Archive for May, 2011

Waltham, Massachusetts’ Steampunk Moment

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

Before they become historical artifacts themselves, I wanted to share photos from last weekend’s Steampunk International City extravaganza in Waltham, MA. Hosted by the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation (housed in an 1814 textile mill which was America’s first factory, and where an eye-poppingly imaginative exhibit called “Steampunk, Form & Function”  ran from October 2010 through last week), the festival was held as a fundraiser for the museum, still attempting to recover from flood damage in  March 2010.

It brought together thousands of costumed folk—a mix of locals and the international steampunk community—in what the official website described as a “sort of Ringling Brothers meets the Industrial Revolution event” that featured everything from Steampunk artists, performers, and vendors to themed lectures and workshops, a Victorian picnic, and a mock town hall meeting which debated whether or not to open a dirigible station.

I prepped Vintage for the fun by setting out a rack of period clothing (tailcoats, capes, late Victorian skirts, etc), assorted Steampunk headgear (including an antique blue velvet Knights of Pythias helmet), a shelf of antique beaded bags and curling irons, and, of course, a late Victorian edition of Jules Vernes’ “A Tour of the World in 80s Days”.

Things were too busy on Saturday for me to wander Waltham’s transformed downtown (I did that Sunday!), but happily enough, dozens of festival attendees sashayed into the shop in full costume.

Here’s a sampling of their fantastic (in every sense of the word) garb:

The gentleman in the photo below mournfully informed me that “they always have a token Indian” and that he was it!

The leather sewing cuff above strongly reminded me of the silver chatelaines Victorian ladies were so fond of (and which often dangled sewing implements like thimbles and scissors, just like this cuff), so I tracked down the leather artisan/vendor who’d made it on Sunday to ask if that had been his inspiration. He hadn’t heard of chatelaines before, but was intrigued and immediately put them on his “Victorian things to learn about” list!

The woman on the left had made her gorgeous skirt out of thrift store and project fabric remnants. She was in from Seattle to promote a role-playing game (I can’t remember the name correctly–sorry!–but it had a post-apocalyptic twist to it), and I learned from her that Steampunk has different regional strains; the Seattle and Portland variety tends to eschew all black in favor of a more colorful aesthetic (like hers!)

And here are two of my favorite (regular) customers, resplendent in their Steampunk finery (even after an umbrella-less encounter with the elements had necessitated a bit of tweaking to their ensembles):

Finally, here are a few of the pictures I snapped while out and about on Sunday:

The leather artisan in the picture above had set up his tent on the town green; the one below (who made the sewing cuff pictured earlier in this post) was in a vacant storefront that had been made over into a Steampunk marketplace.

And, on a final note, the rear view of a fabulous dress I almost missed altogether: