Finishing up aviation week is a tutorial on how to make your own bomber hat! This, like the coveralls and bomber jacket, came into fashion in an era when flying could mean death- or just the loss of an ear to frostbite. Stay warm and fly high, my friends!
Note: This tutorial uses flannel, faux fur, and yarn for the flap strings. When ratcheting up your steampunk meter, consider replacing the fabric with leather, for extra warmth, or with satin or some other foppish fabric/pattern, for the gentlemen aviator. The one thing I wouldn’t do is add metal bits; this is something designed to keep you warm, and stray bits of metal near your face are a good way to get a gear stuck to your tongue!
The gentleman pictured above is William “Wild Bill” Hopson, a pilot for the US Airmail in the the 1910s and 20s. He was a classic trickster, talented enough to charm his way out of the trouble he got into during his 400,000 mile flight career (source). The photo itself is part of the America by Air permanant gallery in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., and, like all Smithsonian museums, is free to the public!
Exhibits like this are priceless when you need inspiration or references; if you are in the D.C. area (or a reasonable trainride away in the East Coast Megalopolis), take some time to go. See the scale of the jackets, how they hang. Look at in the cockpits, and figure how much space they really had. Especially on the oldest planes, which had open air cockpits.
What we think of as flight jackets or bomber jackets are a uniform item issued by the US military to help keep pilots from freezing their joysticks off as they flew thousands of feet above the earth. Similar clothing would be handy for anyone who flies- airship captains, dragonriders, and winged folk alike must deal with the chill of the heights. Icarus was more likely to fall from ice on his wings than melting wax; hence Mr. Hopson’s ensemble of a flight jacket underneath an even larger, insulated coverall. And if you want a flight jacket of your own…
Soulmates Zippered Front Pockets Snap Closure Collar Stitched Pleated Bodice Bomber Jacket via Amazon. Brown. 100% Polyester. Sizes: Juniors M-XL. $40. (The sleeves on this make it particularly suitable for esteemed ladies of the skies.)
REMETEE by Affliction Touchdown Cotton Bomber Casual Mens Jacket via Amazon. Brown. %100 Cotton. Men’s S-XXL. $45
Image credit: Image number 2007-13835 via the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum.
If you examine the middle parts of the lady on the right of this image- not those middle parts, get your mind out of Shakespeare’s gutter- you will find a muff. Not that kind of muff! Look, what kind of pervert are you?
A muff is a perfectly innocent word for a round tube of fur that was popular as a cold-weather garment for a span of three hundred years, from the 1600s through the early 1900s (source and source). It was unisex for the first 200 years of its popularity, though it became a ladies-only garment by the Victorian Era. It’s hardly a combat appropriate, but it is rather small and compact; something to keep with you on those long trails. It would be even more effective as an accessory for one of those incredibly long-lived night-walking bloodsuckers everyone’s so fond of; the kind of touch that reveals a person a bit behind the times.
Photo is of Marvel Rea (left), Fred Sterling (center), and Alice Maison (right), circa 1919, via Wikimedia Commons. The work is in the Public Domain.
But if you want a muff of your very own…
It’s been a warmer winter than usual in much of the US, which has me wondering about whale intestines.
Wait. That’s not right. It’s been a warmer winter than usual in much of the US, which has me wondering about winter garb other than heavy wool cloaks, which has me researching artic weather adaptations, which lead me to discover the whale intestine jackets that the Chukchi designed to waterproof themselves when kayaking in the artic circle. An example is pictured above, on the left.
Normally I save DIY projects for Friday, but this one is so simple I can’t resist. All you need to do is buy a plastic rain poncho, and leave it in the sun for a few days so that the plastic turns that aged, yellow color. If you want to get extra fancy, you could sew some horizontal seams to mimic the seams in the original jacket (where the intestines were attached to each other. You could also get a similar effect by sewing or gluing on strips of elastic, but make sure to use plenty; you want the jacket to pucker a little, not to cling to your torso. Now you, too, can appear to be wrapped up in the digestive material of a whale!
Whale Intestine Jacket Image Source: Amazing Life of Chukchi
Other Poncho Options:
4 Pack Clear Emergency Rain Poncho with Drawstring Hood & Sleeve via Amazon. One Size Fits All. $9 for a pack of 4
Design Your Own Poncho by Absorbant Printing. One Size Fits All. $11 per poncho for a run of twelve with a single-color logo; $12.20 per poncho for a run of twelve with a dual-color logo. Great for tabards, if aged properly!
