Art of Steampunk

These are notes from a presentation at the FenCon in Addison, Texas this past weekend.

Kathleen O’Brien
(the bustle lady) QA for a living, been sewing since I was 4, seamstress techniques passed on from generations, in high school introduced to sf cons, great excuse to sew great costumes and run around in them (since 13), steampunk several years ago—take all the Victorian research I’ve done and re-use it. Been teaching about Victorian techniques.
Carrie Vaughn, wrote Harry and Marlowe steampunk series
Mel White, artist and scientist and writer, a couple of humorous pieces in art
Bev Hale, normally a writer, but got carried away into Steampunk, got in backwards; I was “just” going to make myself a hat. But then stuck in my house for 5 days… no plumbing. My husband calls and says “I had a hard day.” “Mount Gehenna and Lake Poo in my backyard.” Dogs inside and chasing cat. “Perhaps you should make a few things.” By the time he got home, I had a business. I don’t sew. But I am hell on wheels with accessories. Victorian hats, the more the better. If one tassel was good, 17 was better. Friend making hat… Showed her a Victorian hat… lace, feather, fruit, and 2 dead ferrets. Until you have the 3rd ferret, you haven’t gone too far.
Last year Julie Barrett made a 3-ferret hat. Now we have to change it to a 4-ferret hat.
Kathleen— Cleaning out my aunt’s house. They were stoles from the 1920s. Gave the stoles to Julie Barrett. Little beady eyes and looked at you.

Tea gown= don’t have to wear a corset under it because some of them are so covering, I wear a tee shirt and shorts under it.

9Worlds 2014 steampunk masks-6222Description … art and steampunk and themes that show up.
One of the things I like the most is it is such a mix. History, creativity, and art, and sometimes futuristic. Can have different levels of mix. Very little I see is obvious. What I love about the scene.

Sadly, there is occasionally the Steampunk Legal Society who says it has to have these elements and this kind of punk, etc. You have art for accuracy’s sake and then you have art because it is so much fun. I can put my lizard with a hammer in the middle of a gigantic clock…

Retro-futurism = steampunk
The idea of the future as conceived of by the past.

Seeing it as a literary concept came about in the 80s. Tim Powers, Jeeters, Blalock.
I knew about it. Remember friends’ having steampunk themed parties. Earnest but not complicated. Then about 7 or so years ago, something happened. Still trying to figure out what. Became a culture. As a costumer, not elaborate, but I can put different outfits together. Went to a party in steampunk. 100 people. There were 10 other people as steampunk. When we got together to take a picture, lightbulbs went on for the other 90 people. This is a movement.
Thing that swung me around is the music. Not an aspect I had heard of.

Steampunkers-2276Food, music, art, fashion, etiquette… It’s a culture.
Elegant manners of yesteryear. Away from some of the cultural monstrosities… Smack him on the nose with a glove and call him a cad. A method of dealing with society that won’t leave bodies behind.

What I like about steampunk…
When I saw outfits, everybody looked different. You could be anybody or anything. Gave you all this freedom.
Very egalitarian. Age can steampunk. Size can steampunk. Color can steampunk.

When I first saw different. Has grown.

Doing research in Petersen’s Magazine (like Goode’s) April 1857, editorial under fashion: “Fashion is the only thing more powerful than steam. Fashion rules the women. The women rule the men. The men rule the steam. Steam rules the world. Therefore …”
An entire article about the steam engine.

You can taste the flavor of it.

A couple of different years ago… played examples. Suzanne Vega, has a song with industrial baseline, video of people working on gears… all the sudden this song becomes steampunk, even though she is not a steampunk artist.
Dresden Dolls is steampunk.
Common through lines, taking older music and making it new or taking new music and making it sound old…
“Oops I did it again” in 1830s cabaret style song
xx Zippers, older style… put them together… should have been this way all along

steampunk is transforming.
Transforming one thing to create and transform.
Steampunk has gone mainstream.
Castle had a wonderful steampunk episode.
Cirque de Soliel traveling show is steampunk…

Anyone met someone who wants to define it so hard. “You are not steampunk. You are not period.” Authenticity Nazis. Just because you put gears on it, it’s not steampunk. Okay. But she said it because of elastic in waist. I explained that it was available, just not widely used till 1900s.
I have run into this in 3 or 4 different cons. Exclusive v inclusive

Apocalyptic punk
Nerf punk

ipad steampunk case 3a ShDI’ve never had anyone tell me I can’t. My steampunk stories are published in major magazines.

Steampunk Bible by Jeff Vandemeer—about to come out with sequel, Steampunk User’s Guide

There are people who get uncomfortable without definitions. Steampunk is constantly redefining itself. But definitions not constant.

“Can’t have goggles on your outfit unless you would need it.” –Fashion occasionally has useless things.

At one convention, subgenres of steampunk discussed. Did it as inclusive. Explaining different layers… For me, it was more what flavor of tea do you like. Doesn’t mean it’s not a tea. 5-10-15 genres. Really cool.

Steampunk ain’t done growing and changing.
Conservative people… “Well, that’s dead. No one does steampunk anymore.”
“You want to work with gears and clockworks.”

