Steampunk Your Princess

Life Design Action: Steampunk Your Princess

Requires; Originality

Does not require: Anything pink

On Friday 13th I delivered the 2nd part of the Gorgeousness Programme to a group of teenage girls. This involved 1-1 sessions, during which I began to observe the extent to which young people today are controlled by their looks. Every girl – irrespective of their attractiveness – was internally tortured by what they perceived as their own physical imperfections and was on a desperate quest to overcome these imperfections. For each young woman their desire for physical self improvement was massively limiting their potential.

 As parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and siblings, how can we help our little ladies grow into amazing women who are destined to play BIG in this world? How can we steer them away from the media-sold ideal of becoming another pore-less princess with tattooed eyebrows, mute on every level bar the visual?

Rethinking the Christmas gifts we give them is a pretty good start.


On 13/12/13 Pix turned 13.

She is now officially a teenager, which is …

… a little disconcerting.

Looking back, I was completely off-the-rails and a wild-child who tortured her parents with endless shenanigans aged 13. So, when considering the innocence and serenity of the Pix, I silently thank the gods.  Yesterday we did our usual tradition for birthdays. I crept downstairs early and decorated the kitchen with balloons, streamers and table confetti. Then Pix’s gifts and cards were piled in a regal stack. I also found some shiny purple and gold venetian masks so when she came down from her room, everyone was lurking around like strange masked dancers in the  ball scene on Labyrinth.

Initially Pix was mildly disturbed by the welcome. Then disturbance gave way to happiness. She opened her gifts, ate a stack of pancakes cooked by Ads, dressed in her funky new birthday clothes delivered at 7am by Nanny G, blew out the candles on a luxurious chocolate extravaganza baked again by … yes … Ads, twirled off to school in a cloud of birthday-girl self importance and with the promise of sleep-overs and 3D Hobbit viewings at Cineworld that night.

The House of

I am so relieved and happy that she had such a gorgeous day.

And now it’s all over I get to face my usual Dec 14th dilemma titled,

 Right. What The Heck Do I Get Pix For Xmas Now Her Birthday Is Over?

Having a sprog born right before Christmas when you are already spending a fortune on gifts is one thing, but having a daughter who is born right before Christmas and is now a teenager and no longer plays with toys is Even More Difficult. And once one has exhausted gift-creation reserves for a birthday, one is suddenly faced with the ordeal of trying to work out what to get them for Christmas as well.

Pix is no help.

I say to her, “Pix what would you like for Christmas?”

And she replies, “I don’t know. I’ve got everything that I want. I guess I’m at that funny age where I’ve grown out of toys.”

Then she wanders off.


Pix truly has no idea the angst and nail-biting stress that finding her the right gifts creates in me.  She has no concept that due to already owning a phone, a laptop, an ipod and music system that other options are thin on the ground.  Ever since she was little I’ve tried my hardest to steer away from toys that would funnel her solely towards being pretty, passive and obsessed with fashion and make-up . Yet now, with Pix as a young teenager, my choices of gifts for her are slimmed down to … well …  size 0 …

Aside from her main gift, a sporty gift and some books, I’ve barely bought her a thing. The choice I have appears to be little more than candy pink make up sets, clothes, bath stuff, perfume and jewellery.

Is there anything out there for girls that doesn’t involve accessorising or objectifying?

It’s sending me a bit doo-lally.

If you have some ideas, I’d really love to hear them.

 The other day I found myself striding around the shops looking for something that wouldn’t initiate Pix into a world of complete body objectification. I wanted something that allowed her an experience of creativity and empowerment. Something … BEYOND pink.

Headed into Waterstones and stood for some time in front of the various shelves. Fingered my way through the arts/craft section;

“Design your own shoe collection!”

 “Become a fashion designer!”

“My Fabulous Fashion.”

“Fashion Model; Design your own catwalk collection!”

Er … no.

Then, tucked right at the very end, I noticed THIS book.

The House of Bethan

Er … yes!

This little book is jam packed full of amazing Steampunk creations – some to wear, some to display. It is cool, quirky, creative and it is not PINK. I quickly purchased it then began an on-going mission to supply Pix with everything she needed to become a Steampunk Inventor of Gorgeousness.

The House of Bethan

First I got a box with lots of different compartments.

I also found a proper watch-maker/menders kit so that she can pick up all of the intricate cogs and pieces from inside any timepieces she dismantles!

The House of Bethan

The next job was to begin filling the compartments of the box with all sorts of trinkets and curiosities that she can use to make her Steampunk pieces. Many of these Ads has been purchasing through Ebay (unknown to him) and then much to his surprise they’ve been arriving in little brown packages. Thanks Ads, you lovely thing!

The House of Bethan  Buttons and chains …

The House of Bethan

Clock faces, hands and keys …

The House of Bethan

Velvet ribbons, wire and components for joining things …

The House of Bethan

I LOVE this Pix Present so much!! Such unexpected treasure.

It’s going to stretch her creativity, her horizons and her imagination. It doesn’t lock her into a small world of pink and princesses or hair curlers and diamond cat jumpers. And yeah – I may have gotten her a few little bits and bobs to experiment with her “look” – ie. nail varnish and a few little things, but they are more like paper confetti around the doorway to gifts that offer the REAL keys to INDIVIDUALITY, SELF AWARENESS, CREATIVITY AND CONFIDENCE.

