This is a pretty, white on white patchwork skirt, with vintage ruffles. The patchwork is made up of recycled and vintage eyelet laces, satins, cottons, silks, and taffetas. The under slip is from a vintage half slip(1940’s or 50’s) with pretty brown and ecru lace, ruffles. The hemline is finished with a strip of cotton calico from a vintage apron(1960’s) and a strip of embossed pink silk both have unfinished edges, and a beautiful hand sculpted flower made from an iridescent mauve taffeta from the inside of a vintage ladies coat from the 1930’s. this skirt has an elastic and drawstring waist treatment which ties in the back.
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22 year old Steam Powered costume winner Holly Conrad as Orpheus Alchemy with a medieval twist on the theme. ‘Steampunk is the embodiment of Victorian pulp fiction.’
STEAM POWERED: The California Steampunk Convention
There’s a deep irony that in the home of the silicon chip empire, inside a clean, ultramodern hotel, a bunch of rebel scum are revelling in a realm of cogwheels and clockworks. Sunnyvale, California is hosting the world’s first convention dedicated solely to Steampunk, encompassing all fictional factions and philosophies from a dystopian parallel universe where zeppelins roam the air, the Empire is stalwartly British and rayguns are the weapon of choice.
Steam Powered is two days and nights of guest panels, hands-on workshops, vendors and of course the obligatory convention partying, which is aptly fuelled by a bountiful supply of tea and sandwiches. With a live soundtrack of waltz standards it’s a sophisticated affair indeed. At the opening night’s Victorian ball, all asunder is attired in the finest of fashion, meticulously crafted clothing covering everything from formal period ballroom attire, military uniforms and mad hatters to rocket-packed scientists.
A splendid pair of Steampunk Ghostbusters blast dry ice from ectoplasmic weapons, directed at two widow apparitions, but the team of Professor Jåger and Crackitus Potts narrowly miss the prize for best costume of the evening. Winner is Holly Conrad as ‘Orpheus Alchemy’, with a simply stunning futuristic medieval twist on the theme, complete with expanding gothic wings adapted from a Batman toy.
‘There were lot’s of pulp stories about weird creatures in the early 1900’s and I am a vision out of their ideas of mystical things,’ she says. ‘Steampunk is so versatile. I admire the clean Victorian high-life look, but I can’t pull that off. I prefer to cover myself with dirt and feathers.’
A dapper Sydney Poitier from the Wild, Wild West is the couture of choice for software developer and festival organiser Richard Bottoms. ‘There are only so many Neos that can turn up at a fan convention,’ he quips. ‘Frankly, I look good in this stuff. This is the type of clothing we like to wear to socialise. Here’s an opportunity to do that and for people to learn how to do it better.’
‘It has a real human aspect to it,’ believes Devon Gregory, a scenic artist who is manning the panelled Gentleman’s Club erected in the neon hotel lobby. In the wee small hours, the vintage prefab turns into the perfect Steampunk retreat but it’s a shame pipe-smoking is not permitted indoors. ‘Even the aesthetic of clock gears is so much more personable than circuitry, the way the gears roll and fit; it’s much more magical. I also have a certain thing for corsets. I’m in hog-heaven!’
This is an intimate fan convention where the guests are as much Steampunk aficionados as the attendees; everyone intermingles in a hotel filled with creative designers, engineers, gear heads and information technologists. In the vendor’s hall, filled with a gallery of goggles, corsetry, art and antique cufflinks, I find Kevin O’Hare, who is offering instant photos from his ‘Chromadigigraphic’ camera, a retooled plate and bellows model from the 1880’s with an inkjet printer inside.
‘It’s a combination of a desire to put some class and some artistry into modern technology, which tends to be cold and hard,’ says the member of the team that built the Neverwas Haul, a self-propelled three-story Victorian house. ‘Steampunk is not a rejection of technology. It’s more a rejection of the cold aesthetics of the IBM Dell industrial look. For the most part, we’re all tinkerers.’
The Steampunkers are propelled by a DIY aesthetic. They’re craftspeople and builders, with the how-to-workshops particularly well attended and filled with an energetic buzz. The electricity literally sparks from Jake Von Slatt demonstrating his Wimshurst Machine, while vintage 3D photography, resin casting and leatherwork are all covered, even knitting lessons, courtesy of Miss Kalendar.
‘In the new society after the apocalypse, I’m going to handle livestock and knit,’ she says trying not to drop a stitch. ‘Whatever people do with technology, I love that it brings out handcrafts. I think it’s so necessary that people still engage on that physical level. A lot of people say that knitting is ‘grannyish’, but Doileys are great – there are so many things you can do with them.’
