Steampunk Fashion 101 – Key Stylistic Features & How to Dress

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Explore The Steampunk Fashion Style & Dress Steampunk To Perfection

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

Accordingly, the steampunk fashion looks depict a unique blend of retro-futuristic alternate history aesthetics and 19th-century steam-powered technology.

While the core of steampunk fashion revolves around retro-futuristic steam-powered technology aesthetics, there are also hints of punk, goth, and alt aesthetics as well.

In this article, we’ll explore:

  1. Origin of Steampunk Fashion
  2. Evolution of the Steampunk Aesthetic in Fashion
  3. Coolest Steampunk Fashion Outfits for Men and Women
  4. Best Sources of Inspiration for Steampunk Fashion




The Origin of Steampunk Fashion

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

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

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

Officially recognized as a style of its own in the late 80s fashion, steampunk fashion became a hot topic in the cinema and the fashion industry.

Steampunk Fashion Style
Steampunk Fashion Style (thevou.com)

Nowadays, with an eclectic style that’s blending old and new, steampunk fashion thrives in the world of Cosplay.

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




The Evolution of Steampunk Fashion

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

Nowadays, there’s an overlap between the gothic and steampunk aesthetics, with the two genres often interlinked, stylistically wise.

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 items, gothic and steampunk fashion looks are pretty different and easy to recognize.

The first steampunk convention, called SalonCon, took place in 2006 and has seen steampunk enthusiasts dressed in costumes depicting a blend of Victorian romance and retro-futurist aesthetics.




In 2010, high designer brands like Prada, Versace, Chanel, and Christian Dior started introducing neo-Victorian-inspired steampunk fashion on their runways.

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

Over the last decade, steampunk fashion grew to accommodate gadgets and accouterments, costumes and hairstyles became more detailed, and make-up and jewelry closer to the depicted historical era.




Best Steampunk Fashion Outfits

A generic steampunk costume has to give a vibe and feel of posy, apocalyptic aesthetics and romantic allusions.

However, the ‘steam’ element is the essence that gives the steampunk attire a Victorian-style – a steampunk style with a retro look.

Victorian Steampunk Fashion
Victorian Steampunk Fashion (thevou.com)

The start of the industrial era is when the steam engine came to life and the times from which the steampunk aesthetic pulls its origin.

Those days’ looks were as advanced and progressive as today; the only difference is that the technology of those times was powered by steam, while today’s technology is by electricity.

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

For women, steampunk fashion styles are dominated by long, flowing dresses and regal jacket bodices.

Skirt hoops had an elliptical shape with a fuller back and a narrower silhouette at the front.

Steampunk fashion for women
Steampunk fashion for women: Flowing dresses and regal jacket bodices (thevou.com)

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In the 20th century, flared skirts and oversized dresses made to look ‘intimidating’ became quite popular.

Also part of the generic steampunk dress, corsets acted as a statement piece instead of a functional undergarment.

Victorian-era steampunk corsets came in brocade or leather with steel and metal details 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 the details became more elusive, and the dresses featured sparkling beads, bangles, and other elaborate embroideries.

Nowadays, modern steampunk outfits combine streetwear fashion, gothic aesthetic, burlesque, and fetishistic details.

Men’s steampunk costumes include elements of alternative 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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Steampunk Fashion Sources of Inspiration

The steampunk genre and aesthetics are found in past works such as The Brother’s Grimm, The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Sucker Punch, depicting explorers, soldiers, countesses, harlots, and lords.

Steampunk Fashion Genre In HollywoodMovies
Steampunk Genre In Hollywood Movies – 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 steampunk aesthetics.

The story occurs in an imaginary Victorian age and features famous 19th-century characters like Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde, the invisible man, and more.

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

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

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

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

American reality television series America’s Next Top Model is also a great source of steampunk dresses, notably a 2013 episode where models competed in a steampunk-themed photoshoot.




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 realize.

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

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Now it’s your turn…

Which steampunk fashion style or aesthetic do you think we’ve missed and should include in our next article update?

Please leave your comments below; we always appreciate your comments and use them to learn, improve, and update these articles.



Steffanie Moyers
Steffanie Moyers
Holding a Bachelor of Science in Technical Communication & Film Media from Arizona State University and having worked in the past for NBC, MGM, and NETFLIX, Steffanie Moyers is a prolific writer (four novels on Amazon, working on the fifth one) with editorial pieces published in Sotheby's, Power X, JAL Organics, and of course, The VOU.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I find steampunk-style clothing really amazing and somehow similar to its more modern stylistic cousin, the techwear, cyberpunk-inspired clothing. Both aesthetics are equally pleasing to the eye and I just want you to know that there’s a superb blend between these two styles and we have it available for shopping here, in our store: https://techwear-x.com

    Please check us out!

  2. Absolutely in awe at the Victorian Era ending to the beginning of the steam Era wicked,now people have something to digest when my wife and I venture out at night or day

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