Oh steampunk… is there anything you can’t make amazing? Sometimes the best ideas come from one random thought, such as “I wonder what a steampunk circus would look like?”
From that one brilliant idea this amazing steampunk clown costume was born from the talented minds of two ladies, Laura and Chelsey. That one little thought grew into this gorgeous over-the-top clown costume that just blew my mind when it showed up in my inbox. The photos were taken in an opera house in Mantorville MN, just a short drive from my hometown, and the richness of this whole project was just too good to pass up!
I could go on, but really, it’s much better if I just let our lovely ladies tell us a bit about what went into this steampunk creation…
What started this project?
Laura: I started to buy fabric to design a circus costume after several of us talked about how we hadn’t really seen a steampunk circus done before, and what fun it could be. I didn’t know the outfit itself would be a clown until I had assembled a pile of brightly colored fabrics and the idea that the skirt might look like a carousel. When I mentioned it to my husband he said, “Just don’t make a clown. Clowns are creepy.” Which meant, of course, that it had to be a clown. A non-creepy clown.
How did you go about choosing designs for the project?
Laura: We chose the Parisian Clockwork for the lapels, stripped down to just the clock faces and in a copper thread to mimic the idea of the clown being a clockwork clown, and to bring the copper color of the metal into the embroidery. Lyra and the Ringmaster got added to the spats after the leather that was purchased for the spats was found to not be thick enough for the original cut-work design that was planned. The colors were changed in their clothing to better reflect the colors of the fabric.
The end result of the spats far exceeded our expectations and looked much better than I believe the original idea would have looked. We did use Carousel Animals embroidery from Embroidery Library because we needed a number of different animals (there is only one repetition in the entire skirt) and at that point Urban Threads did not have a large collection of carousel animals, otherwise you definitely would have been our first choice!
Chelsey: It was tough to choose between all the different circus characters and steampunk elements. I think Laura and I had a list of a dozen designs before we settled on Parisian Clockwork, Lyra, and the Ringmaster. In the end, Parisian Clockwork was chosen for the simplicity and subtlety it could bring.
Lyra was picked because we wanted to keep the costume as feminine and pretty as possible. The Ringmaster was chosen because he was playful but still had that hint of creepiness that circuses have.
Talk us through the embroidery… which designs did you use? How long did it take to embroider it all?
Chelsey: Once we sifted through all the possible designs, the whole thing came together. I used Embird to edit out the background shading and text on Parisian Clockwork and then repeated the design against itself. I stitched it large enough that Laura would be able to fit her lapel pattern inside the stitched area, essentially creating a new fabric for her to use. Lyra and the Ringmaster were embroidered into this amazing pink leather.
This project was the first time I’d ever embroidered on leather before, and I was a little nervous my placement would be terrible or I’d screw up have to start over, leaving Laura without enough room to cut out the spats. Those three designs were super easy and fast to stitch up. The carousel animals on the skirt were the most time consuming with their million and one thread changes. All told, there is probably a 40 hour work week put into the embroidery, but that’s a rough estimate.
Any challenges along the way?
Laura: Oh goodness yes. In regards to the actual construction, the design changed several times. The mechanical pieces in the front actually broke several days prior to the photo shoot and needed to be completely redone. The shoe design was changed several times and the wheel farthingale that supports the skirt went through several variations before we got it right. The rigging of the front panel was also done on the fly the morning of the photo shoot. It worked, though, and the photos were beautiful.
How was the costume and the embroidery received?
Laura: Everyone thus far has LOVED the costume. Historical and non-historical costumers alike. We were so very fortunate that the setting of the background worked so well with the colors of the costume and we really lucked out in having Jim Jordan shoot the photos. He did an amazing job. The boots were particular favorites of many people, and I know the embroidery was a huge part of that.
Chelsey: It’s been fun to get comments from people who usually don’t like clowns. One of the biggest goals was to keep her a pretty clown, and I think it really worked. The embroidery is one of the really fun aspects of this costume, because every time someone takes another look, they notice something different.
Any plans for other amazing embroidered costumes?
Laura: I have a plan for Chelsey, but she doesn’t know about it yet.
Chelsey: I have at least two costumes in mind right now. To keep with the steampunk circus theme, I have a bearded lady Lolita in mind. I plan on using a good amount of UT mustaches The other costume will have a little embroidery, in particular a gear or two, but it is actually going to be a physical interpretation of an Urban Threads embroidery design.
Thank you so much, ladies, for sharing this project with us. The fabrics, the spats, that amazing full skirt, the gears… goodness I could go on. It’s fun to see some designs from our buds at Embroidery Library show up too! Now it makes me think we need to do a line of steampunk carousel animals… what do you think, gang?
Want to see more of this project? It was wonderfully documented on Laura’s blog Rocking the Frock if you’d like to see even more behind-the-scenes action of its construction, and of course you know you want to see more of those final photos over on their facebook album.
Do you want to have your project featured on StitchPunk? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or upload your Urban Threads stuff to our flickr group!