Thursday, 31 December 2009

Happy New Year, the City of Cloth and all that Jazz

I was toying with the idea of some sort of New Year post with a swirly font, but it all seemed a little silly in the face of the fact that I was working for most of the 31st, missed the countdown due to an erratic sleeping pattern and my new year celebration largely consisted of reading The Years of Rice and Salt whilst eating ice cream mochi (from Kowloon Dairy, I'll have you know). That said, it was a reasonably productive day (see Elven Tunic) and there are some speculative designs in the works, including some Asian Steampunk, a cloak with pockets and a feathered mantle. The blue version of the Steampunk Coat (with gunmetal grey buttons) is still on the horizon, closer now, in theory.

These are the feathers for aforementioned mantle as they were on the counter of the wholesaler's. They only had enough to cover the shoulders of a cloak, so we won't be looking a whole cloak of feathers until they restock their long unfortunately. It's likely to be over a dark brown cape (not quite full-length since you really don't want to wash this frequently) at present, lined in a heavy black linen (I do have a penchant for linen, what with it being a material that looks in character for most settings and whilst it does crease a little, isn't as prone to it as cotton or silk-cotton blends).

The City of Cloth is located near the border in ShenZhen. I'll be the first to admit that it's not the best place to buy cloth in the country, but it offers a large selection and is significantly cheaper than in Hong Kong. The Mercenary isn't quite up to the point where she can buy whole bolts of cloth wholesale (though we really do go through an awful lot of black linen), but perhaps one day, we shall not have to weave in and out of the hundred odd stalls.

Prototype: Elven Tunic

Yet another blurry photo.

This is the Elven Tunic, and to be honest, I'm not sure it turned out quite right. In the balance of Elven to Chinese, I suspect this one went a little too much in the latter's direction. As often observed before, a lot of Elven clothing (such as in Hellboy II: The Golden Army and Lord of the Rings) draws from oriental, and specifically Chinese design elements.

The tunic is made of a cream linen silk (the fabric is paradoxically soft and with a rough grain) and lined with a dark brown linen. The leaf-shaped buttons are hewn from coconut. The garment is trimmed with thin leather braiding. The slits at the side are also decorated with the leaf-shaped buttons.

What do you make of it, dear reader? Not elven enough? Coconut totally not an elven material? Elves shouldn't wear anything with an obvious grain?

Here is a close up of the collar and the buttons.

I suspect the garment will work quite well with the elven robes and cloak, when worn as some sort of (dare I use the word?) "deluxe" elven ensemble. As long as the colours tone, which isn't necessarily likely since creams and yellows are capable of clashing. Perhaps we could have some photos of it all together next to a wall tree at some point. Perhaps we could even find a conveniently located specimen of the males species to model it on.

So... what improvements would you suggest?

Updated to Add: The Elven Tunic has been since used in a number of photoshoots, though usually not as the centrepiece. It can be seen worn under the Elven Coat/Robe in The Elven Robes Once More and again but on a man here. It can also be seen under the laced gambeson in Still Life with Sleeves.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Further Adventures in Sham Shui Po

I've been wandering the wild and wonderful land of Sham Shui Po, gathering together the many costume components as well as collecting an order of pocket watches (soon to be available at Character Kit) and whilst I was there, I thought the nosy world at large might be mildly curious about where all the kit comes from.

Sham Shui Po was once the very throbbing hub of the Hong Kong clothing industry and though many of the tiny workshops have moved across the border, offices are still maintained in the area. Wholesalers of all sorts (toys, fabric, ribbon, lace, buttons, buckles, plastic tat, umbrellas, electric goods, rubber hosing) can still be found in the area and the street market is always bustling. Sellers of any given sort of goods has a way of clustering together in Hong Kong (see, for example, Goldfish Market, Flower Market and Jade Market) and nowhere is this more apparent than Sham Shui Po.

