December 22, 2011

When Steampunk is too Fantastical...

Unlike my long but mild interest in Goth or my recent but great fascination with Lolita, Steampunk captured my fancy the Autumn of 2006 when I first picked up Neil Stephenson's The Diamond Age and became entranced with the Neo-Victorians. Read this book even if Steampunk is not your aesthetic for the superbly visioned future, nanotech wizardry and brilliant characters.

The Neo-Victorians were a phyle of individuals who had recreated the ethics and aesthetics of the Victorian Era in an age of Nanotech. Where the lower classes had The Feed create food, clothing, and shelter on the atomic level, the Neo-Victorians had their necessities handmade. Where the other Phyles spent a good deal of their time tapped into immersion video games or gang warfare, the Neo-Victorians embraced the disciplined, intellectual rigor of  the bygone era. They had the exquisite clothing, the perfect manners, the strong moral system and my complete admiration.

Subsequent searches for 'Neo-Victorian' necessarily led to the subculture of Steampunk, the wonderful Steampunk Magazine, various steampunk messageboards, forums, fashion sites, and more. My writing soon abounded with fantastical tales of airship captains, living automatons, brass goggles and dashing pirates. The margins of my school pages were rarely without some design of crudely drawn gears or poor sketches of my airship 'The Element.' (Long story for why such a brilliant ship has such a poor name.)

I still love Steampunk today. I'll happily devour the plethora of contemporary steampunk literature. My highschool friends still call each other by the titles and characters spewed out by the Steampunk Name Generator. I still sigh over the beautiful corsets, accessories, and dresses from online stories and steampunk meetings. Many of my day dreams include standing at the prow of my ship and feeling the wind whistle through my hair and nip at my nose. I love Steampunk.

But Steampunk isn't real. Thus my love will never move beyond a distant fascination. How can I love something that takes no part in this real world? One of the catch phrases for steampunk is 'a history that never was.' This image contains the core of the problem: Steampunk is a 'history that never was' not a 'future that might be.' We have moved past the age of steam two hundred years ago and won't go back unless an Apocalypse occurs. If such a calamity does come to pass, we won't invent air ships or automatons, because the struggle for life will be too great.

Steampunk is not life-applicable. Yes, it is possible to decorate one's home to look more industrial or Neo-Victorian or like the inside of an Airship. Yes, it is possible to dress as you think your character in a Steampunk world would dress. Yes, it is possible to modify your every modern device into an antique equivalent, but these are real.

The competnacy and capability that I admire so much in Steampunk are for items or situations which do not exist in this world. The adventures I read about or problems I see characters overcome are not adventures or problems I will face. Yes, Steampunk still glorifies the spectacular, the great, the wonderful and capable, but it offers me no insight into how I imbue the ordinary, non airship worthy aspects of my life with the same spirit.

One of the appeals of Steampunk is the ability to fix the machines with which we live. It seems everyone can throw open the back of their personal automaton, reveal the whirring, clicking gears and springs, bang a few with a wrench and fix the problem. That technique is impossible with today's technology. Open up the back of a computer or a phone and, unless you have a very specialized skill set, it is impossible to physically fix the problem. We can barely fix our cars any more with all the advanced technology.

I am not anti-technology. But Steampunk hearkens back to a simpler, more comprehensible world where the average man or woman could become a hero or create a marvelous new invention. This is no longer possible today but Steampunk does not encourage or embrace the aesthetic that would make us so capable in this world. It looks towards past accomplishments rather than future our of an understandable anxiety and confusion about the complexities we face today. But looking back to a history that never was will not help us succeed or overcome the present that is today.

This is why Steampunk will always be more costume than culture and why I call myself a Neo-Aristocrat rather than a Neo-Victorian.

(As always, I welcome questions, comments, or outright disagreement over the ideas presented. This post represents a slight break from the more rigorous, structural critiques of Goth or Lolita. Does it work? Do the Ideas make sense? Happy Solstice!)

