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Lady Captain America and the Iron Maiden

I have my very own soapbox. I keep it for ranting. There are some things guaranteed to give it an airing. At the moment, the main one is the over sexualisation of women in cos-play and graphic novels.

For a long time I looked past it; it is so much part of our cultural background that I just didn’t notice it. My attention was drawn to it by the brilliant “Hawkeye Initiative”. If you aren’t aware of the Hawkeye Initiative, follow this link right now and look into it:

The Hawkeye Initiative basically tries to make us aware of the ludicrous poses and costumes given to female characters, by representing the very masculine character Hawkeye in the same poses and outfits. It invariably looks insane. The comic industry responds by claiming that these women are empowered by their sexuality and flaunt it to assert that power.   Bollocks, says I, and bollocks says a huge portion of the female readership. These women are not empowered by their outfits; they are simply presented that way to titillate.

Around about the same time I saw The Avengers Assemble. While watching, it occurred to me the Captain America costume looked a bit like a cut off French Bodice from the 1890’s over the top of a stripey corset. It occurred to me that with a bit of tweaking it could make an awesome Steampunk costume

Steampunk costumes are usually based on Victorian fashions, and frequently include ladies wearing corsets as outwear rather than underwear. Now I’m pretty nervous about showing flesh, and a small part of me twitches when I see “flesh baring” outfits as in general Victorian fashions are all concealing (though please understand this is just me personally – I would never try and dictate how other people do it nor how they interpret Steampunk, which is by its nature utterly liberated from convention).

Add these two things into the glorious dichotomy of Victorian sexual repression and the enhancement of the female figure through corsets and you have a lovely recipe for some costuming fun that could also hopefully lead to some interesting conversations. It’s amazing how following one “funny link” has awoken me to discussions like this.

I am also currently in need of a trader’s costume. There was fun to be had here. I want to interpret the Avenger’s costumes as lady’s gowns. I want to do it in such a way that while not running away from a female representation, don’t make it all about sexualisation and retain the power of the masculine character.

This is my initial sketch for the Captain America costume, rendered as a Victoriana gown (forgive the terrible drawing)! I’ve already started on the corset. 

One other thing . . .just wait until you see my “Iron Maiden” dress, arc reactor and all.

To be continued!


I may have briefly lost my professional cool when I received the following email from the client:

"Sorry about the people who insisted on being in shot, but they did say that they loved the waistcoat.

I had a bunch of really nice compliments from people and Tony Lee, who was one of the guests, demanded a photo of it. So, all in all, it went down really well with everyone.

Now I need another chance to wear it!"

Attached was a photo of himself with two rather well known people - the 10th Doctor, David Tennant and Billie Piper!!!!! After peeling myself off the ceiling I promised not to post these photos straight away, as there were Christmas presents bought at that convention. So I waited impatiently - I think now counts as after Christmas, doesn't it????? Surely all presents are handed out by now?

See the photos in the gallery, along with some close ups of the garment.

Escaping the Asylum!

This week has seen me busily working on commission pieces for the upcoming Asylum Steampunk convention in Lincoln. My camera is currently broken, making it difficult for me to take pictures, but luckily Matt at Arcane Armouries helped out and let me borrow his. Have a look in the gallery for the latest shots!

The problems with my camera  mean that the tutorial on working with vinyl and making it look like leather will be a few more weeks, but it is coming! In the meantime, best wishes to all of you going to Asylum and do drop by and see my friends, The Navigatrix and Arcane Armouries, who will be trading in the Castle Square.

Strike a Pose

Recently I was fortunate enough to be able to work with the very talented Ste Manns and Isabella Favilli at Quattrofoto ( on some portfolio shots for this website. You can see their work dotted around the website and also in the Gallery. All of the studio portrait shots were taken by these lovely people. Their expertise created some great photographs in a style sympathetic with the costumes shown. Director Isabella's knowledge of period poses ensured a final image that wouldn't have looked out of place amongst real Victorian photographs.

It was a strange experience! I am far more used to being the person up a ladder messing around with lighting, or the dresser, fiddling with a hemline, than the one under scrutiny! I also learned a lot from this day. Firstly, I learnt not to use myself as a model! This wasn't from any sense of modesty or discomfort, but rather that as the costumier, it was a little tricky not being able to see exactly how each piece appeared from a distance. I had to rely on the rigged laptop previews to make sure everything was hanging correctly.

However, Isabella and Ste made me feel at ease and what is more, made me look gorgeous! I'm really looking forward to working with them again in the future.

Coming Soon!

My new baby is now here and slowly but surely my maternity leave is coming to an end. I'm excited and nervous at the same time, with a liberal sprinkling of exhaustion thanks to the baby boy!

Alexander was born on the 8th June and is now clearly the centre of my world, but he does allow me time to sew when he sleeps!

I'm looking forward to being able to throw myself back into work fully when my maternity leave ends, and am putting together a few portfolio pieces now to demonstrate my work. I wish I had the time and money to make all of the costumes currently in my head! As well as producing my own pieces, I will also be producing a number of collaborative efforts with Matt Inkel of Arcane Armouries, who specialises in Steampunk gadgets and gizmos.

