Vintage Military

In going through some of my grandmother’s things (in preparation for her move to a senior’s home) I’ve had the fortune to go through her many trinkets and collections.  My eyes are peeled for vintage jewelry, baubles to re-source, and other goodies.  One of the things that I hadn’t counted on was military paraphernalia.

My grandfather (who died when I was an infant) brought my grandmother to Canada as a ‘war bride’ – he served in the Canadian Forces, though I really don’t remember any of the details.  Her brother also served and perished in the war.  It was interesting to see his medals, though I never heard much about him.   Even decades later, some things are still painful I suppose.

RAC Cap Badge

So one of the new items I’ve inherited is a cap badge from the Royal Canadian Artillery.  Funny enough, in my online research, it looks like the same (or similar) badge is used for Australian, New Zealand and British Artillery forces.  I thought perhaps that the crowns would be different or something, because that seems kind of odd to me.

Image from Michael Reintjes on the Canadian Military Collector's forum

Another odd thing – this badge was worn in the second world war, but also is in current use.  After looking at RCMP badges and crests before – they seemed to go in and out of use – so I figured that these would have expired after a while, but I guess not.

Mind you, on both of these, I don’t claim to have the best eye for detail!  There could certainly be differences between what I have, and the reference photos I’ve seen online!

Either way, it’s an interesting addition to my box of military badges, crests, buttons, and other things.  I have the notion of encorporating some of them (at some point) into a military-inspired steampunk costume, but I’ll admit I haven’t put too much thought into that yet.  Since most of them are pins (etc) none of them need to be permanently attached into a costume, and since the costume will be pure fantasy, I don’t think that anyone will ever think that they’re being used in any official way.  (Although it’s illigal to wear an exact copy of a current police uniform here in Canada, (e.i.: impersonating an officer) I don’t know what the rules are for military, RCMP, etc.)

What do you think?  Do you think it’s strange to encorporate vintage miltary items into a fantasy costume?  Comment below!

Military Medal

A while back I was looking for something that would remind me of air-force wings to add to the collection of steampunk-y goodness.  I have the notion of a military-inspired steampunk costume at some point, and medals seem appropreate for that, plus just kind of cool to begin with!

I first started with my stash of authentic vintage and antique medals, but nothing really jumped out at me.  I really wanted something air-force-like, and most of what I inherited is RCMP and World-war 2 German military.  Next, I hit Etsy, and thought about putting something together – using brass sheeting wings along with something else to create the “look and feel’ of what I was going for, even if it wasn’t really close to the original.  The shape of what I could find didn’t really match up with what I was looking for.

Then, the other day I was helping to clean up in my grandmothers house, and in a jar, on a shelf, in a neglected basement room, there were these PERFECT pins – apart from the fact that they had “ATARI” on them and were grey plastic… still – what a great base for something more interesting!  I had picked up some molding material a few days earlier with the intention of molding one of my octopus charms, and I thought this would work well…

air force-inspired steampunk metal

I don’t have step-by-step photos, but I ended up molding the atari pin and casting it in resin and in polymer clay.  For this project I liked the clay version better, so I went with that for now. (There is also a base on the original, but in this case I didn’t cast that as well, only the wings and center.)  I picked up a wide red grosgrain ribbon and a narrower brown grosgrain ribbon (for another project too) and put a piece of wide white twill tape between them.  I wanted to layer them without adding too much bulk, so I opted to sew them together versus gluing and since I didn’t really want the stitches to show, I hand-sewed them instead of using the machine.  Even with this larger-than-life close up, you can’t see the stitches!  I folded and stitched the point, and then glued the ribbon onto the polymer clay casting and added the pinback.  I hand sewed on a charm from a recent Michael’s shopping trip (to be discussed later), sealed the polymer, and I think I’m done!

