Tag Archives: fashion

Exclusive sneak-peek inside Katherine Gleason’s ANATOMY OF STEAMPUNK

anatomy-steampunk-cover

Steampunk fashion is all about possibilities. At the beginning of this year, I sat at a tea shop with Katherine Gleason, sipping our brew and speculating about what we’d like to see in a fashion book. We wanted something more than just rehashing whatever you’d find after Googling “steampunk.” We wanted to show the dynamic potential of steampunk fashion — that it was more than neo-Victorian. More than skinny pale waifs. More than looking or acting a certain way. More than reinforcing the value of a colonialist past.

And it was definitely more than Victorian science fiction.

By demanding “more,” a host of a questions presented themselves. Where does steampunk fashion come from? And when? Made by who? And, of course, how can novices and dabblers join in on the fun?

Over the course of the year, I’ve had the pleasure to see this book develop, and on the eve of its publication, one lesson can be taken from this. Fashion cannot be a summation of things — it is a compilation of creation. More than OMG that dress, but OMG that designer! That model! That performer! That person!

This is the connection between good fashion and good fiction: both tell stories about people that draw you in.

I hope you enjoy discovering these stories.  Katherine and the talented contributors she worked with are more than just names and faces, but highly imaginative individuals who are offering pieces of themselves. They come from all walks of life: high-end designers and professional artists to cosplayers to hobbyists to street performers and protesters.  There are people of color (as designers, models and performers!), people young and old, people of different abilities, people from all over the globe.  Their joys, their lives, and their dreams are the parts that build an Anatomy of Steampunk.

Two excerpts from the book are below. The first is the Foreword written by  K.W. Jeter, the science fiction author who coined “steampunk”, and my Introduction to the book. The second is a Beyond Victoriana exclusive sneak-peek of what else this book has to offer.

Please enjoy, and spread the word!

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Steampunk Fashion, Orientalism & the Ethics of Art on the Steampunk Chronicle

Photo credit by Anna Fischer

Wilhemina Frame posts the second half of our interview at the Steampunk Chronicle

An excerpt:

WF: That brings up to me the whole Victorian concept of Orientalism, which was an art concept, a popular fashion concept, and a fascination that was held in the Victorian period especially in England but in Europe in general. Orientalism as I interpret it now, and this is my own personal interpretation, goes back to the concept of “The Other”. It has no foundation in reality. In Steampunk, if people are using that, but not being “travelers”, and they’re not trying to present an accurate viewpoint of a certain culture at that time — but they are referencing the historical aesthetics of Orientalism — how do you feel about that?

DP: (Laughs) Sorry, I’m laughing because you just asked a very long version of “Is this offensive if I do X, Y or Z?”

Part 1 can be read here. Part 2 is now live.

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Steampunk Industrial Revolution, PortCon & Fashion Talks

A couple of cons coming up this month, and a special announcement:

In two weeks the revolution returns to Nashua, New Hampshire: the Steampunk Industrial Revolution will be telegraphed from June 8-10. From what I’ve heard, the theme is “Year of the Dragon” and the convention is preparing for an inter-dimensional beast to who visits this realm once every twelve years…with the smoldering threat coming from the heavens, can enough clockwork gadgets and a pirate ship bar be enough for this weekend? Yup, immersive storytelling strikes again at this con, and I’m looking forward to it.

The con schedule isn’t up yet, but I know that I’ll be doing my standard panels, plus a couple new in-character ones (you’ll have to come to see what they’re about…) — and hanging out with cool folks such as Guest of Honor Dr. Grymm,  The Wandering Legion of the Thomas Tew, Jake von Slatt, Mr. Saturday & Sixpence, Platform One, and many, many more musicians, entertainers and other ne’er-do-wells!

And as a reminder later that month, I will be in PortCon in Maine from June 21 – 24, where Lucretia Dearfour and I will be their Steampunk Guests of Honor.