There's a sort of Old Hong Kong charm to the place, which is another way of saying its really rather ancient. Old-style pawn shops, Chinese pharmacies, dry goods stores and local cafes can still be found, pretty much identical to the ones that have been mocked up inside the Hong Kong History Museum.

The picture shows a stall selling incense and other paper goods for ancestors (paper ingots, clothing, passports, mansions, mahjong sets, etc - it's a folk belief that if you burn something, it manifests itself in the spirit world - and yes, I'm oversimplifying it). Behind it to the right is a shop is a wholesaler for umbrellas and anoraks and to its left is a shop that specialises in lace..

Though in area the haberdashers only occupy approximately three streets, the area can boast of dozens upon dozens of shops that are full of haberdasheries, much of which overflows onto the streets. Sample boards clutter up the outside of shops, as well as the ends of rolls in tiny plastic bags. This mercenary company has never been able to visit all the shops selling any given sort of item in one day.

Sham Shui Po also happens to be the birthplace of the Steampunk Coat, so the Mercenary has a particular fondness for the place.

The Reversible Cloak

There isn't much to be said about the Reversible Cloak beyond the fact it's reversible. That's pretty much it.

Other details include that it's chocolate brown wool on one side and a black linen on the other. It has a black-and-brown trim going down both sides. It ties to the back with long, wide ties. It also features a hood.

I could harp on some more about how you could turn it around and voila, new character, but it's really not that complicated.

Monday, 21 December 2009

The Steampunk Coat

The Steampunk Coat is described on the Character Kit website as such:
This dashing yet practical coat is made in a dark cotton velvet and black faux-suede. It is lined in functional faux-silk and edged in ornately patterned jacquard trim and many metallic eyelets. It fastens with metallic buttons and many buckles. It has two hidden pockets and two visible ones as well as two black faux-suede pockets which are fastened with a button. It has a multitude D-rings, tool-loops and pouches, for attaching gadgets, storing bottles or keeping other useful items in. The sleeves and the bottom of coat can also be buckled safely out of the way of particularly messy work. It has two belt loops so your usual belt can be fastened around the waist.

Addendum: Currently only available in Medium Red and Brass with Screw-Cog Buttons. More sizes, colours and styles coming soon.

WARNING: Has been known to induce the desire to cackle maniacally. Ideal for gentle-person inventors, alchemists, mad scientists, and tech-priests.

There really isn't much more to add to that.

The coat was originally designed for the male gender in mind, but as is evidenced by the photographs, a lot can be said of the Machine Cult's ability to transcend gender.

Cotton velvet is quite stiff and whilst it does hold together nicely for the purposes of hanging things (important pens and pocket watches and cogs) off it, I am tempted to experiment with a version of it with a thicker velvet and perhaps a brocade lining.

As can probably be guessed from the sheer number of buttons and buckles, the coat is very fiddly to do up.

Since the original Steampunk Coat was born of a particular button (see previous post) it seems a little strange to be doing a photoshoot with the new coats. The red coat modelled by the woman (erm, well, me) has gracing it the "new" steampunk button that doesn't have the cog-and-screw button. Short of getting a whole thirty gross of them made in a custom job, Hong Kong is complete out of cog-and-screw buttons. The new replacement button is of a slightly darker brass than the rest of the fittings, but overall the effect isn't particularly noticeable in a negative way.

Unfortunately, the shipment of pocket watches didn't arrive in time to make an appearance in the newer photos as an accessory. They're being picked up tomorrow and may well be photographed shortly thereafter.

Likewise with the production on the blue-and-silver coats. They should be back by the end of next week, but optimism, is as always, a dangerous thing.

The Steampunk Coat can be purchased at Character Kit, both in red and blue; Please email for custom sizing and colours.

Many, many more photos under the cut.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

The "Sash" Dress and Cloak

The Cloak is what I'd like to draw your attention to. It's produced as a prototype and in scribblings it's known as the "cape" cloak due to the little shoulder decoration. It's unlikely to be produced for Character Kit until at least March, but here's a glimpse of it.