I don’t 100% love the charm – that’s my only complaint about this actually… I would have preferred something without the enamel, but as it’s just stitched on, I have the opportunity to change it out if something more appropriator catches my eye in the future!  If it had been red or brown instead of blue, I think it would be more successful too.  I thought that I might like to paint the wings and add something into the center, but I think with the ribbon and charm there’s enough going on.. and besides – I have more castings and the original mold still to work with too if something else inspires me!  I was thinking a tiny watch face might work really well in the center too – if only I could find one the right size, and flat enough as to not protrude too much.  (Or I suppose I could just cast the wings, and then attach the wings to the watch itself… hmmmm)

Steampunk – Accessories – rayguns and weaponry

Like goggles, I don’t really think that a ray gun is something that fits the kind of costumes I want to build. That being said, I see a lot of the Steampunk style being sort of ‘wild west’ – Wild west, powered by steam, in a neo-Victorian environment mind you… so if it’s ‘wild west’, then a lady would have to defend herself against rouge airship pirates or gutterrats.

So, that brings me to weaponry. If I decide to use something weapon-y, I want to ensure that I wont have any problem getting it into a bar, mall, pub, hall, or wherever else I might want to go. Like my Jabberwock costume, it needs to be “fake” enough to not cause any concern, but not ~tacky~. I wouldn’t want anyone somewhere to get the vague impression that what I have is real, but at the same time I have no interest in carrying around something neon yellow.

Lights and glass appeal to me in a way, and some of the amazing ray guns that I’ve seen have some of those elements. (Along with lots of real brass and other non-plastic bits…)  I went to a dress up event a while back and spent a good deal of time putting together two ray guns (to choose from) and in the end, ended up bringing neither.  (Partially because I wasn’t entirely thrilled with them, and partially because I lacked a holster or way of transporting them other than holding them in my hand.)

First attempt at a raygun

The first one is just a bubble ‘gun’ – it was battery powered with a small motor – you would dip the end into the bubble solution, and then the motor would spin when you held the trigger, and it would “blow” (it was incredibly weak, so I doubt it would work as advertised) bubbles.  It was a dollar-store find.

First I gutted it, removing the plate that would hold the batteries, removing the motor, removing all of that stuff. It was a vague thought that I could hook up the battery pack to some lights or something, so that the gun would be like a flashlight, but I never did that, because I felt I was running out of time.  I removed the trigger and the back panel (where the air intake would have been) and spray painted them silver, along with the entire gun.  I then masked off parts of the gun (handle, some “buttons” with painters tape and spray painted the piece copper.

Yeah.. there’s no way anyone would think this is a real gun…

The first ray gun from above.

I tried a few other things with lights, glow sticks, etc… and nothing really worked for me, so I re-assembled the gun and called it a day.  Then I put on a varnish, so the paint wouldn’t so easily peel/scratch off the plastic.  If I were to do this again, I’d use paint intended for plastic, just to start. I also found that even though I sprayed it with first silver, and then copper, there were parts that just didn’t get painted.  The back panel didn’t get as covered as I would have liked (you can still see some yellowish on the inside) and the top has a bit of the original purple.  The bubble blowing end also still has some bright pink.  Now, I was trying to do this super fast while outside in the cold at night… so I’m giving myself wide latitudes, but still, improvements can be made! I really wanted to add things to this, take it down, etc… but everything I tried just didn’t really feel right. Adding things made it feel bulky and strange, and the only things that are removable are the back panel and the bubble wand part.  It didn’t look right without either.

The second gun I basically made at the same time, largely because I wasn’t sure which one would work out and which one wouldn’t.  That means that there are similarities, in both technique and mistakes…

The second raygun

So, this raygun started life as a kid’s toy gun “with realistic machine gun sound”…. um.  ok.  It was black (too realistic!) and I don’t know… pistol-y?  I don’t know guns in case you didn’t realize yet.  I took it apart as well (mistake, it took forever to get the elastic band back on to fire that ‘realistic sound’ and once I had it open, there was very little more to do.  I punched some holes for the little washers and stuff to go through, but that was totally unnecessary really.

Part one of the mod that really matters involved taking a plastic water bottle (a green one) and chopping it apart.  It was slightly heavier plastic than just a regular bottle of water though, so it wasn’t easy. I trimmed and shaped away, until it would kind of go over the barrel in a pleasing way.  Then I chopped up a second (and much thinner) water bottle for the back of the barrel.  I realized you’d be able to see the gun through the green plastic if I wanted some of the green plastic to show, (which I did) so I spray painted the gun silver before assembly (but not the trigger, I wanted to keep that black).  One hot glue gun later, and I had the basic shape.

