Steampunk fashion is born from the elegant fusion of classic Victorian styles mixed with futurist elements based on what people of that era may have believed the future to hold. Inspiration stems mostly from steampunk fiction. For some, donning the steampunk aesthetic is engrained into daily life, others turn to it for cosplay and special events. Either way, there is a thriving market around the fashion genre.
As you probably already know Steampunk was created by H.G.Wells and writers like him. He was hugely interested in the Victorian era and science so his interests influenced the whole Steampunk genre. Steampunk is also deeply connected with Goth and when we speak about clothing – gypsy clothing and punk fashion. With the invent of the internet the steampunk following multiplied and right now you can find Steampunk fashion apparel from modified Victorian dresses, through fictional Goth gadgets to steampunkish looking watches on sale online.
Steampunk is distinguishable in that costumes were traditionally thrifted, hand crafted and modified into remarkable pieces, however with rising popularity, there are now plenty of stores specialising in the neo-vintage fashion. Classic outfits consist of corsets, petticoats, waistcoats, duster coats, high collars, top hats, accessories such as goggles and watches, and accents using cogs and buckles, and the colours rarely stray from brass and earthy tones.
Types of Steampunk Fashion
Though there have been new releases in fiction and technological advances, the fashion has remained relatively unchanged and still holds to its well defined niche. There are however several styles which stem from the steampunk movement.
The influence of goth culture over punk is obvious. The main roots of the goth trends can be traced back to the Gothic, Victorian and Elizabethan era. Goth fashion is a mixture of lace, corsets, fishnets, velvets, mostly in the black and purple, and of course combined with jewels and leather. Another common part of the whole look is the black hair, dark lipstick, fingernails, eyeliners and so on ( for both man and woman ).
Closest to the traditional steampunk style, gothic steampunk features all the classic details but with bigger focus on lace, sexiness and generally sticking to a darker colour scheme with plenty of black and smaller pops of dark, rich colours like reds and purples. It is the gothic take on steampunk that popularised using jewellery, while traditionally, exposed pocket watches were the main accessory.
Sticking to usual steampunk themes and colours, this genre just incorporates a bit of the pirate life. Many enthusiasts build pirate steampunk charters around fiction such as Boneshaker, or develop their own character by adding pirate weapons, braids, modified eye patches and other appropriate pirate attire to their costumes.
Adventurer-Explorer steampunks go big on their tool belts and gadgets which can help them navigate unknown worlds. They will often don a goggled-up safari helmet, binoculars and some other inventions to see them through the wilderness.
Military Steampunk or Dieselpunk
Based on a similar concept as steampunk, dieselpunk fashion combines aesthetic elements from a war torn world stuck in the 40’s with notable advances in technology and machinery powered by diesel engines, particularly war machines. When it comes to fashion, this translates into military outfits, colonial style, bomber jackets, overalls, working class clothes and gritty modern emelenmts combined with grungy colours and weaponry. These outfits can often be caught somewhere between gritty dieselpunk or military steampunk.
Also stemming from the Victorian look, Lolita fashion is similar to steampunk in as much as the borrowed Victorian aesthetic. Unlike steampunk, Lolita fashion focuses on accentuated girlishness, frilly lace, puffy above the knee dresses and cutesy elements like giant bows. This fashion genre has really taken off on its own and multiple sub-genres, including steampunk, however the original school-girl look featured uniforms and light girl colours or patterns.
Victorian clothing most probably has more impact on steampunk then all of the above. As we already mentioned the whole steampunk culture is more or less based on the Victorian age. With the industrial insurrection taking place at that the clothing designs change a whole lot. The newest invention ( The sewing machine ) was getting more and more popular so dresses were being made in factories and their prices dropped. They were pretty cheap compared to handmade product and fashion become far more simple. Steampunk corsets are planned to shape the women`s body into that famous S-curve, while skirts were specially made to fit closely over the hips.
Long story short it is safe to say that all costumes in steampunk are a mix of different epochs and subcultures.
No matter what genre of steampunk you are drawn to, these accessories are essentials for pretty much any outfit.
Authentic, character-filled wrist and pocket watches have almost become a trademark of steampunk. While exposed gears definitely add merit to the steampunk look, there can be much more to a respectable steampunk watch.
Goggles and headgear
Headgear is another trademark element of steampunk. Whether protecting your eyes from steam hazards with goggles, avoiding breathing in fumes with a gas mask, donning an iconic helmet or top hat, or looking fresh with some audacious spectacles or a monocle, no look is complete without some steampunk headgear.
Cogs, buckles and belts
Brassy cogs, buckles and belts are a fundamental steampunk touch that can be added to a range of accessories to steampunk them up. Whether it’s an intricate piece of jewellery, a tool belt or a wearable contraption, ever belt and buckle adds credibility to your steampunk look.
Age is irrelevant when it comes to walking sticks, a gadget embellished functional or aesthetic walking stick can add leagues of class and depth to your character.
Corsets and bustiers
No woman’s steampunk outfit is complete without some form of corset or underbust to finish off the look. These often feature leather and buckles, however other materials such as velvet and traditional hook clasps can look just as good.
For men and women, leather boots are practically essential and help to lock down your look. From military style to knee-high to victorian heels for ladies, the more brass, buckles and lace, the better the boots.
Where to find Steampunk Fashion
There is no right or wrong way to indulge in steampunk, and while most people hand-make at least part of their outfits, the steampunk fashion industry has taken off making it is easy to find the odd piece online or in specialist stores that perfectly matches your needs and saves you crafting time and effort.
On the steampunk section of Rebels Market you can buy a range of individual items, including corsets, skirt and duster coats to add to your steampunk look and build up a unique costume. They have some high quality pieces to really fit the part.
Kinky Angel has a range of excellent steampunk accessories, including canes, masks, hats and pocket watches, and also features some great items of men’s and women’s clothing that can be found in the various sections under the “shop by look” dropdown.
Atomic Jane Clothing has a lot of female steampunk attire such as corsets and dresses using various high quality and beautiful and materials including leathers, velvets, brass and steel.
Violent Delights features quality items of steampunk apparel with a particularly good mens section with waistcoats, dusters and the like for male steampunks or those who want to express masculinity in their outfits.
While this is technically a collection of stores, Etsy is actually a wonderful place to find beautiful handmade steampunk items that extend beyond just fashion, maintaining authenticity but without having to make things yourself. Etsy is particularly good for finding crafted gadgets and jewellery accessories, however you can find custom clothing, jackets and corsets there too.