It's made of black wool-linen and lined with blue stretch silk. The blue lining picks out the blue from the yellow-red-blue swirly trim, which isn't very visible in the photographs. It sits on the shoulders and is fitted, sharing with the other cloaks a rudimentary "anti-choke" design.

I do fear the silver sash rather steals the show in these shots.

The dress owes no little inspiration from that worn by Elizabeth in the 1998 film of the same name. Of course, her version was a gorgeous sage green with a deep salmon-pink sash (quoting the Fashion in Film Tour exhibit). I'm slightly embarrassed by citing the source since the dress by no means lives up to its inspiration and really does pale in comparison. (And let's not even mention the model.) That said, the aim of the dress is not to recreate the Elizabeth dress by any means and I am rather pleased, regardless, by the result.

A few more details on the dress: The skirts are of blue stretch silk and the bodice of a darker blue silk velvet. The sleeves are of a blue chiffon. The underdress is made of a silver thai silk, trimmed in blue velvet ribbon. Those are freshwater pearls over the shoulder. In an ideal world, where I've done all the preparation I should have, they'd be attached in a more sensible manner. Furthermore, the bit of elastic attaching the end of the sleeve to the hand would be replaced with long silver ribbons.

These photos are taken by 1881 Heritage and and the Legco Building in Hong Kong. We got into a just smidgen of trouble by clambering all over aforementioned buildings. Just thought I'd share the shot of myself being terribly undignified. Loretta pointed out that it's just like in America's Top Model, but not having seen a frame of it, I can't really comment.

Many, many more photos under the cut.

The Elven Robes and the Forest Cloak Again

The Elven Robes are meant for a man, so perhaps modelling them on me for the purposes of a preview is a substandard idea. Frankly, it doesn't fit me and looks rather silly for that very reason. But there was no man at hand and elves all wear robes with flowing sleeves, it seemed reasonable logic at the time to put the garment on me.

Needless to say there's more than a smudge of influence from Lord of the Rings. Especially in the sleeve department.

The green robes are, in all honesty, much better than the yellow ones. The yellow (ala "High Elf") fake suede isn't as soft as the green (it's more of a forest green and less of a teal in reality) so the sleeves are a tad stiff. Perhaps it speaks of the elven condition, but less good for wearing.

The trim on both the yellow robes and the Forest Cloak have golden ivy leaves on it and it's quite pretty, though as said, the flow of the robe is somewhat disappointing.
This is one of the early diagrams for the elven robe. Loose-fitting with a mandarin collar. In the sketching of this, it did occur to us that modern depictions of elven clothing do borrow from Chinese and Japanese clothing. Princess Nuala's outfits in The Golden Army do bear more than a passing resemblance to a kimono with a corset on top.

Without further ado... more photos under the cut.

Update: The Forest Cloak and the Elven Coat are now available from Character Kit.

Commission: Blue Dress

These photos are all of a commissioned dress based (very loosely) on some of those seen in recent Tudor films. It's incomplete as yet, missing the huge silk velvet sleeves (which will be attached to the existing sleeve with small buttons). The velvet sleeves were to be separate for cleaning purposes as the rest of the dress is made of reasonably durable fake silk. It should, in theory, also be worn with more petticoats, but there was nothing available on short notice. The underskirt is a thick polyester brocade.

The Heart of Victoria City

Yet another day of photography and lumbering around Hong Kong (Central, to be specific) with the big red bag of kit. The results vary and no doubt they shall make their presence known on the blog in due course.

We ran afoul of more than one security guard (three in total). The one in the picture above was rather intent that we didn't take photographs by the HSBC building. Others objected to our clambering all over the Legco Building (it occurs to me now that we're almost using the low-budget version of the V'n'A) and another didn't like us standing next to the grass.

