The Crossroads of the Aether
It's January, and that means preparing clothing ready for the warmer weather. Although coming from a British person, it's rather optimistic, but all the same! Being prepared is keyssential.
Now we all know the bane of Victorian clothing, "SUFFER TO BE BEAUTIFUL" being the fashion culture's motto.
The main suffering was lots of layered heavy clothing to make you nice a cosy. Sorry for the blokes, since they couldn't exactly walk to work in just their trousers, boots and shirt (without a cravat of all things!) But the ladies could at least wear lighter colours, lighter materials and shorter (torso length-wise) jackets.
So my darlings, I beseech thee to post your hints, tips and ideas on Summer wear for ladies (and gents!).
I'm thinking muslin or organdie.
Oh My! Summer weather...If only.
I think lace, and floral and white are just the best things in the summertime!
Parasols and I'd love some lacy cream colored gloves to wear about
oh and of course we can't forget the dashing straw hats! I don't know yet if I want the large, wide brimmed kind, or the smaller more fit sort.
I think cotton, linen and muslin are going to be my best friends
White, pastel and muted colours are always a must, not only to fit the bright sunny weather but to keep cool also~
STRAW HATS FOR ALL!
Well, I'm new to Steampunk so I'll leave the discussion of how to dress to those with experience. But while I might not know much about how to dress in character for hot weather, I have 20 years experience as a participant in the Texas Renaissance Festival, which starts its rehearsals in August and opens in early October when the weather is still very warm, so please forgive me if I sound off about this subject because it's a lot more important than just being comfortable. It's about protecting yourself from heat exhaustion.
At Faire we are reminded over and over to stay hydrated. We are taught the symptoms of overheating and advised to cool down if any of them appear--or preferably BEFORE any of them appear. We're instructed to take frequent rest breaks. Additions hidden in your outfit can help keep you comfortable. I had cool packs that I secreted inside my costume which helped keep me from overheating. My fan and handkerchief were more than pretty props.
That said, and having seen a small taste of the amazing creativity here I firmly believe that the lovers of Steampunk have an unprecedented opportunity to build novel machines to keep themselves cool. I can't wait to see how they do it!
I'm also new to steampunk, but all of your advice seems utterly sound -- and now I wish I was an inventor and could put together some sort of machine to keep me cool in summer!
Having resided in a subtropical climate for many years and having participated in many living history events in that climate, I always wear completely natural fibers. 100% Cotton batiste combinations, 100% cotton coutil corset, 100% cotton batiste petticoats, outer clothing of cotton, linen, silk or hemp (or any combination thereof) and a wide brimmed hat of real straw has kept me perfectly fine through temperatures in the upper 90's with 90+% humidity for years. If the fabrics you are wearing can't "breathe" you are heading for heatstroke.
Using those criteria I have never had a breathing problem or overheated. I cannot say the same for ladies or gentlemen wearing synthetics of any sort.
As for particular styles of clothing, short necklines, short sleeves, short hemlines. Or even better, long and loose and thin material. Mmm, actually the long and loose gives me an idea.
A teagown with 3/4 sleeves and a Watteau back in white or pastel silk organdy would be perfect.
The extent to which you will want to look authentically victorian is likely to be dependent upon the heat index, and the activities you intend to do. So I have suggestions for summer that may be more or less casual depending on the materials and the way you mix the components. You may also try looking to some of the "Gothic Lolita" or simply "Lolita" style clothing to find items with victorian inspired styling that are easily adapted to summer wear. (I tend to be more steamgoth, so I do not wear many light colors, and focus on light materials instead.)
On top, consider long or short sleeved blouses with puffed sleeves, a fitted corset style waist, or other victorian style detailing in a light, breathable fabric. In extreme heat, I personally favor mesh or lace jackets, or extremely lightweight cardigans with an open weave. I wear these over tank tops to ensure I am fully covered, but still as cool as possible. If you are doing something extremely casual, some companies even make t-shirts with ruffles or puffed sleeves so you can retain at least a touch of victorian flair.
For your bottom half, you might try lightweight cotton bloomers, in either a more modest mid calf length, or cut short to mid thigh. Of course lightweight cotton or linen skirts are a nice option in various lengths, particularly if they have added ruffles or ruching. Palazzo pants and culottes are another possibility. They are not as vintage accurate as some of the other options, but if you are doing something very athletic these may be the best choice.
I complete all summer outfits with a sun hat of some kind. For a slightly formal look I wear a wide brimmed straw hat. In a very casual situation I choose a different black straw hat that is shaped like a cadet cap, with a brim only on the front to shade my face. A parasol might serve the same purpose as a hat, but there are situations where a parasol is simply not practical.
The final thing that comes to mind is footwear. The usual leather boots and shoes may be entirely too warm. There are a wide variety of boot styles in canvas, and I have even seen victorian ankle boots with open lace sides. It is also possible to find ballet flats or sandals that are embellished with cameos or ruffles.
I suppose I am on the other end of the fashion spectrum from Miss Anyman - not by choice, indeed, but by age and body style. No Lolita I, alas. I tend to stay fully covered and put my faith in natural fibers, summer weights and loose, loose, loose (fit, that is, not behavior.)
Also, full skirts are your friend. Even in quite hot weather they can be airy and cool. Parasols, yes, and hats: for the lady explorer, a water-soaked pith helmet is an efficient cooler, but it must have that true pith core.
I love the cabbage leaf suggestion. It should work, albeit may be a bit hard to explain if you were to remove your hat in company. But then, why would you ever do that?
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