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Friday Follies: Only the Best for You

Two don’t-miss events for this weekend and next weekend: the Wellington Orchid Society Show is on at The Dowse art museum. A mere $2 opens the doors to a botanical wonderland, including cultivated New Zealand native orchids and a plant sale to die for.

Next weekend, on Friday the 17th, get ready to Charleston at the down-low delicious Black Rabbit Speakeasy. Assembled by some of Wellington’s cabaret finest, this is: “Our very own, one-night-only, custom-built speakeasy and dance hall. We’ve taken everything that made the the 1920’s twinkle and roar, and bound it with contemporary prohibition and the lasting need to party. ” Tickets are $20, a bargain considering the lineup.

There’s a new made to measure clothier in Wellington, Velvet Cherry. Full disclosure: I helped with her website and some catalog/portfolio photos, which meant I got to look at her steampunk, lolita, and Victorian garments from the inside out. And I was impressed. She does wonderful formal and occasion wear, costumes, AND fuller-than-usual-but-not-full-out-crinoline petticoats that are ideal under pinup dresses. She focuses on natural fabrics and excellent finishes.

Slider-Victorian2And finally our Jo Malone giveaway winner, chosen by random draw, is….Chrissi! Chrissi, I am getting in touch with you.

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Fragifert Fragrance in Wellington, NZ

In late September,with the Capital! Steampunk group, I spent an hour and a half at Fragifert: a small, exquisite boutique perfumery in Wellington. It was a wonderful way to beguile a rainy, early spring afternoon.


Francesco van Eerd, the master perfumer at Fragifert, shows us German camomile extract – which is naturally blue!

For visitors, Fragifert is conveniently located at the top of the Kelburn cable car next to the Botanic Gardens. To Wellington perfumistas, I say: don’t be dismayed by its tourist-target location. Visitors make Fragifert sustainable as a business, but behind the fantastical Victorian displays is a deep love and knowledge of perfume as an art. Francesco van Eerd, the perfumer and proprietor, has studied in Europe and got started in Wellington’s markets before establishing his salon and expanding his range.

Van Eerd enjoys visitors, and gave us a tour and shared a video of the Fragifert concept with us. Serious perfumistas were delighted by the distilling technology, and felt our fingers itch when we looked at his “perfumer’s organ” desk.


Fragifert’s recreation of a “perfume organ” – the classic center for composing and creating scents from base notes.

You can have a sample…but you need to work for it by getting 4 out of 7 results right in an interactive fragrance quiz! We worked our way through the scents hiding in the bell jars on the wall. I was shocked to only get the minimum number right, as was my botanically knowledgeable partner.


A friend who won a sample after running the fragrance gauntlet.

Scented paper slips awaited us, but many of the fragrances underwent a profound transformation on our skins. Our favorites were the seasonal Autumn and Winter scents, velvety Satrape, and the newer men’s scents. The on-note single botanicals also had their fans. Violet and carnation spurred us to discuss popular Victorian perfumes. “This lilac! It smells exactly like the lilac growing outside my window when I was a little girl.”

For our group, Fragifert’s most controversial scent of all was the gorse botanical fragrance. “Oh, I love this. It smells like summer.” “I HATE this – it reminds me of cutting gorse, that’s a pig of a job!” We detected the warm note of gorse in the Autumn scent.


Prepared fragrance slips: a great way to share many scents with a group of 15 people.

Capital!Steampunk dressed for the occasion – between the rain and the fact that I had just come from a photo shoot for a web client, I didn’t. We were all welcome, though those who were in their steampunk finery looked perfect in the jewel-box of a shop. Afterwards, everyone was invited by Capital!Steampunk to a hotel high tea.


I was sadly short of photos of steampunk attendees on the day, but here’s a handsome couple, with the lady in red the mistress-mind of Steaming Stiches and Elisabeth vM.

