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Steampunk Mission

Steampunk Mission, Arms Akimbo
Steampunk Mission,
Arms Akimbo
Steampunk Mission is actually a character based on my period accurate pirate surgeon persona - Raphael Mission. To explain that persona in detail would take hundreds of pages. (And, in fact, it has. You can read them all at my Pirate Surgeon's Journal website if it interests you.) In sum, I created my pirate surgeon reenactment character R. Mission in 2007 after hanging around pirate history forums for 5+ years. I've been going to events and educating the public about surgical techniques from the golden age of pirates (about 1690 - 1725) ever since.

When I decided to go to Dragoncon In 2013 at my friend Jana's request, I wasn't fully Raphael Mission in 2007
Surgeon Raphael Mission In
His Proper Environment
committed to the costuming process and decided rather than create a character for each of the three days I'd be there, I'd just wear my Raphael Mission garb and call it good. Of course, being at an event that celebrates pop culture heroes meant that few people had any idea what or who I was. So I was ignored me for the most part. (A few people recognized my garb as being from the 17th century and I got a couple photo requests, but I decided that Mission was not really a Dragoncon thing.)

On top of that, I actually felt kind of funny about using my period accurate stuff at a costume event. This will probably sound strange, but I honestly don't regard my Raphael Mission garb as a costume. Maybe it's because I have been doing the character for so long or maybe it's because I have so much time, money and energy invested in Mission and his tools. I don't know for sure, but somehow it felt a bit demeaning to bring Mission to an event where people were wearing fantastic costumes representing characters from anime, superheroes, fantasy, sci-fi and beyond.

Mission, Stynky and Braze Dragoncon 2013
Mission, Braze and Stynky at Dragoncon 2013
However, while I was wearing the Mission garb, I got together with pirate friends Stynky Tudor and Braze. They knew better than to come as pirates and were dressed in steampunk finery.

I have never totally understood steampunk because there are no discernible rules regarding how to effectively costume yourself as a 'proper' steampunk character. It's sort of Victorian-era clothing with gears and goggles and whatnot. While I readily embrace creativity, I've found that the best creative projects often works within some framework, sometimes bursting through them, but at least acknowledging them. So steampunk had never appealed to me that much.

However, Stynky stuck his goggles on the iconic (well, iconic within the pirate reenactment world) Patrick Hand Original™ Planter's Hat and I knew I was going to have to develop a steampunk version of Mission for Dragoncon 2014.

Goggles and Gadgets

The first thing I wanted were goggles for the Patrick Hand hat. (This was the key to the costume IMO.) So I poked around until I found Mann and Company out of Israel who made a pair that seemed elegant enough for the hat. I wasn't in a Goggles and Gear
Steampunk Mission Goggles and Gear. The Parts
Include (front) 3 Folding Pocket Tools (Fleam,
tenaculum and bistoury knife among other things),
(middle) A Speculum and Pair of Forceps,
and (back a Small Bottle and the Ubiquitous Goggles
rush and I am forever trying to think of things to put on my Christmas list, so I stuck them on there and wound up getting them that way.

The next thing I wanted was to get some surgeon's tools and put them into bicep armbands. I had gotten this idea from Mickey Flint's 2013 Dragoncon steampunk costume. Mickey is another pirate reeanctor and a good friend of Jana's. (You can see him in his 2014 Dragoncon Steampunk garb in the photo in the section below.)

In order to make the arm bands, however, I first needed to find the tools that would go in them. The arm bands had to be built around the tools. I decided I wanted one arm band to contain surgical tool and the other to contain apothecary tools and medicine. These were two important facets of surgery from my Mission persona.

I wanted the tools to be 19th century because that would fit the rules I imagined would be used for Steampunk costumes. I also sought slightly gadgety things, which also fit the rules I imagined for Steampunk. Since I search the medical auctions on eBay every week looking for pirate-era pieces, I added this new, 19th century stuff to the list, seeking pieces that were not more than 3 or 4 inches in length.

armband for medicines
The Apothecary Medicines Armband
For the medicine arm band, I wanted a short glass syringe (a luxury not found in 17th century medicine) without a sharp needle and several multi-colored bottles that were no more than 3" tall.

