What is Steampunk?


What is Steampunk? Well, it is many things. It is sort of like the past meets the future where steam stayed the main source of power rather than electricity and petroleum. The cutest answer I’ve heard is that it is what happens when goths discover the color brown.


Steampunk is a genre of science fiction literature and art, a style of alternative fashion, a style of home decor and a lifestyle. It is a type of neo-Victorianism, that imitates the style and manner of the Victoria era (aka the 1840s thru 1900) and sometimes the Edwardian period up thru WWI. Think of Victorian authors like Jules Verne with 20,000 Leagues under the Sea or H.G. Wells with The Time Machine. Movies like The Wild Wild West, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or Robert Downey, Jr’s Sherlock Holmes.

Steampunk fashion is an off-shoot of gothic fashion. It began in the 1980s, gained real popularity in the late 1990s and in the 2000s began to bleed over into mainstream fashion. Steampunk has a fascination with steam powered things like steam trains, steam boats as well as Victorian era science like clockworks and machinery, hot air balloons, zeppelins, botany, early flight, bicycles, and early motor cars. In home decor you can thank Steampunk for the recent rise in wall art like old fashioned clocks, signs, and vintage maps. Take a look at Restoration Hardware or Pottery Barn for items with rustic or vintage touches like riveted steel aviator chairs and ottomans, metal and wood shelves, wire baskets, apothecary jars, and hammered copper bathtubs. Dressing steampunk is a bit like a blend of romantic goth, Victorian fashion, Western cowboys, pirates, and mad scientists.  Characterized by romantic touches like lace, ruffles, earth tones like browns, tans and oranges, fabrics like satin, brocade, linen, leather or taffeta. Accessories like goggles, top hats, boots, pocket watches, gears or cogs, spats, gloves, parasols.

Check out the wikipedia article on Steampunk and the Victorian era both of which are quite interesting. All also my own post on a more accurately historical look at Fashion by the Decade for 1790s up thru 1890s.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: How to Dress Steampunk – The Basics | Lost in Austin

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