Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Beginning of an Exciting Voyage

Bozho nikanek! (Welcome friends!)

This is the first post of (what I'm hoping) will become an interesting trip into multiculturalism for steampunks!


So in the vein of delightful supervillains before me, I'm going to tell you all why I did it!
1. Reading the articles on steamfashion done by G.D. Falksen, who offers so many historical possibilities for steampunks to use.
2. Seeing so many blogs and articles about multiculturalism, and yet very little for steampunks to take with them practically. I believe in a principal of show, don't tell- so here I'm hoping to offer content on multi-cultural steampunk in a visual, informative manner.
3. Because what we're protraying is culture, not race. I don't want to bring race into this blog, and if I do, I'd like you good people to inform me that I've slipped. This is a blog about sharing cultures and making something wonderful- because creating something together is how we overcome distrust, fear, or hatred.
4. When done respectfully and with proper research, any culture present during the age of steam (for my intents, 1800-1915) is open for steampunk adaptation. If the proper honor and scholarship has been shown, people should not be afraid to wear the clothing of another people. If you have a problem with someone using this approach, then I would entreat you not to comment or ignore my blog altogether, because you're going to see a lot of this Norwegian/Potawatomie girl wearing different clothes.
5. Because it's cool!

So then- who are you?

I'm Miss Kagashi, which is my (Potawatomie for crow) nom-de-plume in this case. When I'm not exploring the cultures which existed in the time of steam (and their fabulous clothes, art, and cuisine), I'm terrorizing conventions as Kapitan von Grelle of the Imperial Anti-Piracy Squadron. I've been a costumer for seven years, two of which have been as a professional, in addition to being an artist, history student, and adventurous eater (seriously, have you ever had tripe? It's delicious!).

I became bitten by the multi-cultural costuming bug when I made a North African/Turkish inspired outfit a couple of years ago (which I adapted into a steampunk ensemble for DragonCon 2010) and was delighted not only by the doors it opened to me, but because it was surprisingly comfortable (not to mention flash-looking).

                                                       Photo by Anna Fischer

I wondered to myself- why are people restricting themselves to the same combinations of Western/European Victorian clothes, when there is indeed a world wonderful clothes, art, and crafts out there. So, this is hopefully what I'd like to do for you- to traverse the world in the age of steam, see the wearable (and edible!) arts the peoples produced (and how to produce your own), and meet some people who love to make it.

Until next time world travellers!

35 comments:

  1. I wasn't aware that most steampunks were restricting themselves to Western Culture only when creating their wardrobes.

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  2. Very Enlightening! I love the outfit pictured above! Quite the masterpiece.

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  3. They aren't consciously, Mr./Ms. Anonymous. I just think it's an issue that they have not been exposed to many resources or examples within the period or ideas to jump off of. People will wear what they want to wear, Western or no, all I want to offer here is an alternative approach they can take from.

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  4. As a tribal bellydancer who is also a steampunk, I really welcome this blog! Tribal fusion is a modern form of dance, fusing moves taken from many cultures around the world, but most strongly influenced by middle eastern dance forms and flamenco. A lot of dancers are discovering steampunk, and this is resulting in some really exciting dances, with moves that invoke machinery or ticking clocks, and fabulous outfits, of course.....

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  5. Same Anonymous as before... I guess it never occurred to me to limit my wardrobe to Western Culture due to the influence of Ukiyo-e prints. Unfortunately I do not remember the name of the artist or the title of the piece but the print that sticks in my mind is of 2 women, in a very traditional setting, wearing bustle dresses made out of traditional japanese fabric. The juxtaposition was fantastic and stays with me.

    When I think of Steampunk it's that sort of juxtaposition that comes to mind.

    Now if only my sewing / costuming skills were up my imagination. But I shall continue to strive. I do hope that some costuming tips will be provided in this blog.

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  6. Being middle eastern myself, I have always liked your style that you took for that outfit. I assume that is what the basis for it. I know others who base some of their garb on Indian or Chinese era. It suits them.

    Its always been about the European style because thats where the Industrial Age happened first. Others sometimes base in different regions for the setting, but having a mingle does add depth the scene.