The green bottle got some painters tape, and I spray painted the thing copper.  Then I added on a copper pipe cap for the … um… the end where the bullets come out of a gun….. mostly because I had purchased it, and wanted to use something. Haha.  Then I threaded some washers onto a screw and worked it into some of the holes on the barrel.  I had this weird thought about using that for the basis for a holster, but that so didn’t work out.

Top view of the second raygun

Then I watered down some acrylic black paint and smeared it all over, and wiped it off, and then re-applied to just the handle.  Honestly I really wasn’t happy with this. From there I got some silver dimensional paint and highlighted the lines around the green plastic and some of the decorative lines on the back bottle.  My theory is that this kind of looks like soldering.

Oh, and about 15 minutes after I finished the thing, the elastic inside broke.  Now the trigger is limp and there’s almost no noise at all.

Overall, I like the shape of this better, but think that the execution looks kind of sloppy.

Thoughts on doing it better next time:

  1. Give myself more time to spray-paint thoroughly (several coats vs. one or two)
  2. Use a base coat intended for plastic
  3. Perhaps try rub ‘n’ buff for a more realistic metallic look
  4. Find a base to start with that is smaller and more lady-like
  5. Plan the holster at the same time as the weapon

So… next steps… do I bother trying to do a better raygun? Does any persona I might want to develop NEED a raygun?  Would another sort of weapon be more appropriate to defend oneself against airship pirates or ruffled ruffians? On the off chance that I do want to try something else, I picked up some of this:

Shelf liner from Home Depot in "black leather" and "cherry wood" finishes

Its shelf liner, and while it comes in a variety of boring or kitschy prints, I picked up some in a ‘black leather’ finish (which actually does a pretty good job of looking like garment-weight black leather) and some in ‘cherry wood’ finish (which looks a bit plastic-y to me, but perhaps that’s ok when it’s mixed with other things…). I’m thinking that the leather would look good on handles, perhaps the woodgrain in panels?

I looked around for a bit to find cool tutorials on how to make rayguns, but didn’t actually find a lot that really appealed to me.  I suppose the hardest part will be finding a new gun to modify, and I’m betting I’ll have better luck closer to summer when all of the squirt guns and Nerf guns and all of that come out onto the shelves for kids.  That being said, I did find this two part video tutorial that has some good ideas. Part 1 – part 2 (these wouldn’t embed for some weird reason…)

Then for inspiration, here’s a video (photos would have done, but whatever… of a modified Nerf Maverick.  Again, this is a cool design, but finding this brand would be the challenge I imagine.  Darn American information… doesn’t always translate so well up here in Canada.

DrJubal's gun from Deviant Art

But with that, I did a Google image search, and I think that might be a good start at least – because once I saw just the basic shape, things started to click in for me.  For instance, just looking for the basic shape, I saw how a host of different people modified the same gun.  With all of the photos, just click to go to their source material and larger  versions.) Looking at some of these I start seeing what I think is more or less successful, with the same base model being used for consistency.   I love the pressed wood decorative elements on the DrJubal one for instance, and the extra pieces added to one found on Amatoc (though I dont like the leather-lace  handle).  I like the aging done on both of those, especially when in comparison to the other example from Amatoc.  I don’t care for the lenses on the Dr Jubal one, though I like the concept.

Another from Amatoc

from Amatoc article

from the Steampunk Emporium blog

Next up with the Nerf Maverick, is another simple modification – just painted this time, though it certainly improves it upon the original!  This one I found at the Steampunk Emporium blog, which looks a little empty, but might have the chance of more in the future (though recent posts are fairly old, so it might be forgotten too…)

Modification from The Awesomer

Another one that I came across is from a website called “The Awesomer” (interesting name…) You can check this one out by going through the four-picture gallery of examples, it’s not actually featured right on the page. On this one I really do not like the additional gears that the craftsperson has added, but I really do like the wires/tubes/whatever that he or she has added – I think it’s successful because of the brass findings that hook the tubes onto the raygun – I’m not sure about it – but I imagine that these could be bead caps perhaps (though I’ve never seen them in bright brass, so perhaps they’re a lamp part?) The tubing, I’m thinking that shrink tubing for electrical work might work – anything flexible and round though would work – without being too floppy.  Maybe that round flex-lace from the craft store – perhaps filled with wire to keep it from being too floppy?

