(orginally published on The Historical Sewing Blog)
I’ve always been a lover of Victoriana. Soon after college I went through the activities in What Color Is Your Parachute and racked my brain at what kind of career existed for one with a love of sewing, Victorian decorating, and travel. As the years passed and my closet of Victorian clothing expanded, I realized I could never be a true Victorian – I like my Starbucks and Internet too much (among other things).
In my costume sewing, fantasy costumes have never really entered my “playlist.” Personally I’ve been grounded in everyday clothing, the occasional pillow set or window covering, and eventually, classically styled 19th C. fashion. Those ideas off the beaten path intrigued me, but no space was left in my current list of projects.
Then I heard about Steampunk. A couple years ago the name crossed my path, and I casually read more about it. The base is (generally) a Victorian silhouette combined with elements of steam-powered engines and 19th C. Sci-Fi authors like H.G. Wells and Jules Verne.
Ahh… like Back to the Future III and Clara’s purple 1890s costume on the steam train time machine. I got it.
I think Steampunk can give my creativity an outlet without straying far from the Victorian daywear I love. Plus, it throws in that element of travel – time travel that is – something I’m naturally curious about anyway.
So back to the Wikipedia Steampunk article: I came across a term – Neo-Victorianism – that was new to me so I clicked to find out more.
Turns out that is EXACTLY what I am. A Neo-Victorian. This was both a ‘duh’ and an enlightening moment. A lover of 19th Century stuff (living, memorabilia, clothing, decor, etc.) and trying to integrate those ideas and styles into my modern life. Adding touches of Victorian fashion to my modern clothes sewing. The chivalry and romanticism. (My husband opens doors for me.) The picnics and balls. The dreaming of puffed sleeves and Camelot a’ la Anne Shirley.
My house, although trying to be of French Country decor, is sprinkled with treasures flavored of the past. I read Victorian Homes magazine and collect Godey’s Lady’s Books. But I shudder at the loss of toilet paper, fluoride toothpaste, running water, vacuums, refrigerators, Advil and dozens of other items that make my 21st Century life easier.
I long for the “good ol’ days” – but not their trials. I was born a century too late – or was I?
No, I enjoy my modern conveniences too much. But I CAN incorporate my passion of Victorian ideals with my blue jeans and call myself a Neo-Victorian.
I have found my place. Now, about that Steampunk costume….