has the same cap, with a brown coat, darker brown cincher, and a hem treatment that makes it look like there’s a yellow-trimmed split skirt over top of a pair of brown pants. I don’t really like how this necessarily is sketched, but I like the way that the costume reflects a bit of Victorian fashion.

I think it’s super cool that someone documented the costumes, as well as interpretations, and then provided resources how a fan could put together some of the costumes using ready-made clothing as the starting point. I’ve provided the images just as inspiration, please go back to the website to see the originals along with all of the other details.

FreyaGushi's recycled corset, click for the Etsy listing

Next on my inspiration-list: Totusmel’s Wunderkammer pointed me in the direction of this awesome corset made from recycled army shirts from Etsy seller FreyaGushi. I love the entire look really – it’s cute and feminine. The shorts are a bit weird to me, but the hoop skirt frame over top is very goth and interesting. I really like the look from the waist up best though – the matching hat and collar are great, and I love how the maker has recreated the chevrons with lace inset to the corset panels. You can’t see it in this small photo, but there are also some snapped flaps on the corset as well that add a great detail.

Chrononaut Mercantile's Military Cape

So, this is from Chrononaut Mercantile on Etsy; a short cropped cape with a double-breasted front lined in brocade. The cool part about it, is that the double-breasted part can fold back entirely, for a very different look. I imagine that worn like this, a removable chain or something would be needed to keep it closed, but that can always be done… I’ve seen it in black and grey, and really prefer it in grey. I think it would make a great topper above a simple sheath dress or something perhaps?

Soldier-on from TotusMel's Wunderkammer

I adore the Etsy treasury blog TotusMel’s Wunderkammer – and it had a great foursome on military-inspired pieces from Etsy on October 2010. The dress is adorable just for starters, and brings in that whole steampunk/military vibe, rather than going directly ‘military’. Love it! Just for reference sake – here’s the full version of the dress, from Etsy seller Sky Creation. (There are a bunch of other Lolita/EGL designs in Sky Creation’s gallery too.)

Captain Jack's costume

Captain Jack has this neat military-inspired steampunk costume on This one is comprised of a khaki green shirtdress, with a “tail” back (cut up the centre back) like a Morning Coat, a waist cincher, and then a bustle that pokes out from the tails of the coat/dress. If you click the link you’ll see more photos of the individual elements of the costume, plus the costume being worn – with a cap, lots of medals/pins, boots, and a white shirt under the coat/dress. I actually saw a dress JUST like this while out shopping the other day (but it didn’t fit across the bust… 😦 and I’ve noticed that this colour is very popular right now… might be a great time to multi-purpose shop! I think that the colours work really well together to make this military-inspired, while the bustle and cincher are what ties this back together again with the steampunk vibe.

Dress/Jumper from Dracula Clothing

Here’s a super cute dress/jumper from Dracula Clothing – the belt doesn’t do much for me, but the apron-like straps are interesting, and I love the double-breasted effect. I think overall this wouldn’t look good on me though, because of my full chest. Still I like elements of this dress a lot. Click the link to see more including photos of the lace-up back.

Corset and Cloak has some heavily embellished military-style corsets – click the second and third thumbnails on their page to see them in a larger version.

Auxiliary Magazine's fashion spread using Retroscope Fashions' clothing

Auxiliary Magazine featured Retroscope Fashions’ clothing in a fashion spread about military-inspired fashion. For the women’s look, they’ve taken a plain black pencil skirt and added the chevron patch from a military surplus store. The top is black with a circuit board print and white piping (it looks like khaki green to me on my monitor – your vision may differ!), and the jacket is a gothic, military-style jacket with a corseted back. The look is finished off with Transmuter boots, and lots of pins, patches, and medals that the magazine suggests finding at army surplus stores, flea markets, and “your grandfather’s closet”. (I guess we know where they stand on the whole controversial issue…) To me, this look is more military-inspired goth, than steampunk though. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…but it’s likely not precisely the direction I want to head in.

So.. that’s the round-up for now. I think the next step is to sit and consider all of the options, and then get sketching!  … Well.. not anytime SOON though…

Military-inspired Steampunk

Miner's pin, not military at all!