From Cut Out + Keep

Here’s another version, this time from Bethany on Cut out + Keep.  I like how the paint makes it look as though the chamber is made of  a number of individual tubes, versus one molded piece.  I like this quite a bit, and think it’s more successful than the over versions which treat it as one piece. (Seeing the Dreameater video above, it looks like he actually removed the chamber and replaced it with individual pipes, which works very well too.) I also like the fact that this is the ONLY photo that actually shows the scale of this toy! In other photos I get the impression that it’s significantly larger and cumbersome, but this makes it appear much more useable.  I also appreciate, that because it is the Cut Out + Keep site, that the maker has included the tools she used – “Krylon-Fusion for plastic furniture paint”.  More thoughts on the Dreameater one – I also really like the filigree decorative painting on it, and the attached extra “gas” canisters.

From an article about how to modify the Nerf toy to get more distance from the shots.

Speaking of the original version, I thought it would be interesting to include a photo of the “before” – though it looks as though the Maverick has been made in a bunch of colour combinations – blue/yellow/orange, yellow/orange/black, black/orange.  Seeing the original (borrowed from an article on how to modify the toy to shoot further) makes it a bit clearer – all of the modifications that some of the above examples have become more obvious when you can see what the original looks like. I took a look at the Toys R Us Canadian website, and online at least, the Maverick is available.  Who knows if the toy is available right now in store though – though it’s not totally out of the realm of possibility… so perhaps next time I’m in or around a toy store I should look into it.  (At 13.99$ it’s more expensive than my dollar store varieties, but the shape is interesting, and perhaps might work better for me.)

On the inspiration front, check out the line of “Dr. Grordbort’s Infallible Aether Osilators” from Weta  (they’ve protected all of the images, so no bloggy-pics for you!

After I find/make/modify a raygun that I really like, I also think that a pretty holster would be a necessity – I certainly don’t want to be carrying around the toy gun all of the time! (I notice that EVERY SINGLE mod on this page has left the ‘carrying hook’ on the back – possibly because it’s impossible to remove/cover, and possibly because they’re actually using it to carry the raygun?)

Steampunk – Garments (to make)

Steampunk – Garments

Full outfits

So, Victorian outfits (at least fancy dress) generally seem to be just that – outfits. Not the mix-and-match that we tend to wear now. Mix and match is actually pretty modern – up until the 40’s and 50’s, if you bought a dress, you bought the matching jacket – which was lined in the dress fabric…

However, I don’t really want to make a lot of duplicates, and would like an outfit to be transformable, so I was thinking about specific items that could be used in multiple outfits – things like underskirts, aprons, bustle supports, things like that come to mind. Additionally, I think it would be interesting to add some steampunk or steampunk-inspired garments to an overall daily outfit – like jeans, shirt, but a cute shrug over top, or a vest. Or a regular blouse with a long Victorian styled skirt.

So, in sort of a round-up fashion, in a potentially vain attempt to be organized and plan things well, here are some of the items I think that I might like to make at some point:


