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The Clockwork Runway

Creative costumes abound at Clockwork Alchemy 2018

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Cosplay is a big part of any steampunk convention, and plenty of inventive costumes were on display at Clockwork Alchemy. The event was held at the Hyatt Regency SFO, and you had to wonder what unsuspecting guests were thinking when they saw these Victorian fantasy characters walking through the halls.

I spoke with one young woman from Costa Rica who was waiting at the hotel to meet her parents. At first, she thought, "OK, this is San Francisco. People are a little weird." Then she learned it was a steampunk convention, and after looking up "steampunk" online, she was marveling at the concept.

Lisa Kalenda, who helps administer the Clockwork Alchemy Facebook page, recalled meeting a young man from Russia who was at the hotel on business. "He saw all the steampunkers and was intrigued, so he walked downstairs and bought a day ticket," she wrote.

Destination Clockwork

Some of the most creative outfits were on display at Saturday's Fashion Show. The theme was "Destination Clockwork," challenging designers to conceive "travel ideas from across space and time." Most outfits were modeled by the designers, and each was accompanied by a placard describing the project and offering tips for other creators.

Kij Greenwood designed two costumes: A "Victorian Spacesuit" modeled by Gregg Greenwood and a "Zeppelin Stewardess" uniform that she modeled herself.


The space outfit, inspired by early dive suits, aimed to answer the question, "What would a well-dressed gentleman wear when exploring space?" In her description, she noted that "Under the proper atmospheric condition, the portholes would allow the individual to enjoy a smoke." She added that "an airbrush was essential to the finishing of this costume."

The zeppelin uniform dispensed "those two most vital items: tea or air," she wrote. The design "was inspired by the double top-stitched detailing of an Edwardian existing woman's suit. The fluted details echo the fuselage of a streamlined aircraft. The bifurcated skirt, based on a vintage riding skirt, has a modesty panel to prevent the titillation of the passengers. The jaunty hat is a military kepi with some 'Robin Hood' flair."

She offered a tip for anyone who would dare tackle a similar project: "Magnets served to be of great assistance for attaching hoses, stabilizing items such as teapots."

Michaela Rose showed an outfit dubbed "The Peacock." She observed that the peacock "is about renewal. It represents guidance, beauty, refinement, integrity, confidence, and vitality." She conveyed creative advice from the noted steampunk philosopher, former NBA star Tim Duncan: "Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Until your good is better, and your better is best."

Sandy Morris, who designed and modeled "The Ornithologist," had these tips: "Just go for it. Think it through and you will surprise yourself by what you create. Play with color and texture to add visual interest to your garment."

Cindy Joy, aka Madame Euphoria Huffen-Bustle, advised creators to plan ahead: "Start well in advance of when you need to be done and do something every day! If the whole thing is overwhelming, concentrate on one part at a time."

Her design, dubbed "A Walk in the Park," combined styles from different eras. The skirt was inspired by turn-of-the-century walking outfits, while the sleeves were based on 1890's ballgowns. "The waist cincher is a cross between a Swiss Waist (1860's) and an Edwardian Belt (1900-1912)," she wrote. "What can I say? This is Steampunk, not a historical authenticity event."

The show also featured props by Fashion Guests of Honor Paul Esquer and Ashley Montgomery.

Here's a look at the fashion show plus other costumed characters at the convention.

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