Lena Corazon

Flights of Fancy

Category: World-building

ROW80: Digging Through the Archives

Since there’s only been a couple of days since Round 3 started, I thought I’d talk a bit about some of the research and world-building that I did during the hiatus between Rounds 2 and 3.  My progress update, posted yesterday, can be found here, but the bottom line is that I was a good kid yesterday, and cranked out 1300 words for Path to the Peacock Throne (I’ve been stuck for a few weeks, so this is good), and roughly 1000 for my thesis.  So, yay, progress!

As I mentioned Monday, I’m taking a steampunk writing course this month, which will hopefully help me to start writing tell me no lies, my steampunk murder mystery tale set in late-19th century San Francisco.  I’ve done a lot of brainstorming, world-building, and outlining (I actually have most of the main events of the tale figured out, along with the identity of the murderer), but zilch by way of actual writing.  To be honest, I’ve been staring at the empty word processing page in absolutely horror, thinking, “But I don’t know how it starts!”  So to fire up my imagination a bit, and bring some words to the fore, I’ve been digging through digital photo archives for inspiration.

The Library of Congress is an excellent source for all sorts of old and archived photographs, but my favorite collection at the moment is Lawrence and Houseworth collection — over 900 photos of California taken between 1862 and 1867.  The collection captures the ‘Wild West’ in all its glory — boom towns, mining sites, redwood forests, and (my favorite) amazing shots of San Francisco.  There are photos of the docks, aerial shots of the bustling city, interiors of ramshackle saloons, and exterior shots of the imposing hotels, mansions, and buildings that dominated the skyline before the 1906 earthquake and fire destroyed much of it.

Each photo tells a story, like this one, a shot of the “Ladies Aid and Preservation Society”:

After doing a little bit of searching, I found a listing for the Society, along with roughly a half dozen other charities in San Francisco from this period dedicated to dealing with alcoholics, orphans, and other “needy” cases.  Given that I’m writing about saloon singers and street urchins, a character or two from the Ladies’ Protection and Relief Society just might pop up, ready to dispense Christian charity to the poor unfortunate souls of the Barbary Coast (though whether or not my rabblerousers accept that charity is another question altogether!).

Finally, I’ve been using Pinterest, a website where you can make digital ‘pinboards’ (sorta like scrapbooks) of pictures found on the internet, to organize my favorite photos from the Lawrence and Houseworth collection; the pinboard can be seen here. Just as a side-note, Pinterest has also become incredibly handy as I attempt to piece together inspiration pieces for costuming (the board for tell me no lies is here, and has lots of cool steampunk outfits).

That’s it for me!  Today is Wednesday, which means it’s the last day of summer school for the week, and another long weekend stretches before.  It will be filled with thesisizing, grading, writing, and hopefully multiple trips to the beach, if the sunny weather holds out.

Inspiration: The Fashion of Guo Pei

Beyond Victoriana, one of my favorite steampunk blogs, featured an article today about the work of Chinese fashion designer Guo Pei.  Her work is absolutely exquisite – big, voluminous pieces that easily rival, if not exceed, some of the best work from European couture collections.  Her “1002nd Arabian Nights” collection is the one featured on Beyond Victoriana; I reproduce some of the images (borrowed via Tom and Lorenzo Blog) here:

This one, though, from her latest collection, totally reminds me of what I was trying to achieve here, when I was brainstorming Princess Liandre’s look for the fantasy/Beauty and the Beast tale that I have been nursing.

(Image courtesy of Rose Studio website)

It’s, like, exactly what I pictured for her (minus the cool short bustle, but I think I like this better).  So. Awesome.

Now I am off to flail and squeal over how pretty all this is.

On Costuming

I’ve been pondering a bit about costuming for this “Beauty and the Beast” tale, and I’ve got some ideas for what people are wearing.  For this 1st scene in my head, I’ve got some ideas for what people are wearing.  I’m envisioning some sort of blend of different historical periods, and if I could draw my life would be way easier.  As it is, I can’t, and so I’ve got to fall back on cobbling together bits and pieces from different sources.
Overall, there’s a strong military and menswear influence on what I’m imagining.  I’m eschewing the big, poufy princess dresses that I usually prefer for something simpler and more tailored, though with a feminine touch.

The Queen

I imagine her wearing an ensemble that has a bit of military influence — a double-breasted coat that is crisply-cut and tailored, paired with a pair of leather leggings or some other long, skinny trousers.  Instead of the high collar, however, the coat boasts the diamond-shaped Queen Anne neckline, complete with a high, starched collar, like so:

Ugh, I seriously wish I could draw, because it would be so much easier to convey what I’m thinking.


Just ran across this absolutely exquisite coat from Lizzy Nolan.  It gets close to what I imagined, actually, and I rather like the twist on the buttons.

Coat by Lizzy Nolan

In my head, though, the coat is long, floor-length, and cuts away at the hips to reveal leather leggings.  It’s also black velvet, with delicate embroidery done in gold and silver threading — a bit severe and sober, yet rich enough to be fitting for royalty.  The Queen is disdainful of too much luxury, would rather be in a jerkin and leggings (and on horseback) instead of a dress, so her clothing has to accomodate that.


Liandre, on the other hand, follows the fashion conventions for other young, high-born ladies in the capital.  For the first scene I have in mind, she’s dressed casually.

The elements:

1. White shirt with billowy sleeves

It’s not quite pirate (and definitely NOT slutty pirate, which is all I seem to be able to find when I search google images), but what I imagine to be a comfortable sort of shirt to hang out in.  It is paired with…

2. A shirtwaist corset.

Again, it’s a simple one — no embroidery, nothing uber-decorative, just elegantly functional.  This one from Etsy totally fits the bill:

3. A short bustle skirt.

It adds a feminine sort of touch to the ensemble.  The short bustle skirts from Lovechild Boudoir are totally what I have in mind, like this one, “Honeymoon in Paris”:

4. Final touches.

Leather leggings (which pretty much seem to be standard fare amongst the women) and a pair of flat black leather riding boots.  With buckles.  Because everything is better with buckles.

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