The Alluring World of Steampunk Fashion: An Essential Guide

Most people nowadays have a vague idea of steampunk aesthetics. The first things that come to mind are usually items like cogs, goggles, top hats and clocks but how did it all start?

What Is Steampunk Fashion?

Steampunk fashion, steampunk girl
Steampunk Girl, Photo by Aleksey Vododokhov

Steampunk fashion is a relatively new movement in the world of fashion that started growing in the 1980s and 1990s. It is a combination of Victorian-era fashion and industrial elements from the same period.

In general, Steampunk is a unique style that combines both the old and the new, unveiling a fictional post-apocalyptic world, filled with retro technology, scientific literature and bold metallic colors.

What Inspired Steampunk Fashion?

19th-century literature is a key inspiration for steampunk fashion and genre. Steampunk novelists like Jules Verne, G. K. Chesterton and Arthur Conan Doyle helped build a persona and detailed representation of the post-apocalyptic world that we visualize today through movies, games and fashion.

Some of the most common steampunk personas are:

  • The explorer with a pith helmet, brass telescope and binoculars
  • The aviator with flying or birdlike gadgets and devices, goggles and a canvas coat
  • The gentleman, with a Victorian coat over formal clothes and belts for all sorts of tools and instruments

Did you know?

In 1987 the science-fiction author K. W. Jeter created the term “Steampunk” and mentioned it in his novel Morlock Night.
Book cover, Morlock Night by K. W. Jeter
Morlock Night Book Cover by K. W. Jeter

Steampunk Fashion Trademarks

What Colors to Use?

The classical colors used in Steampunk fashion are sepia, brown, burnt orange, bottle green, grey and other autumn colors. Still, there are no rules or limits when it comes to creativity. Often, fans combine steampunk with other styles like goth or punk to recreate a bolder, darker and more aggressive look. It all depends on your mood, personal style and occasion.

Essential Steampunk Accessories

You don’t always have to be in a pure cosplay Victorian mode to enjoy this fashion. Sometimes, it’s enough to compliment your everyday outfit with a few steampunk accessories. The most typical ones are pocket watches, pouches, goggles, leather gloves and hats. You can also play around with jewelry or decorations of various shapes like cogs, gear or keys to achieve the desired effect.

While the design is important, what also matters is the material you choose. In order to recreate the desired vintage look, it’s preferable to use recycled components, metal, cotton and leather.

Avoid Using Plastic!

Plastic is not appropriate for Steampunk aesthetics. It kills the authentic vibe by making the item looks fake and wretched.

Male Accent: The Waistcoat

Steampunk man with a gun, top ha and colorful waistcoat
Steampunk Man, photo by SutcliffGrell

Goggles and hats can be key accessories but a waistcoat can help you create a highly customizable look for your steampunk gentleman moments. Depending on your personality, you can play around with the colors and decorations emitting a more classic or bolder look.

Female Accent: The Corset

Beautiful steampunk girl with red hair, steampunk fashion corset
Steampunk Corset, photo by Allsteam

Corsets were as fundamental in the Victorian era as they are in today’s steampunk fashion. The only difference is that the corset is no longer only a garment.

Victorian corsets were excessively tight and a few inches below the waist but luckily, you no longer have to go through such suffering for the sake of fashion. The only “pain” you might come across is their price in case you fancy high-quality custom-made corsets. Still, they are as beautiful as costly and can be combined with various outfits, so consider it a long-term investment for your wardrobe.

Steampunk Fashion Today

Slowly but steadily, steampunk aesthetics have begun to announce their presence in novels, video games and fashion.

In 2006, the first steampunk convention “SalonCon” took place and brought together enthusiasts and artists of the genre. It was an important event that helped the steampunk movement spread further and gain its well-deserved recognition.

Steampunk continues to influence today’s fashion trends by catching the attention of world-recognized designers like John Galliano and Jean Paul Gaultier who brought steampunk elements in some of their fashion collections.

Fashion Inspired by Steampunk, John Galliano for Christian Dior Fall 2010, Vogue
John Galliano for Christian Dior Fall 2010, Source: Vogue

If you enjoy the steampunk genre, you might also like our simple steampunk decoration ideas for your home.


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