Dressing up is fun, and steampunk incorporates some of the best elements of dress-up, especially for women. Old-world dresses and corsets are a must, as well as technical accessories, jewelry and gadgets. For those who love Victorian styles and science fiction themes, here is a fashion guide to everything steampunk.
Steampunk Fashion is Based in Steampunk Fiction
Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction that was coined in the 1980s, following the general theme of cyberpunk but replacing electronic future technology with steam-powered technology. The term was retroactively applied to turn of the 20th century writers such as Jules Verne and H.G. Welles. Steampunk embodies the vision of the future as it was seen at this time period, when fantastic inventions were predicted with an emphasis on moving parts such as gears. Steampunk fiction usually takes place in an alternate history, where steam-powered technology continued to monopolize progress following the Industrial Revolution, or in an alternate reality, where post-apocalypse survivors are forced to reinvent modern technology based around steam power with an absence of electronics.
Elements of a Women’s Steampunk Fashion Outfit
Fans can purchase many elements of a prefabricated steampunk outfit from sources such as Steampunk Emporium, but a homemade design is often less costly and more rewarding. Unique pieces are often available from sellers on Etsy.
A women’s steampunk outfit will include several core features such as a corset or fitted top, draped bustle or fishtail skirt or pilot pants, Victorian high-heeled button-up boots, and accessories such as goggles, jewelry made from gears and miniature top hats.
Finding the Perfect Victorian Boots
Victorian boots are essential to a women’s steampunk outfit, especially boots with high heels. The material should be leather or faux leather and details such as buttons, buckles, laces, spats and foldover cuffs are a plus. In general, the accessories should be as busy as possible. The boots can be ankle height, calf height, knee height, or over-the-knee. The shape of the boot often has a pointed toe, and some, known as granny boots, have a very curved heel. The boots are often paired with tights or tall horizontally striped socks, and possibly garters. The legs should not be bare except for the upper thighs.
Dresses and Skirts are a Textural Element
The main outfit can incorporate a dress, corset, skirt, pants, blouse or peasant top. This is usually not a traditional Victorian neck to floor full-length dress, because the streamlined silhouette does not match the steampunk style and the full floor-length skirt with petticoats will hide the boots. Some popular styles of skirt include a draped bustle skirt, ruched skirt, riding skirt or fishtail skirt. These types of skirts add textural details to the outfit.
Blouses, Corsets and Jackets Top Off the Outfit
The top often includes a white button-down or peasant blouse combined with an under-bust corset. A blouse may also be worn alone, especially if it laces up, or an over-bust corset may be worn alone. The texture often includes lace, satin, brocade and ribbons. The top may be paired with a military jacket, preferably fitted with large metal buttons. A cropped military jacket is even better. If you have a few of these pieces in your existing wardrobe, you can easily put together a canvas for your complete steampunk outfit. The color palette for the outfit usually centers around white, black, brown, red or mustard.
The Imortance of Steampunk Accessories, Including Headgear
The accessories are probably the most fun and important part of steampunk fashion, and the main feature that differentiates a steampunk outfit from a Victorian outfit. Some type of headgear is usually worn, including miniature top hats, bowler hats, round framed glasses, goggles or an aviator hat with goggles. The hats can include feathers, ribbons, flowers, veils, gears and other details. This type of accessory can be made at home with craft supplies and a small hat or children’s hat.
Lace or satin gloves, glovelettes, cuffs or sleevelettes are a fun and easy addition to any steampunk outfit. These can also incorporate buttons and lace up with ribbons. The best part is that they are easy to make from a pair of knee-high socks or tights. Simply remove the foot and add a thumbhole or add a loop to go around the middle finger, or leave them unfinished. Gloves can stop at the wrist or go up to the elbow or upper arm.
Carrying Your Belongings in Style
A leather utility belt or waist pouch is suitable as an accessory and to carry your belongings. Purses and bags are usually not seen in women’s steampunk outfits, although an old carpet or leather satchel bag might work.
Accessorise, Accessorise, Accessorise
If you go all-out on one aspect of your costume, it should be accessories. Good accessories make a great steampunk outfit. Old-fashioned pocketwatches make excellent additions, whether on a chain, pin or necklace. Jewelry can incorporate cameos, gears, insects or animals assembled from clockwork pieces, and miniature magnifying glasses, mirrors or monocles. Cameos are usually seen on a choker. Skeleton keys are often used as pendants, or a full loop of skeleton keys may dangle from part of the outfit. Sometimes people carry binoculars or telescopes. The more intricate and numerous the accessories are, the better.
Everyone Needs Gadgets
One accessory that may require a special order is a weapon, usually a gun. Steampunk heroes and heroines are usually adventurers and carry fantastical mechanical weapons. Unless you already machine tools or build models, you may want to acquire a specialty accessory such as the Vaporizer or the Consolidator. Remember, you can never have too many gadgets. If you would like to invent some gadgets of your own, try incorporating components such as gears, vacuum tubes and old typewriter buttons.
Of course, the ultimate method of transportation, however impractical, would be either a Model T or a horse-drawn carriage, or even a replica Wright Flyer.
Remember to Express Yourself
The best part about putting together your own steampunk outfit is the creativity and expression that you can bring to the look. No two steampunk outfits look alike, and they should not. The main feature of the style is that it is an amalgam of contradicting elements, pieces and textures that come together to create a beautiful new form. Although the outfit is carefully planned, it should have the appearance of being thrown together from many unrelated components and yet coordinate as if it came from a specific alternate reality. The layering of lace, satin and brocade with leather and metal can help achieve this look, giving the appearance of Victorian era clothing combined with Wild West accents and science fiction technology.
How to Make Your Look Unique
The best way to make sure your look is unique is to make or alter most of the pieces yourself. Adding metal details, especially gears, to fabric and leather can go a long way toward creating the steampunk vibe. Think about what has drawn you to this genre of fashion. Some people love the Victorian style of clothing, but enjoy making it punchy and modern. If so, consider investing in a few pieces of Victorian period replica clothing which will accurately represent the era. Some people love steampunk’s penchant for interesting technology. If this describes you, then do not hold back on the gadgets and gizmos which can be incorporated into your outfit by attaching to headgear, utility belts, clothing and boots, or simply carried.