Steampuckishness

Yes, I know the name of the genre is technically “steampunk,” but steampuck seems to fit my mood so much better. That’s not to say that I’m not at all punk-like. In some ways I am. My aesthetic isn’t necessarily hard-core punk, but there are aspects that seep in from time to time. However, we’re not talking about regular, run-of-the-mill punk. We’re talking about steampunk. Or, as I’ve already tried to establish, steampuck.

That’s kind of the idea behind one of the new costumes I’m working on. According to the entry on wikipedia, the term “denotes works set in an era or world where steam power is still widely used – usually the 19th century, and often set in Victorian era England – but with prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy, such as fictional technological inventions like those found in the works of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne.” The entry goes on to talk about the beginnings of the genre, and finally touches on the subculture – including fashion: “Steampunk fashion has no set guidelines, but tends to synthesize modern styles as filtered through the Victorian era. This may include gowns, corsets, petticoats and bustles, gentlemen’s suits with vests, coats and spats, or even military-inspired garments. Often, steampunk outfits will be accented with a mixture of technological and period accessories: timepieces, parasols, goggles and ray guns.”

So, with a (not really cut-and-dried) explanation of what steampunk fashion usually incorporates, you’d think I would have a clear vision for what my steampunk costume is going to look like, wouldn’t you? Not so, my friend. Not so. I like petticoats (there’s a part of me that sometimes likes feeling girly), but I don’t see myself running around in a skirt as part of my steampunk. I’m planning to incorporate something like a corset into the costume – it’s actually already made – but it’s not the type of corset seen in historical Victorian clothing. I’ve got a wicked cool pocketwatch already, courtesy of my friend Maggie (with a TRAIN on it!). I like spats, but I’m not sure how well that would work, considering I’m probably going to be wearing pants, and said pants will probably cover most of my boots. Hell, I’m still trying to decide if I want to wear my high-heeled ass-kicking Mudd boots (currently being fixed) or if I want to use my western style boots instead. Oh, decisions, decisions.

Really, the only thing I know about the final look of my outfit is that it will have the blue and gold dragon brocade corset (one of the corsets pictured here: http://www.mccallpattern.com/item/M4861.htm??tab=list/costumes&page=all), and I will be wearing a coat modeled after an Edwardian pattern I have in my stash. Originally, I had a hard time deciding between this one (http://img.sewingtoday.com/cat/10000/itm_img/B4954.jpg) and the one I ultimately decided on. The other design, which I can’t seem to find a picture of online, is designed to be kept open in the front, and not buttoned up. It also doesn’t have the high collar. Although I love the look of the other coat and will most definitely be making it at some point in the future, I didn’t feel it went with the character I seem to be building.

I’m getting more into the character development part of this costume than anything else. When I’ve made costumes before, they really haven’t had a persona attached to them. I’ve got a Jedi, but they have no name or back history. I’ve got some costumes based on pre-existing movie characters, so they don’t require any additional character building. With steampunk, however, you have to figure out what your character’s background is if you are to have any hope of developing a functional, cohesive costume in the first place. The individual’s job will play a big part in what they wear: a dirigible mechanic will probably not be wearing bustles and yards of lace. A noble will most likely not be wearing an outfit made of salvaged material. That sort of thing. So the character really kind of has to come first.

One of the things I’ve kind of decided on is that my steampunk character will be rather like me in a lot of ways. Some girly stuff is okay, but full out crinolines and Lolita-style wear will not be happening with this one. Pants are my friend. 🙂 I need pockets. What ever else I do, I need pockets. Preferably in unobtrusive places. I need things that will wear pretty well – that don’t require too much special care (no dry cleaning for me). This has to be stuff that I can move in comfortably without worrying about it wrinkling or getting squashed, etc.

I’ve been looking through a lot of galleries on deviantart.com, flickr, google, etc. I consider it research – looking at what ideas are already out there, jotting down ones that interest me and throwing out the ones that don’t. i’m not copying anyone else’s steampunk designs. As I said, these costumes have to grow out of the individual character. I have, however, seen a couple of things that I liked that I might want to adapt and change into something that would suit me. As I slog through all the research, I’ve hit upon something that intrigues me…there aren’t a whole lot of looks that incorporate styles and cultures outside of the European/American Victorian period. There are all kinds of outfits that fall into that category, but i have yet to find something that incorporates elements of Eastern designs, for example. Aside from the occasional use of silks and very sparing use of brocades. Most also tend to stay within the brown/sepia/burnt umber color scheme. Normally, I’d be fine with this…I love brown, after all. It looks good on me. However, I also love bright colors, and those seem to be missing from the whole steampunk aesthetic.

I like brass and copper and rich, chocolatey browns as much as the next steampunk creator, but I think it’s time someone present something a little more playful and, in some ways, innocent. Steampunk differs from cyberpunk in that it doesn’t necessarily focus on dystopian societies. However, it also isn’t necessariliy a fun, happy, cheery place full of kittens and bunnies. That’s what happens when you base it on Victorian culture. Sure, there are some wonderful things about the whole period’s aesthetic, but you need to inject a little fun. Hence, my steampuck. I’m intending to create a more playful and wide-eyed approach to the whole thing. The character I’m creating – Tesla Wheelwright – is a traveler. Not an adventurer, necessarily, although I’m sure she’ll have those, too. She is not setting out to find lost treasure or buckle any swashes. If that happens along the way, so be it, but she is really just out to see the world, swap stories and create new ones, and generally enjoy herself.

We’ll see how well she is received by the rest of the costumer/cosplay world.

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