Friday, January 25, 2013

Steam Posh - How to Dress up Your Dress Up

These are Steampunk designs from my friends at Lastwear.  Quite decidedly Steampunk in most cases.   



  Strangely, I really can't give anyone an accurate definition of Steampunk fashion. As the proverbial quote goes...”I know it when I see it,” and I can tell you that it is broad. I generally use the definition explained to me by Steampunk maven Diana Vick. She defines it as a style that combines Victorian and Neo-Victorian and elements of science fiction and fantasy to result in a mechanical steam driven aesthetic. This is my working definition for the purpose of this article, but it is not intended to define Steampunk style for all time. That being said, the question of what to wear is, and nearly always has been, hotly debated in sociopolitical circles. But I think I will save that for another article on another day. This article is for far less weighty matters and concerns what my darling Daddy would refer to as getting “dandied up.” The couple below are more decidedly "dressed up" than "dressed down".
     I actually heard the term "Steam Posh" from my friend William Elder.  He always attended my steampunk dance classes in quite formal frock coat and a brocade waistcoat with a cravat.  He described his particular style as Steam Posh".  A little more formal and less hands on adventurer than Steampunk.  It requires a top hat rather than a derby or a bowler and it may come off as more neo-Victorian than Steampunk.  The difference is in the details and the fabrics.  I quite liked the term and decided to use it myself.  
A decidedly Steampunk ball gown



This is a wedding picture.  The bride in blue taffeta and the groom in a tailcoat.
 Beading and tulle, also very formal though this ensemble is definitely not for the ballroom with it's big hat and parasol. Dior 2005.  Despite his outrageous outbursts, I love John Galliano's designs.
Another outrageous confection from John Gallianos Dior 2005
Never say never.  This gown has virtually no formal fabrics being made of dyed cotton muslin and leather, but still very formal in its line.
     Most of us know, just by looking, fabrics that scream formal.  Brocades, silks, satins, lace, metallic trims, such as military bullion and ruffles are generally reserved for more formal occasions.  Leather,muslin, denim, cotton, linen, duct, tweed, wool and other heavy duty fabrics hold up much better to the rigors of adventuring than the finer formal fabrics, but just because a dress is made from heavier materials does not necessarily exclude it from the label of Steam Posh. Often the use of unusual materials can result in something that could only be called Steam Posh...like this ball gown which includes old hot water bottles. and sometimes leather can be treated in much the same way as silk or lace.  I think this couple are skirting the edges of Steam Posh, although they are definitely Steampunk.     
     For many of us, dressing Steampunk is a few steps up from the casual dress most of us sport on a daily basis. Often when we go to Steampunk events such as conventions and exhibitions, we make costumes and get “dressed up” This often involves all kinds of props and may consist of mechanical arms or fairy wings, leather and gears and other such steamy accouterments. How then, do we “dress for dinner” or “dress for a ball”? In short, how do we, dress up our dressing up? 

      Much of what makes Steampunk Steam Posh is the shape of the dress. Shorter skirts bloomers, slacks and knickers are usually sported for more utilitarian purposes.  Longer skirts, elaborate bustles with trains, many flounces or ruffles are usually only seen on more formal occasions 
      For the gentlemen I think the identification is easier.  The style of the chapeau is a good indication.  Top hats are more formal than bowlers.  A silk cravat and collared shirt and jacket is usually seen more on the posh man, while inventors, and working men are seen in their shirtsleeves and bracers.  
     One other indication is color.  Steampunk dress is usually seen in predominately earthy browns, grays and blacks while we see much more color in the more formal style.  This is especially true of men's cravats and waistcoats.  Ladies who favor posh over punk lean toward more color in their evening wear. 
     The style is so broad that I hesitate to delineate, and the "posh" side of Steampunk is really a matter of dressing up your own personal style.  

     Remember ya'll, fashion says "Me too".  Style says,"Only me."  Make your posh style your own.

     Next up: Sub rosa, the style of the spy.