December 14, 2011

When Lolita is Too Sweet II

Due to time constraints and length, I have decided to divide my critique of Lolita in two . My previous post praised Lolita; here is the critique.

However, a disclaimer is necessary. I have not, as of this moment, worn Lolita. My critique is based on the knowledge found in various blogs and message boards throughout the internet. Like my critique of Goth, I am not condemning the fashion as a whole, merely stating why I will not embrace this aesthetic fully.

Clothing tells the story of your life. The garments you chose, the seperates you match, the care and attention you pay to your hair and makeup, proclaim far more to a person than we would like to admit. But consider two people: one dressed in jeans and a baggy hoodie from some name brand store, the other wearing a well tailored skirt and blazer. Who would you invite back to a job interview? Look twice at in the street? Think was more successful? 

The question of the validity of this judging remains to be explored, but we are being naive if we think that people first judge by the qualities of we display rather than the clothing we wear. The right outfit can create an story about our lives that, I believe, our personality fills in to match.

But what is the story that Lolita clothing provides? What is the lifestyle of someone who has applied the aesthetics to Lolita to every aspect of their life?

I imagine her life would resemble that of a pampered cat.

Let me try to paint the picture:

The Lolita wakes as the sun paints golden paths along the pink and white walls of her room. She yawns, rubs her eyes, smiles and clambers out of her canopy bed to begin her day. Her ruffled and lace-frilled night gown is carefully stored in her matching cabinet and the Lolita skips over to her overflowing closet to choose what she will wear today. Naturally, her closet is full of only the best and most beautiful of brand dresses, shoes, socks, blouses, petticoats, skirts, belts, bolero's, head peices, rings, necklaces- the list goes on. After all, Lolita is fashion before philosophy and the clothing is the most important part of her day. 

After dressing, the Lolita descends to the dining room looking over the gardens. Breakfast is already laid with tea, scones, butters and jams prettily arranged on fine china. The Lolita finishes her meal and retires to the garden for a turn among the flowers. After enjoying the beauties of Nature perhaps she meets up with her fellow Lolita's for afternoon tea or a day of shopping and photography in the city. Perhaps she goes on another walk for the afternoon. Perhaps she spends her time embroidering or crafting some pretty new design for a dress or head piece. It doesn't matter; the day is hers.

After a light dinner, the Lolita perhaps reads a novel or finishes her crafting. Perhaps she visits more friends or plays with her pets. Whatever she does, the Lolita returns to her bed happy and content at the hours of her day.

This is not a bad life. Indeed, I would quite willingly spend a month or more spending my days in such a fashion. At first, I would glory in late mornings and days with nothing to do but engage my mind in the most feminine of things. But eventually, I know I would grow restless. After all, what was I doing?

Lolita fashion is fantastically impractical; it is part of the charm. But if I had spent the better part of two hours preparing my outfit, I would think twice about doing anything that might ruin my hard work. 

That 'anything' encompasses most of what is valuable in life: running, dancing, exploring new areas of the woods or parks, lounging, art projects, eating strange and potentially messy food- all the spontaneous adventures that can arise. I would be hesitant to engage fully in any of those because somewhere, in the back of my mind, I would be worried about ruining my clothing.

The activities suited for the Lolita are small and domestic: petting cats, taking pictures, baking cookies and cakes, small crafts. The aesthetic contains no passion or Greatness within itself. If I saw that the best woman general or inventor or politician or writer wore Lolita, I would think they had achieved greatness inspite of rather than because of their fashion.

Perhaps there is no fashion, yet, that can inspire greatness. This is part of my goal in exploring the Neo-Aristocratic philosophy and aesthetic. But if I do find such a fashion, I don't think it will be Lolita with the impracticality, the excessive sweetness, and delicacy of the garments and look. 

