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Jake von Slatt's Roadster, featured at the Fair. Image courtesy of Michael Salerno.

Steampunk World's Fair-- the self-proclaimed "largest steampunk festival in the US" had a huge turnout last year and raised expectations for many steampunks for repeat success. Over the course of the year, shifts in management and staff structure sprouted rumors of uncertainty about the success of the con, but this year's Fair still held a strong and diverse showing of panels, workshops, and entertainments. Previous year's favorites, including musicians Professor Elemental, Emperor Norton's Stationary Marching Band, Psyche Corporation, Eli August, This Way to Egress, and Frenchy and the Punk returned, with the addition of several other newcomers such as Murder by Death, Copal, Ego Likeness, and Left Outlet.  Events expanded to include book launch parties for Tee Morris and Pip Ballentine's The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, Leanna Renee Hieber's The Perilous Prophecy of the Goddess and the Guard, and Emilie P. Bush's The Gospel According to Verdu at the Library of Lost Literature, an academic track, a Tweed Ride, a Dandy Stroll, a charity fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and Queen Victoria's Birthday Party. Other notable programming ranged from workshops on bartitsu and kimono-wearing to pro-union rallies and surviving the apocalypse.

Along with my own con report, which is featured on Tor.com, below is just a sampling of experiences offered by our guest reporters, including Daniel Holzman-Tweed, Austin Sirkin, Lucretia Dearfour, Sean Proper, Matt Deblass and Ekaterina Sedia. Fashion designer Kathryn Paterwic of Redfield Designs also presents her runway collection from the "Across the Universe" fashion show told in her narrated photo essay. Photography from Jessica Lilley, Babette Daniels, Michael Salerno, Monique Poirier, Philip Ng, and myself are also included.

Read more on BeyondVictoriana.com
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Aetherfest took place between April 29th - May 1st, 2011 in San Antonio, making it the first steampunk convention in Texas. I've been in touch with Pablo Vazquez for about a year now, and when he hinted last fall about an upcoming convention, I was more than thrilled to make my first Texan debut at his con. I was looking forward to meeting a new community, but was a bit nervous going myself. Luckily, Lucretia Dearfour accompanied me on this adventure, and we discovered that The Emperor of the Red Fork Empire was also a featured guest here. While at Aetherfest, the three of us interviewed several of the other guests and attendees at the con. That footage is still in post, but in the meantime, I hope you enjoy the following reports & pictures from this event. Mr. Saturday (aka Pablo Miguel Alberto Vazquez III) is the co-chair for the event, and talks about what went on in prep for this con and how he thought it turned out. Author O. M. Grey writes about her experience as a special guest, and Lucretia Dearfour relates her con experience as well. All pictures are provided by me, unless otherwise noted.

Read more on BeyondVictoriana.com
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Steampunk Industrial Revolution is New Hampshire's first steampunk convention and proclaimed to "revolutionize the way we steampunk."

Austin Sirkin opens up our reports with his discovery of a landlocked boat in the middle of the hotel; the musician Eli August gives the low-down on his experiences at the con; Miriam Rocek brings her attendee perspective; Matt Delman, chief editor of Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders reports from behind the panelist table, and modder & tinkerer Geoffrey Smith of Thee-Gartisan Works talks about the con from a vendor's side of things, including meeting other awesome modders and artists at the con, what's the name of his favorite gun mod, and the hot little item that everyone was wearing at the convention. Christopher Hayes (aka "The Haze") provides video coverage, and Geoffrey, Jessica Lilley, and Nate Buchman also feature their photos from the event.

Check this all out after the jump.

Read more on BeyondVictoriana.com
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TempleCon, a retrofuturist gaming convention, has been running for six years, and I've been lucky enough to attend for the past two years. As a gaming convention, a majority of its programming is focused on huge, expansive gaming set-ups for all types: miniature games, card tournaments, LARPing, and tabletop RPGs. Most people usually spend their entire weekends in the gaming rooms, but for those who like to wander about, this year's TempleCon offered an array of other activities, including Tempest's bellydance workshop, costume & prop panels run by The Wandering Legion of the Thomas Tew, mulled wine & cider tastings, fashion show and costume competition, musicians such as Psyche Corporation, Emperor Norton's Stationary Marching Band, The Gypsy Nomads, and Eli August, and panels on writing, comics, steampunk, dueling, feminism, and of course, my own workshops on social justice issues. So, roaming the hallways as a zombie during the zombie march was equally as valid as playing Magic: The Gathering with your friends.

