You may have seen someone wearing goggles, a corset, and a bustle in a local parade. Mixing the Victorian age with technology and industry, steampunk has taken off in recent years in places you might expect like Madison and Milwaukee…. But also in Lodi.
Anita Peterson enjoys the freedom that steampunk culture gives her. From cosplay to role-playing, steampunk’s vague description is its best attribute to many of its followers.
“Famously, steampunk avoids a very good definition,” says Peterson. “And that’s part of its charm, that every single person who does it or sees it has a different definition. And we like it that way.”
For Peterson, steampunk is the perfect outlet for her creative abilities. Many steampunk followers design their own costumes.
“I’ve always been pretty creative, but when steampunk came along it just opened everything up, because I could then make things that no one ever thought of before,” explains Peterson. “It invites you to learn new things.”
Learning new things like welding, for example. Peterson has started to take the metalworking classes in order to create larger, more complex pieces for her costumes.
Steampunk has provided Peterson with the inspiration to get out of her comfort zone and try new things, especially when it comes to designing her costume.
The historical realities of the Victorian era are not lost on steampunk followers, though. While the social, gender and racial issues of the time period made life difficult for many people, Peterson believes that steampunk’s inclusive community combines the best aspects of both today’s world and the past.
“A lot of people who do steampunk, they know that the Victorian era, for most people, was pretty bad,” says Peterson. “But what’s fun is when you take that and switch it around to show up the things that were bad about then and the things that are good about now.”
While Madison and Milwaukee have the largest steampunk groups in Wisconsin, Peterson is proud of the active steampunk community in Lodi. She has helped organize several activities, including a day of lawn games and antique shopping in steampunk outfits.
She says, “Lodi is probably one of the most successful smaller ones [groups], only because we just keep on doing things.”