I’ll be hanging around this weekend, presenting two new events:

Costume as Character, Character as Costume - Friday 11 AM – 12 PM in the Monhegan Room
Steampunk Meetup – Sunday 10 AM – 11 AM in the Monhegan Room

Plus, news from the ivory tower: I am very excited to announce that Fashion Talks: Undressing the Power of Style is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com!

Waaaaay back in 2009 (!), Jaymee Goh and I co-wrote an article about the imperialist — and postcolonial — leanings in steampunk fashion, our first academic venture together. Now, the anthology it is included in —  Fashion Talks: Undressing the Power of Style from SUNY Press – can be pre-ordered on Amazon.com and will pub in September! Fashion Talks is all about the roles race, class, gender, and sexuality play in everyday style, and the other chapters range from Lolita and goth to hijabs and stripper shoes to emo and hipsters & more. If you are into fashion, pop culture, politics, and how all three collide, this book is for you. Read the description after the jump.

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#88 Pakistani Fashion Designer Ali Fateh’s “Steampunk Elegance” Collection

When steampunk hits Pakistan’s fashion scene, what does it look like?

Well, designer Ali Fateh gives us an idea.  He recently came out with his handbag collection “Steampunk Elegance.” Fateh, a prominent designer known for his luxury handbags, premiered this collection back in July. The handbags boast elegant lines, bejeweled designs, and metal motifs.

Image courtesy of Maram & Aabroo. Click for more info

Fateh received his degree in fashion from the International Fine Arts College in Maimi, Florida, and then lived and worked in New York as a designer for several years. In 2002, he decided to return to Pakistan. There, he spotted a rising trend in luxury items, especially handbags, and turned his design skills to creating a distinctive line of goods featuring sleek designs and vibrant colors. As his international reputaion grew, his work has been featured on runways for Paris Couture Week, 2007, Bridal Asia, Delhi, Hong Kong, New York , Fall/Winter 09 Bahrain Fashion Week, Fall/Winter 09 Dubai Fashion Fiesta, and Islamabad Fashion Week 2011.

Image courtesy of Maram & Aabroo. Click for more info.

What remains equally gorgeous to his handbags is the photoshoot created around them, featuring talented work from accomplished women in their respective industries: photographers Maram & Aabroo and actress Aamina Sheikh.
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#82 The Birth of Miss Dorothy Winterman: A Personal Essay– Guest Blog by Luisa Ana Fuentes

Story Excerpt:

Dorothy Winterman's "African Amazon" outfit

It is day 15 of our arduous journey through the veldts of Nigeria (or are we in Cameroon yet?). Our tracker Adeola has discovered new tracks and scraps of fibers from obviously foreign cloths. She can find a single iguana track amongst a bevy of crocodiles, this one can. We listen intently that these “men” are probably several hours, if not a day away. We find evidence of them through their encampments, their excrement and their litter. Yes, litter. Can you imagine- these foreigners, these soldiers, these baby snatching, people annihilating, genocidal rapists also throw their unwanted refuse upon our beautiful, sacred ground. Well if you can march hordes of innocent groups of human beings to ships waiting to whisk them away to be enslaved, massacred and destroyed in a whole different place on this globe, throwing down unwanted garbage must not mean much. I guess it truly lies in one’s perspective, does it not?

I think to myself, “Did I travel back in time for this?”

And before I can answer, images of the next few centuries spring forth as vividly as the greens and browns presently ahead of me: slavery, men and boys hanging from trees, Emmett Til in his coffin, the Civil War, ghettos, heroin, crack, Rodney King, Ronald Regan, Flava Flav, the riots in Newark, Chicago and LA, apartheid and AIDS. Internally, the answer is clear. The rest of the women notice my hesitation and far-off look in my eyes and immediately they know where my mind has gone. They wait patiently as I gather my wits about me. It’s all so overwhelming at times. From one existence to another in mere minutes, then from that existence to here-it is all staggering to think I am recreating my past as my future remains uncertain now- the whole butterfly/chaos theory thing. Try to explain that to a group of Amazonian warriors attempting to rid their land of oppressors and see where it takes you.

