Yevdokia Mashak is currently a Technical Artist working on Virtual/Mixed reality projects at Microsoft – which is where I was fortunate enough to run into her. She stops by my desk to say hi and update me on the status of her tiny desk plant Penelope once a week or so, and I’m always delighted to see what inspiring outfit she’s come up with. I’m very excited to introduce you all to her;
Tell us a little about you.
I’m a steampunk programmer empowering creativity and self-expression wherever I can. At work, I empower artists by writing customized tools, plugins, and shaders. At home, I rearranged our apartment so that my husband (Jacob Mashak, composer) and I each have a spacious creative studio. Everywhere I go, I wear steampunk clothes to show people that it’s safe to be self-expressed.
If right now you’re wondering, “What’s steampunk?”, I’ll whet you’re curiosity further by simply saying it’s a movement based loosely on the idea “What would happen if people from the late 19th century created sci-fi technology?” If you want to know more, check out the documentary Vintage Tomorrows, available on Netflix and Amazon. There’s also a companion book by the same name.
Tell us about what you’re wearing.
I think this outfit is one of my favorites. It’s very steampunk, and it’s a good representation of all the different kinds of places I find my clothes. Bottom to top:
- Boots from Amazon
- Tights from a garage sale in Mountain View, CA
- Overskirt and blouse from Fantasmagoria
- Corset from Corset Story
- Belt from a thrift store in Seattle
- Leather harness commissioned from Tormented Artifacts
- I made the earrings and necklace using sewing and jewelry-making techniques with a variety of random bits I had lying around
Oh, and in case you’re curious, my hair was cut and colored by Siddal at Vain in Downtown Seattle. She’s awesome.
How did your style evolve to what it is now?
One day, it hit me that there’s no dress code at my job. I realized, “T-shirts, hoodies, and jeans aren’t the work uniform. I can wear whatever I want!” This epiphany blew my mind. I asked myself, “Okay, so if I could wear anything I want to work, what would I wear?” Myself answered immediately: “Steampunk!” So, I resolved to come in the next Monday in full steampunk regalia.
The problem was I didn’t have anything steampunk in my wardrobe. I looked in my closet anyway. I noticed that if I wore this with that other thing and used some safety pins to adjust the drape, I could actually cobble together a pretty convincing steampunk outfit. So, I showed up at work wearing steampunk.
I was so afraid. I thought people might not take me seriously. I thought someone would tell me, “That’s not appropriate work attire.” Or I thought my manager might pull me aside and tell me he’d “received some complaints”. None of that happened.
The first day, people just asked me, “What’s the special occasion?” I said, “I just decided to start dressing like this.” You know what they said? They said, “That is so cool!” It wasn’t at all what I was expecting.
As the days went past and I kept dressing in steampunk, people I didn’t even know started coming up to me and thanking me. They told me how much I inspired them!
Outside of work, I had other strangers coming up to me to give me compliments. People of all ages, races, cultures, genders, orientations, and socioeconomic status: homeless people, people in suits, punks, hippies, housewives, little old ladies, grunge kids, and a tiny Chinese girl in a pink dress. I realized this was the perfect way for an introvert to meet people! I didn’t have to do anything. People approached me! And my clothes gave us an instant common interest to talk about.
Over time, my entire wardrobe has transformed. I’ve worn some version of Victioriana, steampunk, goth, or post-Apocalyptic punk every day, and I’ve never been happier.
Do you have any style icons or favorite brands?
Because of how broad some of the brands are that I use (Hearts & Roses, I’m looking at you), it would probably actually be more helpful to list the places that I shop. Aside from thrift stores like Good Will and Value Village, I’ve gotten most of my favorite clothing from:
- Fantasmagoria (Vilnius, Lithuania)
- Dracula Clothing (Prague, Czechia)
- Restyle (Siedlce, Poland)
- New York Exchange/Panache (Seattle, WA, USA)
and by searching “steampunk X”, where “X” is the clothing item I need, on Amazon, eBay, and Etsy.
I also currently have about two dozen corsets that I’ve collected from Corset Story (Warwick, UK) and Timeless Trends (Austin, TX, USA). Currently, I’m saving up and doing research to get myself my first bespoke corset! (By the way, if you’re interested in learning more about why some people wear corsets, I highly recommend reading this article and/or the book Solaced by Lucy Williams.)
Any advice for a young person thinking about getting into a STEM field?
There is plenty of information and advice out there about how to get into your chosen STEM field: what schools to go to, what to study, how to interview, and how to be successful in your career once you’re there. Do that, fine, but while you’re doing it, LIVE.
Have hobbies… or even other professions. Spend time with your family (blood or chosen). Meet new people. Travel. Do whatever is important to you.
For example, school helped me become a pretty good programmer, but what helps me be a creative programmer who can understand the needs of a wide variety of people is having access to the different perspectives I’ve acquired through my hobbies (crocheting, dance, fashion), other jobs (teaching, daycare, running an online yarn store), being to other places (Australia, China), and interacting with the people in my life and that I meet day to day.
What would you say is the project you’ve done that you’re proudest of?
Recently, that would probably be my Wacky Week project. On my HoloLens team at Microsoft, we got to try anything we wanted for one week, so long as it had something to do with HoloLens. I decided to try to demonstrate that we can already create truly immersive experiences with existing tech, so long as we’re careful about how we design those experiences.
My hypothesis was that if I made haptic gloves with vibrating motors in the fingertips and palms, I could set the vibration to very low and trigger it when you “touched” a hologram, and it would really feel like you were touching something. I figured balloons feel kind of staticky in real life anyway, so I could create an experience on a HoloLens with a Leap Motion strapped to it that would let you play with virtual balloons in your real environment. Three other people joined me in the project (which is fortunate, because I knew nothing about hardware) and it was a riotous success! Playing with virtual balloons that you can touch is waaaay cool.
Anything else you’d like to share?
“Be excellent to each other.” – Bill S. Preston, Esq.
What is the best way (if any) for people to follow you on social media?
I’m not consistently on social media, but for what it’s worth you can certainly follow me on Facebook.
This shoot is the longest I’ve ever done – 4 hours on a Saturday afternoon, with 5 different outfits. The lighting (in true Seattle fashion) changed every half hour, and it was a challenge coming up with new looks and poses for each outfit. Luckily Gasworks Park has a lot of space and variety, although we earned a lot of strange looks in the public restroom we used as a changing room!
It’s also definitely one of the most rewarding – Yevdokia is an unendingly interesting individual, and a great storyteller, and her outfits are an honor to behold. So I’ll leave you with a bonus photo: