Steampunk and Community: Costumes and ComiCon

Last month I had the extreme privilege of joining the Toronto Steampunk Society for a third year at the Metro Toronto ComiCon. Every year I’m reminded of the first time I met my friends in the steampunk community here, and Amanda’s recent post  was so like my own experience, I wanted to share a different kind of origin story.

Once upon a time, there was a young writer who dreamed of flying ships and dashing pirates and a girl in search of her crew.

Once upon a time, there was an aspiring author who attended a literary gathering and discovered a secret society of people who shared her appreciation for the Victorian aesthetic.

Once upon a time, a neophyte novelist saved up her pennies to purchase an ivory lace corset so she could attend a local ball.

Or, rather, dinner at a local pub.

I had published my first book earlier that year, a novella, the first of a series of steampunk adventures. I was a big fan of the genre, and I knew of the Toronto Steampunk Society from a book launch for Adrienne Kress’ Friday Society, but I felt too shy to go to an event.

I worried about what to wear, and whether I could be taken seriously as a steampunk aficionado without a pair of goggles. I worried about having no one to talk to. I worried about a thousand endless quibbles, the curse and blessing of an overactive imagination.

But finally, I did go to the dinner party.

It was just a simple gathering at a local pub. I had obtained a solid, steel-boned corset, but the rest of my outfit was a mishmash of textiles from my own closet, matched with a sturdy pair of boots. But there was such a range of clothing, I was immediately reassured. Some wore beautiful, bespoke dresses with matching jackets and frilly bustles. Others were in jeans, with suit vests over plain t-shirts. Some had goggles, some did not. Some had gears and buckles, some did not. But everyone was friendly, and soon we were deep in conversation about our favourite books and movies.

The point, dear Reader, is that steampunk isn’t about knowing what to wear or how to act, it’s about community. It’s about discovering a passion for the genre and adding your voice to the mix. Sharing ideas and innovations—there’s room for one and all.

This year, I decided to take the Friday off from tabling and enjoy the convention as a guest. I attended a wonderful panel on costuming where Amanda, Jodi and other members shared their advice on crafting a versatile wardrobe, finding inspiration from literature and film (“think Star Wars in sepia tones”), and practical matters such as learning how your costume moves before walking out the door or attempting public transit.

And as I wandered the convention hall, saying hello to friends and fans, picking up a few treats from Artist Alley, I remembered how it all began, with friendly faces in a cheerful pub.

Rebecca Diem is a writer, music lover and nerd. She is the author of the indie steampunk series Tales of the Captain Duke, beginning with The Stowaway Debutante (2014), following the adventures of a defiant young aristocrat who saves a band of airship pirates from certain peril and talks her way into joining their crew. Her favourite feature of steampunk is its ability to disrupt and re-imagine both history and the future. She currently lives in Toronto, and is on a never-ending quest to find the perfect café and writing spot. You can find her at https://rebeccadiem.com/.

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