This convention had been particularly special for me though: on Saturday, I proposed to my fiancee. On this blog, I don't tend to talk about my queer experience as much as race & culture & steampunk, not because I don't see queer identities as relevant (in fact, understanding the intersectionality of all our experiences is an important aspect to fostering social change), but because the story, is, well, long and involved and deals with cultural (double)standards, racial exotification/invisibility in queer communities, and the ambiguous treatment of trans people and their partners in both straight and queer settings. Not to mention maintaining a level of privacy that any couple should be able to have. But the occasion like this isn't something to be taken lightly, and I really wanted to acknowledge the impact the steampunk community has had on a non-traditional couple like us. "A New Year, Another Beginning" is more of a personal reflection, concerning my ten-year journey with my partner Lucretia Dearfour and our experiences as a couple in life and as a couple within the steampunk community.

Also contributing to this con report is Monique Poirier, a previous contributor to Beyond Victoriana, who gives a run-down on her experiences on Saturday at the convention. Jeromy Foberg shares his time as a Volunteer Staff member for TempleCon, and Simon J. Berman, a game writer for Privateer Press, also stops by to relate his attendee experiences. Photographer Jessica Coen is also contributing her visual eye to our eventful weekend.

Read more on BeyondVictoriana.com
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As many know and some who may not know, Secondlife has been one of the top multimedia social platform since it's release in June of 2003. It's said that people can reinvent themselves, discover dreams, play games, and of course, make a little money. You want it, SL has it! So why would it be such a shock to have such a fun, fantastical steampunk desert world? Personally, it's the infamous world of the “Sims” on steroids of amazing measure.

Enter Cala Mondrago, a sim (plot of land in Secondlife), named and designed after the ancient culture of the Moors. The name “Cala Mondrago” comes from a city within the island of Majorca, a location full of life, color, splendor, and creativity. All things that sim owner Bianca Namori wishes to foster.




Read More on BeyondVictoriana.com
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For the last post of the year, I'm enjoying a post-holiday recoup and a some good steampunky links. Featuring some oldies but goodies, great vids, the launch of SteamCast in Brazil, and pretty steampunk art after the jump.

Read more on BeyondVictoriana.com
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I've been working on major developments with the blog as of late, the first being the website's new layout (if you're reading this site via RSS feed, you might want to take a look at the shininess; yeah, I'm a bit proud of this revamped look. ^_^)

More exciting, though, is that Beyond Victoriana's content will take a dip into fiction. As a rule, I don't accept fiction submissions to post on the site, but this is a very special case. In cooperation with Tachyon Publishing, Beyond Victoriana will host translated excerpts from the Brazilian anthology VAPORPUNK. You may have read Fabio Fernandes' review of the anthology during Steampunk Fortnight, but here is the only place on the internet where you'll be able to read teasers in English from this anthology. Click on the nifty icon on the website sidebar to read more (or you can click on the cover below.)


Read the rest on BeyondVictoriana.com
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The town of Seattle was a-buzz the weekend of November 19th - 21st as an estimated 1700+ steampunks arrived for the second annual Steamcon convention. This was another event I had to sit out on, sadly, since I was involved with The Anachronism NYC at Webster Hall that same weekend (and you can check out pictures here, here and here.) Staff and attendees from the event, however, volunteered their reports and pictures from the second-annual convention, which rocked the theme "Weird, Weird West."