There is not enough passion in Lolita, not enough Greatness. The fashion hearkens back to a time when small crafts and activities were the focus of a woman's thoughts not world or life changing ones.

Now, such focus on the smaller sphere of life is necessary at times, but it must be tempered by times for Greatness. Lolita offers the former, but no chance for the latter and a proper, applicable aesthetic should offer both.

Again, I am more than happy to discuss any of my ideas if they raised questions or concerns. If there is some place where my argument was weak or confusing, please let me know. 

December 13, 2011

Why Fashion Doesn't Matter...

(I am taking a break from my series of Inspirational Aesthetics as my final inspiration, objectivism, needs more consideration before I can coherently say why it is not for me. Please enjoy this interlude.)

As I browse through the online catalogs of beautiful and extravagant alternative fashion, I would willingly admit to admiring the outfits. But would I ever wear them? The answer, whispered from some hidden nook of my soul, is no.

No, those fashions are for the models.

No, those fashions are for the brave, the dramatic.

No, I may love those fashions, but I am a modest person whose clothing will brush against the edges of whimsy but daren't cross.

Why? I ask myself. Why wouldn't I wear what I love?

Because of the people, the small voice whispers back. Because of the stares, the glances, the mocking amusement lifting the brows of those who see you. What would they think of you? What would they whisper to their friends after you pass by?

It is when confronted by a swarm of doubts and insecurities as these that I turn to another one of my passions: Astronomy.

America is a large country, impossible to see every part of it. It is, however, only a fraction of the size of the earth. The earth itself is very small compared to the other planets in the solar system; more than a 130 can fit inside Jupiter. More than a 900 Jupiters can fit inside our sun.

I've had this for ages on my computer...
Yet our sun is a very small sun compared to others.

Found on Wikipedia

The entire solar system is located on the far edge of Milky Way, our beloved galaxy.

Yet even how unimaginably vast our galaxy is to us, it is but a speck in the cosmic scale. This is a one minute clip of the wonderful documentary series "How the Universe Works" showing far better than any picture could just how large our universe is:

Yet, even this entire, enormous galaxy is nothing compared to the other wonders of the universe. Because this will be one of the few times I will allow myself to indulge in my Astrophilia, here is one final picture:

From "How the Universe Works"
All the points of light in that beautiful image are galaxies. This is a possible description of the universe" webs of dark energy where Galaxy clusters are studded like jewels. The entire Universe could actually look like this.

Humans are very, very small and our lifespans are very, very short.

Why in the Universe am I letting fear of what someone whispers keep me from doing what I love?

November 26, 2011

When Lolita is too Sweet....

Found on Wikipedia

Lolita may be the alternative aesthetic I have studied the least, but for the past three months I have been obsessed: lurking about egl, abusing googlechrome's instant translate function as I haunt the online stores, dreaming about outfits and even trying to design my own skirts in the margins of my notebooks.

 Needless to say, the Lolita aesthetic appeals to me very much.

Again, there are far better blogs, written by actual lolitas, which explain the aesthetic and details of the fashion. To the best of my understanding, Lolita is a silhouette.

How one fills in this silhouette is a matter of taste, but can generally be divided into three main styles: Gothic, Sweet, and Classic. Of these three, Classic is my favorite. It emphasizes an elegant rather than cute look: using muted tones and simpler lines with the influence of  a Victorian lady rather than Victorian doll. 

From Mary Magdalene website

The Beautiful Side of this Aesthetic:

Lolita is primarily a fashion based aesthetic and they do that very well. My appreciation can be divided into two general categories: the quality of the garments and the reasons for wearing them.  

First, real, brand or otherwise Lolita dresses are exquisite. The attention to detail alone is worth of  the praise of an epic poem. In an age of tee-shirts and blue jeans where simplicity without structure seems to be more valued than beauty, looking at the Lolita coordinates and outfits online is akin to looking at the pictures in a fairy tale. Why have ruffles and yards of lace gone out of fashion? Why are details like pin-tucks and embroidery absent from our current clothing?