    -Lance

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  7. Been there...done that. :)

    http://www.etsy.com/listing/17801193/yellow-dust-mask-bead-and-leather-over?ref=tre-4c9e660a6f5b6d9175e1cdf8-5

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  8. Fantastic costume and great blog post about costuming and adapting your style/flavour into your ensemble.
    The steampunk art jewellry I make is also not quite in the "traditional" Victorian style but a bit more eclectic and imaginative.

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  9. Beautiful outfit Miss Kagashi, and a wonderful and open view, hopefully people will catch onto the idea of displaying different cultures and even their own roots. I am currently looking at ways i can incorperate a bit of my Prussian Background into my outfit. Keep it up!

    new Annony =P

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  10. I can't tell you how thrilled I am that you have created this blog and look forward to see examples of more multiculturalism within the Steampunk genre. Too often, people seem to forget that Europe wasn't the only country inhabited during the age of steam. Kudos!

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  11. Steampunk is all about the twist. Victorian/Western Fashion is often the stepping stone. A good thing to think about is how cultures of that time period would mix. Oriental Patterns made into Victorian Fashion. Morrison was infamous for her woven patterns which were influenced by Eastern and Middle Eastern Cultures. The Age of Steam was also an Age of exploration so there is no reason a well traveled Westerner or a assimilated Foreigner would not mix culture styles for comfort and fashion. Your look is an excellent example of that. Speaking Culturally you should always remember that fashion (what you wear) is an outward expression of who you want people to see. clgbutterfly, Butterfly Creations.

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  12. I'm quite thrilled to see others branching out from the standard Eurocentric steampunk outfits. This May at World Steam Expo, I made a rather nice Bedouin outfit with a number of seemingly scavenged steampunk items to give it that just-back-from-the-Ottoman-holdings-on-Mars look.

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  13. his not her. James Morrison. Victorian Textile Merchant

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  14. another bellydancer here that loves steampunk. I love the turkish blend there and I'm thinking of maybe trying something like russian. but I'll be off to do some research first. great idea.

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  15. Fabulous!
    Another bellydancer into steampunk, love this look!

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  16. Nice post and I love your North African/Turkish ensemble! I too have wondered why so many people do not explore or mix other cultural/ethnic styles of dress into Steampunk. My character travels so I have done so far several Steampunk East Indian themed ensembles as well as one based on a Chinese print. Next project is something Aztec/Mayan influenced! Some pictures are here on my husbands blog http://artofsteampunk.blogspot.com/2010/09/fashion-as-steampunk.html

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  17. We'll have to see about finding a good place for tripas tacos when you're in the neighborhood again!

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  18. As someone who has played in the historical reenactment for a while, and who is getting into steampunk, I heartly approve of this site and can't wait to see what lovely items appear here. (Plus, now I'm plotting how to work some of my salwar kameeze outfits into steampunk, hmmmm...)

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  19. I'm currently working on a Scottish steampunk outfit (kilts ftw) and can give you a handy guide to plaids, which are key in Scotland.

    I am also looking forward to seeing if anything here catches my eye, for I am always open to exploration and inspiration.

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  20. I snapped two pictures of you at Dragon*Con! I love your costume.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/conventionfans/4968172616/in/set-72157624776334335/

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  21. I did not see you at DC, but am working on assorted accessories and variables that can be applied to Steampunk fashion and styles as well and plan to wear some of them at Arachnocon in February.
    Delgado Fitzhugh

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  22. This is really neat! I've always liked Russia during the late 1800s and always wondered how to pull it all as a steampunk look. This blog inspired me to really do research and see what I can come up with.
    Victorian England is cool, but it's been done to death with steampunk.

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  23. Very nice angle on steampunk, I'm looking forward to seeing the directions you take it and areas you cover.

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  24. Kudos to you! I'll be advertising this blog on our band's facebook account to get the word out.

    -Allison Curval

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  25. check out the art of Yinka Shonibare, he fuses African tribal prints with Dutch Colonial and Victorian English styles. Very, very cool. http://www.whokilledbambi.co.uk/public/2007/11/shonibare.jpg

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  26. I'd be concerned about the cultural appropriation aspect of things; I'm not Middle Eastern, African, Asian or South American, so I would be very leery of borrowing from a culture that I don't belong to in order to make a steam-punk fashion statement.

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  27. I do hope that this blog isn't going to become a punching bag for concern-trolls. That kind of behaviour is uncalled for.

