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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Kicking it old-steam

At a New Year's Day gathering, I was greeted with the following statement: "We're not allowed to discuss politics, so we're talking about fashion. This year's trend is gonna be steampunk."

I thought about this for about ten seconds before replying, "You're right. It is."

To super-briefly summarize steampunk, if you don't want to go through the Wikipedia link, it's a subgenre of science fiction where the stories take place in the era of steam-powered machines, generally Victorian England. But I'm here to talk more about the aesthetic of it. Brass Goggles is an awesome site to poke around for an idea of the things people are doing -- this amazing brass and wood laptop is unbelievable.

Various people interpret it differently, of course, when it comes to fashion. From Wikipedia, again: ""Steampunk" fashion has no set guidelines, but tends to synthesize punk, goth and rivet styles as filtered through the Victorian era. This may include Mohawks and extensive piercings with corsets and tattered petticoats, Victorian suits with goggles and boots with large soles and buckles or straps, and the Lolita fashion and aristocrat styles."

But what makes this a trend? Since it's a new year, we've already got fashion blogs talking about what's going to be big in the coming months. If you look at SFBayStyle's trends for Spring-Summer 2008, three out of the five themes can easily be applied to the steampunk aesthetic. "Safari" -- khakis and browns, cream, grey, boots. "Punk" -- that, you're likely familiar with. "Modified Military" -- sharp tailoring, badges, epaulettes, boots. And Gala Darling's post on 2008 style predictions includes emphasizing the waist (very Victorian), the general menswear-as-women's-wear trend (blazers/tuxedo coats, vests), and my favorite: lace-up shoes and boots.

Since New Year's Day, I've been obsessed with finding a great pair of steampunk-esque lace-up boots. I looked at Zappos, I looked at eBay, and then I got an email from Shopbop telling me about their big sale. Therefore, I went exploring their shoe section -- totally on a whim! Not even looking for steampunk boots! -- and I found some on SALE.

Dolce Vita in particular has a great selection of boots and lace-up oxfords. These "dapper granny boots" are the first ones that jumped out at me. I think these are particularly great because they've got a rounded toe and a stacked heel, two of my favorite attributes in boots. Most of the granny boots I've looked at have had pointy toes, pointy heels, or both. I prefer a little more curve and a little less point. (Have I mentioned how picky I am about boots? Because I'm very picky.) They're down from $225 to $112.50 -- 50% off!

And if you want to indulge yourself in the lace-up oxford shoe trend, I really like the Dolce Vita "Orlando" oxford pump. Not only does it come in brown, the standard steampunk color (most people select brown, due to the sepia pictures of the time), but also in camel and black. I'm really digging the stitching details on the shoe, making them a little more business-like and sassy than your standard "this is a lace-up shoe... with a heel!". The heel may be a little high for everyday wear at nearly 4 inches, though. I also like the contrasting materials (another favorite boot attribute: a wood heel), but I wonder about the durability of a velvet shoe lace, especially if you're like me and you have to walk in the cold wet. Still, for $74, down from $148, I can't really have that many complaints, can I? With the 74 bucks you'll be saving, you can buy plenty of non-delicate shoe laces.

Of course, lace-up boots are fine if you're going for the more feminine aspect of modernizing Victorian wear -- covered ankles and wrists, gloves, hats (all of which are big for 2007-2008). But what if you want to go a little rougher, a little more tomboy, a little more ambiguous? You can't go wrong with the classic Frye Engineer boot. Frye's been around since the Civil War, so you can guarantee that people (well, maybe not British people) were stomping around in Frye boots around their steam-powered machines. These weathered brown boots are attractive and tough -- they'll definitely hold up on those stormier days. And at $198, they're not horrifically high-priced for high-quality leather boots. I would wear these over jeans, with opaque tights and a skirt, or with corduroys. Shopbop also offers them in black, if the brown doesn't do it for you.

I've been thinking about taking the plunge and making the investment in a pair of Frye boots -- I'm planning on getting a pair of the classic Campus boots in black, but some of these boots are making it awfully hard to make that kind of commitment just yet.

So if I've only confused you, here's a wrap-up: Victorian explorers and scientists! Brass! Steam! Gloves and hats! And, of course -- boots!

images from shopbop.com

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