Tired of dressing in his regular sweatpants and a T-shirt, Jessie Creselious was searching for a new pair of vintage-style boots when he stumbled upon an ad for an event hosted by Circle City Aerodrome, a nonprofit organization for Indianapolis and Hoosier steampunk enthusiasts to “berth their airships.” At the time, Creselious said he didn’t know anything about steampunk, but he decided to do some digging.
Only purchasing tickets to attend one day of the convention for steampunk enthusiasts “3 Days of Steampunk Immersion,” Creselious quickly discovered he was hooked. Having grown up watching older horror movies like “Dracula,” “Frankenstein” and “The Wolf Man,” Creselious said the aesthetic he had seen at the event was somewhat familiar to the clothing characters wore in the movies he liked to watch.
“Seeing roughly 350 people all dressed in high-Victorian fashion, including the vendors, gave me inspiration,” said Creselious, founder of The Steampunk Consortium Facebook group. “It was the new me taking shape.”
Steampunk is a spectrum including fashion, personas and characters inspired by Victorian-era science fiction. Each enthusiast can express their interpretation of steampunk differently. Fans of steampunk have been known to show this concept through performance art, cosplay, crafts and tailoring.
The world of steam power rose to popularity during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Typical outfits during this time period include women dressed in corsets above their long, flowing skirts with large hats placed atop their heads and men dressed in suits with bowties and shiny leather shoes while walking with wooden canes.
In 2015, Creselious used the inspiration he found from “3 Days of Steampunk Immersion” to create The Steampunk Consortium, a Muncie-based Facebook group for steampunk enthusiasts to come together for meetings and events. Creselious said the goal of the group was to provide a “wonderful playground” for members to try out different steampunk personalities, similar to cosplaying, so they can learn how to overcome their various daily restrictions.
“Steampunk is about making believe and enjoying ourselves,” Creselious said. “It’s about having fun and making connections with people who have an artistic flair and need an outlet.”
The Steampunk Consortium meets from 6-9 p.m. the first Saturday of every month at McAlister’s Deli on McGalliard Road. Members from as close as Muncie or as far as Kentucky come dressed in their steampunk attire to catch up with one another and make decisions on upcoming activities. The Facebook group currently has more than 250 followers.
Diane Gottschalk joined The Steampunk Consortium in April but was first introduced to steampunk in 2007 when she attended several anime conventions. Gottschalk said she noticed people creating steampunk versions of anime characters, but she didn’t understand the concept until she joined groups like the Indianapolis Steampunk Society as a way to make friends outside of work.
“My current goal is to be Artemus Gordon from the 1999 ‘Wild Wild West,’” Gottschalk said. “As far as what goes into making that happen, it’s a lot of shopping and analysis of the movie.”
Cindy Britton, a member of The Steampunk Consortium since September 2017, first discovered steampunk in the early 2000s when she was watching an episode of “CSI: New York” where a dead body had been found in a steampunk-themed club.
“These ladies were all dressed up in steampunk, and there was a guy riding a three-wheeled bicycle with a hat and goggles,” Britton said. “I was just really enamored with that.”
After Britton’s husband secretly informed Creselious about her newfound interest in steampunk, she was invited to join The Steampunk Consortium. Britton said she doesn’t have a specific character she dresses up as, but her attitude changes depending on the outfit she chooses.
“For me, my favorite thing is getting comfortable with the idea of wearing different clothing than everyone else [and] expanding my idea of what I can and can’t do with the clothing,” Britton said.
The Steampunk Consortium will host the Steampunk Halloween Masquerade Ball from 6 - 10 p.m. Oct. 22 at The North Church Venue on North Street. Guests of all ages are welcome to attend and enjoy steampunk-themed music, a performance by The Fabulous Funcie Femmes and food and drinks sold by local vendors. Those attending the event are encouraged to dress up in steampunk, goth, dieselpunk, wild west outfits or something nice.
“People would go from one location to another for lavish Halloween parties and make a full evening of it,” Creselious said.“We want it to be something reminiscent of what once was a normal tradition in Muncie during the 1920s.”
Creselious will come dressed as Dr. Ghinton, a well-educated gentleman from the 1800s. Dr. Ghinton is a respected leader in his community and is focused on learning more about the mysteries of life and how time works. He said inspiration for his character comes from features of his own personality along with a few traits of “Dr. Who,” a fictional television show character who travels through time.
“Steampunk provides the opportunity for self-expression and growth, if one is so motivated,” Creselious said. “It gives me the ability to be a very different person than my normal daily self.”