A Definitive Guide To Steampunk Fashion For Beginners

Steampunk is an extremely popular subculture that takes inspiration from the Victorian era and what was thought to be the technology of the future at that time.

According to the dictionary, it is defined as “a genre of science fiction that has a historical setting and typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology.”

This ideology has inspired an entire movement that has inspired art, media, and most notably, fashion. Integrating cogs and gears into clothing while the clothing itself has clear Victorian inspiration,

Steampunk is a trend that is followed passionately by those who are inspired by it. In this guide, we’ll be taking you through everything you need to know about incorporating steampunk fashion into your wardrobe. 

What Is Steampunk Fashion?

As mentioned previously, steampunk is a combination of Victorian-inspired attire with elements of what they would have perceived to be advanced technology for the time.

When it comes to steampunk fashion, it is a marriage between these elements, so expect to see a lot of Victorian-era clothing embellished with various mechanical aspects such as gears, cogs, and clocks to incorporate the ideology and the Industrial Revolution into the mix.

Over time, steampunk has solidified itself into an alternative culture and has garnered a loyal following. Nowadays, steampunk has become infused with a romantic element and allows people to push boundaries and incorporate elements of fantasy and sci-fi into their everyday dress. 

Steampunk In The Media

Steampunk is a movement that combines Victorian-inspired clothing with what they perceived to be the future of technology, marking it as a subculture within fantasy and science fiction.

It probably comes as no surprise that steampunk has made its way into the media and influenced all kinds of creators from artists, fashion designers, filmmakers, and writers, steampunk has been incorporated into all kinds of projects over the years.

Authors

Here are some examples of steampunk writing:

“In a properly automated and educated world, then, machines may prove to be the true humanizing influence. It may be that machines will do the work that makes life possible and that human beings will do all the other things that make life pleasant and worthwhile ” 

Isaac Asimov, Robot Visions

“I am a believer in free will. If my dog chooses to hate the whole human race except myself, it must be free to do so.”

Diana Wynne Jones, Castle in the Air

“It lay heavily in her hands, the crystal face gleaming, the golden body exquisitely machined.

It was very like a clock, or a compass, for there were hands pointing to places around the dial, but instead of the hours or the points of the compass there were several little pictures, each of them painted with extraordinary precision, as if on ivory with the finest and slenderest sable brush.

She turned the dial around to look at them all. There was an anchor; an hourglass surmounted by a skull; a chameleon, a bull, a beehive… Thirty-six altogether, and she couldn’t even guess what they meant.”

Phillip Pullman, The Golden Compass

“Anyone who knew Violet well could tell she was thinking hard, because her long hair was tied up in a ribbon to keep it out of her eyes.

Violet had a real knack for inventing and building strange devices, so her brain was often filled with images of pulleys, levers, and gears, and she never wanted to be distracted by something as trivial as her hair.”

Lemony Snicket, The Bad Beginning

“It is a law of nature we overlook, that intellectual versatility is the compensation for change, danger, and trouble. An animal perfectly in harmony with its environment is a perfect mechanism.

Nature never appeals to intelligence until habit and instinct are useless. There is no intelligence where there is no change and no need of change. Only those animals partake of intelligence that have a huge variety of needs and dangers.”

H.G. Wells, The Time Machine

Movies

Most people’s first encounter with steampunk is most likely through the movies. With its whirling gears and cogs, combined with Victorian clothing, steampunk films allow the audience to escape for a little while and enter a new universe.

Here are some examples of steampunk in the movies:

  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
  • Castle in the Sky (1986)
  • The City of Lost Children (1995)
  • Wild Wild West (1999)
  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
  • Treasure Planet (2002)
  • League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)
  • Van Helsing (2004)
  • Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)
  • The Golden Compass (2006)
  • 9 (2009)
  • Hugo (2011)
  • Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)

Steampunk Fashion

Reading and watching material that is inspired by steampunk can be a great gateway into understanding the world of steampunk and is often people’s first taste of the culture.

The first thing that you will need to know when it comes to steampunk fashion is learning what different components can be used when it comes to constructing an outfit.

Here are some examples of popular pieces of clothing that are used in the steampunk movement:

Bustle Skirts

Bustle skirts are typically a go-to for many people dressing in steampunk fashion. These skirts have a lower and open cut on the front and are made using layers of fabric to provide fullness.

