Steampunk is one of my favourite cosplay genres. But what is the history of Steampunk? What is Steampunk Fashion?
Introduction to Steampunk Fashion
Steampunk originally started in the 1970s as a sub-genre of science fiction that incorporated aspects of the Victorian era (1837-1901) into novels based in an alternative reality. Although people now date the Steampunk genre as starting further back, with some including authors such as H.P. Lovecraft and Mary Shelley due to their obvious contribution to the inspiration for the Steampunk genre. Many Steampunk novels incorporate steam-powered machinery and technology into an aesthetically pleasing design.
Novels such as Frankenstein envisioned what future technology may look like with the creation of the monster. Shelley’s Frankenstein that was written in 1817 paved the way for the Steampunk sub-genre in the 70s. Despite the word ‘steampunk’ making its first known appearance in 1987.
The multiple stories and artworks of the Victorian era particularly, in which futuristic technology is depicted with steam-powered mechanics is essentially the inspiration for the Steampunk genre and is therefore where Steampunk fashion originates. The fashion is that which combines the elements of the Victorian steam-powered and futuristic envisioning of technology with a post-apocalyptic alternate reality.
Development of Steampunk fashion over time
Steampunk fashion is a post-apocalyptic aesthetic based on the Victorian era, combined with Steampunk fiction and their ties to each other. The Steampunk aesthetic became popular in the 20th century. In 2006 the first Steampunk convention was held, called SalonCon in which goers dressed up in Steampunk clothing and wore certain hairstyles, jewellery, piercings, and makeup. All of which reflects on the Steampunk aesthetic.
Despite the popularisation of Steampunk fashion, it is unclear exactly when the fashion was started. It is clear however that the fashion started to gain popularity during the 1980s and 1990s along with the Cyberpunk aesthetic.
Steampunk clothing is traditionally handmade, although nowadays due to the increased popularity of Steampunk fashion, companies became aware of the interest and so started to mass produce items of clothing, including jewellery that fit in with the Steampunk aesthetic.
Steampunk fashion has not evolved much over time, besides the addition of mass-production. Although societal changes have resulted in subtle changes over time. Including the addition of gadgets due to the advancement in technology.
Steampunk fashion for Women
Men and women’s Steampunk fashion is not too dissimilar, although it is common for women to wear skirts or dresses with petticoats or steampunk corsets, they also frequently wear suits and vests with top hats and goggles, and so they wear trousers too. It is also popular for women to dress as pilots, pirates, and engineers etc.
As for coats, women can be seen wearing pilot jackets, riding jackets etc. Another important accessory for women in the Steampunk community is gloves, most commonly fingerless ones, but it is not uncommon to see somebody rocking elegant ones in the style of pride and prejudice.
Accessories are an important part of the Steampunk aesthetic and so women also wear pocket watches. Although due to the advancement in technology, many now wear wrist watches that contain exposed gears instead.
As well as accessories, headwear is also an important and commonly demonstrated addition to Steampunk fashion. There are many different styles of hat, some of which include top hats, bowler hats, crush caps, safari hats, and deerstalker hats.
Hair is also an important factor in the Steampunk aesthetic, often people take on punk hairstyles rather than the Victorian era hairstyles. They do this by adding feathers and styling it in punklike ways.
Goggles are arguably the most important and most identifying feature of Steampunk fashion, this is because of their versatility within Steampunk fiction, the inspiration for the fashion.
The variety of clothing that is available to women is encouraged by the Steampunk community due to it being a genre based on adventure. Exploring different clothing and characters within Steampunk fashion is encouraged by the origin of the fashion.
Steampunk fashion for Men
Men within the Steampunk fashion community also take on different characters. The most common mens steampunk fashion options are suits with vests, a hat (of which there are many different styles from bowler hats to top hats), gloves, and a long coat. This is often worn with leather boots. The hats are often crowned with goggles, an easy identifier of Steampunk fashion.
Another common accessory in Steampunk fashion are pocket watches or as mentioned before, wristwatches in the Steampunk style.
If taking on a character such as an explorer, the fashion will differ in order to suit the character.
Explorers often dress in oversized clothing, this can include trousers (sometimes these will be ankle grazing trousers), a ‘cowboy’ style hat, a crush cap, or an explorers/safari helmet.
Aviators frequently wear military fatigue including bomber jackets, they may also wear leather clothing that is tight fitting, such as leather trousers.
Identifying an air pirate is easy due to the accompaniment of feathers to their clothing. Air pirates commonly mix aviator and explorer clothing, with the addition of feathers and sometimes bandanas. Feathers are not only added to clothing, but to hair as well. It is also quite common for air pirates to add some colour, but not a lot as Steampunk fashion is aesthetically based around monochrome colours.
If you want to check out steampunk fashion in the flesh I suggest that you attend one of the amazing steampunk festivals around the world.