Sunday, May 8, 2011

Steampunk Fun!

Last weekend was the first ever Steampunk convention held in Texas. Very intrigued with the idea, I decided to fashion a costume to wear and attend the gathering.

Steampunk has grown from a sub-genre of science-fiction novels (think of the Victorian era with Jules Verne, steam power, gears, H.G. Wells, and then add a twist) to fashion and furniture, to do-it-yourself (DIY) accessories and creations regressing technology and giving it a soulful playfulness. It’s all about having fun. When I attended a panel discussion about creating a persona in the steampunk universe, the main theme repeated was: “If you’re not having fun, what’s the point?”

I first found out about steampunk last year reading about the bookbinder Rhonda Miller creating cool steampunk journals. Then I read Steampunk Style Jewelry by Jean Campbell as an introduction to the genre and to some nifty jewelry fabrications.

After reading about the Aetherfest on Thursday, I didn’t have much time to cobble an outfit together. Friday after work, I went to a thrift shop and opened my mind to all kind of possibilities. Finding a simple sleeveless black dress with slits up the side, I decided this could be a base for more layering. I found a beautiful crinkly black silk blouse with a hint of red at the cuffs that I wore in colder air conditioned rooms. A great black belt with metal circles that could be draped diagonally was a last-minute find. I also bought other future possibilities including a dark navy vest with leather in the front and corduroy in the back. At a favorite upscale discount establishment, I found a great black bag with rivets and pockets as well as a pearl bracelet with a black rose.

On Saturday, I made a pair of steampunk earrings with a filigree flower and vine pieces and some cogs. I had planned on adding more pieces, perhaps a mini-key and heart but it was already pretty long since I used the flower piece vertically. The funky fusion of nature and technology gave it a hallmark of steampunk. Looking through my closet, I found a perfect old-fashion dark wool hat with three swirly flowers and added an old pin my Mom gave me for a costume I created as a teenager. Rummaging through my jewelry box, I found penny farthing bicycle pins (being a fan of the TV show The Prisoner). One was very gaudy with fake diamonds and a big wheel than actually spun--perfect for one of the dress straps!

Then, I took a handful of antique keys—some real, some craft reproductions—and strung them on some matching brass ball chain. I loved the sound the keys made clicking against each other. Two more necklaces were added--a string of pearls my Dad gave me years ago as well as my handmade photo collage of my Irish great-grandmother. My pair of sturdy lace-up boots and thick Irish wool socks jarred with the dress and was perfect steampunk attire. I felt very creative assembling a costume, making earrings, and finding steampunk-ish accessories. The great thing about steampunk is the rules are very relaxed and non-elitist. You don’t need this, that, or especially the other thing to be wild and crazy.

Sunday afternoon I went down to the St. Anthony Hotel, the elegant 1909 downtown venue for Aetherfest. It was a perfect place to hold the gathering, with its ornate décor and fabled history. I felt very different in my costume and had a blast watching and listening at the panel discussions, mixing and mingling in the vendor’s room, and walking around the hotel. Taking advantage of an empty ladies room, I snapped some self-portraits, too. It so great the way so many dressed up—the panelist, the writers, the coordinators, the vendors. It gave an instant feeling of comradeship.

Even after the event, during the following work week, I snuck some parts of my costume into my wardrobe. It brought back the fun and creativity. Now, I’m contemplating making some steampunk notebooks and journals.

Steampunk. Have you caught the fever yet? Tell me about your air ship adventures! Have you crafted any steampunk elements—jewelry, clothing, accessories? Oh, do tell!

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