Colors

The steampunk color scheme is important, as it regularly reflects the industrial inspiration of the movement. Copper, gold, and orange are the most commonly used colors and are then combined with black or gray.

For those wanting to venture out into incorporating other colors, green, maroon, and yellow are other colors that can be used. 

Corsets

Corsets are a significant part of steampunk and are frequently embellished with embroidery and lace. They help to bring the waist in and put an emphasis on the hips and bust, making it a great outfit for those wanting to invest in a fancier outfit. 

Eyewear

The eyewear within steampunk usually consists of goggles, monocles, and spectacles. When paired with leather patches, this is the ultimate steampunk look. 

Footwear

When it comes to footwear, steampunk enthusiasts tend to opt for boots, cogs, or dress slippers. 

Hats

Hats were worn by those among high society in the Victorian era and when it comes to those exploring steampunk, opt for a bowler hat or a top hat. Hats that are embellished with fabric and gears are even better and put that steampunk twist. 

Lace

Lace is a great material for those who want to add a classic and elegant touch to their steampunk ensemble. 

Leather

One of the most prominent materials used in steampunk is leather, as it provides that rustic and worn look and incorporates the industrial elements. 

Mechanical Gears

Steampunk wouldn’t be steampunk without the inclusion of mechanical gears. These can be used to embellish certain elements of your clothing and accessories. 

Pocket Watches

One of the most popular accessories in steampunk culture is pocket watches, as they bring in an antique element into the outfit. 

Stripes

For those wanting to push their style to the next level, pinstripes are a great way to do this. This is because pinstripes were usually adorned by those who were daring with their fashion in the Victorian era. 

Vambrace

A vambrace is a piece of armor that is worn on the forearm and elbow. These are seen as a must-have component of steampunk attire due to their links to the Industrial Revolution. 

Gadgets

An important element of steampunk is the gadgets and gizmos that are incorporated into the aesthetic. These include mechanical contraptions and inventions such as clocks and dirigibles, among much more.

Steampunk isn’t steampunk without this element, so be as imaginative and creative and have fun with it. 

Where Can You Buy Steampunk Clothes And Accessories?

Now that you know what kinds of clothes to look out for, you may be eager to go out and purchase some clothing and accessories.

Because steampunk is a niche market, it isn’t as easy as walking into any clothing store and finding clothes and accessories ready to buy from the rail. This means you’ll have to do some research into shops near you that may cater to them.

On the other hand, some people see this as an opportunity to get creative and design and make their own clothing.

In this section, we’ll be delving into the different places where you can make your own steampunk clothing or how to source materials to make your own clothes:

Customization Stores

The first place that you can source steampunk clothing and accessories is at customization stores that will have the products ready to purchase. Bear in mind that this can be costly, as it can take a lot of money and time to make these garments. 

DIY Existing Clothing

Another option that you can do is upcycling the clothes and accessories that you already have. This is a great solution for those who may not have the budget to purchase an all-new wardrobe and allows you to be creative with clothes that you already have. 

Online Stores

If there aren’t any shops nearby, then you can look online for novelty stores and purchase a variety of goods from there. Whether you are looking for a specific item or an array of different garments, there are all kinds of steampunk online stores available. 

Thrift Stores

Lastly, for those who love a bargain, thrift stores are a great place for finding potential garments that can be upcycled as well as vintage goods that may be Victorian-inspired that will work well with the steampunk aesthetic. 

Budgeting For Steampunk Garments

The most important thing that you need to remember is that you should always find a solution that works within your budget.

Due to the niche, steampunk clothing and accessories can be extremely costly, especially if you want to buy garments off the rack.

Always choose clothing and accessories that suit your personality and what you are looking for rather than following trends and choosing something that you are not entirely comfortable with, especially if you are making an online purchase. 

For those on a strict budget, you can utilize materials from around the home and incorporate them into your outfits.

The great thing about steampunk is that it is reliant on industrial technology that is paired with a Victorian-inspired aesthetic. This means that you can plan a lot of your outfits using items from around the home in order to keep the costs down.

You can also source cheaper materials from local places or thrift stores. If you are extremely creative, you can purchase clothes from thrift stores and reconstruct them into an outfit using materials and fabric.

Steampunk always has an element of handmade in its fashion, which makes it a great culture to be as creative and imaginative as possible and try to make your own designs. 

