Thursday, April 14, 2011


I just got back from the Romantic Times Convention held this year in Los Angeles. My purpose was to meet some online friends, network and get a better understanding of where the publishing industry is going.

A huge component of this convention for me was steampunk. At the convention last year, I had barely heard of steampunk, just enough to be dangerous. This year there was a focussed effort by the convention organizers and publishers to develop an understanding and following for this genre. There were several steampunk workshops, a steampunk social and lots of costumes, including my own steampunk fairy outfit.

During a discussion with an editor, she indicated that readership for steampunk is still in the early stages. The genre is not yet well understood and even when people read the book and enjoy it, they are not necessarily aware that it’s part of a specific subgenre. Even though the readership may not be equivalent to paranormal or historical fiction, the potential is still huge. Every editor at the very well attended editor’s panel indicated that they were interested in steampunk, or at least it seemed that way. They know that it is on the brink of breaking through and we are seeing more and more fiction with steampunk undertones. It also doesn’t hurt that steampunk fashion is appearing around every corner.

So how does one even get started?

Steampunk for me is taking the ordinary and making alterations that are consistent to how we think objects would be used by the Victorians (or people in another point in time) if they had the right technology. “The path not taken” is an excellent phrase that is just one way to describe steampunk. What if?

The picture above is author Mary Wine at the RT convention. She is a first class costume maker, which is obvious from her gorgeous Victorian outfit, complete with a fabulous bustle, lace gloves, corset and mini top hat. Although this outfit isn’t steampunk, it’s a place to start. This might be a typical Victorian outfit, but how can we change it to make it steampunk?

It’s not just a matter of making the outfit edgy or adding goggles, but making changes that are relevant to your world. There is no point adding goggles unless there is a reason for them. Maybe the atmosphere is thick with pollution and the goggles help clear the air, or the goggles are used to detect demonic auras.

Perhaps the bustle is not just fashionable, but serves another purpose. Maybe that skirt just needs to be shorter, so she can ride her steam powered penny farthing bicycle and a long skirt would surely get in the way.

Starting with something familiar will help you get to where you are going. Based on this picture, what changes would you make and why?

~Stacie~

11 comments:

Marilyn Muñiz said...

Thanks for sharing info from the con for that one day I write a steampunk novel. Foresee it happening a long time from now.

Mary Wine's outfit is beautiful! To answer your question, create a split on each side or one down the middle in the front. Make the top sleeveless with ties and wear long gloves which are tied to the top via the ties.

I can go all day...

Fiona said...

Great post, Stacie. Your musing evoked fabulous memories of last week's RT Con. Okay so my quick alterations include a slit for the skirt, maybe up the sides and have her wearing tight pants underneath. A girl needs to keep her modesty! I like the idea of goggles, especially since smoggy London would hae been hard on the eyes when sporting around on a steam powered penny farthing. I'm intrigued with the idea of a cap of some sort with accenting feathers or some type of decoration.

Cheers, Fe

For Your Eyes Only~Author Lani Rhea said...

This is very interesting, Stacie! Thanks for sharing. This weekend, in Oklahoma, there’s a Steampunk convention as well. I would love to go to the workshops and learn more about the genre, but other activities have come up, so I'll miss out. Maybe next year! Thanks again for the delightful insight!

~Lani

Ella Gray said...

Good stuff, Stacie! I agree that all those cool steampunk accessories really need to have purpose within a story. I don't really get too much into the anachronistic fashion side of things, but I do enjoy admiring others' creativity. I would love to see you in your costume!!

R.A. Gates said...

Great post Stacie. Mary's dress is beautiful, but I would put slits in the sides so the wearer has access to the dagger she'll have strapped to her thigh, or raygun or whatever. I picture a more Inspector Gadget type of dress. That would be fun. Where are the pics of your fairy costume?

Dawn Ryder--Mary Wine said...

Thanks so much everyone. This is an 1880 afternoon dress. I love making historical garments and I'm getting ready to write my first Steam Punk book which will publish in 2012.

Mary Wine
MaryWine.com

Maureen said...

Hmmmm...she needs a toolbelt holding handy little accesories... Maybe glasses with a magnifying loop to one side...a time piece either around her neck or on her wrist with gear visibly working. A nice long hatpin with something slighly anacronistic on it...

And a pirate hat. ;-)

Stacie Carver said...

I love the ideas! I think the dress is perfect the way it is, but if I wanted to steampunk it out, I would think of a toolbelt.
Stacie

Melanie said...

My version would be khaki. Bustle is the tool-kit. Or the engine driving the clockworks of the corset. It's an automaton, isn't it? (Sorry, Mary:-) )
m

Cara Fillmore said...

Love this, Stacie! And of course loved Mary Wine! I agree with you that Steampunk is a growing genre. I can't wait for Mary's story - and one from you too!

Erin Kane Spock said...

Mary's costume is gorgeous as always.
I would love to make a modified Victorian dress (short though) over jodhpurs and incorporate rubber and studs for a steampunk event.

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