See what these folks have to say:

The man that needs no introduction, Jake von Slatt, who was one of the Guests of Honor, talks a bit about his experiences, including the panel he co-presented with the awesome mistress of the ExoSkeleton Cabaret Libby Bulloff about Queering Steampunk Fashion. Donna Prior, the Games Chair, talks a bit about the tabletop, miniature, and LARPing adventures that took place this weekend. Staff member Kevin Steil, the Airship Ambassador, already provided a gigantic round-up and review of the SteamCon II media coverage, but also gives an exclusive report about his Steamcon experience. Justin Stanley (aka Emperor Justinian Stanislaus), known to most as the Emperor of the Red Fork Empire, gives an on-the-ground scoop in his attendee report.

Read more on BeyondVictoriana.com
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Monique in her steampunk attire. Image courtesy of author

I'm not one for preambles, so let's get down to brass tacks here. I'm Monique Poirier. I'm a member of the Seaconke Wampanoag Tribe. I'm a Steampunk.

When I got into Steampunk several years ago, it didn't really occur to me to even try to incorporate my cultural identity into my Steampunk presentation; my first Steampunk outfit (worn to Templecon 2009) was cobbled together from my existent goth attire, stuff from the renfaire costume trunk, and a duct-tape corset.

Then I read Jha's articles at Tor.com. Then I started reading Beyond Victoriana. It was powwow season... and everything just -clicked-. When I attended The Steampunk World's Fair in May 2010, I made an active effort to incorporate my ethnic identity more visibly in my Steampunk attire.

That's where things get complicated.

Read on BeyondVictoriana.com
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One of the difficult things about writing con reports for Beyond Victoriana is that I've always missed something. Whether it be a panel, a cosplay, or The Biggest Story from the con, I know that since I'm only one person, I can't be everywhere at once to record it for the blog. Not to mention all of those great con events in the community that go on that I can't attend. So for future conventions, Beyond Victoriana will be extending its con coverage to include features from on-staff and on the ground.



TeslaCon is the first event we're trying out with this new format, and justly so. What makes this con stand out from previous ones is its mission as steampunk's first "immersive convention'. " Organized by Eric Larson (Lord Hastings R. Bobbins) as an elaborate role-playing convention, TeslaCon featured not only the usual panels, vending, fashion show and other events, but was built around a central murder mystery storyline and run by a crew of dedicated actors on staff.



Panelist Austin Sirkin talks about his impressions of the con, staff member Wendy Zdrodowski unravels TeslaCon's murder mystery run by Steampunk Chicago, and Captain Anthony LaGrange of The Airship Archon gives an attendee report. Photo coverage is also provided by Jessica Coen and Shannon Sofian, featured in the articles and after the jump.



So even if you were stuck at home like me, you can still get a taste of the TeslaCon experience, thanks for the dedication of our reporters and photographers.



Read on BeyondVictoriana.com
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reginazabo, a blogger from Italy who works as a translator, was quite taken by my essay about the current state of multicultural steampunk and translated it in Italian to share with the steampunks of Italy! A PDF of this document is available through the DIY magazine Ruggine ("Rust").

The mission statement for Ruggine magazine is pretty awesome:
Our funding principle is Do-It-Yourself. We find things we like and simply activate to spread them around. It’s all about putting our hands on the heart of the matter, of getting involved with our brains, blood and hearts and avoiding the detached vantage points from which others gaze at futures made by someone else.


A giant THANK YOU goes out to her and the Ruggine team for their work in putting this together!


Available in Italian from Ruggine magazine. Click to download PDF

Formatted at 52 pages in a pocket-sized edition, this PDF prints to the ideal size for stuffing in your waistcoat before leaving for your next steampunk meet-up, or ready-made for the determined pamphleteer.

Oh, you Italian punks--don't you ever stop. ^_^

"Steampunk di tutto il mondo, unitevi!" is also available to read on reginazabo's blog (at Part #1 and Part #2).
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Myself with Viceroy Chang in his place of honor. Don't we look so dapper? Image courtesy of Holly Hickerson

Note as of 9/21/2010: Since the posting of this report, I have received feedback that a reader had been offended by my comments below for ignoring the presence of mixed race and Native steampunks at Dragon*Con. I take full responsibility for the offense made and apologize for my oversight. As noted in the comments of this post, I don’t wish to make a marginalized person feel that they have been rendered invisible when they visit this site. The lightheartedness in which I made the comments below in “The Count” about race, representation, and physical appearance ignores the very painful experience of being a person of mixed race/Native descent/light complexion who passes for white, but does not share the same experiences as someone from the dominant culture. I won’t change my initial comments in the post–because it would be hypocritical of me to cover up my mistakes–and I hope to receive further feedback about how to improve upon my reflections –and in turn, the content of this site– to be more open and welcoming in the future.