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  28. Hey Cate-...

    ...it MIGHT just get folks from other cultures interested in the game... You know, if some Euro-Am type went up to a person from India, say, and said, 'hey, I'm working on this project, what did folks from Hyderabad wear in 1910?...'

    And in fact, it's not at all out of character for European people in the late-Victorian and Edwardian eras to be wearing kit from non-European countries. Most of the travel was based on imperialism and conquest, but there were many Europeans that adopted their non-native culture, and 'stayed on,' to use a post-Partition phrase.

    ...and there's also the possibility that the folks doing the research for their kit might learn about that culture, and how not to disrespect or misrepresent it.

    Damnit, now I want Indian food.

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  29. Would you be interested in porting your blog posts here over to Livejournal? I'd love to follow what you're doing here, but I'm terrible at remembering to check other sites.

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  30. I look forward to seeing more posts on fashion of non-European nations during the steam era as I think many non-European nations have much to offer in terms of beautiful fashions and clothing.

    However it's a sensitive issue and in line with those who have concern about cultural appropriation - I do hope that you do NOT make this completely race blind and gloss over the nature of encounters between imperialist nations and the subjugated nations as many of these are indeed race tinged. It's easier to just cut those things out from a Westerner standpoint, but doing that is not necessarily being objective.

    Even if you are an outsider to a particular nation and want to appreciate the clothing, which is a part of the culture of that nation - I think you can still be an ally - true appreciation also requires acknowledgement of the viewpoint of the people who have been colonized/under conquest.

    Lastly, I find it hilarious that you present eating tripe as something adventurous! I think many of the cultures in which you would be interested in delving into, clothing-wise, would be less inclined to thinking specific parts of the animal are much of an adventure.

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  31. I would be careful in your choice of wording, Anonymous, as "race" has been officially recognized, anthropologically, as an arbitrary classification developed by colonial powers for at least the last 20 years. As racial classifications are based almost exclusively on perceived morphological differences, in discussions of cultural heritage, it is almost completely useless. (I'm not just making it up, I link you to the American Anthropological Association's statement on race http://aaanet.org/issues/policy-advocacy/AAA-Statement-on-Race.cfm)

    As to the sensitivity of depicting a culture not your own, I think it is certainly something that everyone foraying into the genre of multicultural steampunk needs to approach respectfully and with a great deal of research. I do believe, however, that the approach Miss Kagashi is taking is one of "how-to" and basics of traditional, material culture as a jumping off point (and, based on her treatment of Maori Moko - and her emphasis that a non-Maori must never, ever use it- I'd say she's on the right track). There are a multitude of articles, and at least one blog, that discuss the sufferings inflicted on cultures under colonial rule and the problem that this poses for European-based depictions of steampunk (most regurgitate, ad nauseum, the arguments made in the most excellent works of Howard Zinn and Edward Said. I would always recommend these works first: -A People's History of the United States- changed my life my freshman year of high school). I am not at all saying that this approach lacks value, I am just saying that Miss Kagashi is providing what most people are looking for when they search "steampunk multiculturalism": a view of the multiple cultures that are underrepresented in steampunk depictions and why they are so cool to think about in relation to steampunk.

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  32. Yay, hooray! I've been interested in steampunk for a long time. I've never been much of a costumer, and it's a bit overwhelming. And, with my build, the victorian corset and bustle are going to be horrible. I've been looking at other cultures to try to put something together that would be less Umbridge-like in its appearance on me.

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  33. Just found your blog as I am researching incorporating East Indian clothing in to my Steampunk wardrobe. Awesome!

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  34. I've been brainstorming for a Persian steam punk costume. I deffinitely think there's room to think outside the box with steam punk and try some other nationalities. Thanks for the inspiration.

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  35. Really enjoying your site. As I've been working on my own SP project I've become really aware of how much fantasy steampunk has become the dominant version people are introduced to and that historical SP (that based on specific cultures, specific eras, or even pseudo-science) is rather hard to find. For that reason it always seemed rather odd that people were hand-picking the best aspects of the Victorian era sans the classism, sexism, and adding 20th century sensibilities, but still seemed to have no room for anything other than European influences. Your blog has definitely given me fresh avenues to explore while doing my research.

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