The concept of steampunk fashion arrived on the scene in the 1979 sci-fi novel Morlock Night by K.W. Jeter. In this article, we will explore how steampunk fashion evolved since its 1979 breakthrough, how the style is presented in modern culture, and what clothing is considered ‘steampunk fashion’.
What is Steampunk fashion?
Steampunk fashion is a clothing style that combines typical Victorian-era fashion with a futuristic sci-fi style. The base retro style will typically lean on a gothic, industrial revolution, or military style and is turned into steampunk fashion using elements related to steampunk reality, such as cogs, pocket watches, or goggles.
History of Steampunk fashion
Morlock Night takes its fashion inspiration from the victorian classics by H.G. Wells, at its very root steampunk is based on a classic victorian look.
The modern style of steampunk is a blend of this classic victorian look alongside various cultural fashion movements of the last 50 years. The clothing evolved to embrace elements of, burlesque, alternative goth fashion, and punk. This allows the style a broad and diverse range of materials and steampunk accessories.
In 2006 the first steampunk convention ‘SalonCon’, gave steampunks the opportunity to showcase the fashion en-mass for the first time. SalonCon attendees were treated to an array of steampunk fashion styles, costumes, accessories, and steampunk watches.
Traditionally steampunk fashion was handmade or DIY costumes produced at home, but as the genre grew manufacturers became aware of the appeal and the commercial opportunity, and unoriginal production line steampunk clothing and accessories became commonplace.
Are there different types of steampunk fashion?
There are tons of influences on steampunk fashion. Any type of Victorian profession, member of society, or character (either fact or fiction) can be used as a base for a steampunk style, blend this with the sci-fashion subcultures of the 20th century and you have a pretty wild mixture of influences to combine for a steampunk look.
Steampunk fashion influences:
- Military costumes
- Clergy or religious characters
- Lords & Ladies
- Blacksmiths and metal workers
- Mad scientists, doctors, and professors
What colors are used in Steampunk?
The colors to consider in steampunk fashion are brown, grey, and beige, these are usually accented with metallic colors such as gold, copper, and bronze. Think about the colors worn in the 1800s and then add in either metal colors or metal accessories to ‘steampunk’ the look.
Are there Steampunk Fashion designers?
There are plenty of examples of designers who have used steampunk fashion on the catwalk.
Alexander McQueen first launched a steampunk-related show in 2003 when he showcased a range of leather boots, frilly shirts, and leather jackets. Since then he has constantly presented steampunk-related pieces working with metal and leather to produce various items of clothing and steampunk accessories.
Dolce and Gabbana wowed their audience in 2006 with a metallic vintage collection that drew on the steampunk movement.
Vivienne Westwood brought a steampunk influence to AW13 with a gothic retro collection including clear elements of steampunk culture – such as goggles, parasols, and pinstripe vintage suits.
Jean-Paul Gaultier has produced works that showcase the seafaring side of fashion with naval and pirate-themed costumes which combine with metal and studs in a steampunk style.
Celebrity Steampunk styles
Who are the celebrity champions of steampunk? Here’s our list of some very famous steampunks alongside some celebrities you maybe didn’t know had a taste for the vintage sci-fi style!
Helen Bonham Carter is known for appearing in Tim Burton’s classic gothic steampunk movies such as Sweeney Todd and Alice in Wonderland. She lives and breathes steampunk off the screen too, she is certainly the leading celebrity wearer of the steampunk style.
Lady GaGa embraces steampunk fashion with her vintage aviator sunglasses, lavish gothic headdresses, and corsets.
Jason Momoa the star of sci-fi classics such as Dune is a keen wearer of steampunk. Jason can be found sporting a bowler hat, leather waistcoat, or steampunk watch.
Top 5 Steampunk fashion essentials for men
If you want to dress like a steampunk you need to first understand the fashions of the victorian era – i.e. a gentleman, a military man, a pirate, or a character with an industrial look. So let’s look at the essentials steampunk fashion items for men:
Steampunk Goggles are without doubt the most iconic and recognizable piece of steampunk fashion you will see. Great for storms hitting the airship or protecting your eyes against the smoke from your blunderbuss
- Pin-striped Pants
Ideally, you wear your steampunk pants high, look for faded browns and black colors
- Top hat or Bowler hat
Two iconic hats of the victorian age, no gentleman would be seen without them
- Tweed Waistcoat
In the Victorian era, it was considered rude to display a shirt without a waistcoat covering it
- Pocket Watch
An aged vintage watch on a chain
Top 5 Steampunk fashion essentials for women
Women’s fashion in the victorian age is distinct and provides a range of possibilities for women’s steampunk clothing. Here are our favorite pieces of women’s steampunk fashion:
Of Corset-is! Corsets are synonymous with the victorian age and are one of the most common elements of women’s steampunk fashion
- Bustle Skirt
The Bustle Skirt has an extra gathering of fabric at the rear of the dress to keep the bottom of the dress from dragging on the floor
- Victorian parasol
Parasols were everyday fashion accessories in the 1800s, made from all kinds of materials they were typically as common as gloves or hats
- Chunky boots
Try to find boots with metal elements, or customize them yourself if you are able to
- Lace gloves
Gloves were essential for Victorian Ladies heading out in public
The final word on Steampunk fashion
Steampunk fashion has its roots in the Victorian age and as a base for any costume, you can consider using the typical clothes of the time. Think about what a gentleman or a lady might wear, or get creative with a character like an explorer or an inventor – what might they have worn? The color scheme should work around darker tones, browns, and blacks – with a metallic accent.
Once you have your base outfit how does that become steampunk? You need to add in the technological elements of the alternate steampunk future! Cogs, chains, pipes, gears – as much detail as possible to showcase the imaginative world of a steampunk future.
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John Francis is a lifelong Sci-fi fan who met Matilda at a Steampunk event and was immediately enraptured by the community. John’s favorite Steampunk-inspired game is The Chaos Engine on the Sega Genesis.