My first Dragon*Con experience can be described in one word: overwhelming. Not surprising, since an estimated 60,000 attendees come to this convention every year. Since its humble beginnings in 1987, Dragon*Con has become one of the largest multi-media & pop culture conventions in the US, and there's frequent debate in the geek world about whether Dragon*Con outmatches San Diego Comic Con.

Though I've heard about Dragon*Con, I never considered going because of distance and cost. Outland Armour begged the Wandering Legion of the Thomas Tew to attend this year, however, and so I decided to tag along with my ruffians-in-arms for the journey.



Thus, unlike other conventions I had attended, I had no set plans and didn't intend to actively scout out the con specifically for steampunkery. I had plans on attending some of the panels listed on the alternative history track, and some other events, like the dark fantasy panels and seeing a couple of performers.



My initial schedule plans shifted, when Austin Sirkin contacted me about speaking on the Race & Gender panel, and Emilie P. Bush (who I worked with for the Race, Class & Gender roundtable at the Steampunk World's Fair) touched base with me about speaking on the Women in Steampunk panel.



Another twist was added when the Day Job requested that I cover the convention once I told them I was attending. I try to keep a professional distance between my Day Job and my steampunk, especially since the two have so much relevance to each other. My plans for Sunday, though, changed entirely when I was scheduled to interview several authors and film the con. I was psyched about the people I got to interview (most relevant to this blog being Cherie Priest). Because of filming, I missed out on a couple of steampunk events I wanted to go to-- most notably, the Steampunk Exposition (though the Peacemaker ended up being displayed in my absence). Sticking to the premise of the blog, though, I'll only mention the steam events. ^-^



So I had two panels to prep for, along with making arrangements for work, in order to tackle a con I've never gone to before (and somehow figuring how to get down to Georgia at a reasonable price!) In the end, my experience was less steam-focused than I intended, but I did learn several valuable lessons about attending Dragon*Con. My list, plus the rest of the report after the jump.





Read the rest on BeyondVictoriana.com
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At the risk of tooting my horn a bit too much for the past couple of days, I'm announcing a little "bonus material" to add to today's update. Recently, the dear Airship Ambassador cast a line down and we chatted it up about my thoughts on steampunk, blogging, and the focus behind Beyond Victoriana.

Read part 1 of the interview here.

Enjoy!
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BEA logo

Note from Ay-leen: Due to further shifts in the schedule, this week's post will be my con report for BEA. And tune in next week for Sandrine Thomas' new article. In the meantime, I shall be investigating steampunk at its Source in London. Wish me luck!


Some online commentors declared that when steampunk hit the New York Times Style Section, steampunk was dead. If that were the case, then the publishing industry has been beating a dead horse (or, perhaps, joining the "sell out" bandwagon as those same nay-sayers maintain). Nevertheless, with steampunk's growing recognition as a subgenre (and cemented in March in relevance to US reading audiences when the Library of Congress created a "steampunk" fiction category), publishers and booksellers everywhere are intrigued by what, exactly, is steampunk and why, exactly, is it becoming one of the hottest trends in publishing today. During Book Expo America, the largest book fair event in North America that was held a couple of weeks ago, I had a chance to scope out a few steampunk-related events that served to educate the average reader about the growing hype surrounding steampunk.

Read the rest on BeyondVictoriana.com
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The SPWF program newspaper. Photo by knightmare6. Click for source.

A moment of history has come and gone: the first-ever Steampunk World's Fair in Piscataway, New Jersey--the largest steampunk event on the East Coast and very likely the largest one in North America.  According to staff estimates, approximately 3,700 people attended over the course of three days, coming from across the United States, Canada, England, France, and Italy. It was a pleasure to participate in this event, and it was only a shame that there wasn't several clones of me running around so that I could attend every single event (though people may have gotten the impression with the various outfits I wore!)

