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I would really not mind living there. While my own home decor aesthetic is far more Arts and Crafts Movement than traditional Victorian, and I hate electric ranges the media center is really quite brilliant, and could be done just as easily in a quarter-sawn oak frame. Stylistic differences aside, this really, really works for me on a more philosophical level. Indeed, why shouldn't everything we interact with be beautiful? Beyond Victoriana posted a link to a commentator who took issue with steampunk aesthetics, declaring them "ironic", positing Datamancer's gorgeous laptop as some sort of statement of irony relating to the conflict between the past and the present. I just can't understand looking at that and seeing some sort of 'snark', as opposed to the statement; "This is a part of my life, and beauty is important to my life, so I have made it beautiful." Irony is a dangerous concept, I find - easy to attempt to engage in as protective coloring, and just as easy to become the filter through which one may observe everything, which is a 'safe' place I imagine, as you never have to hear someone expressing distaste for your darlings.

Back on Beyond Victoriana an interview included some interesting commentary on conformity - noting that brown seems to be a very popular color in steampunk fashion. I had to laugh, because I'm a ruddy faced redhead - I look great in browns, and wear them frequently. Analysis and questioning is needful, even required, but can go overboard. Cory Doctorow had some interesting comments about what he calls the "lie of steampunk", that underneath every steampunk "remake" (not sure what he's referencing here) are huge factories and corporations. One of the specifics he mentions are Nerf guns, which are frequently repainted and modded. I can see his point a bit, a new Nerf gun is a plastic product most likely made in a Chinese factory under unknown, unresearched labor conditions, something which is of great concern to me - I wince inside when I hear people talking about steampunk cloths at H&M, for example, because of my concerns about labor. On the other hand, I can go to thrift shops and buy clothes to make over because I have the *time*, and someone else can buy from the boutique steampunk crafters because they have the *cash*, both commodities/privileges not enjoyed by all. My conclusion, and it feels like a weak one, is that while we have to examine/question these things we also have to decide on a point where we *stop* questioning them, and make our choices. Life is entirely made of various acts of compromising our principles, we just have to make sure it's a compromise we can live with and respect.

Speaking of modding thrift store finds, I went to the Housing Works street fair this Saturday, and made a few scores. One was a brand new skirt that had lovely detailing that gives it a lot of swirling movement - in a 2XL, or 20-22. I bought it anyway, ripped out the waistband and resewed it, cut a couple holes in the empty waistband, and crocheted a long chain - now it's an ankle length drawstring skirt with even more fullness and drape. My machine sewing still stinks in that straight lines are apparently beyond me, but each time I sit down and sew something on the machine I walk away having learned how to do it even better next time. Tomorrow I'm taking a red lace dress that my mother gave me (which looks like a frumpy sack on me) and turning that into another skirt, I hope. Velour "workout" pants from Goodwill are being made into bloomers suitable for going to the free Pilates classes at the park in, and I have *no* idea what I'm going to do with the terrible leather pants. (It was a "give us cash and stuff a bag full" sort of sale, what can I say?)

Date: 2010-06-08 12:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chelseagirl.livejournal.com
I agree with you entirely. I don't have the time or the talent to make much, but I'd like to think that by patronizing craftspeople and small steampunk-related businesses, I'm part of the solution, not part of the problem. The Ruskin passage I need to hunt up for Saturday talks about individually crafted items vs. the factory system -- ever since I read that in grad school I have made a point of getting my coffee cups from potters, my jewelry from people who've made it, etc. It seems like it's really easy to critique things from Doctorow's point of view, because of who he is/what he does . . . but is it right to attack people who are just being introduced to these concepts? I wonder if even someone who'd modded a mass-produced Nerf gun to begin with should be encouraged (as long as they're also gently encouraged to move away from buying such items in future) -- doesn't this hypothetical person at least have the possibility of doing something more complex and individual later on? -- but if they're critiqued harsly right at the start, that's much less likely.

Actually, steampunk and the industrial revolution is something I want to think through more; I think *cough* there's an academic article there.

By the way, I have this wonderful lace skirt I picked up at Salvation Army this spring, that I think could easily be part of a steampunk outfit -- I'd love to get your input sometime. I don't think it needs modding so much as figuring out what to wear with it.

Date: 2010-06-08 06:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jadegirl.livejournal.com
I'd love to hear your thoughts about steampunk and the industrial revolution. One of the things I *didn't* expect to find in the genre but have are a lot of stories set in strikes and labor riots. Coming from a family that has been fairly entrenched in a labor movement since those days I was quite pleased by that. (It's also given me some ideas for stories involing the women of both sides of that coin.)

I both liked and disliked Doctorow's comments - on the one hand I'm always in favor of people thinking about what they're consuming and the broader impact it has - and he does soften the blow a bit by saying it's one of the things he likes about steampunk (the presence of that conflict). On the other hand starting out by calling it the "lie" of steampunk does seem isolating and unnerving from a beginners perspective.

As for lace skirts, they go with *everything*! I usually pair them with solid blouses to keep from looking like a bride unless they're two different colors, like a red skirt with a cream top.

Date: 2010-06-08 06:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chelseagirl.livejournal.com
I'm glad to hear that -- I don't know if I've read that piece or not, but my hobby horse about "let's critique *and* celebrate" feels propitiated. ;-)

Cool! (Steampunk story ideas about women and the labor movement -- love it!) I need to do some focused reading soon.

This one is brown lace . . . and from Bendel's! . . . with a handkerchief uneven hem. I've tried it on with a top (tank for casual, blouse and vest for steamy) and sandals or boots (likewise); I just can't decide if it wants a petticoat layer underneath.

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