‘It’s a sustainable rebellion,’ according to tinkerer Jake Von Slatt with a glint of Tesla in his eye. ‘We don our top hats and goggles to show the world we’re different. Fashion is often the flag of a sub-culture and the most visual aspect of Steampunk is certainly its fashion. But years from now, I hope that I will look back and feel that the Steampunk somehow made a difference too.’
This is Steam-punk after all and amongst the costumed hive this weekend have been environmentalists, Culture Jammers and members of the Maker Movement. For a world’s first, the Steam Powered convention has highlighted the potency of an edgy and thriving subculture, one which as long as ice caps melt continue to melt, will surely attract more and more converts.
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Will you find a Mini Fashion Statement in your pocket this April?
As the world remembers the Rana Plaza disaster on 24 April, the Craftivist Collective will be launching a new craftivism kit to make and gently challenge people to think about how their clothing is made.
The collapse of a Bangladeshi factory in 2013 saw 1,138 garment workers killed and over 2,500 injured. There had been signs of structural failure the previous day, but workers were ordered to return to work regardless.
The Mini Fashion Statements kit is being launched in support of Fashion Revolution, a global movement born in the wake of the disaster, which calls for greater transparency, sustainability and ethics in the fashion industry.
The kit feature small scrolls on which makers all over the world are encouraged to write – slowly and in their neatest handwriting on their own or in groups – one of three provocative but not preachy messages designed to get both writer and reader thinking about the true cost of fashion and inspire them to play their part in improving the ugly side of the industry.
Shop-droppers not shop-lifters
The finished scrolls, tied with a pretty bow and featuring an invitation to “please open me”, a smiley face and a kiss, can then be ‘shop-dropped’ into the pockets of garments in fashion stores, or clothes worn by family, friends and colleagues.
This deliberately non-confrontational form of ‘guerilla activism’ using handcrafts is a designed as an alternative to some the more traditional aggressive types of activism.
Sarah Corbett, founder of the Craftivist Collective, said: “We help people learn the art of ‘gentle protest’. We want every part of the fashion industry to be beautiful, not just the clothes. Our pocket-sized scrolls are powerful and poignant little reminders of the role we can play as consumers. They’re designed to make us think about how the clothes we buy and wear are made, and how we might be able to help tackle problems like poor conditions for workers or the use of materials that are damaging to the environment.”
Orsola de Castro, co-founder and Creative Director of Fashion Revolution, said: “We want to unite the fashion industry and ignite a revolution to radically change the way our clothes are sourced, produced and purchased, so that what the world wears has been made in a safe, clean and fair way.
“The Craftivist Collective’s Mini Fashion Statements are a really simple, fun and creative way to be part of the Fashion Revolution. Made with love and placed into a pocket on a store’s clothes rail, they surprise shoppers with a message that reminds us to be more curious about our clothes.
“They may be small, but they have the power to make shoppers stop and consider the people who make our clothes, their working conditions and human rights issues. This shows that activism doesn’t need to shout from the rooftops, it can gently provoke from our pockets!”
The Mini Fashion Statement kits were pioneered by Sarah during workshops at Stockholm Fashion Week and Helsinki Design Week, and are the first non-stitched Craftivist Collective project. Sarah will be holding further workshops in London and Lincoln in early April to introduce people to the kits and teach them how to do ‘shop drops’ to distribute their mini fashion statements.
[Subhead:] Editor’s notes
CRAFTIVIST COLLECTIVE: Founded in 2009, the Craftivist Collective produces projects, products and kits to help individuals and groups across the globe change the world one stitch (or sentence) at a time using slow, gentle, beautiful activism. You can find out more at www.craftivist-collective.com
FASHION REVOLUTION: Fashion Revolution is a global movement calling for greater transparency, sustainability and ethics in the fashion industry. Fashion Revolution Week runs from 24-30 April 2017. For more information visit www.fashionrevolution.org
RESOURCES / CONTACT: Logos and product imagery, as well as quotes and interview opportunities, are available on request – please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
MINI FASHION STATEMENT KITS: Each kit features: a roll of high quality scrolls, each with an embossed Craftivist Collective logo; three different colours of ribbon (enough for 10 scrolls) to help make your messages stand out; ‘Crafterthought’ questions to reflect on as you write; two small free gifts; tips and message templates. They will available from 24 April at <a href=www.craftivist-collective.com/shop.
EVENT: Hackney, London: Thursday 6th April, Showroom Studio, 6.30-8pm. £10 You will learn the art of gentle protest, create beautiful small fashion statements supporting the organisation Fashion Revolution to put into the world as catalysts for change and practice the skill of shopdropping (the opposite of shoplifting).