Fragifert is launching a unique, custom-distilled NZ botanical range later this Antipodean spring, and provides perfumer’s workshops if you want to make your own unique scent. I’m going to sound like a commercial here but with the holidays coming, Fragifert’s scents are great unique gifts to send overseas in small packages. Important now that NZ Post has raised their rates, and now that I have bombarded my relatives and friends with fifteen years’ worth of merino, tinned butter, wildlife and plant magnets, and other Kiwiana.


More fanciful Fragifert furbelows


Oamaru Victorian Heritage Weekend: Oamaru Itself

More photos from Oamaru Victorian Heritage weekend – this time, focusing on Oamaru itself. With the delicious food, the quirky establishments reusing abandoned buildings, and the grand event, Oamaru feels like it has been taken over by a tribe of artistic best friends who turned it into the New Zealand medium-small town of their dreams.


Here I am getting my 1893 on at the walk-in vintage radio museum. My costume is thrifted, except for the Chinese silver belt buckle and the hat made by my friend Khaybee.


The $5 cheese tasting plate at Whitestone Cheese, with glimpses of their brick-sized cheese scones.


Blue cod with bacon, the fish of the day, and St. Germain cocktails with elderflowers at the fabled Fleur’s in Moeraki.


Not only did we not have a lot of time to visit the Moeraki boulders, but they were clogged with other tourists on a fine spring Saturday. I would have liked to spend more time contemplating them, in fine rain, with just my immediate companions on the beach. Here, some of the boulders have eroded, while one of the remaining naturally spherical stones stands alone.


Pennyfarthings and cyclists at the parade.


A glimpse of the opulence inside the Grainstore Gallery.

What a prodigious engine! One of the interactive steamworks outside Steampunk HQ.

What a prodigious engine! One of the interactive steamworks outside Steampunk HQ.


Inside the strange post-industrial art installation called Steampunk HQ. Machines wheeze, images flicker, and steam alternates with stone-chilled air.


Our travel companions were beseeched to join in the costume parade on Sunday, held indoors at the Scottish Hall. Khaybee has resumed her handmade late Edwardian hat, adorned with roses, birds, and feathers.

All this machinery was irresistible to the adventurous!

All this machinery was irresistible to the adventurous!

I haven’t even noted the Explorers’ Club – a useful base for the weekend – the two historical dances, the bookbinders and artists, the stone-carving competition, or the steam engines and vintage vehicles and hot air balloons. Thrifting at the op shops might have been rewarding, too. If you’re snapping away with your camera, drop some coins into the donation boxes that are at many venues.

And do make your lodging reservations (and reservations at Fleur’s) in advance, especially for event weekends like the upcoming paired Oamaru on Fire/Steampunk Weekend next May/June. The only negative thing I noted about Oamaru: I had terrible, terrible hayfever the whole November weekend. Peonies and roses were in bloom in the town, and the pasture in the surrounding countryside was in its full glory. Bring all your medications. I should have avoided dairy, but between the cheese and the incredible ice cream handmade at Deja Moo, well…

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Oamaru Victorian Heritage Weekend: Oh, The Costumes

Two weeks ago, I was at the Oamaru Victorian Heritage Celebration weekend. Oamaru says it’s New Zealand’s only Victorian town. Looking through my photos, I’m reeling at the amount of fantastic Victorian costuming on the streets. With no further ado: many costumed photos.


I believe these elegant costumes and costumers came down from Auckland. Downcast eyes = so period.


A fortuitous sunbeam…


This lady caused a photography traffic jam when she posed for me!


A delightful family watching the parade.


The friends who encouraged me to come to Oamaru said that all levels of costuming were welcomed. Three historically accurate costumes.


Belles and beaus on parade on Saturday.


March of the suffragettes! New Zealand gained women’s suffrage in 1893. Note the purple, green, and white outfits – the colors of the suffragette movement.


A close up on some of the suffragettes, with bonus pennyfarthings.


The steampunk contingent! -salutes-


A happy, happy crowd, in the midst of the Victorian district.