I am aslo developing a range of kits for home schoolers, that combine sewing skills with historical notes on past garments worn. The main aim is to develop both historical analysis and sewing skills together. My first kit is now with a home schooling friend for road testing; a teddy bear sized Viking dress. I'll soon be adding to this range with a Roman tubular dress and a Viking belt pouch.

Today I've set up a facebook page - search for Wiserabbit on Facebook and join us! This will be regularly updated with information on progress, new products and event attendence.

Advice from Old Hands?

Well, my sewing activities are now thoroughly stopped thanks to the huge bump I am now sporting. It may seem daft but one of the things I'm looking forward to about having given birth is being able to sit at a sewing machine again! It's wretched when you are a seamstress and can't sew!

It would be very easy to get downhearted about being pregnant. For the past 9 months, I have constantly subjected to comments and advice from others. Normally I don't mind; it's a pack mentality thing. It's people's way of saying "We care" and usually I can take it as such, even when it comes from people who themselves have no experience of being pregnant or having children. However there are some things that people say that are beyond annoying; they are downright distressing. So to the advice givers, here is some advice from a receiver of what not to say!:

1. (When discusssing birth plans) "You're not going to care about any of that; you'll be in that much pain" or "You do know it's going to hurt don't you?" etc.

 Really? You mean this is going to hurt? Gosh - I thought going into labour meant I'd have to go to a vaguely left-wing conference and sing "Red Flag" a lot. It's not like labour pains haven't been on my mind constantly for the last nine months or anything!

Every woman alive knows labour is going to hurt and drawing her attention to it unprompted, unless followed by some useful pain relief advice (i.e. "This worked for me . . .") is downright unkind. I don't understand why people say it, and usually say it with vaguely repressed glee. Keep it to yourself - pregnant women are not stupid.

2. "Oooh, you'll have to stop x, y and z after the baby is here you know."

I swear the next person who tells me I'm not going to be able to do something once the baby is born is going to get both barrells. Telling an extremely independently minded  woman that she'll have to stop things she enjoys and stop planning for the future is cruel.

 Being told "You'll never be able to do that with a baby around" upsets me more than I can say and makes me more than a little angry. Having a baby is going to change my life dramatically; I know that. It already has and yes, there are a couple of things I enjoy (namely archery and sewing) that I have had to put on hold until the pregnancy is over because I can't manage. However turning round every time I talk excitedly about something I am planning for the future and pouring cold water all over it, claiming that the "baby will stop that" is like trying to strip away my personality and turn me into a Mummy-Bot. It's also an insult to my intelligence. Soon there will be another person in my life; but that doesn't mean I won't remain a person in my own right. It's also a guarunteed way to make me feel resentful of this little life arriving soon, so please stop.

3. "Take advantage of lie-ins now; you're going to need the sleep soon!"

None of the pregnant ladies I know are sleeping well and lie-ins just don't happen, because the second you wake, you need to get up and go to the loo/take antacids/heave yourself painfully up and shake the cramps out of your legs. It's depressing being told to enjoy something that you've not been able to have for the last however long. 

If I had to limit my polemic to one sentence however, it would be this: "Please think about what you saying, and if it is negative, keep it to yourself." Once pregnant, the die is cast. There is nothing you can do to divert from the course and negative utterances really don't help, even if they aer perfectly true.

Be positive!





Work in Progress - Asylum Steampunk Dress

There are few things in life that make you think long about the nature of femininity that being pregnant. After a  particularly bad night of acid stomach, aches and pains and other associated unpleasantness I woke up  feeling somewhat resentful of the female state and set to work on this particular costume. I’ve played with the idea of making a bodice with the features of a strait-jacket for some time but never seemed to get round to it.  The idea is for a corset, a garment with so many connotations of female sexuality as well as female restriction, to display more directly its restraining nature.  Linking this with the Victorian image of “hysterical females” was appealing.

I also wanted to play with the Steampunk fashions, but not in an overt way. Generally I love steampunk but sometimes feel that the artists take it too far. I wanted to produce something with an air of Victoriana that was clearly a fantasy piece but wasn’t necessarily dripping in cogs and topped with a mini burlesque top-hat (which I have never seen anyone pull off well).

I have some training in theatrical costume, as I specialised in it during my media production HND course. Whilst I never stopped loving the ideals of theatre, I found myself disillusioned with some of the practicalities and made a decision not to pursue a career in that field, but now I’m ten years older I find myself getting nostalgic for it again. You need a degree of confidence to succeed in theatre that ten years ago I didn’t have. Now perhaps I do and perhaps indulging in a bit of costume design amongst the practical and historical is a way of dipping my toes in those waters again.

It’s still very much a work in progress. The bodice is based on an old McCalls costume pattern (number M4861). I’ve changed the fastening points to use straps rather than eyelets but other than that not made many additions. It is still waiting to have the buckles added  to each of the side straps (eight in total) as I didn’t have anything appropriate in my stash. The skirt is pretty much my own invention. It’s triple-layered in muslin and Georgina cloth, with additional strapping and two fake bustle pieces. The front is torn open, and I plan to have my model in some distressed white tights or stockings underneath.

When finished, I intend to have some photographic fun with this one involving my model, a shower and a whole load of black paint and make-up, to try and create a “Crazed Victorian Fairy” look. Whether this can be achieved remains to be seen!

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