Saturday, 26 June 2010

Preview: Asian-influenced Steampunk

Also known as "ricepunk."

It is, admittedly, a silly word, but coming from a culture where the word for "rice" is synonymous with "food", it amuses me.

The Designer and I have been sitting on these designs for a while. The buckle cheongsam has been sitting in the wardrobe for the better part of three months and we haven't had the time to present it to the internet. The genre of Asian Steampunk hasn't exactly been particularly fecund which makes the whole endeavour rather more intimidating. Off the top of my head, I could only really name James Ng (who is, incidentally, amazing) as working actively in the West. Granted, there are various bits of Asian origin that could qualify, such as the flying machines in On His Majesty's Secret Service (though a truly terrible film) and the power armour in A Chinese Tall Story, but there is very limited interest in it around these parts, especially in output that isn't in anime. The extent of "Victorientalism" in costume seems mostly limited to wearing a corset over a cheongsam or a kimono.

The basic idea of the project was to play around with the shapes of Chinese clothing and throw in classic "steampunk" design elements. We weren't particularly ambitious, some of this was just done by just wearing a Chinese shirt with a brass-buttoned waistcoat and goggles. We weren't so much imagining a different world (the possibilities of Asian Steampunk are exciting: greatships and waterclocks, printers and giant compasses, ornate metal dragons dancing on every wrought iron surface - this is the part of the world that did, after all, invent gunpowder) as much as just playing around with shapes and concepts. This is more an oriental character being a bit lost (or not lost) in a classic steampunk setting.

I felt a little guilty including the opium pipe in the shoot. At that point we were just throwing as many stereotypes of the Oriental genre into photo as possible.

That said, at least I'm not wielding a katana.

These photos were taken by St Giles Church, in Durham. Mostly just for the nice stone wall background rather than anything more interesting than that.

What are your initial impressions?

More photos from this shoot and discussion about individual costumes in the next few days.


  1. Hmmm I'm thinking the cheongsam could do with a pocket on the otherside to the opening in the same curve to house a pocket watch, then it would need somewhere to attach the other length of chain.

  2. The costumes are awesome, as always. But thanks for giving me a new genre to investigate - ricepunk sounds awesome, I must play with it!

  3. I love what you're wearing in the second pic! Will there be more photos for us to see?


  4. Flattered. Thank you! And yes, there are more photos in the next few days (hence "preview").

  5. Walolita stuff often crosses over Victorian, Japanese and Chinese influences


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