People on the street were extremely gracious about posing, even about being moved into the shade for better shots – thank you, everyone! There was a Costume Parade in the Scottish Hall on Sunday, for some prizegiving and for serious costume review. Unfortunately, while the costumed gentlemen and ladies were happy as posing flaneurs on the street, they got hasty on stage, so I didn’t get the greatest photos.

Tomorrow I’ll do a general travel post about the festivities and the Oamaru area. And you’ll get to see my costume.

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Friday Follies: Bohemian Rhapsody

I told you were were all going to be hippies this coming summer. Burning Man happened for the 27th time this week, and “festival fashion” is a thing. Not only is there a “burner look“, but other festivals such as Glastonbury and Coachella are being mined for their style concepts.

It’s no use going to Burning Man and the like if your brain isn’t switched on. I’m enjoying this regular coallation of science news links by Aimee Whitcroft, Wellington-based geek extraordinare and the coordinator of Nerdnite Wellington. Get it in your feed and feel your IQ soar.

If the idea of wearing a wee wreath of flowers with your gumboots is too depressing, be inspired by my style crush of the week: “goth punk steampunky bohemian fairy” over at Couturgatory!

Or, check out the deliciously raw jewelry from Shh by Sadie – the creator alternates between being in Wellington, NZ and Wales. I saw some of her goodies at Rex Royale on Cuba Street recently. Hoping she restocks her Etsy store soon…

Shh by Sadie is having an arm party and you’re invited – click to view her full collection!

To rock your bohemian self, Aethercon is coming to Wellington again in the second weekend of October, with a theme of “post-apocalyptic steampunk.” I’m emceeing the daytime events and costume competitions, so start planning for your post-crash utopian looks. There’s also a steampunk ball that evening, with performers, plus costumes judged by visiting boylesque luminary Ray Gunn.

Lastly, Bohemian Rhapsody by the Muppets.

This lady, by the way, is magnificently tall

Steampunk Style Everyday…As Seen At Aethercon

One of the delights of Aethercon was seeing other people who had steampunk as a part of their everyday wardrobes. Here’s some inspiring highlights.


Loved loved loved this girl. A good deal of her ensemble came from Covent Garden in London, and she asserts that she dresses like this all the time.

We should have gears and dials on our everyday handbags but only if they functionSteampunk with a piratical flair. Remove the costume-flair pennants and perhaps swap out the blouse, and this ensemble of boots-skirt-military jacket-Jolly Rogers can board and sink us three seasons a year.

It's all going on hereThe tailored layers, the textures, the accessories – even if she left the silver-topped cane at home, she’s ready for high tea anywhere.

This lady, by the way, is magnificently tallCream, white, taupe, and black are layered together deliciously – and note her crocodile handbag on the floor!

This is what I'm talking about, mmm hmmm

She kindly let me take a close-up of her bejeweled, manicured hands and her vintage jade, gold, and pearl sword brooch.

Note the steampunk ensemble in the background

And finally, this irresistible moment courtesy of BodyFX. An everyday look for an alternative steampunk universe. What we can take from it is that great toast-turquoise-and-gold color scheme.

Unseen Things is on Etsy, most of her jewels get snatched up before they are posted.

Steampunk Style Everyday

Hustlin' that bustle

Steampunk costume. Note the hat, the voluminous sleeves, and the deep bustled skirt. Photo courtesy of the steampunk event, Aethercon, and Paradox Photography.

Steampunk and me: we were meant to be. My love of science history and natural science “wunderkammers” – my lifelong vintage clothing + jewelry collection, which began at about age 14, when a British great-aunt left us her miscellaney of Victorian jewelry, laces, and photographs – my naturally prim face, which can be traced back to those Victorian photos. Steampunk ties it all up with a bow and a couple of gears, just for the looks of it, and encourages us to tell stories about the fantastical fictional worlds where tech-friendly, remixed clothes of yesteryear would be everyday wear.

