Thursday, February 17, 2011

Fashion Research Essay regarding Steampunk Influences, an academic work from the University of North Texas


Vagabond Opera & the Portland Cello Project
(Photo via Steampunk-Beauties.tumblr.com, per Mr. X. Gerrymander)

Fashion is perhaps one of the driving forces of Steampunk, providing an opportunity to express on-self and proclaim an association with the beloved genre of Steampunk.  A bit ago, Mr. Ramon Fagan posted on this topic at his blog, the Art of Steampunk, and kindly allowed a posting of said article (a bit shortened) on the Tribune...



The following are excerpts from a research project by fashion design students from the University of North Texas, with one Ms. Bonnie McGowan in the lead (assisted by Dayly Waggoner and others), focusing on the influences of the Steampunk Sub-culture on modern changes in fashion both in specialized markets and in the broader fashion world.  It shows good insight and significant research into current and evolving trends that go much deeper than just appearance and touch on many of the deeper motivations that drive the popularity of Steampunk culture as well as fashion today.   As such, I asked for, and received permission to post the entire paper on my personal blog and to submit interesting excerpts from it to Steampunk Magazines.  
Ramon Fagan, LCSW


Lolita Steampunk Beauty

Steampunk Culture: Where Innovation and Tradition Collide 

Non-couture steampunk clothing, like steampunk literature and entertainment, re-imagines the Victorian era. In the Steampunk Universe, there are incredible technological innovations powered by steam (this is where the steam in steampunk stems from,) and Victorian clothing is bred with a modern or futuristic touch. Just as the steampunk authors created an alternative history, so do the Steampunks with their attire.   ..…  Steampunk's clothing is even compared to the progressiveness of cyberpunk and the romanticism of Goth. Evelyn Kriete, who sells advertising space for magazines, explains that “the elaborate mourning dresses, waistcoats, hacking jackets and high-button shoes are goth’s stepchildren, for sure, but the overall look is 'not so much eyeliner and fishnets'” (Ferla, 2008).  [Editor’s note: while the level of influence of Goth on Steampunk fashion and culture is hotly debated, it is clear that many Victorian Goths have now joined the Steampunk Subculture movement as serious members of the community and that everything we are and have been comes with us throughout life, so some influence from that source is hard to question].  


(Via Deviant Art)

Many Steampunks  stray even further from the traditional-Victorian look in aviator, western, safari, vaudeville, cabaret, airship pirate and English military outfits. When we observed the North Texas Steampunks, [actually the DFW Chapter of the Steampunk Illumination Society, but she found their meeting, because most are also members of the North Texas Steampunks Facebook Group] we saw nearly all of these trends. An example of non-victorian steampunk-wear found was within the leaders of the North Texas Steampunks. Ramon Del Mar and his wife, Radha Narasimhan's, dressed in an “airship pirate manner,” with pirate hats, goggles, gear-patterned parachute pants and brass coins. Obviously, there are many variations of steampunk dress, but every steampunk looks as if he or she has traveled through time. Steampunks are anachronisms, inspired by the alteration of different time periods. Rather than ponder on possibilities, Steampunks rely on their imaginations to bring to life an antique style of dress. And that's not all that Steampunks value; they also share the desire to create and wear pieces that separate them from the mainstream.  In the ready-to-wear industry, middle class Americans are subject to buying mass produced clothing made in factories, in which several copies are made of the same garment. Quality takes the backseat to quantity, and thus the clothing industry acts as fast food fashion. Many Steampunks chose to rebel against retail distribution, (hence where the “punk” comes from) through buying or creating one of a kind pieces. Many steampunks purchase their own fabric and make all of their garments and accessories themselves.   

(Via Deviant Art)

       We witnessed many magnificent creations at Crystal's, but our favorite was an inventor's “hydraulically activated neural digitizer” [otherwise known simply as H.A.N.D.], complete with brass fingers and bendable vials of green liquid [this is a purportedly a hydraulically activated exoskeletal hand the inventor uses to cope with an injury in the lab]. The inventor [Dr. Phineas Maxwell Edison of the S.S. Kali’s Hourglass] chose to invent from scratch, but many steampunks choose not to sew [or fabricate], but recycle instead. They often use pieces found at thrift or vintage stores and modify them to appear more distressed and antique.   


(Via Deviant Art, EBay Shop here)

Another unique aspect of Steampunk culture is its formality. In keeping to the established activities of former eras, Steampunks often participate in more aristocratic activities, such as tea parties and time-traveling balls. While visiting Crystal's Pizza, we discovered that these steampunks dress up for every event that they have, even if it is at a restaurant. Since most people only dress up for weddings and funerals, steampunk events are a good excuse to look fabulous. Deborah Castellano, an organizer of  neo-Victorian conventions claims that these events “[offer] an element of glamour that some of us would otherwise never experience.” (Rowe, 2008) Most Steampunks are unable to dress in their desired attire at their day jobs, so adorning themselves in exciting attire means more than dressing up and having fun. It is a time to masquerade in an exciting and fantastical world, where individuality and extravagance are celebrated. Their former lives are forgotten and they transform into different characters from a separate galaxy. Many Steampunks have character names for their Steampunk persona, and dance and drink as professors, inventors and magicians. These unconventional clothing choices symbolize their freedom from society's hold. 



As Steampunk fashion evolves and more people become interested in the culture, one thing will be certain: even more by-products of steampunk will emerge, and more time periods and eras will use Steampunk inspiration. Science fiction writers will create more alternative histories for later and earlier time periods than ever before.



Another whispered trend that will soon shine in the Steampunk World is Clockpunk. This seeding trend takes place during the Renaissance, and it relies on clockwork rather than steam power.  And Leonardo Da Vinci and Galileo are [to] be the clockpunk gods (Hannaford, 2007). So far, this mini-trend has stuck to technological advancements rather than fashion, but this will change over time. We should expect to see Renaissance clothing along with antique map designs, gears, miniature telescopes and Steampunk trademarks throughout.  [Editor’s Note: the S.S. Kali’s Hourglass Acting Troupe already specializes in “Clockpunk” now]


For the full article please go to the following link:  http://artofsteampunk.blogspot.com/2011/02/fashion-research-essay-about-steampunk.html


Ramon Fagan, LCSW (aka “Admiral” Ramon Leon del Mar) writes articles and reviews for 5 different online Steampunk magazines as well as for his blog at http://artofsteampunk.blogspot.com      

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