Considering the fact that we’re submerged in a culture that hasn’t moved past design of the 19th century, incorporating the present day into steampunk is both challenging and inventive. One of my favourite parts of steampunk is taking something completely modern and giving it a design that looks like it was made over 100 years ago. Nobody did that better than Datamancer, in my opinion, although there are some wonderful creators on the scene now.
When we think of steampunk we rarely consider the present day, but this is where it starts to get interesting, tying in with the next article on The Future. If we are to accept that steampunk is an actual time line, it would obviously be a parallel one. Therefore if that is true, then there is an alternate you and I sitting here reading this article on a gorgeous wooden covered computer. The technology would be the same, but would be powered by some mystical energy, the likes of which we cannot fathom.
The present day is vastly under-represented in steampunk fashions. We either go for the heavy Victorian era look or we add elements of futurism, but still with a strong sense of the past. Generally the present is demonstrated through steampunk themed cosplay of modern fictional characters, such as Batman, Star Wars and Dr Who. I don’t recall a time when I’ve seen everyday modern clothing given a steampunk make-over. Steampunk tracksuit, anyone? I suppose the problem is that a steampunk tracksuit sounds horrendous and I, for one, most certainly wouldn’t entertain that. Interestingly, if I were to create Steampunk Denim, there would be an outcry at the fact that denim wasn’t used in English Victorian fashion (I’m English, so tend to emulate that part of the World), yet these people will still buy a Steampunk styled USB stick.
Even so, our unwillingness to embrace modern clothing stems from the ideology that steampunk fashions remain in the 19th century and so in a modern steampunk society, gentlemen would still be wearing top hats and ladies would be squashing their internal organs into a corset. But that doesn’t have to be the case. In my article Guidelines of Steampunk the first rule is that aesthetics should be reminiscent of the Victorian era, but that doesn’t mean you have to dress wholly late 19th century, there should just ideally be some reference to the era or to steampunk.
The only area that I can think that has completely embraced the modern world is music. Modern musical equipment is used in bands today and the likes of Professor Elemental, Poplock Holmes and Reginald Pikedevant create modern rap music, but talk about Victorian/steampunk themes.
Photography has dabbled a little with the images that blend modern day photographs with a similarly composed image that was taken 100 years ago in order to see how the landscape has changed, but steampunk images try to create a background that immerses the model into a steampunk world.
I’d love to see more of the present day represented in steampunk fashions. I tend to wear modern shirts when attending events and I favour the open neck look, but that tends to be looked upon as dressed down and not worthy of a photograph by the many photographers milling around. Is that a problem? Are we pandering to outsiders? When you really look at it, deep down, are those of you who spend hours making outfits and toiling over sewing machines doing this for yourself or for the people who aren’t steampunks that will be in awe when they see what you’re wearing? After all, it’s a massive ego boost to get people asking for pictures of something you poured your passion and devotion into. There’s nothing wrong with wearing whatever you want. The wonderful thing about steampunk is that you can turn up in modern clothing and you still won’t be judged.