You probably can hear a hundred and one different experiences from people attending. Like when Emperor Norton's Stationary Marching Band led 200 people in a parade through the hotel and into the parking lot for an impromptu party on Saturday night. Or the Queen of Steam contest featuring the youngest cross-dresser you'll ever see. Or the crazy jumping spider contraption at the Mad Science Fair, or the Gear Guitar, or the Tesla Coil demonstration and Jake Von Slatt's bus tours.

And for all three days, I've scoping out steampunk's less British side and looking around with fen of color spectacles on. Below are some of the highlights from the side of steam for the more cross-culturally inclined.

Click to read on beyondvictoriana.com
 

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This post has been been cross-posted to Beyond Victoriana's own website. Please submit all comments there.

Jaymee and I had a discussion the other day triggered by the use of the word "Victorientalism" (also spelled "Vicorientalism") in the steampunk community and whether it is an appropriate description of the transcultural blend of Eastern and Western fashion. I had my first (rather angry) rant about Orientialism sometime around this time last year, and now would be apt to revisit those thoughts about Victorientalism.

First, let me say that steampunk, because it deals with the dynamics of history and its alternatives, can never, ever be considered apolitical.* History is always subjective, choosing to expose or veil people, events, and perspectives based on the bias of the teller. In fact, it's not surprising that the most widely-known histories are those written from the perspective of those in the dominant culture and that underrepresented histories are so because they have been ignored or oppressed by institutions in the dominant culture (government policy, school education, media representation, etc).

Even something that seems frivolous like fashion has political ramifications, since clothing, as the most basic form of self-identity, has always being subject of control by others. Threadbared, a journal that focuses on the politics of fashion and beauty, captures the sentiment of how the politics of clothing impact everyday life during their discussion about vintage:

Clothing matters because it is through clothing that persons are understood to matter, or not. Consider the Sartorialist's captions for the presumably homeless man, or his driver, which attribute to these anonymous figures qualities of human dignity and pride because of what they are wearing. Consider the hijab, and all the histories and conflicts that hinge upon the presence of absence of the veil as a sign of civilization and modernity or its opposite. Consider legislation throughout the centuries to regulate what might be worn by whom: European medieval sumptuary laws forbidding the conspicuous consumption of the bourgeoisie; Dutch colonial missionaries insisting that African "converts" abandon their "heathen" clothes in order to reform their bodies and souls; World War II-era rationing bans on the material extravagance of the "zoot suit," the informal uniform of black and Chicano youth, as "unpatriotic;" and contemporary legislation across cities in the United States criminalizing black male youth in sagging jeans.

Thus, when speaking about Orientalism aesthetics, its existence as an art form is undeniably entangled with its political and social consequences. Orientalist fashions has long served to romanticize colonialism both in the past and today. The word "Orientalism" itself was a creation of the West to use by the West in reference to the East. That alone is a reason that the use of "Orientalism" as a term, especially by white people, does not promote a message cultural equality and exchange. It rings of old colonialist sentiment, which is connected to the history of Western engagement with the East as Professor Richard Martin mentions in his article "Orienting the Wardrobe":

Interestingly, each strand of Orientalism in dress has arrived with its own political circumstances. India yielded much in being a colonial nation. China's long isolation crystallized Cathay as an enchanted dream, although clearly some soft goods, such as the brocaded silk velvet of a sixteenth-century Portuguese cape, passed early on to the West. The opening of Japan in the 1850's influenced impressionist artists and Western fashion enthusiasts alike.

Therefore, believing that the word "Victorientalism" implies a positive, transcultural blend is misguided. In fact, using the term "Victorientalism" as a phrase to emphasize Eastern aesthetics in Victorian style is somewhat redundant, for Eastern influences have been prevalent in Western Victorian fashion already. Professor Richard Martin, in Orienting the wardrobe, gives an overview of the history behind Orientalist fashion and gives examples of British fashion, like the Paisley shawl and mandarin and pagoda sleeves, that had Eastern origins but then had been adapted into British fashion. For examples of this, Metropolitan Museum of Art has a fascinating overview of the Eastern influences in Western fashion in their online exhibit Orientalism: Visions of the East in Western Dress.

