Steampunk fashion is a retro futuristic subculture that primarily takes inspiration from 19th century steam-powered machinery and the Victorian era of Britain. The fashion has no set guidelines or rules; however, most Steampunk outfits tend to synthesize modern and futuristic style with influences from Victorian Britain such as corsets, waistcoats, military jackets, and top hats. Many Steampunk fashion outfits also include a post-apocalyptic flavour, with ragged edges and apocalyptic accessories such as gas masks and flying goggles. Although the term Steampunk was first coined as a literary genre in the late 1980s, it soon began to form its own fashion movement, becoming mainstream in 2005 when Kate Lambert, also known as Kato, opened the first Steampunk clothing company. Today, Steampunk remains a core fashion subculture and is closely associated with the Burning Man Festival that takes place in Black Rock City in the Nevada desert each year. Whether you’re looking to create a Steampunk costume for an event or would like to incorporate more Steampunk items into your daily wardrobe, we’ve created this guide to help you.
Incorporating Steampunk into your wardrobe - a Steampunk fashion guide
Steampunk fashion has found its way into designer runways across the world and has even been incorporated into collections by Dior, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace and Chanel. The fashion has a significant presence online, allowing people from all over the world to purchase Steampunk pieces. Still, the true home of Steampunk fashion remains in the smaller boutiques which are often located in fashion subculture epicentres such as Camden in London. Whether you’re buying online or visiting in-store, here is a quick guide to Steampunk fashion for men and for women.
Steampunk fashion for women
Women’s steampunk fashion can be as feminine or as gender fluid as you like, with many women choosing to incorporate items made for men into their collections to complete their aesthetic. Here are some things that you may want to consider when putting together a female Steampunk outfit.
Steampunk clothing does not always need to be distressed; however, ripped, rough-edged and rugged items work well when incorporating a post-apocalyptic feel into your outfit. You are entirely in control over how distressed your Steampunk outfit turns out and can combine distressed and non-distressed pieces to create the look that you are going for. Some distressed women’s clothing items to consider include, skirts like this asymmetrical Le Skirt RMX, dresses like this Monroe RMX Short Sleeves Corset Dress and leggings like these Jiko Foldover Long Leggings. When choosing distressed pieces, it often helps to pick those that already incorporate other areas of Steampunk fashion such as those with a Victorian influence.
Corsets, bustles, petticoats, gowns and accessories, like parasols and driving goggles, also feature heavily in women’s Steampunk fashion as both practical and aesthetic components. These retro-futuristic elements tend to be woven into the outfits broader aesthetic to accentuate the female body and its curves for the wearer. Corsets, in particular, are very popular but do not need to be overtly obvious. One of the more subtle ways to incorporate a corset-style item into your Steampunk outfit is to choose a top or vest with a cinched-in waist like this Alum RMX Vest which is secured across the chest with a metal buckled belt. Corsets can be worn with both trousers and skirts or used as a part of a bustle or dress.
Abstract shapes and structures
To add a futuristic element into their Steampunk outfit, many wearers also try to incorporate avant-garde shapes. Shape and movement can be created through the use of structured items like this Metal Jacket, which can be moulded into a high-neck or broad collar, or by wearing clothing which is asymmetrical or that has off-camber straps like this Gila Refab Top. The softness of a flowing asymmetrical skirt with the harsh lines and structure of a futuristic item like the Metal Jacket, or a historical piece, like a corset, work well together to create a unique look.
Hats and accessories
Many Steampunk accessories are both fashionable and functional; like a parasol and driving goggles which will protect you from the desert heat and blowing sand at Burning Man, or a Multi-Bag Belt which allows you to carry essential items like your phone and wallet without ruining the victorian, post-apocalyptic look of your outfit. Whatever your chosen accessories, when it comes to Steampunk, more is always more, so don’t be afraid to layer on more than you usually would.
Steampunk fashion for men
In just the same way that there are no real rules for female steampunk fashion, there are also very few rules for men. In general, men’s Steampunk fashion is very masculine, incorporating suits and military elements, but it can also be softer if desired. Here are some of the things that you may want to consider when putting together a Steampunk outfit for men.
Whether post-apocalyptic in style, taking inspiration from the Victorian era or a combination of the two, military apparel features heavily within men’s steampunk fashion. Military-inspired garments like buckled jackets, replica firearms and flight goggles are often paired with non-military fashion pieces like this Steamed Hoodie Coat or the Ottoman Pants. It’s important to remember that although a replica firearm may not be functional, it may not be legal to carry one in public.
Hooded coats and jackets
Hooded garments also feature heavily in men’s Steampunk fashion, adding interest to hoodies, coats and vests. Hoods, like that found on this Neo Steamed Hooded Coat or Shinobi Hooded Jacket, are not only functional in inclement weather but also add structure to a Steampunk outfit that does not incorporate a hat. Steampunk hoods like this one on the Dulce Hoodie tend to be oversized and a futuristic shape that sticks outward from the face like those worn by historic Assassins. Hoods are also a standard feature on clothing worn at festivals like Burning Man and Wave Gothic Treffen as they allow the wearer to stay warm at night when the temperature drops.
Just like in women’s Steampunk fashion, distressed items also play an important role in Men’s Steampunk outfits. Ripped trousers or jeans, asymmetrical hoodies and jackets, and ragged items of clothing are used to create a post-apocalyptic and grungy feel.
Although Steampunk garments can be made out of any material, leather is often incorporated in both men and women’s Steampunk outfits for its rugged, aged appearance. Aside from being aesthetic, leather is also durable and hard-wearing, making it perfect for festival wear. Leather can be used on accessories like these Roller Wristbands or on larger items like this Jah RMX vest depending on the wearer’s preference.
Wristbands and accessories
When it comes to men’s Steampunk accessories, in addition to top hats, flight goggles and replica firearms, many also wear some form of a wristband. Wristbands like these Assassins Vmix wristbands, help to cover the lower arms in short-sleeved garments for comfort and warmth but also provide a masculine military and post-apocalyptic element to the outfit. Wristbands can be worn on both arms or on one arm depending on the style of a wristband and the look that the wearer is trying to achieve. A one-arm wristband like this Thor Vmix Wristband can be used for decorative effect.
Things not to wear
Although Steampunk fashion is very flexible, so long as people take influence from the right areas, it is essential to remember that the fashion genre is retrofuturistic and so technology such as conventional mobile phones and earphones should be disguised accordingly. Steampunk phone cases can transform a mobile phone into a beautiful clockwork accessory and earphones can be easily concealed within headwear or redesigned to look like a radio headset. If technology cannot be disguised, then it should be hidden so as not to ruin the overall effect of the outfit.
Generally, Steampunk fashion tends to steer towards old fashioned materials such as cotton, leather and metal. There may be some occasions when leather accessories are created from plastic alternatives, but generally, Steampunk wearers tend to avoid plastic as it was not something commonly worn in the Victorian era and would not be used as a resource in a post-apocalyptic society. If choosing a plastic item, be sure to ensure that it does not look plastic and try to buy one that has been created from recycled materials.
About Psylo - the creators of this guide
Founded by a group of world-travellers with a passion for seeking out new experiences, Psylo has been breaking boundaries since 1999. Located in the subcultural fashion epicentre of Europe, Camden, as well as having several flagship stores worldwide, our clothing is a rebellion against fast fashion. We strive only to create clothing that is both ethical and environmentally friendly, infusing each piece with ethnic elements from different cultures to create bold, edgy and rebellious garments. Each of our garments is produced in-house at our own independent factory. Shop with us in-store at one of our flagship stores, or find our collection online.