THE MAHOGANY MASQUERADE: The Politics of Fashion in Steamfunk

“No matter where you get the fashion from, how it’s produced, who is in charge of distributing it are all political choices. That’s why I think Steampunk fashion is a highly charged fashion aesthetic. It deals with history and history is always political.”Diana Pho / Ay-leen The Peacemaker

One may not immediately think that there is a relationship between politics and fashion, choosing to think of dress as simply something we do, yet what we wear has political implications.

When we decide what to wear when we leave our homes to present ourselves to others may seem like an innocent and meaningless decision, but, in reality it is a decision that is conditioned by social conventions.

Try shopping for fruit, beer and P&J at your local supermarket wearing an elaborate, formal gown, or wear a pink wetsuit to a wedding, or ‘daisy dukes’ in Saudi Arabia and you will suffer disapproval, ridicule and maybe even violence and imprisonment.

We live in a political world. Politics happens every time we wake up and get dressed. We abide by power conventions and conform to certain expectations and if we defy these norms, we face numerous – and sometimes life-threatening – consequences.

The potential, political implications of the way we dress – violence, prejudice, marginalization – means that we can – and always have – used our clothes as a means of protest and resistance.

We have always used fashion to express and fight injustice, voice our disapproval with government, or as a way to highlight government intimidation and repressive regimes.

Resistance can occur through breaking the norm or through adopting a certain ‘forbidden’ item of dress. Recently, police in Sudan arrested thirteen women in a café and later flogged ten of them in public.

Why? What heinous crime did they commit?

They wore trousers and thereby violated Sudan’s Islamic Law. In response to the law and it’s seemingly selective enforcement, many women have taken to wearing trousers in public to register their dissatisfaction with the current government, using dress as a symbol of protest and resistance.  These women have used their situation to create a public platform to further highlight and draw international attention to their plight.

Steampunk fashion is reflective of the Victorian era (1837 – 1901). It can reflect Victorian Era England, France, the Wild West and the various fashions of the African and Asian continents.

Much of this fashion – for people of African descent and other People of Color – represents oppression, suppression, theft, rape, murder and enslavement. However, this fashion can be used to remember and represent those who made it…those who survived and thrived despite all we endured – Harriet Tubman; George Washington Carver; a Mino (“Dahomey Amazon”) warrior; the Haitian Vodun spirit of death and fertility; Baron Samedi; Frederick Douglass…

Do a bit of research, create a concept for your persona and be well aware of the political implications and ramifications of what you choose to wear.

Fashion is a powerful medium in which to make our voices heard.

On October 26, 2012 at The Mahogany Masquerade: A Night of Steamfunk and Film, let’s make a tremendous noise and bring the funk to Steampunk!


Presented by the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African-American Culture & History and the State of Black Science Fiction as part of Alien Encounters III, the four-day convention on Black Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Auburn Avenue Research Library

101 Auburn Avenue NE Atlanta, GA 30303

6:30pm – 9:00pm.

Four excellent Black science fiction short films will be screened.

Wear your Steampunk / Steamfunk Clothing, Costumes, Gadgets and Gear and receive a Blacknificent Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror novel free!

This event is FREE and open to the public!

About Balogun

Balogun is the author of the bestselling Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within and screenwriter / producer / director of the films, A Single Link, Rite of Passage: Initiation and Rite of Passage: The Dentist of Westminster. He is one of the leading authorities on Steamfunk – a philosophy or style of writing that combines the African and / or African American culture and approach to life with that of the steampunk philosophy and / or steampunk fiction – and writes about it, the craft of writing, Sword & Soul and Steampunk in general, at He is author of eight novels – the Steamfunk bestseller, MOSES: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2); the Urban Science Fiction saga, Redeemer; the Sword & Soul epic, Once Upon A Time In Afrika; a Fight Fiction, New Pulp novella, Fist of Afrika; the gritty, Urban Superhero series, A Single Link and Wrath of the Siafu; the two-fisted Dieselfunk tale, The Scythe and the “Choose-Your-Own-Destiny”-style Young Adult novel, The Keys. Balogun is also contributing co-editor of two anthologies: Ki: Khanga: The Anthology and Steamfunk. Finally, Balogun is the Director and Fight Choreographer of the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage, which he wrote based on the short story, Rite of Passage, by author Milton Davis and co-author of the award winning screenplay, Ngolo. You can reach him on Facebook at; on Twitter @Baba_Balogun and on Tumblr at

8 responses »

  1. […] an earlier post – THE MAHOGANY MASQUERADE: The Politics of Fashion in Steamfunk – we looked at the relationship between politics and fashion. Now, as part of our League of […]

  2. […] last year’s wildly popular Mahogany Masquerade: An Evening of Steamfunk and Film, I inquired about the era that sits between Sword and Soul – the subgenre of African-inspired […]

  3. […] The Mahogany Masquerade: An Evening of Steamfunk and Film, October 2012 – Alien Encounters (an annual Black Fandom Symposium); Atlanta, GA […]

  4. […] 25, 2013, 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm – The Mahogany Masquerade Film Festival and Cosplay Party: Come dressed in your best Steamfunk and Dieselfunk costumes as we […]

  5. […] norm. I’m hoping to write more on this topic in the near future, but here are a few great articles and websites dedicated to the subject of multicultural or postcolonial steampunk, which should […]

  6. […] On Friday, June 10, 2016, join us for the kickoff event for SOBSFic Con – The Mahogany Masquerade. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s