In the meantime, I was asked a question this week. Fear not, gentle reader, nothing untoward, but something I thought might interest your good selves as you enjoy this seasonably sunny September sTuesday (sorry, I should have posted this at the weekend to maintain the alliteration really).
Steampunk, you see, is loosely based on Victorian aesthetics, Victorian manners (though not necessarily values!), and to some extent, steampunk clothing usually exhibits some sort of Victorian element. However, my interrogator wondered, why did some ladies of steampunk wear such short skirts? Surely in Victorian times, revealing even an inch of ankle might have marked you out as one of the very ladies I am currently writing about in my dissertation!
This is, of course, absolutely correct, and no self-respecting Victorian lady would have dreamed of being seen in public without full skirts, hats and full ensemble. Indeed, there are records of a respected and respectable lady writer being arrested one evening because of her dress - by foregoing her bonnet and gloves, she had given the arresting officer the impression that she must indeed be a 'nymph of the pave'.
But times change, and so do fashions, and of course what was acceptable at the beginning of Victoria's reign had changed by the middle of it, and had changed again by the end. Who would have dreamed, when that slip of a princess took the throne, that in her lifetime, women would be wearing bloomers without a skirt over the top!
Oh yes indeed. By the end of the 19th Century, those racy lady cyclists were pedaling merrily down the streets, bereft of skirts that might tangle in chains and cause a nasty accident. The bicycle gave ladies freedom to go out unescorted (there was a time when there were no public toilets for ladies, so housebound were they!), and bloomers gave them the freedom to ride their bicycles in comfort.
Fashion has often moved to accommodate the needs of the wearer. When women did not go out alone, huge dresses and trained skirts were if not practical, then at least acceptable. In the century before Victoria, when women had more freedom, clothing was much less restrictive. And in the century after, the Wars required women to work at occupations previously considered exclusively masculine, and clothing once again adapted to suit.
So my reasoning for short skirts in steampunk follows similar lines. Steampunk isn't Victorian reenactment - it takes elements of Victoriana and reinterprets them, as if history had developed in a different way. For many steampunks, the role of women, for one, is not at all the same as it would have been in Victorian times. Steampunk women can be adventurers, aviators, inventors, and many other things, without opposition. It stands to reason, then, that just as fashion did not stand still for Victorian women, neither would it for steampunk women - and a short skirt is so much easier to get around in than a full skirt with bustle and train.
That's my story, and I'm sticking to it! What do you think?
(Please excuse all the photos of ME ME ME, by the way, it's just the easiest way of knowing I'm not impinging anyone's copyright!)
(Plus you get to admire my needlework on two of them, ahem).