Back in July this year, steampunk model Amy Wilder attended the San Diego Comic Convention wearing a gold bikini, coupled with a gun, holster, short jacket and obligatory goggles. Since then she’s had a lot of flak about whether the outfit was steampunk or not.
The main issue stemmed around the fact that a bikini wasn’t befitting of the time that she was trying to recreate. After all, it wasn’t invented until the 1940’s. It’s put me into a quandary as to who’s side I fall on. You see in principle I agree with the nay-sayers that a bikini wasn’t in use during the time period that we take our inspiration from. My biggest gripe is the material used. If the bikini had been made from lace or cotton, it maybe wouldn’t have as much of a negative impact.
One of the leading issues I have with the people who have been negative about it is that when Miss Wilder posted a picture on her Facebook page, she pointed out that she wanted to prove that she could “steampunk even the most ridiculous of things“. So was it intended as a tongue in cheek approach to the sub-culture? Possibly. If it was, then the pessimists look rather silly now.
To me, questioning someone’s outfit questions their interest in steampunk. Miss Wilder was essentially accused of not being a steampunk. Look through her Facebook page and she talks about steampunk all the time. She has albums dedicated to steampunk, alt and cosplay and her Model Mayhem account is littered with steampunk images. If you want more proof that she is a steampunk, she constantly gets fitted out by Brute Force Studios. Anyone that Brute Force give a nod to are good sports in my Journal.
In the comments section of her recent post, she posted a triptych featuring Lady Clankington, Kato and herself. She labelled them “Steampunk Royalty”, “Steampunk Supermodel” and “offensive, not steampunk” and I can see her argument. All three are ladies that use their bodies to promote themselves but also enjoy steampunk. However, as a photographer, I can see striking contrasts (no pun intended). You see, in the pictures Lady Clankington wears lace undergarments, Kato is in vintage styled lingerie accessorised with pearls and a cameo while Miss Wilder is in a shiny gold bikini. Lady Clankington and Kato are in subtle (albeit saucy) poses, while Miss Wilder looks over her shoulder in a poorly executed 1990’s glamour pose that serves nothing but the lurid minds of people not appreciating her for her cosplay efforts.
Now let’s take a look at the wider issues. Steampunk is all encompassing. We’re a jolly lot that welcome anyone into the culture and we’re proud to say that – unlike Victorian re-enactment – we can express ourselves as we wish. I’ve known people wear swimming goggles on their hats. So for anyone calling themselves a steampunk to approach someone else and berate them because they don’t fit in with a preconceived ideal is just not cricket. But then, my mind wanders to the rest of the outfit. There’s no denying that Miss Wilder is a steampunk. Saying that, the outfit she wore at SDCC – in my opinion – would be better designated as cyberpunk. To me, the bikini with the blaster rifle and her friends clad in latex suggests more a dystopian technological future where the world was suddenly thrust into a global war and everyone had to grab a gun and fight regardless of what they’re wearing.
My biggest concern about the whole thing is who these people thought they were that they can approach someone and say they aren’t steampunk. Just because she isn’t wearing what they think she should be wearing. Is that the ideal of steampunk? As steampunk becomes more fashionable and more people are introduced to it, we will see more of this, I dare say. Younger steampunks will start to evolve the culture and make it different to how it is now. Older steampunks may not like that and dig their heels in. There’s always a possibility that it will make steampunk unpleasant. Should steampunk change? Over on steamychums, another writer discussing this very story suggests that steampunk is an art form and as art it should be left to naturally evolve. Yet back in January, I posted an article about the rise in popularity of steampunk. It’s a buzz word. We’re in danger of steampunk being evolved by people who aren’t really steampunks because they’re “putting their own twist on it”. If they’re not steampunks I don’t want their twist on it and from that point of view I can see where the remarks came from.
But Amy Wilder IS a steampunk and should be met with the same courtesy that we extend to everyone inside AND outside our culture.