Steampunk: A Creative Outlet for All By Cora Hansen JOUR2202A

Creativity, exploration, and inspiration are the three words Vanessa Passmore, steampunk enthusiast describes steampunk.

Surrounded by sewing machines and tea cups, Vanessa Passmore expresses her love of steampunk.

Vanessa Passmore from Wakefield, QC, member of the Ottawa Steampunk community.

Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that takes place before the time the technological age and makes use of steam-powered machinery. The steampunk fashion trend uses tools and technologies of the past to create a unique clothing pieces.

Typically, steampunk clothing takes Victorian dress and pairs it with technological pieces, such as wires, eye glasses, leathers, and chains.

Vanessa describes steam punk as “sub-genre of sci-fi meets Victorian. Think H.G Wells, Twenty Leagues Under the Sea…it is like if you took the technology of today back in the past, in the steam time, and mix the two.”

The word steampunk was coined by science fiction novelist K.W. Jeter coined the term “steampunk” in the 1980’s. Since the 80s it has exploded to include fashion, film genre, music, and plays.

“A lot of us are looking for a creative outlet. Especially people who are enjoying the Victorian times, we like to take the old beautiful things and mix them up with today’s technology,” Vanessa explains.

Vanessa repurposed this clock radio into a sounding time travelling device that lights up.

Vanessa is part of the Steampunk Ottawa community. To members, she is known as Lady Annabella Hettie Passmorious, her Victorian steampunk character.

Dress made by Vanessa Passmore in her Steampunk loungue.

Not all steampunk enthusiasts adopt characters for themselves, but many do, Vanessa explains.

The members get together when they wish and dress in steampunk clothing. They organize public coddles through Ottawa in costume and travel to meet with fellow steampunk enthusiasts.

I have a friend who calls us live art, because when we do get dressed up, we are often in public. So, we have some fun with that."

They are often met with the elderly or children asking them questions about their dress. “The little old lady’s just love it!” she exclaims.

Steampunk can be anything and that’s the great thing about it."

Like Halloween, Vanessa is able to plan, create, and display her costumes and having a community in Ottawa of fellow steampunk enthusiasts makes it more fun.

Many people approach her asking where she gets her pieces, but all of Vanessa’s pieces are made from upcycle. Using pieces from around the house, thrifted items, and fabric generously donated to her from family and friends, Vanessa creates elaborate pieces.

“It can be a little intimidating at first, but it’s not, I mean, for a lady all you really need is a good old fashion corset and skirt,” she says while gesturing to a dress she made.

Pictured is a dress Vanessa made from donated curtains from family members.

Those who don’t make their pieces themselves have the option of buying online steampunk clothing as well. But, Vanessa and others in the Ottawa community happily give guidance to those wishing to create their own steampunk fashion in an affordable way.

There’s all kind of styles you can do, we add feathers, we add cogs, we add things to hats, it is quite simple, and it is a lot of fun.”

Every steampunk piece is unique and builds creativity. She doesn’t believe that people should feel restricted financially in order to enjoy steampunk. Upcycling items, thrifting, and creativity is all you need.


All photos and videos taken by Cora Hansen.

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