Thus, the existence of Eastern influences has had a long history in Western dress and had frequently been tied to political moorings; as a result, the term Orientalism today is in flux between its literal geographical meaning and the implied negative baggage it has acquired over timethat Orientalism is a Western-created ideal imposed upon the East and used to justify its subjugationan argument first presented by postcolonial theorist Edward Said. Commentary in the steampunk communities, however, continue to frame Victorientalism in a positive light, highlighting its romanticism as a positive endorsement for its use. This is all fair and well, IF the political and social effects of Orientalism were dead and gone. However, because it is very much alive todaycausing damaging stereotypes and promoting racist mindsetsthen perpetuating the glorified stereotypes of the Orient only serves to hurt the people of color they were based on. Moreover, such attitudes are only expressions of privilege, where white steampunks can turn a blind eye to steampunks of color in the community.

In fact, the term "Orientalism" may be on the way out. Its negative connotation has become so prevalent since Said first made his argument forty years ago that academic communities are starting to reject the term even in reference to Eastern-originated fashion, prefering the terms "Asian Look" or "Asian Fashion." Academic Bong-Ha Seo's 2008 article for the Journal of Korean Society of Clothing and Textiles argues against the use of the term "Orientalism" in fashion in "Critical Discussion on the ‘Orientalism’ in Fashion Culture":

Orientalism is geographical violence. In spite of the independence of numerous colonies, imperialistic culture is still influential. Therefore, Orientalism as an enlightened and open conversation without deflection or prejudice cannot be supposed.
So, don't think that adding the Eurocentric "Vict-" is a cute way of undoing the negative connotations of a historically loaded term. The term "Victorientalism" doesn't neutralize anything: the message is not the positive transcultural blend of east and west. Instead, the term augments a oppressive Western concept with another Eurocentric prefix. It's Western objectification times two. And Orientalism by any other name is still Orientalism.

But to sum up

I'm not saying that there is no beauty in these fashions.

I'm not saying that people shouldn't like it.

I'm saying that what one likes doesn't always exist in an apolitical vacuum, no matter how much one wants it to.

Fashion, just like any form of art, is a reflection of society, and art movements like Orientialism have complex political history that members of the dominant culture may not recognize as something negative or hurtful. Moreover, the social implications of Orientalism didn't die out with the end of the Victorian era, but has had a rather long and, often socially detrimental, afterlife.

So if one chooses to engage in Orientalism or toss about the word "Victorientalism," do not act defensive if other marginalized people take offense. Do not claim that you are re-living a "past that never was" because you're not; your fantasy is merely replicating attitudes from a very real present. Rather, instead of justifying this discriminating mindset, figure out for yourself what you can do to stop engaging in promoting those hurtful messages.


*One caveat: Steampunks and steam enthusiasts can be apolitical, but a person's apolitical stance does not mean steampunk as a conceptual idea is apolitical.


Below is a brief suggested reading list of resources that present a mindful assessment of Orientialist aesthetics and the transcultural blend of Eastern and Western looks.

Fashion & Orientalism resources:

Edward Said: Since I really can't quote him here often enough (and in the contextual whole in which he is meant to be quoted), so here are the two landmark books he had written on Orientalism.
Orientalism
Culture & Imperialism

Re-orienting fashion: the globalization of Asian dress (Excerpt also available on Google Books)
by Sandra Niessen (Editor), Ann Marie Leshkowich (Editor), Carla Jone (Editor)

Book Description:
From ‘Indo chic’ collections on the catwalk to mass-market clothes in retail shops, Asian fashion is everywhere. Re-Orienting Fashion explores this phenomenon in a global context and, unlike other books, does not ignore the western / non-western divide. How do western economic, cultural, political, iconic, and social forms influence Asian fashion when (and often because) that fashion is an expression of resistance against western encroachment? How does dress reflect state ideals and gender roles in nations struggling to construct new identities informed by modern, western impulses? What role does gender play and how does this tie in with commodification by the global economy?