So after going through some of the vintage military/RCMP pieces I have moved into my sewing room, I started thinking about a steampunk military costume.  What would it look like, how would it function, how would I wear it, and do I even want to go in that direction at all?  Does it make sense to base a costume off a desire to ‘use up’ some odds and ends sitting in my sewing room?

I figured that I’d look for inspiration first, and see if that could drive my thoughts or ideas in any specific direction.  Since I still need to finish cleaning up my sewing room, and take my machine in for servicing, I have the sneaking suspicion this will stay in the “inspiration and idea” file for a while to come….

Controversy abounds

First up – the notion of even using authentic paraphernalia in a fantasy costume to begin with.  I’ve thought about this a bit more, and even found a few interesting posts on the matter.  First up, there’s a rather passionate post on the Steampunk Empire where a current service person discourages steampunks wearing current service medals in the use of costume unless the person has earned those medals.  However, I would temper his comments against my own thoughts and plans with the notion that:

a) The American and Canadian perspectives tend to differ insofar as our military service men and women.

b) He is referring to medals (for bravery, heroism, injury or death), not to all paraphernalia in general.

c) The original poster says that using another country’s medals is fine, or those so old as to not be recognizable is fine as well.  To me this means that the intent of the argument is less about respect, and more about impersonation.

Unfortunately by the second page of the 16 page thread the posters were already veering heavily into flame-like politics and off the original topic, so I didn’t continue reading much further to see many alternate opinions on the ‘political correctness’ of this issue.

Next up, the Steampunk Tribune had a much less inflammatory perspective on the matter, and polled the readers about their thoughts.  One commenter suggested that history and alternate history should be kept separate (however having identified him/herself as a historian, I’d wager he/she is a bit biased on the matter), while another said that as long as it’s not modern (in current use), it’s fine.  The same poster suggested that authentic items were better well-used than left to gather dust in a forgotten drawer.  Again, the post was speaking specifically about medals of honour.

When it comes to the legalities that I pondered in an earlier post, it would appear that the major points revolve around medals and impersonation.  For instance, Veterans Affairs Canada states that it’s illegal to wear the medals that someone else has earned.  Further, in the forums on, a poster discussed the issue and outlined that uniforms “that is so similar to the uniform… that it is likely to be mistaken therefor” can not be worn.  Meaning again, this is an issue of impersonation.  Further, it says that wearing a “distinctive mark relating to wounds received…or  a military medal, ribbon, badge, chevron or any decoration… or any imitation thereof…that is likely to be mistaken for any such mark…” can not be worn.  Again here the issue seems to be wearing awards and medals that you didn’t earn, or imitating them in such a way that it could be considered impersonation.  The same part of the code says that you can’t possess a certificate of discharge/release, or ID card that doesn’t belong to you.  This seems to be more again, of an issue of impersonation, unless every veteran or former service member has to give up these papers upon his or her death, and never pass them on as memorabilia to their heirs.  (Which I can’t believe would be the intention of this code!)

In the same post though, posters brought up the existence of specialty and surplus stores.  Yes, some of these stores sell knock-offs, while others sell real SURPLUS items – things that the military no longer needs.  I’ve seen all sorts of items like name badges, embroidered crests, dog tags (American and Canadian versions) – all very similar to the kind of thing I am thinking of using.  If it’s fine for someone to sew a patch onto their backpack or duffel bag, this strikes me as the same kind of thing, legally speaking.

My final thoughts on the matter – I agree that it’s better to have something used and enjoyed than to have it go to the landfill or sitting in a dusty drawer.  I doubt that anyone would confuse my use of braid and wool, metal and embroidery as insulting to service men or women.  Likewise, although I know that there are people who collect military and RCMP things, I don’t believe that what I have is of any tremendous value that it should be ‘saved’ instead of enjoyed… should I ever get the opportunity to actually make up this costume!

However, if you disagree, then the Steampunk Tribune has some alternate options that I think are pretty cool, including a military medal teapot from Etsy seller Scrumptious, or a wooden medal from Miju.

Next up – Inspiration!

Vintage Canadiana

In the “Vintage Memories” post I talked a bit about the Royal Canadian Artillery cap badge that I ‘inherited’, but I thought that I’d share some photographs of some of the other military paraphernalia that I have in my box of goodies.  Perhaps by working with photos of them, I’ll be inspired to think of what I want to create for the military-inspired steampunk costume I have floating around in the corner of my mind.

