Friday, May 13, 2011

Everything Old is New Again! It's Wearable Art--Steampunk Style!

So I went to a Steampunk convention last weekend.  I'd never been to one before.  It was quite an experience!  There were sessions every hour, and a tea and a fashion show and a banquet vendor's room...  It was quite surreal seeing people running around in neo-Victorian attire.  Some outfits were more period-authentic than others, but I got the impression that accuracy was only as important as you wanted it to be.

The cavalcade of different combinations of costume is evident in the photography of Jerry Abuan, a photographer and artist that has quite a collection of photos from the event and several others like it!  His portraits are just beautiful, and it's daunting how much time and effort went into some of the garments he photographed.  I know one or two of them, and I have to say there is great pride in collecting just the right piece to make your outfit what you want.  Many of these garments are hand sewn by the wearers themselves or their friends.  It's interesting, but Steampunk, as a genre, seems to be an odd mix of Victorian recreationists, History buffs, Science Fiction fans, and Do-It-Yourself activists.  Oddly, it's sort of the "kinder, gentler side" of Goth.

And woe to the person who can't get dressed up!  There were only a handful of attendees that didn't have some element of Steampunk style in their clothing--part of the fun is cosplaying!  It's the only convention I've been to that the vendor room was completely full of costumes and accessories, jewelry, antiques, books, and a pet adoption service.  I've never seen so many historical clothing patterns in one spot!

The age of the attendees was all over the board as well.  In fact, a huge number of 40-and-over participants were there--which shattered my personal perception of who was interesting in "cosplay".  It's like an alternative for all those Civil War reenactments.

So I decided to share a sprinkling of the beautiful portraits that Abuan has in his collection of pictures of the event.  There is real artistry in these garments.  The variety is astounding.  The colors, the trim, the juxtapositions.  The choice of accessories in styles that contrast and mesh together into a whole.  The smashing of different periods into a unique composition all it's own that's somewhat retro and yet somehow a contemporary comment on the retro style itself.  It's fascinating to me!

This is incredibly inspiring to me, too.  So much so, in fact, that I've started to experiment with double-breasted swallowtail vests for men in a more "off-kilter" mode.  Most of my experience is in men's historical clothing, so I figured I might as well go what I know how to do best...  Recreating period garments isn't as interesting to me as putting my own spin on the attire.  I want to be influenced by the past, not corralled by it.

These folks in the Steampunk community have certainly taken that to heart!

Until next time, Live Life with Relish!  These folks do!


  1. Wow, Corey! I bet you were right in your element here, must have been a visual blast for you and very inspiring. Where did the steampunk style start?
    I like alot of this, and it fit about being the gentler side of goth, which is a bit much for me!
    Thanks for sharing the great photos ... have a wonderful weekend.

  2. Susan--I think I'm going to have to do some research on that... But here's the Wikipedia entry, which is really quite informative...

  3. Hi Kiddo,

    I'm hoping Blogspot will be kind to me and let me post this comment. The last two times it has refused and then wiped them into the perverbial cyber-world toilet! :(

    Okay first check out a great book by Jean Campbell called Steampunk Jewelry besides providing some great ideas for jewely she also gives a good bit of history to the creation and back ground of the movement. She also has a chapter on dressing the part and list some really great sourses to check out.

    I'm also of the mind that Steampunk is a perfect medium for a lot of Altered artists. Whether they they create wearable art or not wearable art. You are spot on with your comment."Recreating period garments isn't as interesting to me as putting my own spin on the attire." Oye I know that when I see even a small piece of vintage goodness my imagination goes into creative overdrive!! In fact LW has gotten to the point of not asking my "what are you going to do with THAT!!??" any longer. He even cauncels friends not to even bother asking cuz the response they get is "I don't know just yet, but isn't its cool??!!

    Pattie ;)
    Mazatlan Mx.

  4. Pattie, I actually have that book! It's awesome!!! There are some really cute ideas in there--I'm going to have to dig it back out and start exploring a little bit more in depth.

    You know, I've never heard of the term "Altered art" before, but just the way you've used it hearkens to something that I feel really really connected to... I have to go spend some time looking up that term on the internet. I had been searching for a term to define so much of what I'm attracted to, and I think you've just articulated it to me...

    And I think my partner and LW feel the same pain. I have a collection of "stuff" that's busting out all over... Jonathan just sighs anymore. Haha! I think my garage is running out of nooks and crannies in which to keep things! I just pity him for putting up with my addiction. What can I say?

    "But I NEED it!!"

    "What for?" he asks.

    "I don't know, but I really really NEED it!"

    Story of my life. I swear. Hahaha!

    I hope your hand is getting better, you're new Girly Space is cool, and that Blogger is treating you better these days. The whole system went down, so we were all in the same boat.

    For those reading these comments, go check out Pattie's blog, The Joy of Nesting, here (cut and paste it into your browser):

    There are some beautiful photos of life in Mazatlan, Mexico!!! Absolutely gorgeous!

    Thanks, Pattie!

  5. Thanks Kiddo!

    Hmmm upon reading my comment again I can see where the drugs might...just might have been getting the best of me. :) Although I'm sure there must be a whole lot of artist who could be considered "altered" I would rather be an Altered Art artist. I use to say that I didn't have a creative thought in my head that I merely used the ideas of others, giving them my own spin. But after all these years I have come to realized that it is creative thought that can take something that already exists and alter it, creating new art. Sometimes I think it's more of a challenge to create a piece that is me from those things that already exist.I find that I am truly in my element when I can make Altered Art from a "make-do,reuse,re-thought" frame of mind.

    Pattie ;)
    Mazatlan Mx.

    PS. change cauncel to council in my note up above! Oh the wonders of modern medicine!! :)

  6. Pattie, I think the word you're looking for is "counsel"... And I'd change it if I could, but blogger only allows me to delete entire comments, and I didn't want to do that...

    "Altered Art" is a brilliant term! I understand what you're talking about profoundly, and I think you've inspired a blog post for me! Haha! I think you're right--it's one thing to create a piece that's totally original and make a comment on societal zeitgeist, but quite another to manipulate something pre-existing into an artistic statement all it's own.

    Being a theatrical designer, it was my JOB to be influenced and inspired by others. I can't recall a design team that wasn't distilling aspects of someone else's artistic or architectural expressions and manipulating them into our own "take" on them... I did a coat for the character of Oberon that I made for a production of Midsummer Night's Dream that was directly inspired by Van Gogh's painting, "Starry Night" because the director felt the audience should draw that correlation. Titania was based on Monet's "Water Lillies".

    I think this is going to be part of that blog post... I think I'm attracted to Altered Art because, in essence, that's what I've been doing all along...

    I just hadn't thought about it. Hm.

    And you've blown my mind, Pattie.

    I'm thinkin' I'm gonna do a lot more thinkin' now... Haha!


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