I’ve been off the map for the past 2 years [mostly due to grad school] but people like jaborwhalky keep trying to prod me out of my hibernation with pointy sticks and banging pots and pans.
Since the look seems to have gotten some attention, I figure I’ll give you some
background on it.
I’m a Production/Costume&Scenic designer [some of my work can be seen on my journal]. For years I’d been obsessed with 19th century menswear and made it into a pet hobby, dissecting old garments to learn how they were really engineered. Made myself as close to historically accurate replicas as I could get and wore them as my everyday clothes.
This is in large part because I’m 6’5” and nothing fits me anyways. I preferred the cut of 19th century suits and can pretty much wear them in modern society without looking too abnormal.
At the time I was much more involved going out to goth and industrial clubs, would dress fully 19th century [which mostly just meant adding a collar and tie to what I was already wearing].
Back then when someone dressed ‘victorian’ it usually mean some sort of cheap velvet frockcoat and a ruffly poet shirt, which didn’t mesh with my historical understanding of the 19th century, which became more about hard solid shapes, somber clothing. The “stark bourgeois” of the latter 19th century industrial revolution. And I set about crafting a fashion that attempted to meet more industrial esthetics.
In 2001 I was abroad in London with an internship at the globe theater and in the very little free time I’d go out to slimelight and got a good dose of the British cybergoth scene there.
While there, I did a few random doodles trying to envision what a fusion look might entail and that was the spark for what I’m still slowly developing.
At the time I didn’t really know what steampunk was although I was a big fan of actual 19th century literature (especially their science fiction). I became aware of steampunk in a more roundabout way through what I was doing.
[squirrelmadness, BTW the coat you got from me, is the one I wore as my winter coat during this period… just F.Y. random I.]
I don’t know if I’d even consider the look ‘steampunk’, more of an abstract 19th century cargo cult. It’s partially based on the images I’ve seen of native cultures dominated by industrialized societies. Wearing the clothes of the imperialists, adopting their mannerisms, but retaining an identity in their hair and skin. There’s an odd subjugation yet an ownership of the style in these old photos. Take the trappings of your enemy and wear them in your own way, use them against them.
There are national geographic images of medicine men who have taken modern items like goggles, and have used them in the construction of ritualistic masks. I find the idea of a regression from modern-functional to symbolic, spiritual and tribal uses immensely interesting territory to explore.
The hairfalls came about as a merger of this idea as well as a stylistic adaptation of the cyber tribal look that was dominating the club scene at the time.
A Utopian Victorian society doesn’t interest me, because there’s no truth in it. The Great British Empire was in a state of decay as it bloated , expanding across the earth. The era is a time of rapid change, and extreme turmoil.
If cyberpunk is a future that focuses on the grungier darker and less savory aspects of human nature [less star trek, more bladerunner] then steampunk, for me at least is doing the same.
What fascinates me most about the 19th century, is that the material from it, is still relevant today, especially in light of our current socio-political situation.
“The Conservative Order” is formed in 1815, in an attempt to maintain Aristocratic control over society, placing an emphasis on Tradition and Organized Religion,
and to quell ‘Liberalism’, suppressing the public’s demands for representative governments and civil liberties.
Joseph Conrad wrote ‘Secret Agent’ in 1907. In it, the British government enlists their own agents to blow up the Greenwich Dome as an act of terrorism, thereby scaring the public into allowing the Parliament to enact laws that enable them to crack down on terrorism [Anarchism back then]. Conrad paints a landscape where the criminals and police are not exactly separate, and where people leave bombs in public places to push fanatic ideology.
Anyways, If left to my own devices I would probably go on an on, but things like leaving the house are important priorities so I’ll end it here.