The majority of the items I have are RCMP, inherited from my father.  When I was a kid he had a fairly significant RCMP collection, but as his interests changed,  he started buying and selling less Vintage RCMP and more Antique Canadiana items, and his RCMP collection shrank considerably.  Since I have very little interest directly in military or RCMP, but very much interest in costuming and altered attire projects, I thought that the best way to use some of the items from his collection would be to move them out of a display case, and into my sewing room.

Embroidered crests

Pistols and Crown

The crossed pistols are for sharpshooters.  This badge looks and feels REALLY new; unlike the other badges that have obvious signs of having been sewed onto a uniform, this one looks like it was never applied.

The crown is for Officers who are Inspectors. I remember reading somewhere that historically the shape of this crown would change to reflect the monarch in power at the time that the person served.  I haven’t dated the crown yet.


Three chevrons with the arrows pointing down signifies a Sergeant, while two chevrons (also pointing down) signifies a Corporal.
For the three-line chevron, this is just gold braid sewed down to a piece of felt, while the two-line chevron is actually embroidered.


Chevron & stars

The stars are service badges, with each star signifying 5 years of service.  I have three different designs, from three different eras I presume, though I haven’t been able to date them yet.


Although most of these wouldn’t be immediately recognizable as RCMP or military specifically, I think they would be a nice finishing touch on a military-inspired costume.

Buttons (one of each)

I took one photo with most of the individual buttons, but then thought it would be interesting to show some of the individual buttons. For some of these I only have one button, while for others I have as many as 8+2.

Bison head button

Bison head button – RCMP






Wolf (?) head button

Wolf (?) head button – Apparently this is a NWMP (North West Mounted Police) button. Circa 1873-1902




NHB button

HNB button – What does the NHB stand for?  National Honey Board? National Heritage Board? I have no idea what these buttons are from, and even just NHB doesn’t seem to be anything ‘right’.  (The only other NHB is a mixed martial arts thing, and that doesn’t sound right either.)  Does anyone know what these buttons are from?  Please comment below!


RCMP bison button

RCMP bison button






Police Force button

Police Force button – the best I could find was that this is a current era button made by William Scully out of Montreal.  William Scully is one of several manufactures who have been making buttons for the RCMP, Military, and other law-enforcement groups in Canada for a number of years apparently.

Cap badges, pins, etc.

Shoulder titles

The brass letters are shoulder titles.  These are worn at the edge of the eppulet where the strap meets the sleeve.  The GRC/RCMP one at the top is actually a pin though.  I presume it would be worn in the same place.  I have two of these, but only one each of the other two.

Unknown items

This vaguely star-shaped badge is eluding me so far – I can’t find out what it’s called or what it’s for.  From the Canadian Military Police virtual museum I’m led to think that perhaps it’s a service badge, worn on the shoulder (epaulets).  Another page has a picture which calls them metal pips, and says that they were modeled on the star of the Order of Bath.  I don’t know… again, if you know what this is, please let me know in the comments below!  Along with it I’ve shown a star, and two crown pins.  I don’t know yet what any of these items are actually for!


I also have a cool helmet spike.  I can’t really think of what to use this for, since I’m unlikely to wear a hard helmet that would support this.  Hmmm.  Additionally, my very brief search online suggests that it might be German-style versus Canadian.  Believe it or not, Google is really NOT being helpful in identifying all of these things.  I know that we used to have some of dad’s reference books, but I think they were all given away after his passing.

For reference, the RCMP website has a picture of the full RCMP uniform.  In my internet wandering I also found another steampunk who thought that RCMP would make interesting steampunk costume inspiration- though he’s gone decidedly more realistic than I think I would go.

So, how do you think it would be interesting to use these, or do you think it’s strange to use authentic vintage pieces in fantasy costuming?  While I know that there are lots of collectors out there who enjoy this sort of thing, I have to imagine if they were of any real value, Dad would have sold them already!

Another note – as I previously mentioned, I have no real interest in military or RCMP history, and thus my “research” as to what these things are is brief at best.  If you can correct me, or fill me in on some of the missing details, I’d appreciate any corrections out of curiosity more than anything else!  Perhaps as time goes by I can come back to this post and update it as I learn more.