One of the most delicious feelings in the world is wrapping up in warm, woolen clothing and sipping a mug of spiced wine while playing Skyrim. Or while snuggling with your loved ones. Or both!
One of the shittiest feelings in the world is feeling your agility slip away as the cold seeps into your fingers after hours on the trail- seeing another group of monsters appear, exhaustedly wrapping your hands around a weapon, thinking of the hearth at the tavern and knowing the only thing to keeping you warm now is adrenaline and the blood of your enemies.
Keeping warm this time of year was a subject I found deeply interesting as a larper in the American Midwest; I *like* having fingers and toes. The best thing I discovered was that knitted clothing dates back to the 1200s century CE in Europe. This includes all kinds of things- hats, shirts, stockings, even gloves. Knits have more stretch than woven items, which made them particularly popular for things like socks and stockings because you could get a more fitted experience.
If your character is from a fictional culture, the only technological requirements for knitting are the ability to make smooth knitting needles, the ability to make yarn, and some sort of herd animal to get the yarn from. This is damn near anything with fur- camelhair sweaters show just how varied the source animal can be. Alternatively, the culture in question might import them from another culture with all of those things; in that case, it would make visual sense for the knitted items to look substantially different from the rest of that character’s kit.
Normally, I would have photos of specific items but let’s face it- it’s cyber Monday. The prices will be off in 24 hours and stuff has been going out of stock all day. I’d still recommend the usual suspects- etsy is the center of my universe for finding cute knit things, and if you can make them yourself, Violet Von has some awesome steampunk patterns.
Painting is by Stanley Cursiter The Fair Isle Jumper (1923), courtesy of the Edinburgh City Art Centre. It’s a bit late for most Steampunk, but still adorable as all get out!
Historically, they are most known for their use in the Andes. Ponchos had were well established by the time the Spanish arrived in the mid 1500s, but the garment itself is so simple that any society that weaves cloth is capable of creating a poncho. They would be a sensible piece of all-weather gear for any character.
Instructions for making a poncho:
There are obviously more complex designs, but basic technology is… well… basic. You could decorate them like a tabard, or add special designs that are meaningful to your character as an individual.
Steampunk note: Ponchos have been in use by the US military since the mid 1800s.
Left: Suedette Poncho with Hoodie by Forever 21. 100% Polyester. Available in multiple sizes, color as shown. $33
Right: Suedette Poncho by Forever 21. 100% Polyester. Available in multiple sizes, color as shown. $50
I have a confession: I have wanted a union suit for years. I used to do CRM Archaeology, and every time I was shivering my butt off in single digit weather (Fahrenheit), I was super jealous of my coworkers who had union suits. Besides, when nature is your powder room, a removable back panel makes a difference!
Union suits were invented around the same time as jeans. Originating from Uttica, New York, the first union suit was patented in 1868. They were initially a ladies undergarment and part of the Victorian dress reform movement that advocated for women to wear more practical, less restricting clothing. Union suits quickly jumped the gender line, becoming popular with American men as well. They caught on in England shortly after 1878, when a German book claiming that only clothing made from animal hair was healthy was published. An Englishman translated and sold the book in his new shop- one that happened to specialize in clothing made exclusively from animal hair.
All this being the case, it would be eminently reasonable for a steampunk adventurer exploring the colder parts of the world to include a union suit as part of his or her adventuring ensemble.
Top: Vintage Duofold Union Suit from Etsy. Only available as shown. Inner layer is cotton, outer layer is wool. (Wool was what people used before Underarmor- it pulls moisture away from your body, making it an excellent bottom layer material for physical activity in cold weather.) $35
Bottom Left:Unisex Rib Henley One-Piece by American Apparel. Sizing is unisex. Comes in Black, Brown, Cranberry, Rose, Grape Juice, Navy, Dark Sea Green, and Forest (shown). This one does not come with a rear opening! 100% cotton. $38
Bottom Right: Midweight Cotton Union Suit by Carhartt. Available in men’s sizes. Only in Red. 100% cotton. $42
(All of these are only available in Red)
Men’s XXL at Wal-mart. Doesn’t state what the fabric is. $18
Indera Men’s Classic Union Suit at Tractor Supply. 100% cotton. Prices and size availability vary by location; my local price was $22
Duofold Midweight Union Suit in Small-2XL. This is the same cotton/wool fabric as above. Most sizes $38