It took weeks and weeks to convince my group of fighting women I was actually a woman from their future who has returned to the past to go back in an attempt to right the wrongs done to one group of my ancestors by another. Perhaps the laser light pen (bought at a flea market to amuse my cats) and Nintendo DS (note to self: energizers do NOT time travel well) helped to tip the scale of doubt to my side a bit. It took several days for me to even convince them that a person bearing my skin tone could have even come from their same mothers. My complexion, hair texture, shape of my lips and nose were all odd but strangely reminiscent of theirs–albeit, a highly watered down version; or as sister Iruwya said, a highly “whitened” down version of them all. She has a biting wit about her- she is not ever afraid to speak her mind, heart and especially her soul. Once she was convinced of the atrocities to come, she, the non-believer became my staunchest advocate and friend. At night, I think back to the times this whole adventure began. I bounded in the matter of what seemed to be minutes from 21st century woman, to 19th century “lady” and then to here and now, the Africa of my not-so ancient past.

But, now I stand, clothed in a strange compilation of Victorian European garb mixed with the bits and pieces of textiles I have found on the dead and dying of White men and African brothers alike-the strangest mosaic of African-American-European aesthetics this time period has probably ever seen; my hair in tight ringlets surround my face, mane-like; no matter what–I am home.

But now is not night and there is no time to reminisce. It is dusk and the heat, still shimmering in waves from the ground below, attacks us. The cross bow (yes, with laser light pen attachment-sold separately) strung across my back grows heavier with each step that I take. Not even the adrenaline brought about by the sight of the fires ahead, the smell of the cooking meat and the unquestionable shouts and laughter of the White men ahead can alleviate the ache in my mid-back. I look around me and see the familiar smiles of my new sisters: once warrior women of their king in Dahomey, they fight alongside of me now to try and thwart the death of our culture, our names, heritage, land and lives. “Come” says Tayari in Yoruba (a language I never knew while living in New York in 2011, but one I can easily understand and speak now). The rest of us nod. Our evening activities have just begun.

The above excerpt taken from “The Strange and Accurate Depiction of the Life and Times of Luisa Fuentes as Miss Dorothy Winterman, Lady of Leisure and Haberdasheress Extraordinaire In Her Journeys Through Time and Oppression: A Memoir”.

Okay, so the above memoir does not exist in either fiction or reality. It is a part of an explanation of the newest and most original Steampunk outfit that debuted at the Steampunk World’s Fair in New Jersey the weekend of May 20th, 2011. My name, however, really is Luisa Ana Fuentes and I really am of numerous mixed heritages. I’m a steampunk and my character’s name is (you guessed it) Dorothy Winterman, Lady of Leisure and Haberdasheress Extraordinaire.

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#80 Shadi Ghadirian & Muslim Women “Time Travelers”

If nineteenth-century Iranian women discovered time travel, where would they go? What would they bring back?

Photographer Shadi Ghadirian did not have these questions in mind, persay, but she is interested in how the Western world perceives Iranian woman like herself. In her photography series “Qajar,” she brings out the cognitive dissonance that someone unfamiliar with Iran may experience, as well as comments about the position of women in society today.

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Convention Extravaganza: Steampunk World’s Fair II

Jake von Slatt's Roadster, featured at the Fair. Image courtesy of Michael Salerno.

Steampunk World’s Fair– the self-proclaimed “largest steampunk festival in the US” had a huge turnout last year and raised expectations for many steampunks for repeat success. Over the course of the year, shifts in management and staff structure sprouted rumors of uncertainty about the success of the con, but this year’s Fair still held a strong and diverse showing of panels, workshops, and entertainments. Previous year’s favorites, including musicians Professor Elemental, Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band, Psyche Corporation, Eli August, This Way to Egress, and Frenchy and the Punk returned, with the addition of several other newcomers such as Murder by Death, Copal, Ego Likeness, and Left Outlet.  Events expanded to include book launch parties for Tee Morris and Pip Ballentine’s The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, Leanna Renee Hieber’s The Perilous Prophecy of the Goddess and the Guard, and Emilie P. Bush’s The Gospel According to Verdu at the Library of Lost Literature, an academic track, a Tweed Ride, a Dandy Stroll, a charity fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and Queen Victoria’s Birthday Party. Other notable programming ranged from workshops on bartitsu and kimono-wearing to pro-union rallies and surviving the apocalypse.