With chapters focusing on East, South, and Southeast Asian designers, retailers, consumers, and governments, this timely book moves Asian fashion center-stage and will be of interest to dress and fashion theorists, anthropologists, sociologists and all those seeking to understand globalization and its effects.

Imperial Bodies
C.M. Cullingham

I've found this one of the best resources that details the conflicted dynamic between the colonizer and the colonized in terms of fashion exchange. I can't recommend this book enough.

Book Description:
This innovative volume demonstrates that the body was central to the construction and maintenance of British authority in India. Imperial Bodies explores ways in which the transformation of the British presence in India between 1800 and 1947 involved and relied upon changes in the way the British in India managed, disciplined and displayed their bodies. The move from commerce to control, and then to imperialism and Empire corresponded to a shift in bodily norms. As the nineteenth century progressed, an openness and interest in India gave way to a ban on things Indian. The British rejected curries for tinned ham, cool white clothing for black broadcloth and Indian mistresses for English wives. By the twentieth century, the British official had been transformed into an upright, decent representative of British virtues whose task was to bring civilization to India.

By the late nineteenth century, racial theory focused attention on the physique to such an extent that the body became a distinct category within official discourse, regarded as an instrument of rule. The body was used symbolically during Raj ceremonial, and even the pith helmet worn by officials was turned from a reminder of British vulnerability in the tropics into a symbol of British power.

Through an in-depth discussion of texts and practices, the body is introduced into the historical account as an active social principle: a force in the construction of social inequalities along lines of race and class. Drawing on a wide range of sources including government records, newspapers, private letters, medical handbooks and cookery books, E.M. Collingham paints a vivid picture of the life and manners of the British in India.

This important contribution to both British and imperial history will appeal to students and scholars of cultural and colonial history.

Orientalism: Visions of the East in Western Dress
Metropolitan Museum of Art

This is the exhibit guide to the MET link I included above. It's hard to find, but they give a sensitive assessment of Orientalist fashion while also acknowledging the movement's fraught political history. Plus, it contains those beautiful images as seen on the website and more.







Online Resources:


Excerpt from The Art of Decoration: Written by English cleric and popular Victorian writer Reverend H. R. Haweis In this excerpt, he talks about aspects of Orient design since the 1700s in British dress & decoration. About Oriental design in women's fashion, he hilariously commented that:

It was the dregs of that blind admiration for Oriental colouring with no understanding of its principles, which clothed Englishwomen in such horrible mixtures at the beginning of the present century, a fault which Frenchwomen with their better natural taste, and complexions which repudiate garish hues, were unlikely to fall into. Hence England soon won an unenviable celebrity for never knowing 'how to dress...'
Clothing & Fashion Encyclopedia - An online fashion history blog. The overaching history or Orientalism in fashion is explained in Part 1 and Part 2.

Orient-ing Fashion: Written in 1997 issue of Harvard's Digitas Magazine about that fashion season's Orientalism trend, Mina Kim Park's article is still very insightful. It also shows how modern fashion remains problematic in regards to racial representation and cultural appropriation that cannot be explained away by slapping a cheerful "multiculturalism chic" label on it.

On Using the Orient to Orient the West On Jaymee Goh's steampunk blog Silver Goggles. Her observations of the conceptual use of the term Orient by the West. Good stuff. She has also written a wonderful response to Victorientalism as well: Countering Victorientalism.
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This post has been been cross-posted to Beyond Victoriana's own website. Please submit all comments there.
Conselho SteamPunk
Awhile back, a couple of readers tipped me off to an interesting article they saw on Wired.com about Those Irrepressible Brazilian Steampunks. I read Bruno Accioly's letter to Bruce Sterling and was immediately struck by his enthusiasm and ambition in establishing a steampunk social network in Brazil. So I contacted Bruno, one of the founders of Conselo SteamPunk, to talk about this exciting venture and what steampunk is like where he's from. Read the interview below )

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