  • Sari-style bustled skirt – I made up the black one not too long ago, and I think I really like the separate bustle worn over the full skirt – so when I have the opportunity, I think that I’ll make up another in a similar style, using the purple sari-style fabric I have (if I have enough).  I like the ring-and-string method of bustling the skirt (it certainly made it easier to clean!) but I think that I’ll interline the fabric with tulle/netting, and line it as well with something fine, but with some body (perhaps taffeta?) to give the poufs a lot more body.  If I have enough, I’d love to make a matching front apron drape, but that’s less interesting to me at this point.  I would likely want to make the full skirt out of a coordinating fabric – perhaps the same as the lining?  I picked up some drapery rings a while ago, which should speed up the making of this – they’re mounted on horsehair instead of twill tape as well, which I think will help add “pouf” too.  Thinking more about this – the purple might not be the best choice, and I should see if I have enough in the green sari fabric instead (which would go better with the bronze gown fabric (below) or the green velvet (also below)) or the blue sari fabric (which would go better with the silver taffeta.  The red sari fabric would also go nicely with the black and white…
  • Tiered ruffle-back skirt –  in terms of historical accuracy, I’ve only ever seen this style as an undergarment, though I think made up in a simple fabric, it could be perfectly serviceable as a contemporary interpretation, and serve as an undergarment as well for additional fullness with other skirts.  I’m seeing this in plain black cotton with black lace trim.  It will be a LOT of black lace… Gallery Serpentine has an interesting interpretation HERE in red taffeta with black lace.
  • Waterfall gathered skirt – just for the drama of it, I think it would be interesting to do one of the gathered-and-flared skirts.  These usually were trained though, which adds a bit of additional fuss-and-muss, since there are even fewer places I can imagine going where a train wouldn’t be a huge problem.  This should probably go on the very bottom of my to-do list…
  • Blouses – Whenever I think of tops, I either get uninspired or bored.  However I am thinking of something that has some of the stylings of my ruffle-front tops (purchased) but with a rounded cut-out neck.  I can’t explain it.. but I’ve seen something similar in a Steampunk video, along with on one of the sellers specializing in Steamy wear.  This is probably something I should pay more attention to as time goes on.
  • Bronze taffeta – I originally bought this with the intention of making a gown similar to my silver taffeta one, however am now re-thinking that plan.  Ultimately though, it is assigned in my brain as a Victorian/Steampunk costume, so somewhere along the line I’ll have to decide what to make it up into.
  • Black with narrow white stripe – I’ll probably make a skirt out of this, similar to the black and white stripe with black and white stripe pleated trim.
  • Appliqued skirt or poncho like the recent Steampunk Couture line – tentacles/cogs.. oooh so lovely.  Like hers, I’m thinking grey/black, but probably reversed (grey on black rather than black on grey)
  • Steampunk EGL – I doubt that I would actually make this – but I love the idea of mixing the two ideas, like this cool dress from FanPlusFriend.

    Steampunk Elegand Gothic Lolita from FanPlusFriend


I know that I can’t just stick to one, but I really should prioritize!  (Especially since my Lupercalia corset still isn’t done.)  I would put this in the “basics” category, but there is more than one item to include, and I can’t do sub-bullets!  Some of the thoughts I’ve had… include:

  • A new basic-black underbust corset. I can use this for so many things – there have been so many times when I’ve worn the buckle-front one in lue of a basic-black one.
  • I also want a pinstripe corset – something with a vague masculine attitude, with a pocket for the pocketwatch.  Although colours would be interesting (brown, navy, etc) Black with white pinstripe would likely be more versatile.
  • The purple taffeta corset to match the long purple taffeta skirt that I made a few years ago.  Probably an overbust corset.
  • Brown leather corset – the start from the Lupercalia corset – though not completed, so it might be transformable.


  • Shrug – possibly something frilly and feminine like that one Etsy seller? I’m thinking of something with a bit of stretch for comfort – perhaps that lovely stretch lycra velvet?  Trimmed with monochromatic slightly tattered chiffon flowers?
  • Shrug – from a t-shirt.  There’s a great tutorial/demo on Cut Out + Keep that got me thinking of it – and using that old brown t-shirt that I think I wore twice to make something that would work with a casual Steampunk costume.  (I still don’t think I’d wear it for every day… I never wear my black shrug, I always forget about it and want something longer – or perhaps that’s just because it’s winter!?)
  • Mantle – a loose jacket, trimmed in fringe or pompom fringe? Perhaps a wide band of contrasting velvet as trim?  This should be in something with a fairly stiff hand, like wool melton or corduroy.  (Mind you, I don’t want to work with corduroy…)   I’m thinking something with a fitted waist at the back, but lots of fullness over the hips to fit over a bustled skirt nicely.  Kind of like a peplum at the back.  Wide bell sleeves seem pretty common in the illustrations I’ve seen, though I also like the idea of a full pagoda style sleeve.
  • Capelette – Somehow this seems utterly impractical – and yet in that probably rests it’s appeal for me.  I’m thinking hip-length, possibly in the fold-back military-esque style I saw somewhere. . (Clockwork Couture maybe?)  Medium or charcoal grey, with large military-style buttons…  Alternately, something floaty and ruffled and utterly feminine would be beautiful too.  Something in line with the 1894 or 1899 illustrations on site.
  • Separate hood – I absolutely love this knitted hooded cowl from TheJaneVictoria on etsy – but of course I’m

