going steampunk

October 29, 2009

Yes, I am jumping on the bandwagon.

I wore this outfit to a party weekend before last.  It was a pretty savvy SF geek/SCA crowd, so the one thing I wasn’t expecting was having to explain what steampunk was (since it does seem to have become a bandwagon over the last year or so).  I got questions like, “Are you supposed to be something specific?  Like Indiana Jones or something?”  I’d say, “No, I’m just steampunk.”  And then I’d get, “What’s that?”

Well.  It’s harder to explain than you’d think.  “An aesthetic combining Victorian sensibilities with science fiction,” is about the simplest I could get, and also not very satisfying.  Steampunk is an aesthetic, but it also has an ideological component, regarding inclusiveness, DIY, and a recycle/reuse ideal.  That’s one of the things I really like about it — I didn’t buy a single thing for my outfit.  (Well, I bought the leather vest at NY Comic Con back in February as a present to myself.  Then I built the costume around it.  But I didn’t buy the vest for the costume, if that makes sense.)  And I’m figuring out that I already have stuff for about three more steampunkish costumes:  I dug out my riding jacket that I wore at horse shows back in the day — it still fits, and it’s got that snappy tailored thing that would fit right in, especially with a cravat, prairie skirt, and goth boots.  How about the khaki BDU’s I got for my GI Joe costume in the spring, but with a leather jacket and goggles?  I haven’t even mentioned my corsets yet.

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.  So I had to explain steampunk to people, which was unexpected.  But a funny thing happened.  Because about ten other people dressed steampunk as well.  Now, there were about 100 people at the party.  Each of us wandering individually kept getting asked what we were supposed to be, and having to explain steampunk.  But then we all got together for a steampunk group picture.

And it suddenly became clear to everyone, because we all so obviously came from the same world.  You put us all together — with our corsets, crinolines, waistcoats, top hats, leather pouches, ray guns, and of course goggles — and suddenly we were a story.

Unfortunately, the group picture I got is too dark to post.  But it was a splendid thing.  Here is my costume:


More costumes are on the way, I’m sure.  I’ve got so many IDEAS.  I also need to thank Simon (aka Jeff) for introducing me to Abney Park, another fine example of steampunk’s ability to tell stories through sheer power of aesthetic.  This could become an obsession.

18 Responses to “going steampunk”

  1. JeffW Says:

    You’re very welcome!

    I’m glad I could help someone become a fan!

    (…or have I just helped “create a monster”?)

  2. Liz Kreger Says:

    Great photo, Carrie. I’ve been following a lot of the Steampunk discussions on the loops and find it all very interesting. I’ve always been a fan of the “Wild, Wild, West” and have always “gotten” the concept.

  3. Clothdragon Says:

    My friend, Princess Froglips, had an excellent steampunk costume last year…
    Parts & Pieces: Halloween Costume 2008
    (mine was the least impressive)
    Steampunk Trio

    I love steampunk and seeing what everyone does with it! Great costume.

  4. Joe the trucker Says:

    You inspired me. I dug around my closet and got out “Arcanum” and loaded it onto my old laptop.

  5. Sabrina Says:

    I’ve been obsessed with steampunk for a while. But I never have any occasion to put together an outfit (no Halloween plans, sad). I’ve also just recently been introduced to Abney Park.

    I wish we could see the group pic. This is a great costume, Carrie.

  6. Markysan Says:

    I always assumed that Steampunk was sort of atribute to the comic of that name and design?

  7. Doruk Says:

    I just got an amazing victorian-looking coat that looks better on me than any of my regular clothing. Sadly, I don’t have anything else to go with it yet to make a decent costume, and I am quite broke :/

  8. suelange Says:

    Fabulous vest. Love that color and cut!

  9. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by torforgeauthors: Carrie Vaughn: going steampunk http://bit.ly/iGa33

  10. carriev Says:

    Thanks, guys. Clothdragon, I love ’em! Doruk, two words: thrift store. I bet you could find a poet shirt and suit trousers for a couple of bucks.

  11. Doruk Says:

    I think I got the coat from a thrift store already, but it was quite a bit more than that. Maybe I need a thriftier thrift store… I wonder where I can find a monocle and a pocket watch.

  12. Jenn Says:

    The costume looks wonderful on you.

    I’d never heard of steampunk as more of a lifestyle/ideal. Interesting. I learned about it as a general “What if we used steam technology instead of moving to combustion engines?” as the premise to various stories.

  13. Robert Says:

    So when do you start writing your Steam Punk novel?

    I need to go back and read John Carter of Mars.

  14. Thomas S. Says:

    Now you need to rent “Steamboy” and see what real future Steam power is all about!

  15. Grokken Says:

    OMG, you mentioned Abney Park.. that is so cool. They are a truly unique band with a great sound.

  16. Benjamin Says:

    Steam punk is really cool, though some of the more interesting parts are due to how it came about.

    As the industrial revolution attacked people fantasies about magic, steam punk came about as way to keep magic is people lives since the period where the industrial revolution happens is a very rough time period.

    Over time the original stories still being around had gears, Victorian clothing, zeppelins and such and technology that was powered by magic. So that later steam punk incorporated this elements most likely because they made the stories so colorful.

    So really what steampunk is what happens is magic instead physics drove technology forward into the 19th century, and the results down the road. What makes it fun is that characters willing to live unconstrained by societies norms. Enter the period clothing even in later settings. Plus who doesn’t want a frock coat and women hanging out of their clothing…?

  17. modchen Says:

    dig that bustier.
    come and play with us (this goes for anyone in CO who has an interest in anachropunk/dieselpunk/neovictoriana). we just went to the railroad museum and we’re going to be on 9news in a couple of weeks. we have a grand old time, whatever it is that we’re doing.



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