I had a major critique of girl/female/woman steamers right from the start of Jeremy and my steampunk-ing a few years ago. It was that they were trying to be too masculine--they were trying to be like boys. . . but in a sexy way? (If that description makes any sense.) From over-sized welding goggles, to mini top hats, to just plain choosing to dress like a boy "character", there seemed to be a dearth of classy feminine options for steampunk clothing.
(I said classy feminine options, there was certainly enough brothel-worthy options out there--that's not the kind of "feminine" I'm after.)
The mini top hats have grown on me to tell the truth, and I did finally make myself a pair of feminine-styled goggles, but those both were girly versions of the most common boy accessories. I wanted something awesome, steampunk, and completely a female accessory.
I actually got my flash of inspiration in the February 2011 Country living magazine. They had a whole spread on Victorian Chatelaines-- a sort of Victorian woman's tool belt. Originally worn mostly by housekeepers they grew in popularity becoming adopted by wealthier women as well. They clipped at the waist and hung a number of functional pendants, needle and thimble cases, perfume vials, button hooks, little pencils and notebooks, or tiny coin purses, and they all were made of fine metals and highly ornamental like jewelry.
This is almost a definition of steampunk--the point where beauty and utility intersect.
pocketwatch pendant. I also got a pair of stork embroidery scissors--this was actually the first idea I had for a useful but beautiful tool I would be able to find. The heart locket belonged to one of my great or great-great grandmothers and is reminiscent of the vinagrette of the day. A vinaigrette would be perforated on the back side so that if a woman encountered a foul smell on the streets she could hold her vinaigrette (which would hold cotton soaked in vinegar or perfume) up to her nose. I'm sure I could actually put some solid perfume into the locket to give it a real utility. (Adding essential oils to my lotion bar recipe would do the trick.) And finally I have a key--fake unfortunately.
I would love to get the cool little pencil and pad of paper, or one of the little chain-mail-like coin purses. Those were a few things that I couldn't find or fabricate in time for this evening. But I was really happy with how my chatelaine turned out--I even needed to use it to check the time while we were waiting in the-worlds-longest-popcorn-line-ever to see if we were missing our movie yet.