As a science-fiction/fantasy genre, steampunk has refreshed the fun of being a sci-fi fan, revitalized steam-technology museums, and even increased interest in Victorian architecture. Steampunk is a delightful Victorian manse in the air, with many rooms, but is it possible to rifle through its wardrobes for every day?

I wish to debunk three huge fallacies about steampunk style:

  • Steampunk style is for costuming only. Not so! I incorporate steampunk items all the time. My more “everyday” steampunk-flavored looks set aside strong costume elements – long skirts, hats, and ray guns – and give normal garments a twist.
  • Steampunk style is based on a muted brown/gold palette. Like these looks here.– It’s often said that “steampunk is what happens when goths discover brown.” My everyday steampunk look is, admittedly, exhibit A. But steampunk can be done up in any color palette you desire. Club-room Victorian colors seem like naturals (navy, hunter, burgundy, amber) but the Victorians themselves loved what artificial aniline dyes could do for their wardrobes. And there’s no reason that the pastels of the late 1800s and the Regency aren’t steampunk. So if you aren’t an “autumn”, you can still get steampunky.

    I can get in and out of cars by myself in this and I don't get caught on furniture. Yay modernity!

    Steampunk flavored for a night out. This survived an 80-km Wellington wind…can’t say the same for my hair in this picture!

  • Steampunk style is hard to find. – Granted, not everyone has a great-aunt who empties the lumber room for you, but most of my key steampunky pieces were thrifted or second-hand. Victoriana and “the military look” come and go.

You can steampunk it up by adding any of the following to your style, with some basic polish as a foundation.

  • Outerwear/The “Third Piece” – A button-and-buckle laden coat, a nipped-waist jacket, or a tailored vest.
  • Detail and Richness – Pattern and texture, quality and patina. Brocade, stitching and fabric layering. Tweed and leather. Buttons. More buttons. All the buttons! Perversely, I like mixing Arts and Crafts patterns into steampunk looks, even though the Arts and Crafts crew were entirely against 19th century industrialization. Brocade jeans are having a moment, by the way.
  • Jewelry – Steampunk rewards those who love good bling. A simple outfit framing steampunk jewelry is a great way to evoke steampunk 24/7.
  • Victorian/Edwardian Looks – Buttoned gloves, buttoned or laced footwear, lavish blouses, a purse with embellished silver hardware, a hat or headband, even some real vintage in a scarf, fur, bag, or jewel.
  • Bump Up The Quality – Speaking of jeans, it is indeed possible to have jeans and sneakers as the backdrop for all these steampunk accoutrements – if the jeans are trim-fitting and fresh, and the sneakers are smooth dark leather or brocade fabric. Be thoughtful about your foundation wardrobe – quality never hurts. It’s my experience that people who like steampunk are smarter than average, and I’m confident that you can extrapolate on this.

My next post is going to showcase five successful “everyday steampunk” looks that I snapped at Aethercon, the New Zealand steampunk convention. So you’ll see all of this in action tomorrow.

Unseen Things is on Etsy, most of her jewels get snatched up before they are posted.

Steampunk necklaces by Unseen Things.

Some links for steampunk and vintage inspiration…

  • Aethercon – New Zealand’s steampunk convention. Held last weekend in Wellington, it was absolutely fantastic and you should come along next year!
  • Steampunk Oamaru – The delightful Victorian town of Oamaru in New Zealand hosts twice-annual steampunk festivities.
  •  Brass Goggles – A very fine blog for the steampunk aficionado.
  • 2D Goggles – Amusing web comics about a version of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage…who fight crime!
  • Gail Carringer – Her Parasol Protectorate series is engaging steampunk romance/comedy, complete with awful millinery. And Gail Carringer herself, when I met her, was a lovely person, even when being mobbed at a Worldcon. Her retro style blog is separate from her author blog.
  • Vintage Textile – Do not stop, proceed directly to the Victorian/Edwardian textiles.
  • The Three Graces – Estate jewelry, and how.
  • Vintage Skins – Again, check out the Victorian/Edwardian section – authentic bags from the period that often look surprisingly contemporary.