The answer is disappointing in its simplicity: time and expense. Extra fabric, quality lace, delicate hemming all costs money and takes more time to create. We have forgotten that clothing used to be an art form- not something to be picked up at Forever 21 for twenty dollars or less. So while the prices for a Lolita dress may make the un-initiated blanche at first, they are well worth the price.

The greater expense also fosters a more sustainable philosophy of clothing. In an age where entire outfits can be bought for under fifty dollars, the idea of saving up for several weeks let along months seems foreign and antiquated. But clothing which takes so much effort to purchase won’t be left crumpled on the ground after a long day’s wear. Damage will be repaired rather than signaling a toss to the good will bin.  Even if the dress no longer fits the current aesthetic, the resale value is high enough to demand constant attention and care. 

But more than the simple quality and attention to detail of the individual pieces, to achieve a proper Lolita look, it is necessary to coordinate the entire outfit well. Lolita seems to be one of the few fashion communities left that have strict rules for what does and does not fit the aesthetic. It is not enough t to wear a few petticoats under a skirt with a frilly blouse. No, the accessories must match as must the socks, shoe, headpiece, hair, and makeup. 

Lolita is not a fashion one can just throw on in the morning. It takes attention and an eye for detail that is not often cultivated in this day and age.  Naturally, anything that encourages a greater care and thought to any aspect of one’s life deserves applause. 

But more than just the quality of the fashion, the motivations for wearing Lolita are equally laudable.  Fashion today often seems to be worn out of fear of being out of style, of being unnoticed by men, or of being judged harshly. But fear should never be the motivation for any action. Lolitas are incredibly courageous to take a step back, take a deep breath, and decide that they would rater wear what they want rather than what society dictates.

 Now, most alternative aesthetics do this. But Lolita is unique in their modesty. Plenty of Gothic clubwear or Steampunk fashion still flaunt the skin or is comprised of curve hugging outfits. But Lolita focuses on modesty with longer skirts, tights or socks on the legs and high necked blouses for the tops.  Sometimes, this can come across as childish, but I believe that is a flaw in our current perceptions of fashion than a comment on Lolita.

But the largest apparent reason to dress Lolita is the sheer joy the clothing gives its followers. Personal enjoyment and satisfaction is the way one ought to live one’s life! If some outfit or clothing gives you pleasure for the sheer sake of wearing it and indulging in your own enjoyment, then it ought to be embraced. 

The Lolita Aesthetic is very pleasing to me. There are many other reasons why but these are the most encompassing and philosophical ones I can devise right now. If you want, please feel free to make any comments or corrections about my understanding of Lolita or contact me for a discussion about any alternative fashion.

November 25, 2011

When Goth is too Monochrome....

This has been on my computer for ages. I apologize for forgetting where this  comes from.
The Gothic lifestyle manages to be both my oldest and least familiar interest. Despite my long term envy of those white faced, black haired stereotypes of television and movies, I am more hesitant to pass judgement on this subculture than those other which I have researched for a shorter time. The reason for this timidity is two fold: music and age.

Music is, arguably, as important to the Gothic scene as the familiar fashion. I, however, have never been a music aficionado and don't particularly care for Gothic music. Being unable to appreciate or critique what is an essential part of a Goth makes this review naturally biased.

The second source of hesitation is the Gothic subculture's age. There are far, far better sites for researching the history of Goth, but I believe the aesthetic began in the 80's and has gone through every variation a thirty year old movement can. There are at least twenty different subgroups in the subculture to the outside observer and once in the Goth scene, I am sure there are even more.

Being ignorant of the subtle nuances of the Gothic history's twists and turns and the entire genre of music, I begin this critique with some trepidation.

