Steampunk Fashion 101 – Main stylistic features and how to dress

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Explore Steampunk fashion style and dress Steampunk perfectly

Steampunk fashion refers to a particular style of clothing found in the Steampunk SCI-FI subgenre.

As a result, steampunk fashion looks represent a unique blend of retro-futuristic alternate history aesthetics and 19th century steam technology.

While the heart of steampunk fashion revolves around the retro-futuristic aesthetic of steam technology, there are also hints of punk, goth and alt aesthetics.

In this article, we will explore:

  1. Origin of Steampunk Fashion
  2. Evolution of the Steampunk aesthetic in fashion
  3. The Coolest Steampunk Fashion Outfits for Men and Women
  4. Best Steampunk Fashion Inspirations

The origin of steampunk fashion

Although the term steampunk has existed before, the concept was made famous by KW Jeter in his 1979 SCI-FI novel Morlock Night.

KW Jeter 1979 SCI-FI novel, Morlock Night (thevou.com)

One of the central elements of the steampunk aesthetic was the uniqueness of clothing style.

Officially recognized as a style in its own right in the late 80s, steampunk fashion has become a hot topic in film and the fashion industry.

Steampunk fashion style
Steampunk Fashion Style (thevou.com)

These days, with an eclectic style that mixes old and new, steampunk fashion is thriving in the world of cosplay.

However, many people wear steampunk outfits as a daily fashion style.

The evolution of steampunk fashion

During the 20th century, steampunk fashion grew alongside gothic clothing and punk movements as crucial genres in the fashion industry.

There is an overlap between gothic and steampunk aesthetics these days, with the two genres often stylistically intertwined.

Punk vs. Goth vs. Steampunk
From left to right: Goth vs. Punk vs. Steampunk (thevou.com)

However, while both genres include bustiers, bodices, jackets, hats, and handmade leather goods, goth and steampunk fashion looks are quite different and easy to recognize.

The first steampunk convention, called SalonCon, was held in 2006 and saw steampunk enthusiasts dressed in costumes representing a mix of Victorian romance and retro-futuristic aesthetics.

In 2010, designer brands like Prada, Versace, Chanel, and Christian Dior began introducing neo-Victorian-inspired steampunk fashion to their catwalks.

Steampunk Fashion
Steampunk Fashion Runway collections: from left to right Prada FW 2012, Dior FW 2010, Versace SS 2013 (thevou.com)

Over the past decade, steampunk fashion has grown to accommodate gadgets and accessories, costumes and hairstyles have become more detailed, and makeup and jewelry have moved closer to the historical era depicted.

Best Steampunk Fashion Outfits

A generic steampunk costume should give off a vibe and feel of posy, apocalyptic aesthetics and romantic hints.

However, the element of “steam” is the essence that gives the steampunk outfit a Victorian style – a steampunk style with a retro look.

Victorian Steampunk Fashion
Victorian Steampunk Fashion (thevou.com)

The beginning of the industrial age is when the steam engine was born and the era in which the steampunk aesthetic originated.

The looks of those days were as advanced and progressive as they are today; the only difference is that the technology then was powered by steam, whereas today’s technology is powered by electricity.

Similarly, just as a steam engine is more complex, bigger and louder, steampunk fashion is also a statement look with extravagant details and unique accessories.

For womensteampunk fashion styles are dominated by long, flowing dresses and stately jacket bodices.

The skirt hoops had an elliptical shape with a fuller back and a narrower silhouette in the front.

steampunk fashion for women
Steampunk fashion for women: flowing dresses and bodices of royal jackets (thevou.com)

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In the 20th century, flared skirts and oversized dresses designed to look “intimidating” became very popular.

Also part of generic steampunk dress, corsets acted as a centerpiece instead of a functional undergarment.

Victorian steampunk corsets were made of brocade or leather with steel and metal detailing such as brass beads.

Victorian era steampunk corsets
Victorian era steampunk corsets for women (thevou.com)

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Over time, the embroidery and detailing became more elusive, and dresses featured shimmering beads, bracelets, and other elaborate embroidery.

Modern steampunk outfits these days combine streetwear fashion, gothic aesthetics, burlesque and fetish details.

Steampunk costumes for men include elements of alternate history and steam technology combined with modern technology steampunk watches and festival clothing aesthetics.

Steampunk fashion for men
Steampunk fashion for men (thevou.com)

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Sources of steampunk fashion inspiration

The steampunk genre and aesthetic can be found in past works such as The Brother’s Grimm, The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Sucker Punch, depicting explorers, soldiers, countesses, prostitutes and lords.

The genre of steampunk fashion in Hollywood movies
Steampunk Genre in Hollywood Films – Matt Damon in The Brother’s Grimm, 2005; Vanessa Hudgens and Jena Malone in Sucker Punch, 2011 (thevou.com)

Alan Moore’s comic book series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is also a great representation of the steampunk aesthetic.

The story is set in an imaginary Victorian era and features famous 19th century characters like Dr Jekyll, Mr Hyde, the Invisible Man, and more.

The League of Extraordinary Steampunk Gentlemen
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Steampunk Genre (thevou.com)

Hollywood has also portrayed several facets of steampunk fashion in world famous movies like Sherlock Holmes, Van Helsing, Mad Max and Wild Wild West.

Another source for great steampunk and society-type steampunk outfits is the detective show Castle, with an entire episode dedicated to steampunk fashion.

Crime Show Castle Steampunk Fashion
Crime Show, Castle Steampunk Fashion (thevou.com)

The American reality TV series America’s Next Top Model is also a great source for steampunk dresses, including a 2013 episode where models participated in a steampunk-themed photo shoot.

Conclusion

You may not be familiar with the term steampunk fashion and the design elements of steampunk.

However, chances are you’ve seen and experienced steampunk styles and aesthetics many times before, without even realizing it.

Additionally, in the 21st century, steampunk elements are increasingly found in fiction books, movies, computer games, and fashion lines dedicated to steampunk.

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