I recently made a pact with myself, to try as hard as possible to avoid complaining. There are a pretty good number of people pointing out the problems of the world, and very few offering solutions to those problems. And while there is certainly value to airing grievances, complaints, and issues, I think I would like to approach the world from the other side. I would like to speak from the side of solutions, epiphanies, and ideas.
With that in mind, I intend to address a topic that has been much discussed lately, and one that has been on the minds of a number of those of us in the Etsy Steam Team. It was posed to me recently, and most eloquently, by one of the dashing fellows behind the upcoming The Handcar Regatta "Where is the you in it?"
We all think it, when we log into Etsy and search 'steampunk', or see the three millionth comic character wearing goggles - how do you stand out in a trend that is rapidly gaining more and more of the same sorts of styles? You love your gears, and your watch movements, and your brass filigree, but everyone else seems to be doing that as well. What will keep you an individual?
I believe its a way of thinking about what you're creating, as opposed to what you use to create it. Don't think about Steampunk as a visual style or a fashion style. That's the kind of thinking that can end with you browsing countless shops trying to decide what makes something steampunk, worrying you aren't steampunk enough, trying to follow trends so carefully that you start creating from the trend, instead of Creating the trend.
Instead, think of steampunk as a setting. A fabulous place filled with strange steam powered inventions, undiscovered countries yet to be explored, with a pervading attitude of adventure and invention! It doesn't matter if its the past that never was, the future that won't be, another world, another dimension, or your back yard, and it doesn't matter what everyone else is wearing. When you sit down to create, think of what you would wear or do in a world like that. Think of what other people would wear. In my world, gears are the fodder of the poorer classes - making decoration out of discarded bits of machinery, readily available. Maybe in your world, gears are a status symbol for the inventive geniuses of the universities. In my world, I wear suspenders and a cowboy hat, and tack my cravat down with a gear pin. Maybe you wear delicate silk and pearls, and pine for you aeronaut lover lost during a flight to the north pole. Don't think about the way other people's work looks, think about the way something from a Steampunk place COULD look.
Then in the end, you can at the very least be satisfied that you've put the You into Steampunk.