This photo isn’t exactly an example of what the term has come to mean among my acquaintances, since the assets it shows are all tucked into the wearer’s corset, but it’s the closest I have. Anyone who’s ever been to a Renaissance event knows what I mean–the well-endowed woman whose bodice is a couple sizes too small and gets sort of a forward-muffin top. Mind you, the term wasn’t meant to be used as derogatory. The males I hang out with are more than happy to view feminine assets any way they can.
The phrase, Renaissance overflow actually originated among my circle of friends at an SF con. Near the corset booth in the vendor room, big surprise. Mr. Cindy and another friend were enjoying the sights, as it were, and the friend remarked that it was interesting how much overlap there was among the things one saw at an SF con and the things one saw at a Renaissance faire. Mr. Cindy immediately dubbed it Renaissance overflow, and the term almost immediately took on a double meaning–the too-snug bodice and the commonality one finds at Renaissance events and SF or steampunk gatherings.
I’ve been pondering this. Why so much overlap? The more I look, the more I see. I’ve watched the same groups performing at both World Steam Expo and Renaissance faires (shout out to The Theatrical Combat Network, The Bawdy Boys and Thee Bluebeard.) I’ve shopped from the same vendors, my favorite being Pendragon/Mad Girl costumes. I have corsets from them in both my steampunk and Renaissance boxes. I see steampunk jewelry and hats for sale at Renaissance faires and Elizabethan items at SF cons. Clearly they appeal to the same group of people to an unexpected degree.
Or is it unexpected? Steampunk as a fiction genre grew largely out of the aesthetic, not the other way around. A lot of the early adopters of the aesthetic were grown ups who already liked to play dress up for fun and/r profit–meaning reenactors of one kind or another. Civil war reenactment probably has a bit of crossover as well, I just haven’t seen it since I don’t do that one. I’d also guess there’s some overlap with the serious medieval reenactment crowd, aka SCA. One thing I can see that might be awkward there is that serious historical groups tend to be sticklers for period accuracy and steampunk is all about NOT being historically correct.
And that would be why I think the biggest crossover crowd is the casual costume and any-period-works-for-me fan. We (because I do include myself here) enjoy immersing ourselves in another world, whether or not that world ever actually existed. I love steampunk events, and I dress accordingly but I also love medieval or Renaissance faires and whatever other cool things I can go to. (FYI, there are always a few sticklers who glare at my elf ears if I wear them with a period costume, but there are always a bunch who adore them.) I’m hoping a Ragtime Street Fair is in the plans for July, though real life may get in the way. The thing is, when I go to something, I love feeling like I’m part of it, even if I’m paying for my ticket at the gate and not part of the cast or crew. I think there are a lot of us like that. Many of us probably also read, and maybe even read across a variety of genres, because reading gives us that immersion experience we crave. Are we really a bunch of overly tall children playing dress up? Probably. Do I care? Not in the slightest. Life is too short not to take your fun where you can find it.
That’s the deal for me. Renaissance faires and steampunk are both FUN. So is reading. So garb up or grab a book and have a ball! If you’re doing so in Michigan this summer, look for me when you do.