    from TheJaneVictoria

    stuck in the whole “I don’t knit” conundrum.  However, I can totally see this in velvet or some other material that draps and flows (but also would be warm and cosy… )  I can see blending this with the capelette – a hooded capelette basically – something warm and cosy and just a little bit unusual….


  • Vest – perhaps one of those harness-style vests like Steampunk Couture does?  Probably something more like a classic waistcoat, in rich brocade or something.  I don’t really know that one of the harnesses would look good on me.  The harness-style suggests more of a military-inspired look, or something that would work with an airship pirate-style costume, while a classic brocade waistcoat would be more ultimately wearable for day-to-day wear.  If I go with something more classic, it should have a pocket watch pocket, and button up the front.
  • Bustle support – one of those cool collapsible cage supports. This would be done with a plain cotton back, that roll of wide white twill tape that I have, probably plastic boning for weight and cost, and possibly wide white lace – perhaps some of the stuff left over from mom’s dolls?   Alisa did a successful version in her Geisha costume, and an unsuccessful version in here black and white steampunk outfit.  (Just as a FYI when I’m looking to make my own…)  Obviously made to go with more of a fancy dress costume, since that’s where I’d be wearing the bustled skirt!
  • Teacup fascinator – perhaps with soft-sculpture tentacles spilling out?
  • Elder god toque – I have the wings done, and that’s about it at this point.  Darn basement renovations.
  • Fascinator with clock hands – I picked up a set of clock hands from the hobby shop a few weeks back, and am thinking of something using them instead of feathers/ribbons in a fascinator.
  • Neckwarmer – there is an amazing knitter on Etsy that was totally inspiring – however I don’t knit.  I tried to

    Like this, but different.

    teach myself how to crochet, but after undoing something and starting again, I’ve lost my inspiration. Ultimately I want something that has an overall hourglass shape (flaring up around the cheeks and down over the shoulders) that is fairly wide, probably a dark charcoal grey, and has five large buttons.  I haven’t decided yet if I want fancy buttons, or buttons that are incredibly plain to the point of obscurity.  I also haven’t decided if I want something fine or chunky.  Honestly, I should just keep an eye on her shop and buy one from her, vs thinking of learning to knit in order to make one for myself!

  • Muff – as mentioned in my post about a muff, I would like to make a muff as well.  I’m thinking of a fairly deep grey (faux) fur on the inside.  The outside I’m thinking of fabric on the inside, with piping, and then a small band of fur, to give the impression as though the fur was just spilling out of the muff. The vintage muffs I’ve seen have been fur on the outside with a satin lining, but that doesn’t really seem very cozy!  The old ones have also had chains, which I’m not loving, so I’ll have to think about that a bit.  This would be more for fancy dress, and just to add in to other outfits – but a low priority seeing as it’s unlikely I’ll be able to get to it before the end of winter.  (Though if I see some fur on sale I should pick it up!)
  • Collar – on the thought of a neckwarmer, I was remembering a very cool pleated collar that I would love to recreate.  Unfortunately, when I got to thinking about it (and making something similar) I realized how BAD I look with something like that – they make my neck look very short, and just aren’t attractive.  However over a plain white shirt buttoned up all the way it might work – so I’ll put the pleated collar in the ‘maybe’ pile.
  • Fingerless gloves – using the striped socks as a start.  Since I have the other pair of fingerless gloves – this would be a very low-priority project.
  • Brown leather gauntlets/cuffs – with cool holders for vials/test tubes and other ~stuff~  I started these for the Jabberwock costume, and never finished them.
  • Full sized tricorn hat – not sure what I want to do here.

I have a feeling this will be another one of those ‘work in progress’ posts, that gets added to now and again…