July 28, 2013

Aesthetic Analysis: Mieljolie's Steampunk Bustle Bar

The Bustle Bar worn

Friends, this is steampunk done correctly.

Mieljolie from the blog All Things Crafty has posted another wonderful demonstration of her creative designs. I highly recommend that you take a look through this blog and some of her tutorials. They could be adapted pretty easily into most aesthetics I think. But today I am focusing on the Bustle Bar- a steampunk accessory that not only looks amazing, but is incredibly practical and useful.

As I have said before, my biggest problem with steampunk is that it is an aesthetic for a fantasy world, not the one we live in. I see this reflected in the way most of the people I have met embody steampunk. They create characters that live in a steampunk world and elaborate outfits that those characters would wear and that they can wear to festivals and conventions. The outfits themselves, I have little problem with. But most of the elaborate and often times exquisite accessories that they carry around (mechanical arms, fantastical ray guns) are just props. Granted, often times superbly crafted works of art, but serving no practical purpose.

The Bustle Bar is the first example of a practical, useful and aesthetically pleasing design that I have seen. Read the post to really appreciate the craftsmanship of the work. But this is why I think the project embodies Steampunk so well:

First, they realized there was a problem: they became thirsty during their outings.

Second, they realized that the normal solution wouldn't work for them: lugging around normal water carriers would detract from their costumes.

Third, they saw this as an opportunity not to take the easy or conventional approach: no modded water bottles or safari canteens for them!

Fourth, they built, rather than bought, a contraption: I'm sure there is someone, somewhere selling steampunk camel packs or the sort.

Fifth, using science and incredible ingenuity, they created a device that was both practical (it did dispense liquid), whimsical (hidden under the bustle of the skirt), maybe not the most efficient (see previous), but definitely more fun (see all of the above.)

Sixth, it used low tech science: I'm not sure how one would make a computer chip/robotic under bustle drink dispenser, but the science and mechanics behind the device is intuitive and easily grasped.

Seventh, they didn't skimp on aesthetic: it could have been easy to make this look very industrial and unpolished, but care was given to the presentation of the tubes leading from the containers and the holster for the pump. There was also the conscious decision to make the working parts of the device part of the aesthetic, rather than hiding them away.

If steampunk could exist in our world, I think it would encompass these seven aspects: a recognition of a problem, the decision to fix it yourself with innovative, creative, low tech and whimsical designs that you make yourself rather than buy and that looks beautiful in the process. As you can probably tell, it made me really happy to find this piece. If more of steampunk embodied this rational, I would be a far more steampunk than I already am.  Thanks to Mieljolie for writing about this!


  1. What an interesting contraption! I wear some steampunk inspired outfits but I'm like you, not very fond of all of the props without practical use. I wear my top hat, my pocket watch and some victorian inspired clothing but that's it. I hate wearing wrist watches so pocket watches are great. I really like the mechanical ones where the movement is visible front and back, practical and beautiful in one!

    1. Yes, the Victorians really knew how to pair beauty with functionality. I look at the modern office, laptop, or even watch and am saddened by how we have sacrificed aesthetic for quantity. Still, I'd rather have something that worked than pretend something that doesn't does. Pocket watches are the perfect representation of that for me. I just need to get my grandfather's working again properly.