Along with my own con report, which is featured on Tor.com, below is just a sampling of experiences offered by our guest reporters, including Daniel Holzman-Tweed, Austin Sirkin, Lucretia Dearfour, Sean Proper, Matt Deblass and Ekaterina Sedia. Fashion designer Kathryn Paterwic of Redfield Designs also presents her runway collection from the “Across the Universe” fashion show told in her narrated photo essay. Photography from Jessica Lilley, Babette Daniels, Michael Salerno, Monique Poirier, Philip Ng, and myself are also included.

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When Feminist Fashion Goes Couture: Anne Avantie, Indonesian Designer

“If I walk, I hope my footsteps won’t be erased just like that… I want many other footsteps to follow mine!” – Anne Avantie

Anne Avantie’s signature kebaya designs are growing in popularity as Asian fashion enters the global scene. Born to Chinese parents in Solo, Indonesia, Anne never had any formal training in fashion design, but always had an interest in the fashion world. Her love for fashion design started young, when she created and sold hair ornaments to her friends in elementary school. As she grew older, Avantie began doing costume design for her school events and other local events in Solo, and in 1989, she started her own company with only a rented house and two sewing machines. Her business soon boomed, however, with her specialization in her elaborately beaded costume wear and wedding gowns.

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#71 “African Fabrics”: The History of Dutch Wax Prints–Guest Blog by Eccentric Yoruba

Vlisco model. Click for source.

“A picture of a pipe isn’t necessarily a pipe, an image of “African fabric” isn’t necessarily authentically [and wholly] African”.

These above words are quoted by Yinka Shonibare, a Nigerian-British contemporary artist known for his amazing artwork using African print fabrics in his scrutiny of colonialism and post-colonialism. What is commonly known as “African fabric” goes by a multitude of names: Dutch wax print, Real English Wax, Veritable Java Print, Guaranteed Dutch Java, Veritable Dutch Hollandais. I grew up calling them ankara and although they’ve always been a huge symbol of my Nigerian and African identity, I had no idea of the complex and culturally diverse history behind the very familiar fabrics until I discovered Yinka Shonibare and his art.

I know I personally felt shocked upon learning that the “African” fabrics I grew up loving and admiring were not really “African” in their origins (or is it?). This put things in perspective, however, as it suddenly made sense that my mother’s friends regularly travelled to European countries, including Switzerland and England, to purchase these fabrics and expensive laces to sell them again in Nigeria. In an attempt to join this lucrative business, my mother once dragged me with her to a fabric store while on holiday in London. I was not 13 years old then and I recall being surprised to find such familiar fabrics on sale outside Nigeria. Regardless, I never imagined that the history of this African fabric, henceforth referred to as Dutch wax print, spanned over centuries, across three continents and bridging various power structures.

Vlisco model. Click for source.

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#66 Fascinating Women: Madame C.J. Walker–Guest Blog by Evangeline Holland

Note: This is cross-posted with permission from Edwardian Promenade.

Madam C.J. Walker

I had to make my own living and my own opportunity! But I made it! Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them!

Contrary to public opinion, Madam C.J. Walker did not invent the hot comb or relaxers, and neither was she the only African-American beautician during the Gilded Age. What the former Sarah Breedlove was, however, was incredibly intelligent–a savvy entrepreneur, pioneering businesswoman, and shrewd marketer, she turned African-American beauty culture into a multimillion dollar empire never before seen. In the post-Reconstruction period, black women were alternately neglected by the vastly increasing companies catering to women’s haircare, cosmetics, and beauty, or sold toxic concoctions by greedy companies which promised “lighter skin” and “straight hair”, but ended up creating more problems for black women desperate to conform to the very narrow standards of beauty of the late 19th century.

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