Some of you readers may be familiar with my steampunk magistrate outfit that I've worn to conventions across North America:
|This is not me; this is the designer, Jeanette Ng.|
I look like this, as well you know, or should.
I commissioned this in 2010 from the Costume Mercenary, a history-graduate-student-moonlighting-as-designer for Live Action Roleplaying (LARP) outfits. The idea was this: the character I was gestating would be a magistrate for one of China’s colonies in Maritime Southeast Asia, most likely one of the Malay sultanates (present-time Malaysia, where I am from). Chinese traders had established their own port communities since the 1400s at least, and until China closed its borders after the Zheng He expeditions, clearly had imperialist ambitions abroad. The character would be a lead in a LARP game Ay-Leen the Peacemaker and I had thought up.
The game would involve my character accusing Ay-leen’s partner of smuggling opium into the colony, and Ay-leen would lead the players through the game, collecting clues to both clear her partner’s name, and educate the players about the extent of the Opium Wars that led to the establishment of a British colony in what is now Hong Kong.
Although the LARP Game never happened (I'm still holding out that it will, though), I still wore the outfit to steampunk conventions across Canada and the United States, firstly out of a sense of satisfaction with how fantastic the whole outfit is, secondly to kickstart conversation in which I talk about the Opium Wars and of Chinese diaspora communities, and thirdly to embody what steampunk could look like when divorced from the Victorian aesthetic.
Now, if you read this blog, you presumably know a bit about steampunk, so you know that roleplaying a steampunk persona, or a “steamsona,” is very popular, because it gives newcomers a thematic idea around which to start building their costume. One goes in or out of character to steampunk events, and theoretically, if all else fails in finding things in common to talk about, we can always ask each other about our steamsonas.