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.
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…)
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.
I 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.