9Worlds 2014 steampunk short skirt-6233What are some things you could steampunk up with?
I have a friend who is always asking me about that. Khaki pants, slacks. White shirt, button up. Vest that goes with suit jacket. Scarf might wear in a Model T, tie it around your neck. Got boots. Hat that you would wear out fishing? Like a safari hat.
All these pieces and parts, by themselves aren’t anything.
As much jewelry as you can manage. You’ll do great.

“steampunk separates”

great thing about steampunk is that it’s a young enough genre… as long as it’s not lasers/phasers… But can do this.

Jeans, boots, and a shirt. Like the hat.
Dark skirt and fluffy blouse.

We need kilt punk.

All look different and they all look steampunk.

Steampunk ballerina. Copper and rivets. (think it was a doll)

How did you make that? Where did you get that?
Black outfit borrowed from first woman physician in the Civil War who wore trousers. Very wonderful look. Completely transitions to steampunk.

9Worlds 2014 steampunk who-6235I like having people have fun. The more the better.
Most fun since Star Trek. Didn’t look good in the lycra spandex. But doesn’t matter what color, shape, … looks good.
Rewriting history to get rid of the bad stuff and make people equal.
Everything changed.

Everything is possible with steampunk.
Anything is possible with steampunk.

Steampunk isn’t just Victorian England. Steampunk your sari.
Rajah steampunk. At AnimeAcon

Multiculturalism and steampunk.
Chinese and Victorian.
India and Victorian.

Towards end of 19C, cultural contact and trade were huge.
Did an outfit because wanted a really cool Victorian outfit. “Do brown” outfit. Perfect fabric for it, but then I bought a blouse from 1890s—was same fabric except silk, not polyester.
You can do what you like.

Is the costuming effecting the writing?
I was already doing costuming. I costume when I am stuck, frustrated.
Music got me to write steampunk. I started listening to the music.

Music is so evocative. Transforming.
Costuming I go more fantastical.
My corsets are not authentic. I have more fun throwing things together.
Thing about going to steampunk convention, everyone is wearing something.
Like SCA, as long as you make effort, people will appreciate you being there.
My own quirky, fantastical thing.
Tend to be more influenced by Victorian literature. Writing an alternate timeline. Trying to draw on the feeling of the era. Replicating the feeling and the milieu.
Find in the steampunk I’ve read, rigorous in the alternate history tend to be better—as far as I’m concerned.
Sherry Priest is a great example. Clockwork Century. Picking a turning point. Civil War didn’t end…
Bruce Stirling and William Gibson—if computer age started in 1850s
Those that are anchored, tend, for me, to have more depth.

Airship pilots in hang gliders?

ShD head steampunk blueSteampunk: pure fantastical or anchored in alternate history

Working on gaslight history. Wearing a corset changed how I felt about it. Wearing the costuming informed the world for me.
People wanted me to wear wool. I live in Texas. No one here wore wool. They wore cotton. (I said that the historical name for cotton was “tree wool.”)

Petticoats and hoops, etc, felt like a battleship.
Recommendations to make them handicapped accessible… Hallway wide enough for two steampunkers to walk together, then they are handicapped accessible.
Steampunk-friendly con socially engineers for handicapped and artists lugging stuff through the hallways.

Wear a lot of Chinese and Indian/Pakistani. First learned to wear a sari. Wear a petticoat. Wear a blouse. How to wrap. Then they put a safety pin on their shoulder and pinning the petticoat to the sari at the front inside waist.
Wearing the different things and how they fit and how they connect.

Shomar chamise, could tie the men’s stuff up for a tent.
For women, the pleats are down below. Don’t have bulk at the waist.
Learning how to wear and how fits and what people use.

Can tell how current it is by length of skit and which way they wear the scarf.

iphone case steampunk ShD 1aI like that it can be unisex. I can steampunk in pants and shirts.
You go to places like ACon and you see young people dressing up, but you aren’t dead. You want to dress up. You can costume your spirit in steampunk and be accepted.
It can be a little intimidating when you show up at an Anime con without a con. Steampunk it.

Going back to what you said about different genres, on the Steampunk Empire. 10,000 members. We talk about different genres: cyber, steam, rock and roll punk (Flintstones—or cave punk). You can do anything. Be accurate to what you believe.

Was wondering if you haven’t heard steampunk music.
Steam, Powered Giraffe, Abney Park, Aether Shanties, Professor Elemental (chap hop), Mister B Gentleman Rhymer…
YouTube chap off of Prof Ele and MrB Gentleman

Tumblr picture… heavily tattooed church of lds, etc…
Podcast Clockwork Cabaret really great. 2 hour radio show that lots of different bands.

One other thing… Phineas and Ferb did a steampunk with Professional Elemental in it, Steampunx. “A Brave New World” in
He’s nice.
Tea = cup of brown joy

??Hoping to find a local group that work on costumes??
One off 35 in Carrollton. Meet 1x a month.

Steampunk Emporium
Maker movement overlaps (though not so much)
Steampunk Illumination Society

One thought on “Art of Steampunk”

  1. What I like most about Steampunk costumes is that although the aesthetics are inspired by the Victorian era, it’s not a strict reproduction. Your creativity and inspiration are at the heart of Steampunk fashion. There are no rules, but everyone who wears a Steampunk suit manages to look like people from the same era. Although female costumes have evolved, wearing welder’s glasses and a leather corset, to outfits incorporating Gothic, military, boho and vintage elements… it is still an element of the Victorian style that unifies the costume rooted in the steampunk look.

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