It took a couple months, but I eventually found all of the tools, medicine bottles and even the syringe. I sent them my friend armband for tools
The Medical Tools Armband
Trish of Shananigens in Leather who created the arm bands for me. She actually asked me if I wanted design-tooled leather or gears in the armbands, but I demurred. I am an engineer and I can't understand why you would add gears to something if they didn't function.

You can see the final arm bands on either side of this text.

I should note that I had originally planned to paint all the medical tools with brass colored paint, but I couldn't bring myself to deface antique medical tools just to make my Steampunk costume look more Steampunky. They weren't even that expensive in the scheme of things, but considering that they had survived this long without being painted brass-color by some goofball, I decided not to be the person who did that.

Clothing

The Steampunk Mission and Mickey Flint
Steampunk Mission and Mickey Flint
clothing part of my concept for Steampunk Mission was actually pretty simple. I wanted to use certain elements of my pirate surgeon character that I thought were iconic to the people familiar with my pirate surgeon character. I knew I wanted to just use my regular blue pirate surgeon shirt that Michael and Jessica Bagley had made for me years before, for example.

A lot of the Steampunk characters seem to have tall boots, so I decided to reuse the boots from my Captain Antilles Rebel Fleet Trooper costume for footwear. (I would have actually preferred black boots, but since this was sort of an experiment and I already had to haul two pairs of tall boots to the event in Atlanta (the RFT boots and a pair I used with my Sith Bith costume), I didn't want to add another pair of heavy footwear to my load. (Plus I just didn't want to have to buy them. I don't seem to have very good luck finding boots that fit me well.) So RFT boots it was!

The vest was a key part of the costume for me. Late 17th/early 18th century men's clothing usually includes a waistcoat, which at that time was like a long vest that goes down A Waistcoat
Photo: Stolen
Simon Tam's Brown Waistcoat
to about mid-thigh. I am not a fan of this style. I have never been a fan of this style. However, I recognize that if I want to be period accurate, that's what I should wear. So I do.

Of course, Steampunk has no such restrictions, which, in this case at least, was a big plus. Although I am not a rabid Firefly fan, I always liked the character of the doctor on the show - Simon Tam. Being a doctor, he also proved an appropriate source for my Steampunk Mission outfit. I recalled that he wore waistcoats reminiscent of the Victorian age, so I decided I wanted to emulate that for the Steampunk costume I was creating.

Based on this discussion on instructables.com, I also learned that the waistcoat seen in the photo at left even appeared to have fabric-wrapped buttons - just like my own Golden Age of Piracy era waistcoat! So this was obviously a good source for the style of vest I wanted.

My friends Michael and Jessica Bagley had made Mission's original brown waistcoat, so I asked them if they would make me a Simon Tam style waistcoat from the same fabric with the same kind of fabric-covered buttons. The Bagleys do terrific work and I would be lost without them and I was pleased that they agreed to make this for me. Besides, I love this style. If I could get away with wearing this new waistcoat for pirate events and still be period accurate, I would.

Steampunk Mission and Clair
Steampunk Mission and Clair
The pants are also sort of based on Simon Tam. I opted for plain black trousers. I think if I were to do this character again, I might choose dark blue to try and better match the shirt, but black seemed to work fine.

The Steampunk Mission costume actually didn't even get as much attention as the regular Mission the surgeon garb did the year before. This is perhaps in part because I didn't wear it as much.

The evening I wore this, our group was going to the Steampunk Masquerade at Dragoncon. Most of the rest of the group had decided to go as Catrinas, so my Steampunk surgeon didn't really fit in with them.

The other people at the Masquerade were all dressed in a similar fashion to me, albeit more fantastically, so I didn't really stand out there either. Talking after the event, my friend Jana suggested if I wanted to get noticed, I might opt for more visible surgical tools or a bloody apron or something similar. (I saw a number plague doctor masks on steampunk folks, so maybe that would have helped. Except then I'd have to wear a plague doctor mask.)

Whatever the case, it was a nice, easy costume and I know my pirate reenacting friends appreciated it for what is was. It was also a good costume for accessing a camera so I've included some photos I got at the Masquerade below.

Steampunk Mission and Red Girl
Steampunk Mission & Red Girl
Steampunk Mission and Stormtrooper
Steampunk Mission & Stormtrooper
Steampunk Misison and Alligator
Steampunk Mission and Hook Alligator