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The Steampunk Aesthetic and how to make your own

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Steampunk Fashion | Steampunk Aesthetic | DIY Steampunk | Steampunk BlogOne of the key attractions to steampunk is that it allows every gentleman and lady, guttersnipe and mad inventor to demonstrate their own creativity and personal style. While there are constraints, there are few impositions and if you can make something work in the steampunk aesthetic you are likely to be celebrated, not criticised.

However, there’s no doubt it can be daunting to start the process of becoming a steampunk creator.

The endless debates about exactly what Steampunk is - and isn’t – it can fuel the fear in newcomers that they are going to get it wrong. If you’re really into nailing down a definition, then a great place to start is with Steampunk Scholar who ruminates about what makes a steampunk aesthetic … Should your interests lie more in the direction of becoming a part of the steampunk world, we’d like to offer some practical guidance, some of our hard-earned experience and a few tips that might ease you into the waters of retro-futuristic life.

One lives locally, one steampunks globally

Steampunk is roomy, inclusive and all embracing, but it’s also going to be a local phenomenon for you. When considering costuming, it’s good to get a sense of where steampunk is being displayed on your doorstep by attending local events. Once you’ve done that, you’ll get a real sense of the local variations in play. In Brighton, England, for example, there are lots of ‘Lost Girls’ and gender stereotype challenges whilst in Melbourne, Australia, you tend to see a lot of gizmo/gadgetry costuming. Fitting in isn’t what steampunk is about, but social status and fitting in were definitely part of the Victorian hierarchy so it’s good to know what your local steampunk scene looks like. Then you can decide how much you want to play along!

Don’t limit yourself to local stores and ideas though. Once you have that grounding in your local steampunk environment, let your imagination soar … use online steampunk shops and festivals to help expand your horizons and be as imaginative as you like.

A tome to guide you

Every steampunk needs a tome. The one most commonly referenced is The Steampunk Bible, which is exhaustively reviewed by The Atlantic so we don’t have to - simply too fatiguing, don't you know? But it is a good book, makes an excellent prop for steampunk room furnishing and has endless details you can call upon to create your own version of the aesthetic.

Steampunk clothing - the portable aesthetic

To describe the process of finding and evaluating clothing we can’t do better than direct you to a comprehensive (and illustrated) guide from Austin Sirkin who really has a great (brass) handle on the aesthetic and how to use charity shop purchases to contribute to it. The problem with ‘thrifting’ as our colonial cousins call it, is that it rarely delivers a coherent outfit - what you wear may be appropriate but often looks cobbled together, because it is. For a thoughtful appearance, which is what the aesthetic demands, it’s necessary to purchase a few key items. We’d suggest that these are:

For women

• A good corset
• A well-made hat or fascinator
• Victorian gloves
• At least one purpose-produced accessory: reticule, telescope, chronometer etc.

For men

• A pair of properly fitted trousers
• Boots
• A genuine Victorian style hat.

Without these core items of apparel your outfit will lack coherence and look like dressing up, which is the opposite of the substantial nature and careful choice that typified Victorian clothing for anybody above the poverty line. Shop online for garments that have been created for steampunk outfits and you’ll find that they bring a certainty and panache to your outfit that nothing else offers.

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