Finally, I just had to find and post a clip of this scene from the ball scene in Labyrinth because after mentioning Venetian masks on Pix’s bday morning, I can’t get it out of my head. What’s mad is that I’ve just watched it and there’s an amazing symbolic connection to this post: Sarah is drugged by a piece of fruit that lulls her into an enchanted ball. She is dressed in a beautiful gown and adorned in jewels. Yet underneath the folds of fabric, she is wearing jeans and a t-shirt and finally, realising she’s under a spell … smashes the princess bubble and gets back on with her true goal …

I’m dedicating this to all the girls on my Gorgeousness Programme – in the absolute belief that they are going to break the bubble too.

Please click this, watch it and tell me what you think.



18 thoughts on “Steampunk Your Princess

  1. I think that’s a wonderful present! I remember what we were like at 13… one big haven for me was books. I can highly recommend the Author Tamora Pierce (starting with the Tortall series of books, and going on to the Winding Circle) if Pix is at all a reader. Tammy writes brilliant books about and for teenagers, where the leads are almost always girls and women and avoiding all of the usual cliches. She explores complex stuff about choosing your dreams over how the rest of the world sees you, and the subtle ways sexism can work, all in rip-roaring fantasy settings, with plenty of sword fights, horses magic and adventure. I love them now, still read them regularly, and always suggest them to parents of girls.

  2. Oh, and if she likes the steampunk thing, there is a brilliant series by Gail Carrigher for teens that starts with a book called ‘Etiquette and Espionage’ which is set in a rather unusual finishing school for girls 🙂

    • Haha, I don’t know if she even knows what Steampunk is yet … (Except I did come home once with a pair of aviator goggles with brass spikes coming out of them that a client had made for me and she was pretty amazed by them). Will also have a google of Gail Carrigher … Thanks for links too. Are you back over xmas at all? xxx

  3. Hi Bethan
    Funnily enough, Aoife too loves steampunk and I have bought her a steampunk necklace from Bordeaux Christmas village which is clock pieces set in resin. You can buy resin from the art shop in Newport if you are interested! We are unfortunately a bit limited by what we can bring back from France in the aeroplane on Jan 2nd but Aoife would be made up with your present for Pix so we may be copying in the near future…
    Happy Christmas xxx

    • Hello Leah!! So lovely to hear from you. When I was on my mission to collect things for The Steampunk Box I did look for the resin stuff. The woman in the shop told me that its kind of like Fimo, which Pix has so I thought I’d leave it. When you say art shop – do you mean Forget-Me-Nots? That’s the other place I’d thought about looking … Love the fact that Aoife is a Steampunk Chick and would be hay with the pressie! That gives me hope for Pix, whose only real exposure to SP is probably The Northern Lights/Golden Compass books. Hope you guys have a wonderful time in France. With lots of love, Bethan xxx

  4. Alas, not home until sometime in the new year. My beloved is coming here to Groningen and we are going to be cave bears together 🙂 Next time I’m in the UK and on the Wight I’ll be more organised and let you know on FB and we can have tea and talk about books and life and your wonderful daughter x x x

    • You and your beloved being cave-bears in Groningen sounds lovely and v cosy. Hibernation is 100% appropriate for this time of year. Please make sure you give me a shout when you are over here next though as I’d love to see you. The tummy may have even sprouted this little man by then too. Completely different subject – have you ever done any excavations up in Thetford/Norfolk/Boudicca country? xxx

  5. Also, there is a chronology to the Tamora Pierce books… Song of the Lioness quartet (Alanna) comes first, then Wild Magic quartet (Daine) then Protector of the Small quartet (Kel – my favourite heroine) and the Trickster (2 books about Aly, Alanna’s daughter)… The come 3 books about Beka Cooper which are sort of prequels…The Winding Circle ones are a bit more straightforward.

    • Okay, so my plan is this: I am going to follow your advise and get some of these books and then when I am breast feeding my baba and sofa bound, I will be able to nourish my mind and imagination with some good rich reading. Was playing with the idea of getting Pix “Clan of the Cave Bear” – then couldn’t remember quite how graphic “certain” bits were. I think 13 is a good age for a bit of Ayla though. Don’t you?

      • We had read them by 13! Yes, graphic, but I don’t remember it being ‘too much’ but I’d make sure she knew she had space to talk about anything not OK in them with you, as the first one has as you know some strong violence. As cor digs in East Anglia, no, not exactly, but I did some of my PhD work at Flag Fen which is a Bronze Age wetland site near Peterborough 🙂 Happy to answer any questions you have though as I did study the area as an undergraduate x x x

      • Yeah – I thought that was the case. I just have a memory of Broud (?) and a some rather unwelcome advances. The reason I asked about Thetford is because I’ve been talking to Roo a lot about Romans and Celts and Boudicca. Suddenly realised that where I lived before we came to the Island was a tiny village called Methwold that was just next to Thetford which was where they reckon Boudicca had her strong hold. I would really like to go and have a root around up there – in museums and the landscape too – and take Roo with me. I think there was a big Iron Age mine literally down the road from our house called Grimes Graves. Ever heard of it? xxx

  6. Grimes Graves is a flint mine from the Neolithic! It’s open to the public. You and Roo could have wonderful archaeological adventures in that region – everything from the stone age through to Saxons (and beyond)…

    • Hi Kayt, I have been googling the place over the last few days and it looks like the place is only open between March and November. I am still going to go up there at the next opportunity though … even if it is just to walk around the “lunar landscape” and get my socks wet in the dew. xxx

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