Steampunk Style – how to get it and what to wear


Perhaps you’ve heard of steampunk but you’re not quite sure what it is. Maybe you’ve never heard of steampunk, but have a yearning for both Victoriana and futuristic technology. Perhaps you thought you couldn’t dream of cobbled streets and lace parasols AND surround yourself with all those nifty gadgets? Fear not – with steampunk style, there’s actually room for both.

Steampunk style: How to get it and what to wear

No-one can tell you what to wear when it comes to steampunk style, but here are a few guidelines to stocking your wardrobe.

Goggles – Oversized or otherwise, these definitely complete the look. Just type in ‘goggles’ in a search engine and watch the resulting pages spew forth. They’ve become a trope in latter years, but so what? Goggles rock. As an alternative to goggles, try tinted glasses or an eye patch, or opera glasses and monocles for a posh night out.

Boots – Heavy boots are favoured. Ladylike numbers, laced, of course. You wouldn’t be seen dead in trainers.

Victorian dressCorsets, dresses, bustles, petticoats; look to period costume websites for ideas. You can go Victoriandustrial if desired. Nor do you have to stick with the Victorian era. Edwardian, fifties… in any genre of art, craft or fashion there’s room for evolution and expansion.

Steampunk for self-identifying men, or the ‘masculine’ look – So you don’t like those puffy sleeves and bustles? The steampunk style suits all genders, and without any style rules you’ll look just as snazzy in men’s garments, which can include waistcoats, frockcoats and all kinds of wondrous alternatives. Steampunk men or anyone dressing in typically ‘male’ attire will look spectacular in long coats, trousers tucked into boots, shirts, waist coats, cravats and britches.

Steampunk accessories – Canes, parasols, gauntlets, fob watches (old-fashioned pocket watches you can chain to a pocket), fans, telescopes, pipes, handkerchiefs, weapons – these are all superb items to complete your attire for the day. Weapons can include steampunk-style revolvers or rayguns, or you can opt for knives tucked into garters (maybe not in public, and ideally not real knives. There are laws against that sort of thing).

Rivets – Okay, they’re not an outfit in itself. But you can’t go wrong with rivets; they help industrialise the look.

Steampunk colours – Victorians kept their brightest shades for their wallpaper, so steampunk dress typically features plenty of black, grey, brown, bronze, dark gold, burnt umber, dark purple, dark forest or racing green and deep burgundy. However, the steampunk style is evolving. Wear it in a way that matches your tastes.

Steampunk fabric patterns – Consider pinstripes, delicate Victorian florals, and argyle. Solids are more common than patterns.

Steampunk fashion DIY Tips – If you fancy modifying your existing wardrobe to add a little industrial grit, consider our steampunk fashion DIY tips on Mookychick.

If you look like an inventor, airship pirate, lavender-scented aristocrat, adventuress or street rat then you’ve got it right.

What is Steampunk?

Steampunk is a fusion of the Victorian era with machinery, a mix of antiques and technology. Think steam engines, big leather bellows, the whirr of cogs. Materials to look out for are wood, leather and plenty of brass – materials that Victorian engineers were familiar with. The ‘punk’ in steampunk refers to being creative and doing something new and different.

Although steampunk is not as established as punk, indie or goth there are people out there living the lifestyle. You might find them working on their twist to a period outfit or planning a party on a riverboat with a gramophone providing the auditory entertainment.

This sentiment will cause controversy, for steampunk is a broad church and many makers and tinkerers prefer function over form, but not everything in steampunk style has to work. Don’t worry if you’re not too handy with a blowtorch – leave the welding to someone else. Not all the creations have to be functional; feel free to create neo-retro nick knacks that are purely a joy to look at. Don’t be afraid to turn to the internet to pick up your goodies. There are sites out there that sell steampunk wares, but hunt through our friend eBay for those hidden gems.

Steampunk in the media

Looking for inspiration? Consider ‘Wild Wild West (widescreen version) [1999]‘ (the Will Smith film), or the big daddy from Bioshock (Xbox 360) (the computer game). There’s also a steampunk magazine! There is also plenty of steampunk literature out there, from ‘The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer‘ (Neal Stephenson) to ‘Automated Alice‘ (Jeff Noon) and the old classic, ‘The Difference Engine (Spectra Special Editions)‘ (William Gibson and Bruce Sterling). Don’t be afraid to consider ‘The Time Machine (Penguin Classics)‘ by H.G.Wells and ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth (Wordsworth Classics)‘ by Jules Verne. ‘Firefly – The Complete Series [2003]‘ veers towards a steampunk approach, though it splices high technology with the Wild West rather than true Victoriana.

Useful steampunk community links

Main photo: Miss Emilly Ladybird, creatrix of the Steampunk Tea Party recipe book (a perfect read if you’ve ever wanted to make Peppermint Venusian Delight).