Taken from

The Appeal of Goth:

The work that I believe most fully captures everything beautiful about the Gothic subculture is The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales compiled by Chris Baldick. If you are interested in Goth, or aren't but want a collection of rich and magnificent tales, go to your favorite used book store and begin searching for it. The collection spans tales from 1773 to the modern day and seeks to give a comprehensive outline of Gothic short fiction.

What I loved about these tales and see reflected in the fashion is a depth and richness of emotion that is missing from modern society. In the Gothic image there still exist decaying castles on the windswept moors where young maidens are forced to marry against their wishes or sent to convents. Questions of immorality, of death, of madness are all considered despite being shunned now a days.

I love the motifs of roses, ornate crosses, ravens, and  tombstones.

I love the curiosity and willingness to explore the decaying hallways of once grand houses, overgrown graveyards, the crooked ways of the human mind. The ability to find beauty in the unconventional, the gruesome, or morbid is a wonderful gift.

I love the depths of soul where one incident can drive a mind to madness or turn shadows into ghosts. There is a delicacy of the spirit which is not concerned with mortal drudgery which sorely missed today.

I love the awe inspiring vastness of the Church because it means there are things out there that the human mind can not know and needs protecting from.

I love the passion which infuses the work and the drama which inspires the clothing. Gothic clothing takes a brave soul to wear well. More so than the other aesthetics I will discuss, Goths need a flare for the dramatic to flesh out the elaborate garments and making the fantasy alive.

Found at
Critique of Goth:

However, this passion of Goth seems to be it's undoing. Not everyone can haunt about a castle. Not everyone can stay in the frenzy of infatuation forever. Dawn eventually reveals the shadows to be dressers and closets rather than ghosts of old.

Goth isn't about the day to day or the practical. Never in any Gothic story that I have read is the heroine's morning routine described or the running of the mansion or the minute worries about money and income.Yet we live in a world where days do pass and the practicalities must be considered.

The way I see most Goths dealing with this daily necessity is by cutisfying the motifs of the subculture and making them every day. So you find paper plates and cups with bat motifs. Prints with cute skull and cross bones to make your skirts. One would be hard pressed to find those in any normal person's home, but the passion is lost.

My second concern is the inherent helplessness of  Gothic stories. No one sits down to think how to escape whatever problems they are in; the stakes are too high. Maidens wait to be rescued or have delirious dreams of suicide. It is either financial ruin on one hand or murdering the uncle on the other. No one stops to consider practical measures to take. At that frenzy, the choice has become either or. Black or white.

But this isn't the human experience. The world is complex and we have the minds and skills to use that complexity to our advantage. If a character can only see two opposite alternatives to a problem, she is missing some third angle. We can change the world around us, that is one of the principle things which makes us human. We have tools. We look at a forest and see not only the trees but the houses and furniture and art that the wood can create. But Gothic stories would not exist if the heroine or hero were rational, practical people who sat down at talked things through.

Now some might argue that you can either be passionate, or you can be reasonable. They cancel each other out otherwise. Part of my goal in this blog and my study of Neo-Aristocrats is to prove this is not the case.

Finally and most whimsically, Goth is too monochrome. I like black. A peek into my closet is testament enough. But I like other colors as well and as more than just accents to my black skirt and coat.

Goth is not for me. I want an aesthetic that can be applied to my everyday life without losing its power, which promotes human competence and real world solutions while not killing the passion and beauty that Goth contains in abundance.

As always, if you would like to point out an error in my thinking, discuss an idea with me, or have me read something else, please let me know!

November 21, 2011

Roots and Inspiration

Alternative aesthetics have appealed to me since the early days of high school. I would pour over the descriptions of Neo-Victorianism in Neil Stephenson's "The Diamond Age" and stare at the gothic outfits and languor in television shows, dreaming of waking up one morning to either be in a nanotech finishing school or with a wardrobe of black and wonder. However, my life was creative enough, my parents were reasonable enough and my dislike of makeup irrational enough that I never crossed the bounds from loving to living the lifestyle.