If you are working with a larger budget or don’t want to make your own clothing, then you can expect to spend a couple of hundred dollars on one outfit that is high-quality and guaranteed to last a long time.

If you are looking online for clothes, then make sure that you measure yourself as accurately as possible. 

Planning Your Steampunk Outfits

When it comes to incorporating steampunk into your wardrobe, it’s important to always have a plan before making any purchases.

A lot of people will dive into the steampunk world without a plan, but this can cause problems, as you may find that you’re missing items and haven’t done the proper research. Here is the best way to plan your steampunk outfits:

Decide The Look

The first thing that you need to do is decide what look you want to achieve. There are a lot of different looks that you can achieve within the steampunk aesthetic.

Make sure that you have a clear vision of what look you are aiming for, as this will give you the place to start. 

Researching

The next step is to research where you want to purchase the clothes or materials from. Shopping local is a great way to support your community and will also give you the chance to interact with the local steampunk community.

The more research you do, the more of an idea you will have to what local shops and websites are available to you. 

Choosing The Outfit

Now you need to choose your outfit or materials that you will be using for your design. Having an idea of what it will look like and what you want it to look like is extremely important, as you want to make sure that you are spending your money on a quality product.

This will also help ease you into the steampunk community in the best way possible. 

Buying The Outfit

Once you are completely confident in your choice, you can then make your purchase. Remember, don’t buy any products that you don’t feel comfortable with, and always have an idea of what kind of events you can wear the outfit for. 

Tips For Entering The Steampunk World

Entering the steampunk world can be difficult for those who don’t do the proper research or know exactly what they are looking for, which is why preparing yourself is crucial, as you will have a better understanding of what steampunk means and the reasons behind the fashion.

A good place to start is by selecting a few key pieces for your wardrobe and then expanding it from there, but the key pieces will be the foundation of your steampunk wardrobe.

Here are some places where you can gain further insight and inspiration should you need it:

Books And Media

The best place to start with gaining inspiration for steampunk is through books and media. We have delved into some of the most iconic books and media that incorporate steampunk, but it shouldn’t be undermined how significant this has been to steampunk’s emergence as a popular subculture.

It’s important to immerse yourself in as many books and media as you can, as this will allow you to gain further insight into other kinds of steampunk perspectives and plenty of visual inspiration for new costumes. 

Conventions

Another place to gain inspiration is conventions, as steampunk is a subculture that is especially popular among fans of fantasy and science fiction.

This means that if you plan on going to a convention in your steampunk outfit, you’re guaranteed to find someone else wearing steampunk clothing as well.

Not only are conventions a fantastic place to wear your steampunk outfits, but you can also network with others who are passionate about steampunk and join online groups or make friends.

This can be great for those who come from smaller towns and want to explore a wider community and venture to a place where you can feel completely comfortable in your outfit.

Meeting people is highly beneficial as they can give you plenty of guidance and advice if you are struggling with a specific area such as designing, as a lot of steampunk fans make their own clothing. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Cyberpunk Like Steampunk?

Cyberpunk and steampunk may sound similar, and they do share some traits, such as being subcultures that have loyal followings but what they believe in and the fashion styles are different.

Steampunk is inspired by outdated technology from the 19th century, whereas Cyberpunk is inspired by computer technology. 

What Makes A Steampunk Outfit?

Steampunk outfits usually have nods to the Victorian era and normally consist of clothing prominent at the time including corsets, tailcoats, and bloomers among others.

They will typically be combined with 19th century inspired technology such as gears and goggles to incorporate industrial technology. 

What Music Do Steampunks Listen To?

People who follow the steampunk culture typically have an eclectic taste in music that varies across multiple genres including industrial, goth, and Darkwave as well as punk and folk music as well.

There are bands that are popular among the steampunk community as they will incorporate steampunk elements into their music as well as the fashion of the group. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, make sure that you find that area of steampunk that excites you and that you want to integrate into your wardrobe so that you can convey comfort and confidence.

Steampunk has always been a popular subculture and the community is extremely passionate about it, meaning that you’ll be able to find people who are able to give you any guidance and advice.

Thanks to the sleek and flamboyant designs, steampunk is often a go-to for people wanting to dress up in more stylish clothing.

You now know everything about starting out in the steampunk subculture, so you can start to have fun and experiment with your look. 

Cynthia Williams
Latest posts by Cynthia Williams (see all)