Friday, December 3, 2010

Featured Traveller: Alisa

Alisa at Steamcon II wearing her hand-made geisha-inspired steampunk gown
Steamcon II saw some people pressing the envelope as to the basic types and tropes of steampunk, but I think my favorite that I've seen thus far (and the best executed, in my opinion) has been Alisa's interpretation of a steampunk geisha. This fantastic outfit has a very luxurious blend of East and West and lots of layering that makes it look...well... real! Alisa was kind enough to share her insights into making this exquisite piece.

Miss K: Why did you decided to integrate a Japanese look into your steampunk ensemble?

Alisa: I have been interested in geisha for a long time, and had been planning to sew a traditional geisha costume.  Then, quite suddenly, I discovered steampunk, and all my other costuming plans got pushed aside in favor of making something steampunk.  I was reading someone's blog, and she mentioned that everyone always does "English" steampunk, and she wondered why hardly anyone branched out into other cultures.  Something clicked in my mind, and the next day I was sketching out ideas to combine my previous costume plan with my new love of steampunk.

Miss K: How long did it take you to make/put together your ensemble?

Alisa: It was easily close to two years from start to finish, because I didn't have a set occasion to wear it, and so I worked on it in little bits and pieces.  For awhile, I was thinking this was the outfit that would *never* be finished!  But then I decided to attend Steamcon II, and that gave me the push to finally complete it.

Miss K: What was your favorite part of the process?

Alisa: Inventing all the little details, like the way the back of the skirt is constructed to resemble (in my mind anyway) an origami crane.  

Aforementioned train- one can also appreciate Alisa's hair, which is inspired off of traditional geisha styles.
Miss K: In your research or construction did you find out something interesting about the culture?

Alisa: I don't know that I discovered anything specific to this costume.  I'd been reading about the geisha for years before I started it, so I was already pretty familiar with the culture.

Miss K: What sort of reactions do you get wearing your ensemble out/to events?

Alisa: This was easily the most popular costume I've ever worn.  The reaction to it really amazed me!  I wore it for the first time to Steamcon II, and I literally couldn't walk down a hall without someone complimenting me and asking for a picture.  And usually the outfit attracted a crowd of people all snapping pictures at once; I felt like a celebrity!   I had people comment that it was the best dress they had seen at Steamcon, which was incredible considering the quality of other people's work.

Miss K: Why would you recommend making a Japanese-inspired steampunk ensemble to people?

Alisa: It is such a natural combination; Victorians were very inspired by all things Asian.  Plus, the fabrics, colors, and shapes of Japanese clothing are just so very beautiful.  There are so many possible variations, from the subtle, to the extremely flamboyant!

Thanks Alisa, for sharing your multicultural steampunk journey with us, I'm glad I can share your fabulous results with people.

My favorite touch- the geta/gaiter combo!
 Alisa does not take commissions, but more photographs and insights (including dress diaries) are available for viewing on her website, Dragonfly Designs by Alisa. I would highly recommend it as it really sheds light into the different layers and details that went into this outfit, in addition to close-ups of items like the wig and bodice front. 


  1. At Tesla Con there was a wonderful Kitsune Steampunk outfit. A lovely brownish/metallic silk kimono with a corset outside, little fox ears in her hair (nearly matched her hair color) and several fox tails as the bustles. It was adorable beyond belief! Much like Alisa's Steampunk Geisha is adorable beyond belief. I had also thought about integrating Meiji era with Steampunk but did not have the costuming skills to do so. Now that I've seen such beautiful outfits I truly despair of doing justice to the idea. :(

    For those that would like more inspiration I suggest Ukiyo-e (japanese woodblock prints). That's where my inspiration first came from.

  2. I adore Alisa's work: she always pts so much detail and layers that her Steampunk outfits look real, as you said. I can imagine them in movies.

  3. Just saw this while doing research. This ensemble is so full of amazing detail an is an exceptional inspiration for the project at hand, and only hope that we can achieve something as gorgeous as this!!! Thanks for sharing this Jeni

  4. This is a fantastic piece! Alisa had it right when she said that Asian cultures definitely inspired European art. Especially when it came to the Art Nouveau period.

    Thank you so much for posting this. The pictures give me some great ideas for the piece I'm working on now!
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