Ah, steampunk – the cultural phenomena currently sweeping through the alternative community like an elaborately clad Victorian forest fire. As a genre, steampunk combines aspects of Victorian adventure stories (in the vein of Jules Verne and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) with more modern science fiction, dystopian and even horror. There are steampunk books like S.M. Peter’s Whitechapel Gods, or Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines, steampunk movies like Steamboy, steampunk games like Chaos Engine, and even steampunk music, like the bands Abney Park and Vernian Process.
The genre has gained so much popularity that steampunk elements have spread across into fashion, where the gothic community has welcomed it with open arms. Many elements of steampunk fashion have been part of the gothic subculture for years, but now Goths can experiment with these elements in a fresh way.
Aesthetically, steampunk fashion comprises fashions popular in the Age of Steam (roughly, the Victorian era up until the 1920s) with a bit of a retro-futuristic or dystopian bent. Goths love to bring the “punk” into steampunk by adding chains, ripped stockings, black lace and occult imagery to their decadent Victorian-inspired outfits.
Are you looking for some inspiration for a steampunk outfit? Here are our tips:
Bustles and corsets and lacings, oh my!
The first key to dressing steampunk is to get the outfit right. You’re looking for clothing of a type that would be worn during the Age of Steam. Think of Victorian-inspired pieces, Wild West attire or WWI-era gear. You don’t have to get original vintage clothing, however – plenty of your favourite gothic stores will sell steampunk pieces.
Generally, it doesn’t work to mix different era and locations of clothing, for example, pairing a Victorian bustle skirt with a 1920s shirt. Choose an era and take your inspiration from that.
Dress to distress
Steampunk is not just about “dressing Victorian” – there’s an element of science fiction and fantasy to the style, a sense that your clothing tells a story. Part of that means clothing isn’t pristine – it might be dirty, ripped, or held together with rivets or chains. Outfits might contain elements of clockwork or machinery. Many steampunk enthusiasts create a whole character and back-story to go with their outfit – maybe you’re an airship captain, or a wealthy heiress-turned-adventurer. Think about these details when you plan your outfit.
Frockcoats and military jackets
Without air-conditioned carriages and heated airships, steampunk lords and ladies need to wrap up to protect against the elements. A steampunk coat takes its shape from the coats of the Victorian era: frock coats, cropped jackets, tails, often with military-inspired details.
But a steampunk coat should be more than just a replica Victorian piece – it might contain secret pockets for potions or ray guns. It could incorporate “punkish” elements, like thick chains, safety pins, and leather straps.
Don a headpiece
Victorians were mad about headwear, from the elaborate tri-cornered hats of the Admiralty to the delicate bonnets of the peasantry, to the elegant top hats and fascinators of the aristocracy, often festooned with feathers, taxidermy, elaborate flower arrangements or the entire first course of a meal.
No steampunk outfit seems to be complete without some kind of headwear. Take inspiration from the upper classes and adorn yourself in a jaunty top hat or ridiculous fascinator, or channel the steam engineers with goggles and aviator caps.
So much of the world of steampunk occurs within industrial environments, from the deck of an airship to the bowels of a beam engine. The steampunk environment is dirty and, well … steamy. That’s why a pair of goggles is essential attire.
Goggles can be found in antique stores and jumble sales, or can be sourced online from sites like Etsy customised with cogs and gears, chains and steampunk designs.
Other great pieces to adorn your steampunk outfits include – steam-powered and fantasy guns, body armour, pocket watches, chains, Victorian-inspired jewellery, gloves, boots, buckles, lace, cameos.
What’s your favourite steampunk outfit? Let us know in the comments section…
Photo by Hans Splinter via Flickr Creative Commons