The Joy of Reclamation

Jacket Header

There’s something beautiful about giving new life to old things.

Perhaps I love this concept so much because it’s central to my faith (as my friend Rebecca has so eloquently shared recently). But it’s also a tenet that (to me) is at the heart of steampunk. The deeper I go into the world of steampunk, the more I revel in the celebration of old gadgets, old ideas, and old cultural values that find a compelling expression in modern life.

Naturally, this spills over into my steampunk cosplay.

Not all steampunk outfits incorporate genuine antiques. Many steampunks fabricate our costume elements from whatever we can get, vintage or modern. Others “reclaim” old things by using real Victorian patterns. Still others haunt antique and resale shops looking for cast-off gems of just a few years ago that can come to brilliant new life.

Gap Custer JacketLike this Gap Custer jacket.

Okay, so the jacket itself is from like 2009. Not so old or steampunk. But it had been sitting in my closet for several of those years, living on the hanger considerably longer than it ever lived on my body.

Recently it occurred to me that this was the perfect jacket for a new “Story Mechanic” costume I’m creating for TeslaCon. (See photo below. And just for the record, that’s an oil can, not a tea pot, in my hand…)

IMG_5249But the jacket needed something.

Enter a Goodwill vest. Not a relic of the Victorian age either, but certainly a relic of an era where tack-on rhinestones, fabric paint and cotton vests are something you might actually wear out in public. The vest was, overall, just about the ugliest thing I’d ever seen. But the lace and baubles did have endless possibilities. I forked over the $2 and took it home.

And that’s when I realized: the trimmings from the World’s Ugliest Vest could be transferred to Cute But Underutilized Gap Jacket to create the perfect accent piece for the Story Mechanic costume. (What good story mechanic wants to be all grease and gears, right? A little lace is nice . . .)

For you veteran crafters, this might all seem like a matter of course. But for a novice crafter, whose cosplay effort to date have consisted of sourcing ready-to-go pieces at thrift stores, this was an exciting undertaking indeed.

IMG_5329I started by removing the lace and baubles from the old jacket, then trimming them to size and placing them on the new vest, where I anchored them with Aleen’s FabriTac. (My Facebook community had suggested fusible webbing for better stability—but it turned out there was quite a bit of Mylar on those lace pieces. I didn’t want to risk melting them!)

From there, I hand-stitched the glued-down lace panels to ensure they’d stay put, then embellished them freehand with old buttons and notions from the vest, plus a gaggle of matching green beads that were on their third recycling effort. I couldn’t resist adding a few of the pearls and rhinestones, too, with Aleen’s Super Fabric Adhesive.

And . . . voila! Old things reclaimed into a beautiful something new.

Just because old things have passed out of use doesn’t mean they can’t gain new life. This is the promise of reclamation.

For me, this is the joy of steampunk.

11 thoughts on “The Joy of Reclamation

  1. Great post! There is something very beautiful in how God can take the old and make it new. 🙂 (I also love that He handed down his creativity to us.) 🙂 Love the jacket!

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  2. Just read this and another posting of yours: Steampunk is not Science Fiction.

    (Too bad I’m not the sort that would get into cosplay.)

    Had I ever shared with you my notion that the term “futuristic” should mean “That which has future value.”

    Which often means not the newest thing, but the eternal thing. Instead of getting that idea caught up with the latest gadgets, it should be towards things that have stood the test of time.

    There a classification with antiques that it has to be 100 years old or more, otherwise it’s considered a collectible. By the time something becomes an antique it might have lost its original utility, but has gained a different utility, perhaps serving as a reminder of not only how things were done before, but also by whom. Sometimes, those things even transcend utility to become sacred. Sacred is the ultimate of futuristic.

    That is joyful reclamation.

    As Chesterton told us, “We do not need a Church that changes with the times, but a Church that changes the times.” This would of course mean that a Church that brings us back around to a foundation of things with permanent, futuristic things. Once we know what the permanent things are, we are much better prepared to respond to the temporary things.

    A changed time for the better would be one that knew the more valuable definition of futuristic.

    I have a number of books that address the notion of Permanent Things, or as some logicians and a few modern theologians refer to them as “first things.”

    It seems to me that truly great stories might not speak directly of those things, but they do point towards them.

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  3. Great post and I love that jacket. I wish I had an artistic flair for creating fashion but alas, I’m not an artist. But I do know what I like and I really like this post and your sense of style!

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    • Thank you, Karla! I didn’t know I had an artistic flair for this stuff … I’ve always considered myself fashion-impaired. Just got the itch to do it! 🙂 Goes to show, we sometimes surprise ourselves. Can’t wait to show the completed costume when all the pieces are assembled.

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