Springingtiger's Blog

Some Thoughts On Beginning Steampunk
September 7, 2016, 16:47
Filed under: social media, Steampunk | Tags: , , , , , ,

dscf2243If you’re thinking of going Steampunk the chances are you’ve seen Steampunks and thought ‘Ooh I like that look!’. Of course if you saw that look at a Steampunk event, you probably saw several ‘looks’ from Eighteenth Century Venetian masqueraders through pirates, Victorians and Edwardians through to astronauts and a Darth Vader encased in leather and brass. People ask what Steampunk is, better men than I have tried to answer and failed. Failed because there is no one answer. The best I can come up with is that it is an alternative history of an alternative reality and you access the Steampunk universe through the way that makes you feel good, and it is very much about feeling good.


Having said all that, and after admitting that there are no fixed rules in Steampunk, there are several accessible stereotypes that can provide a foundation to work on: alternative scientists, Wild Wild West, Steampunked Fandoms, Victoriana, Militaria, Airship Nauticalia, and Fantasia.


dscf2132Alternative scientists include engineers (if they are in uniform they may cross into Militaria and Nauticalia), Alchemists, Doctors, Time Travellers, etc. They are generally identified by their machines, preferably featuring gauges, dials, and plenty of brass and copper tubing. Engineers have tools, Alchemists all sorts of flasks and bottles. Whatever machines a Time Traveller carries will probably feature clocks.


Wild Wild West is an alternative view of the American Union immediately after the Civil War and effectively is a blending of the Old West with gadgets and machines.


Steampunked Fandoms are generally a reworking of the classic subjects of Cosplay: Darth Vader, Iron Man, Batman, Harley Quinn, Star Fleet officers, etc. The basic rule seems to be take your favourite character then re-imagine it in leather and polished metal. Theatrical make up may feature, particularly in automaton costumes (think Rabbit from Steam dscf2322Powered Giraffe).


Fantasia is fun with Fairies in goggles and all sorts of Unicorns, vampires and dragons. This is very much the realm where the Gothic and Steampunk blend, the realm of Van Helsing and the league of Extraordinary Gentlemen.


The other categories are very much as their name, but with the possible addition of identifiably Steampunk accessories. However as someone once said “Goggles are not obligatory”, if you read the fiction that inspired Steampunk there is a large cast of people who merely wore the clothes appropriate to the era, what makes these outfits Steampunk now is their presence in our time. The amount of accessorising an outfit will receive will depend on the effect its creator is trying to present, there are no hard and fast rules.


dscf2059So where does one start? I would suggest the first step is to look in your own wardrobe and see what lends itself to Steampunk. A leather waistcoat suggests Wild Wild West. A greatcoat suggests Militaria or Nauticalia. Look at pictures of Steampunk outfits, just Google ‘steampunk’ or enter it as a search term on Facebook and G+. I think, from personal experience, that it is a mistake to rush online and start buying ‘steampunk’ items even though there are some worthwhile purchases out there. I suggest after raiding your own wardrobe try the attics of the family, parents and grandparents may be hoarding garments that realistically they will never use again. Look in your shed and garage you may have all sorts of bit of wire, nuts, bolts and other bits and bobs you’ve held on to ‘just in case’. These can be re-purposed to add an industrial look to hats and garments.



The next stage is to visit thrift shops, charity shops, junk shops, and antique shops as well as ‘Pound Shops’. Don’t restrict yourself to an item’s intended use, but always ask, ‘What else can I use this for? What does this remind me of?’ I am in the process of turning a brass doorbell chime into a ‘gun’. I know someone about to adapt an old brass insecticide spray into another gun…possibly unless inspiration takes them down another path. Possibilities are infinite when informed by imagination.


dscf2303One thing I have learned about the Steampunk community is that they are very supportive and ready to provide feedback and advice so just ask. I personally started merely by exaggerating my usual clothes, it was only when I received positive feedback that I started taking it further. I personally like my outfits to be things I can wear everyday: Top Hats, frock coats, bowlers, waistcoats. I can then dress them up or down as appropriate. You may prefer to build an outfit specifically for an occasion.


Goggles and gears may not be essential, however wearing them is an easy way of self 20160826_164050-01.jpegidentifying as Steampunk. If you take a few everyday items like a waistcoat, shirt, bow-tie or cravat, newsboy cap and add to them a watch-chain and a pair of goggles you have an outfit which is very identifiable as Steampunk without much effort and would allow you to dip your toe into Steampunkery and see if you wanted to wade in further. Try this at an event like Asylum and you’ll be in above your waist before you know it! As I posted a couple of days a hat can tie an outfit together or start one. I have bought hats in charity shops, but if you have an idea of what you seek there are reasonably priced bargains online in eBay or Amazon like a perfectly proper pith helmet for twenty-five pounds, albeit with imitation leather chinstrap.


dscf2241My best advice is start small, frugally and build up. When you see a bargain grab it, then work out how you’re going to use it. A bargain in a charity shop may disappear the same day, if you think you can use it, don’t wait; I have and regretted it. After a while you will have a stock of items you can mix and match to produce an increasingly wide range of outfits.


I suppose I should end with a health warning. I began with a hat, coat, waistcoat, glasses and goggles. I am now sewing leather and on the verge of working in EVA foam. Steampunk is great fun, but it can be addictive…the crack cocaine of crafting!wp-image-1078850265jpg.jpeg


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