I was only 8 years old when reality TV got its kickstart in the form of MTV’s The Real World in 1992. Since then the genre has given us a variety of ways to put people in a cage and observe their movements, whether they be conniving their way to love or rising above the competition to claim fabulous prizes. I will admit that I followed the love lives of plastic people like Bret Michaels and Tila Tequila with the rest of the sheep (I comforted myself by imagining I was doing an exercise in Anthropology), but for me the reality shows that have always been the best and continue to surprise me are the fashion competitions.
I’ve already shown you what Steampunk treasures guilty pleasure America’s Next Top Model had to offer, and last night Project Runway: Under the Gunn stepped up to the plate with the prompt to create “avant garde looks in the Steampunk aesthetic.” The designers were given $300 to spend on fabric and 30 minutes to dig through gadgets, clocks and other hardware to give their looks some mechanical flair. While a couple designers did struggle with the concept, I was really impressed overall with the extent of their knowledge and clever interpretations.
Click on any photo to open a larger slideshow.
During the show, Lifetime.com invited viewers to “play along” by voting on different questions throughout the episode. The first poll asked if viewers liked Steampunk, and I was delighted to see 76% of people said that they did. Lifetime has the whole episode available here, as well as a great set of photos of each garment with zoom capabilities here.
More photos from Episode 7.
Did you know that Steampunk has found its way onto Project Runway before? Here is a collection from
I don’t know if you all caught the Coke commercial during the Superbowl that is that causing such a ridiculous fuss, but the controversy stems from a rendition of America The Beautiful in multiple languages from the mouths of people who were various shades of brown. Apparently there has been a “twit-storm” as I like to say, as people have texted in to Coke to let them know that American songs should be sung in English, because apparently that is our national language or something (it is not). If you would like to alternately point and laugh, then feel enraged, you can read a sampling of the ascerbic word from the interwebs here (most of which have terrible spelling and grammar because they are written by lazy native English speakers).
So in the spirit of inclusiveness to counteract the mindless drones I have created a gallery below of Steampunk images that reflect influences from different cultures and often feature non-traditional models. Though some Steampunk purists may feel that something cannot in fact be considered Steampunk without Victorian England as it background, there is a growing movement to include people and settings from around the world. I have a lot more information on this topic as well in my post “How to Punk Your Steam: Make it Multicultural.”
Click on any thumbnail for larger images.
I was visiting a friend over the holidays and told her about this blog and what Steampunk is all about. Her reaction?
“All of that stuff that I really like, it has a name! And that name is Steampunk.”
Welcome to the fold, sister.
She was so inspired after our little chat that she created a beautiful, hand painted decorative plate, which is available for $250. You can reach her through her Lost Bohemian Facebook page.
And in addition to drawing and painting, she is also a world-class crocheter. I found this adorable scarflet for $40 just today on her website. Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
I live in the frigid North (ie, Minnesota) and the temperature was -9 yesterday. This made my thoughts turn to warm drinks, roaring fires and cool coats to keep winter at bay. If you are in a cold climate, I hope this gallery of steamy coats and my recipe for a Hot Toddy will warm you right up! This drink dates back from the 1700s and was definitely enjoyed during Victorian times.
1 cup hot water
1.5 ounce whiskey or brandy
1 spoonful of honey
lemon juice (optional)
Pour hot water into your mug and stir in honey until completely dissolved. Add liquor of choice (using whiskey adds a smokey flavor, brandy is sweeter). Add a squirt of lemon juice if you choose (I am allergic so I never do but that is the normal way to make one) and stir with cinnamon stick.
Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
What is it about our many legged friends that makes them a popular trope in Steampunk?
۞ Monster Cephlapods have been the major focus of several classic works of Science Fiction and Fantasy such as H. P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulu, Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and the 1830 Tennyson poem The Kraken. There is also a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle story called Horror of the Heights that features a flying tentacled monster. In more recent times both the Kraken and Cthulu-like monsters have made appearances in Hollywood blockbusters like Hellboy and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (though you also get a good look at the Kraken after it is death in Pirates of the Caribbean: World’s End).
۞ Their bodies are also reminiscent of complex machines. The long skinny tentacles are like wires or tubes and their movement is powered by water, not unlike steam vehicles. As a bonus their bodies kind of look like they are wearing a helmet and goggles all the time, and if Steampunk had an official symbol I’m pretty sure it would be a pair of goggles (or maybe a gear).
۞ Brian Kesinger, the talented artist behind Otto and Victoria and the book Walking Your Octopus: Your Guidebook to the Domesticated Cephlapod, did an interview for ComicMix.com, and when asked about his choice to draw an octopus as a couture pet he answered:
“I find octopuses extremely fun to draw. It is a real challenge inventing eight different things for them to do in every image. They are nature’s original multi-tasker and they certainly have captured the imagination of a lot of people. Along with the squid and other Cephalopods, octopuses seem to be a sort of theme animal for steampunk so when I set forth trying to render an image of a high class Victorian lady and her boutique pet the choice was obvious. What was not obvious was how popular Otto has become since I first drew him a year ago. He has inspired fan art, tattoos and I’ve even seen girls cosplay Victoria and conventions around the country! And for that I am so grateful and it keeps me drawing octopus.”
