Have you gone to a con or seen a photo lately of something that sort of looked like a specific genre or era outfit, but it seemed like the wearer had put their own sort of spin on it? Most likely, you've seen something "punked"! I'm going to be doing a series of blogs over the next couple of weeks on different types of "punk" costuming, including Dieselpunk and Rococo-punk, and starting with Steampunk!
If you're into costuming or attend conventions, you likely already have at least a general idea of what Steampunk is. Steampunk is a retro-futuristic genre, based upon an alternate Victorian timeline where instead of going with electricity, everything remained primarily steam-powered. The clothing reflects industrial pieces as art, often incorporating gears and other mechanical bits. While most people think that Steampunk clothing is just brown (and the genre is sometimes referred to as "what happens when goths discover brown), it can (and should!) include whatever colors you'd like! Most costumers come up with some sort of a character idea and then figure out what that person would wear. Lots of people like to add goggles, but it's not necessary unless you feel like they fit your outfit!
In every sort of "punk," the style doesn't just invade the characters' clothing but everything in that world-- architecture, technology, and art! According to Wikipedia, the term Steampunk was first used in 1987 (because 1987 is an awesome year to be born. Just sayin'. ;) ), as a play on the term "cyberpunk" by author K.W. Jeter. This genre frequently features airships, analog computers, and if it isn't powered by steam, it may, in fact, have something to do with aether. Steampunk is often confused with other "punk" genres, such as Dieselpunk and Dustpunk, which is what prompted me to do write this series of blogs for you!
Authors who are generally considered to be Steampunk include H.P. Lovecraft, Jules Verne, and H.G. Wells (although, I consider those more as period scifi, since Steampunk is a relatively new concept.). Some more modern authors are Kaja Foglio, G.D. Falksen, A.W. Exley, and Delilah S. Dawson. If you are looking to gather some inspiration from movies, Wild Wild West and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen are generally the most mainstream that you will find, but some other titles include Katsuhiro Otomo's Steamboy, Disney's Treasure Planet, and Hugo. My personal favorite Steampunk graphic novel is Lady Mechanika (and I'm going to cosplay her one day, so help me!), and I have been known to dabble in the steampunk tabletop game of Malifaux.
Most Steampunks base their clothing upon Victorian Era England, but any country's attire from that period (1837-1901). I love Steampunk attire with Asian influence, but haven't dabbled in it yet. Most ladies (and some men) add corsets to their outfits, but it is not necessary if you don't want to! If you do decide to get into corsetry, please do some research first! When worn properly, corsets are awesome, but when you get an ill-fitting or improperly made one, it can hurt you. Other garments that are featured prominently are bustle and cage skirts, waistcoats, tailcoats, and top hats. Jewelry and accessories are, of course, a big deal and can really set you apart from the casual costumer. Daniel Proulx of Cathrinette Rings and Dr. Brassy Steamington are wonderful artists, but I am of course partial to myself, Figment Costuming & Jewelry.
Below, you can find some examples of Steampunk outfits. Sorry, it is a little bit light on men. Instead of just pilfering images from the internet, I asked my friends and followers to share their outfits! Feel free to share pictures of your own steampunk outfits in the comments!
If you have any questions for me, as always, leave them in the comments section, and if you're interested in sending me pictures for the forthcoming articles in the "Punk It" series, follow me!