Steampunk steals many cues from Victoriana and in theory lingering about the city that shares her name should bring about many photo opportunities, but few things in Hong Kong are sacrosanct, including Antiquities. Murray House was moved brick by brick to make way for the knife-like Bank of China tower. (All three thousand blocks of it sat in a box somewhere for almost nineteen years before it was finally decided that it should be resurrected in Stanley. One can almost imagine the conversations of baffled bureaucrats.)

Needless to say, other buildings were significantly less lucky.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Preview: 1881 Heritage

Today was one of frantic photo-taking before the light went. The big red bag came in handy again and all the painstakingly steamed garments were bundled in and wheeled around the proverbial concrete jungle of Hong Kong. Negotiating the rabbit warren that is the MTR is by no means a rewarding experience with a huge bag full of kit. 

The scene is
1881 Heritage, a hotel-and-shopping-complex built around and in the Former Marine Police Headquarters Compound, Tsim Sha Tsui. It's really not an unattractive location and we were by no means the only people who had noticed this fact. There were at least half a dozen couples who having their wedding photos taken there. Not to mention some lovely people with neo-coloured wigs, a handful of robe-clad graduates and costumed promoters (who took posed with tourists and acted as human signposts to the toilets). 

The end result was that the crowds were very well trained when it came to dodging cameras and we looked in no way out of place.

Christmas has come to 1881 and the new decorations were more than a slight barrier to good photography. I'm not sure it's possible to describe the giant Christmas tree baubles and the huge glittery white trees.

The fake moss on one of the displays found Loretta's bag ridiculously attractive and clung to it for dear life. This was amusing for no good reason and here is a photo to prove that.

There are, seemingly, a hundred and one photographs from today's excursion to wade through but I thought I'd post a couple of them first. 

Friday, 18 December 2009

Prototype: Padded Armour

Yes, the picture is blurry.

It's really not as exciting as it could be, but the prototype of the padded armour (c.f. D'n'D's light armour) is back from the workshop and it's looking interesting. Unlike with the cloaks, there was not conveniently-situated male specimen to inflict it on, so this mannequin was the I could do for the purposes of modelling at short notice.

It's done in a brown fake suede (it looks a little green in the picture, but I suspect that is just the lighting), lined in a thick black linen. It's padded with two layers of cotton, which sounds thick but isn't really.

Would probably look better with buckles in a darker grey and perhaps more substantial. (It has long been an observation of the designer that fantasy character art loves its buckles. Especially that infamous sorcerer from the Player's Handbook, who seems to wear almost nothing but a rather impractical collection of belts and buckles. But one digresses.)

The prototype does differ somewhat from the diagram. The number of corrections and improvements fill over a page of scrawling in my notebook, but all-in-all, it's not an unattractive piece.

The next step will probably be trying to find rivets and bequeathing the garment those extra armour points, but really, I'm just labouring the joke.

The Elven Robes are back as well (and will probably be shipped off to the distant shores of England by the end of next week), but the photos of those are even more blurry and inadequate. If weather allows and the stars align, perhaps there will be more photographs. I'd say watch this space, but it's really not that exciting.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

The Original Steampunk Coat

This is in many ways, the story of a button.

The buttons which we stumbled upon in Sham Shui Po that winter (almost a year ago now) was very much the source of the inspiration.

The Steampunk Coat went through various paper incarnations and two prototypes, but in essence it was a coat built around this brass button.

The first sketch of the coat I managed to dig out of an old, rather knackered notebook. It's drawn with many of the features that the coat doesn't now come with, like the two pocket watches. The elbow patches never made it past this sketch to even the first prototype. Many of the more fiddly aspects also got dropped, as well as the original colour scheme.

The Forest Cloak

The photographs of the Forest Cloak (formerly known as the "elven") were taken on the Peak in Hong Kong. Funnily enough, there's something of a dearth of greenery around here. Especially "elven" greenery. We had wanted old trees and ancient forests, but in the end, this slightly rocky outcrop around the back of Morning Trail had to suffice.

Note the exceptionally attractive and highly in-character concrete block.

There was also an elven robe to complete the ensemble, but tragically, it was not finished on time.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...