Over the years, four main subgroup have constantly been able to reach out and to tug on my aesthetic heart strings, but leave me wanting something more: Aristocratic or Romantic Goths, Lolita, Steampunk and Ayn Rand's philosophy Objectivism.

In the next four days, I will try to explain what in each of these aesthetics appeal and where they fall short of inspiring me completely.  Also, I shall explain why I believe that Objectivism or a devout belief in any philosophical system should be considered and alternative lifestyle on the same level of Goths, Lolita and Steampunk.

Naturally, all thoughts in this blog are opinions only, not fact. Naturally, your opinions may differ wildly from mine in the nature of each of these categories. That's fine. I'll be the first to admit that my knowledge of the these subgroups, excepting Objectivism, is from an outside viewer only. I have never dressed like a lolita, gone to a steampunk convention, or a Goth club. My knowledge is limited which is why I am not passing judgment on the groups as a whole, just why they don't work for me. 

However, I will be happy to discuss any of my thoughts with you and read any article or blog you suggest.

~ Lynette

(Note: this is my first blogging challenge! Part of creating this blog is to teach myself to follow artificial deadlines. It is up to you, my dear readers, to critique me soundly if I don't keep on track. Also, what fashion or philosophical inspirations do you draw your own aesthetic from?)

September 29, 2011


Something is missing in the world.

I see in the people around me my own reflection: hunched- shouldered, slack- eyed, enclosed continually in a miasma of technology and over scheduled lives. Mistaking efficiency and a checked off chore list for a good day done. 

I hear my own thoughts in the droning misery reported from every news source, in the quiet laments of the hardships expected of life, in the bitter sneers of relativists and nihilists. 

I feel the lacking in the nostalgia that rises from reminders of by gone eras where elegance  was at forefront of every consideration.

This is not how I want to live. I do not want to look with resignation to the trials and tragedies of my future. I do not want to live a life looking only for the bad and never for the beautiful. I do not want a life where the beautiful is only an ideal to be found in art or the occasional hour of rest. 

But I do not feel the modern paradigm gives me the structure or inspiration to turn my life into a living, vital work of art.  However, re-creating the ideals of the past would leave me with an empty shell and no ability to relate to the modern world. People change, ideas evolve, society advances. What held true in the Victorian Era can not be applied wholesale to a modern life no matter how beautiful it seems. 

There seems to be only one choice left when the present and the past can no longer fulfill: create a future.

This blog shall chronicle my exploration into the unknown realms of the Neo-Aristocrat. I have chosen this moniker to describe my self-made alternative aesthetic based on the Greek word 'Aristos' or best. I am looking to create a lifestyle not just taken from the Victorians, though a great deal of my inspiration shall come from that era, but from all ages when striving for the best was considered a worthy endeavor. When living by a moral system was not consider naive. When a desire to add more beauty to the world motivated each action. 

Perhaps such a time never existed, but I shall endeavor in my own life to recreate it. 

My exploration shall be broken into three parts:

~ Discovering the Aesthetic. Here I shall take pieces of art or fashion which inspires me and try to understand what about them appeals to divine a list of traits that I believe are worthy of imitation.

~ Applying the Aesthetic. Here I shall apply, in theory, the qualities of what I believe make a Neo-Aristocratic to certain aspects of living. Such as fashion, food, interactions with others, etc.

~ Living the Aesthetic. Here I shall chronicle my attempts to live the philosophy I created.

This is my first ever blog. I have never written for an audience, much less attempted an undertaking like this. There will be mistakes and I shall be grateful if you point them out in a constructive way.  I will be learning and changing my opinions through out this exploration. If you have suggestions for where to look for inspiration or stories of your own undertakings, I would love to hear them. Part of the reason I am making this exploration public is to find a like minded community who is looking for something more out of life. The accountability of a public blog will keep me focused on my goal.