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Tales From The Edwardian Ball ~ A Splintering Turn of Events

Tales From The Edwardian Ball
At a heady and glorious Edwardian Ball, a lone Steampunk finds himself in one of the rare corners that might lend some solitude, the other corners being filled with excitement, bustling with activity, with performances, dancing, artistic creations, with fine goods and apparel for sale, and of course all the costumed revelers having the most fabulous evening imaginable.

Edwardian Ball dance floor - ©2012 Marco Sanchez

He stands back, taking it all in, and muses aloud to himself, “Ah yes, the Edwardian Ball. Truly, this is what Steampunk is all about. The top hats and spats! The skirts with bustles! The glorification of antiquated technology! Why, all one has to do is simply glue a gear on it, and —”

The Steampunk was unable to finish his thought, as he received a left hook in the jaw from a young(ish) Haute Goth woman with fresh color-coordinated felted extensions and gravity-defying heeled shoes. Her tightly-laced and grommeted corset heaved as she yelled at him, “No! No it’s not! The Edwardian Ball is for us! It’s an evening of darkness and macabre! Tragic black dress required!”

Edwardian Ball 2011 - Photo ©2011 Neil Girling / The Blight

She continued to pummel him and shout expletives while he used his trusty bowler hat to defend himself. Two passing New Romantics noticed the commotion, and decided to air their grievances at the lack of representation to their phyle by unleashing fists of laced-glove fury. Soon a latex-fetish couple joined in with their paddle and cat-o-nine, and a Retro-Futurist Cyber-Electropunk began zapping people with his tesla-powerd multi-functional inter-dimensional mono-eyescope.

A gaggle of rambunctious Lollygoths joined in the fray, ganging up on an unsuspecting Neo-Elizabethan accompanied by a Neo-Incroyable. Passing Pirates and Poets pummeled people with aplomb. It all began to really get out of hand when the Tweed Riders and Gearheads squared off, but fortunately a sizable group of tenderhearted leather daddies was able to restore some semblance of calm to the situation, dispensing gratuitous chest-hairy hugs and smiles, reminding everyone to be tolerant, by force if necessary.

Dark Garden at the 2008 Edwardian Ball - Photo ©2008 Dave Golden

The melee dispersed; sore, bruised, unsatisfied, many with a still-hungry look in their eye. An uneasy peace was established between the phyles, for now.

When did the Edwardian Ball become a magnet for such fractured and vapid conflict between subcultures? Is there any hope of healing this schism? Am I completely making up all this hostility? Actually yes.

Vau De Vire - ©2010 Neil Girling / The Blight

But I have certainly noticed a tendency for everything that might once have been simply historic costume fun or genuine vintage-inspired art has become labelled as “Steampunk,” which all self-respecting goths, retro-future hipsters, and other unspecified subcultures then have to turn their nose up at. We declare how sick we are of Steampunk, or how much we used to really like Steampunk, back in the day, before all the douchebags ruined it.

I, for one, love historical costumes and decor in their own right. I see no need to attach a current (or ongoing) subculture to getting all gussied up in Victorian or Edwardian finery. It just looks cool. Clothes were made better and much, much fancier in those long-bygone eras, and I really enjoy celebrating and invoking the style, elegance, and sophistication that we in civilized cultures once wore on our sleeve.

© Neil Girling / The Blight

That’s not to say that modern style and subcultures are devoid of style and elegance at all – quite the opposite. I will unabashedly proclaim that I absolutely love Steampunk, always have, and no douchebags have ruined it for me at all. Well-done Goth, Punk, and New Wave fashion still gives me goosebumps after all these years, and even the vibrant Mission and Lower-Haight Hipsters are worth sharing a PBR with if they’ve got a sense of panache.

What it boils down to is that the Edwardian Ball is one of the most stylish events in San Francisco. I don’t give a damn what subculture or subgenre you identify with; every year I look forward to seeing what my neighbors and cohorts wear, create, fabricate, assemble, build, and present, and every year I am so impressed. More than that – I am inspired and proud to be a part of it.

See you at The Ball!

Joseph Hren

Joseph Hren is an artist and rascal. He makes music and makes fun of you. He can often be found drunk and passed out covered in Sharpie tats given by his friends. He has a Facebook page that isn’t really kept up well, and tweets sporadically as @horseradish13.

Photos by Dave Golden and Neil Girling / The Blight

Want to learn more about the many ways to dress for the Ball? Read our Fashion Guide series!


Share Your Tales - Win Tickets to the Edwardian Worlds Faire

This post is part of a series showcasing the fabulous diversity of The Edwardian Ball. Have an Edwardian Tale of your own? Share it with us, and you could win tickets to the Edwardian!