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.