My slow descent into the bowels of costuming continues apace.

For the longest time I would (discreetly) roll my eyes at people who had created elaborate personas, RenFaire types mostly who could recite the names of ten generations of fictional ancestors for the non-existent people they were pretending to be for the day. Some part of me felt towards these antics the way non-costumers no doubt feel about those of us who dress up funny and lower the tone at geek events.

We become what we hate, pride cometh before a fall, and many a mickle makes a muckle… no, scratch that last one. Point is; as Alexandra Wallace would probably say, I have had an epiphany and although I failed to actually costume as planned for Nova Albion, I have to my utter bewilderment and, yes, shame, come up with a ‘steamsona’ for myself. Despite my scoffing I suddenly and unexpectedly discovered how and why this can be fun and more than that, incredibly helpful to the costuming process.

Let me start from the beginning; I was on the Internet (never a good start), trolling for images of 19th Eastern designs and fashions in hopes of finding inspiration for a Nova Albion costume, since this year’s theme was ‘Wild, Wild East’. Now, I figured there would be plenty of Chinese or Japanese inspired outfits since they are probably the most familiar to people and also had the advantage for locals of both a large Chinatown and Japantown right here in San Francisco to go hunting for fabric, clothing and accessories in.

In addition, I dearly wanted to use the long white feather cloak I had made for Gallifrey One, so I also figured I would specifically focus on cultures with snowy climates since the look and feel of the cloak is very similar to a fur coat. One thing lead to another, as it often will on the nets, and I ended up reading about the 13th Century Franco-Mongol alliance attempts, which I had never heard about, and their connection to the legend of Prester John which has always intrigued me. The alternate history timeline possibilities sprang pretty much full-formed into my brain at that point and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Regardless of whether I do ever complete my Iberian Ambassador to the Court of Prester John outfit or not, the realization of how this backstory would inform the design choices not just for this one outfit, but for any number of variations on it, was a revelation. With a history to draw from the field narrows from a million possible choices to just the ones that fit within the logic of the persona you have created and the setting which you are exploring.

Now, my character doesn’t have a name, I wont be cosplaying or putting on a funny accent, my choices are strictly for the purposes of building a logical and interesting aesthetic. But nonetheless I now understand how one gets there from where I am, and how that might be a fun place to be.

~España Sheriff

Yipe! Volume 3, Issue 4, April 2011