Cephlapods are fascinating creatures that are about as far away from human as you can get.
۞ I used to work at an aquarium so I got a chance to spend lots of time observing octopus and my personal favorite cuttlefish. These invertebrates can move in three dimensions, jetting around the water column and feeding on smaller animals.
They are also totally visually stunning. Undulating tentacles aside, many of them can change color and shape at will, which makes them masters of disguise. Want to have your mind blown? Check out the PBS documentary below for more information about cuttlefish camouflage.
I’ve collected just a sampling of the Steampunk art featuring our many-legged friends out there on the interwebs. In most cases you can get the artist’s name by simply hovering over each image and you can open a gallery of larger images by clicking on any thumbnail. If you see something that is mislabeled or you know who is behind one of my unlabeled entries please let me know so I can give the artist the credit s/he deserves.
Click on any thumbnail to open the gallery of larger images.
I found this nice little online shop called Blueberry Hill today. Most of the inventory is Rockabilly, but they also have a nice selection of full length Steampunk skirts and cool jackets. Check em out below.
Daisy Viktoria thought she was going to be a scientist, but her passion for fashion pulled her away from chemical engineering and into the world of fantasy. Her whimsical designs flirt with fairy tales, Victorian England and the wild west, and she was kind enough to send me photos from her most recent Steampunk-inspired shoot. (Click on the thumbnails for larger images)
I love the gold and black motif in this set of designs, especially the black on black striped shorts. But if bustles and corsets are a little too steamy for your everyday wear, Daisy has many subtly Steampunk designs as well. If Santa leaves some money in my stocking I am definitely going to ‘stock up’ on some of her ready to wear items. (Click on the thumbnails for larger images). You can check out more of her designs and her online store here.
Prada added some Edwardian style to their Fall/Winter 2012 line for men. I think menswear has a lot of potential for subtle Steampunk because suits are always in style, its just the cut and patterns that change. I also noted several very high-necked shirts and collars. Gary Oldman and Willem Dafoe headline this shoot along with Garrett Hedlund and Jamie Bell. Check out the gallery of photos from JDFalksen.com.
One place you can always count on for period pieces and beautifully constructed costumes is the Masterpiece Theater on PBS, and The Paradise is no exception. Set in an 1870s shopping Mecca, this series is a veritable parade of inspiration for Steampunk fashion. The hats alone already have my mind whirring! And as the visionary store owner, John Moray says “how can such beautiful women ever have enough beautiful things?”
Before the Victorian era, all clothing was sewed by hand. The industrialization of the garment industry led to a growing collection of “ready-made” dresses, but the upper class ladies were slow to move away from their couture gowns. This is one of the hurtles that the staff of The Paradise must overcome, and fast-thinking shopgirl Denise is able to make the “hard sell” from the very beginning.
“This isn’t a shop. This is a kind of heaven!” cries one of their customers. Keep in mind there was no such thing as Harrod’s or Macy’s in the form we know it today until the 1890s, so the convention of a store that caters specifically to women and their buying power was all but untapped of at this time.
You can see full episodes on PBS’s website by clicking here and scrolling to the bottom of the page for Episode 1.
“Steampunk style has become synonymous with many things as it has become more pervasive in popular culture, for good and ill: 19th-century, retrofuturism, neo-Victorian, colonialism, stuff white people like. What the steampunk community needs is a game-changer: more examples of what steampunks are really doing, and why does this subculture fit their wheelhouses. When you’re an outsider looking in, however, how can you avoid being blindsided by what has become the “tropes of the genre” (gears, goggles, pith helmets, and all)?”
Follow the link for the full article.
America’s Next Top Model has been around for a long time, and they do their best to push the boundaries of fashion and aesthetics for their photoshoots. It should come as no surprise then that Steampunk would eventually make an appearance. In the gallery above I picked my favorite images of ANTM contestants bedecked in Clockwork Couture, who have also featured celebrities like Mythbuster’s Grant Imahara in their photos.
Mere days after I wrote my Steampunk in the Mainstream post I watched the November 7 episode of Glee (Season 5, Episode 4). Adam Lambert shows up as “Starchild,” aka Elliott Gilbert, a golden-throated vision in top hat and tails to join Kurt’s band in NYC.
I was looking at some tasty Steampunk fashion at Clockwork Couture and I thought I recognized one of the male models. It turns out I was right! Grant Imahara, who is the robotics guru for one of my favorite shows, Mythbusters, appears in the online catalog. You can also see pics featuring Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Emma Caulfield and Felicia Day of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog (among other things.)
Photos by PixieVision