Steampunk Fashion: What Exactly Is It?

Steampunk fashion is a whimsical combination of traditional Victorian garments, industrial engineering, and just a dash of science fiction. The signature Steampunk style is a popular choice among extravagant festival goers and attendees at comic book conventions.

The overall look encompasses a passion for history with appropriately-placed metallic industrial elements, often in the form of brass or golden cogs and clock faces, delivering an old-timey and sophisticated vibe. 

What Is Steampunk?

The origins of Steampunk are hinted at in the name. The industrial aspects of the style focus on one type of energy in particular— steam. This is one of the key reasons why Steampunk fashion looks old-timey to us today, as it’s reminiscent of the era of the Industrial Revolution, when steam technology was at its peak and pretty much powered the entire world. 

Mechanical gears and interlinked cogs are a staple of Steampunk fashion, which borrows inspiration from multiple different places and times in history, including Victorian England, French Belle Epoque, and the Civil war era in the United States. 

The “punk” element has a far less interesting origin. The suffix was first used satirically to describe the new style of fashion in a magazine article from 1987. It’s likely that the writer was comparing the style to Cyberpunk and seemed to be poking fun at it, rather than praising it.

Nevertheless, the Steampunk trend continued to flourish and is still thriving today. In fact, avid Steampunk fans are often regarded as Steamers, and there are millions of enthusiasts all over the world.

Steampunk fashion isn’t only reserved for niche festivals and conventions, in fact, the trend has even made it onto the runway on more than a few occasions. Steampunk inspired pieces have been spotted on models for huge fashion brands, including Christian Dior, Versace, Chanel, and Prada.

The acceptance of Steampunk in high-fashion circles helped to further cement it as a classic trend that’s going to be around for a long time. Since then, Steampunk elements have been seen more and more regularly in mainstream fashion, and has been taken more seriously as a genuine trend, rather than just a fancy dress fad.

What Does ‘Steampunk Fashion’ Really Mean?

Fortunately, there are no hard and fast rules to the Steampunk fashion trend, and you can go as elaborate or as inconspicuous as you want. Some people prefer to add tiny Steampunk style elements to their everyday outfits, such as a brass cog brooch or industrial style jewelry.

But hardcore Steampunk fashion is often reserved for very special occasions, conventions, festivals, and celebrations. This is because the style is pretty loud and will definitely make you stand out in a crowd. 

Traditional Steampunk fashion often incorporates second-hand thrifted pieces found in vintage and antique clothing stores, and many people prefer to create their own unique Steampunk outfits this way. However, this isn’t the only way to do it.

As the Steampunk fashion trend has steadily increased in popularity over the last few decades, it has become much easier to get your hands on some garments without having to search through hundreds of rails at a thrift store. Even just searching the term Steampunk clothing will present you with dozens of websites that sell mass-produced Steampunk pieces.

But if you do decide to go down the fast fashion route, be prepared to see someone else wearing the very same outfit at the next Steampunk convention. It may be quick and easy, but it doesn’t leave much room for originality. 

Steampunk fashion usually uses dark colors, particularly black, muted greys, and browns, with the odd splash of brass and gold embellishments. The colors used are similar to what you’d see back in the Victorian era, and the style very rarely incorporates bright and primary colors.

Most Steampunk style outfits will contain a nod to the genre with some sort of staple accessory. This can be anything from a lacy parasol to a top-hat kitted out with oversized goggles. 

Steampunk Fashion For Women

Steampunk fashion targeted at women frequently (though not always) includes gowns with petticoats, bodices, and some type of headpiece, typically a modest, pretty top hat or a flower pin.

It is not rare to see a steampunk female disguised as a vintage aviator, aerial pirate, or scientist; steampunk is a branch of the science fiction genre which encourages a sense of adventure, and women are typically keen to share the experience.

Pea coats, racing jackets, aviation vests, and wagon coats are popular examples of Steampunk style outerwear. Women typically wear feminine skirts or floor-length frocks, but pants are also popular. Corsets and lace-up bodices are very popular and can be worn under or over the bust. Graceful gloves are commonplace, although daring females may choose to sport fingerless versions instead. 

Steampunk Fashion For Men

Steampunk guys can play a variety of roles. Experts typically dress in well-ironed jackets with waistcoat, top hats, and lengthy, flowing coats, giving them a genuine Victorian image. Nevertheless, a more whimsical alternative also exists, frequently featuring tall leather boots, gloves, and oversized goggles sitting on a top hat. 

Pioneers, aviators, and flying pirates should dress appropriately for the weather. On land, explorers may wear loose fitting clothes, trousers, high heels, and sometimes an outback hat, crush bonnet, or flat cap.

Aviators may wear military flying or bomber jackets, as well as other snug leather embellishments. Aerial Pirates might do all of the above, but they add plumage, elaborate fabrics, and sometimes even a splash of color.

Steampunk Accessories

Accessories may just be the most important element of any good Steampunk outfit, and they’re often used to tie the whole look together. A steampunk timepiece is a popular item for both male and female steampunks. In a society without smartwatches, time can be tracked stylishly with a pocket watch neatly tucked into a waist coat pocket.

Classic timepieces, meanwhile, remain on the list of the greatest steampunk jewelry in steampunk fashion thanks to the advances of technology and mechanical innovation during the steampunk period. Visible gears, cogs, and other characteristics of steampunk engineering are often featured extensively on these timepieces.

The importance of headwear in steampunk fashion cannot be overstated. A Victorian style top hat, a leather aviation helmet, a bowler hat, a reed boater/skimmer, an Arctic-style flap cap, a pith helmet, a tartan deerstalker hat (think Sherlock Holmes), a pirate-themed bandana, or a newsboy cap are common steampunk accessories.

These were popular throughout the Victorian era and were frequently seen as fashionable. But, a Victorian-style hat is not the only option. To contrast exquisite Victorian attire, hair can be ornamented with plaits, plumage, jewels, copper, thread, dreadlocks, and other punk-like components.

Goggles are frequently seen as an essential component of any steampunk outfit. With the addition of goggles, even the most sophisticated steampunk clothing may achieve the rough, rebellious vibe of the counterculture.

In steampunk literature, goggles can be used for a number of purposes, including shielding during teleportation or from sparking while innovating, safety from buzzing bugs while operating airships, and even to improve vision. Steampunk goggles are frequently altered with extra-large lenses and funky brass embellishments.

Cynthia Williams
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