Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fashion Through History: Steam-Punk

{Allie D. Fashion}

A fellow writer and fashion lover, Allie D blogs about fashion through the lens of history. I’m really excited that she is sharing her unique perspective and wealth of knowledge with us here! I hope you learn something and your perspective is broadened through this article. And don’t forget to check out her blog and look for an article by a familiar writer there soon :)

From the beautiful age of Victorian clothing sprouts the fun, fantastic, and futuristic style of steam-punk. Its foundation began when authors like Jules Vern and G.H. Wells wrote stories about machinery that could take you to the bottom of the ocean, or to another time. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, and The Time Machine, were the forerunners of what we call steam-punk today. Now, this style is very fantastical, they didn’t wear steam-punk back in the ninetieth century.  Actually, it wasn’t labeled “steam-punk” until the 1980’s, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the 2000’s get the credit of nurturing the style along. It opens up a whole new level of creativity! Something that I think really appeals to people today.
There are two elements that define steam-punk. The first is steam! It refers to the steam developments during the ninetieth century. Today we have high-tech technology; in steam-punk they have high-tech machinery. They took the steam engine and perfected it. It’s where we get all the gears and gadgets on the clothing. 

Steam is also how we know that steam-punk is Victorian influenced. It was during Queen Victoria’s reign that the steam development took place. But, if steam-punk isn’t historically accurate, then what was? Good question, just like there are key elements to defining this fantasy style, there are key elements to help you spot a historically accurate costume.

First, is the fabric that was used in the ninetieth century - they used what we call “natural fibers” today. Silks, cottons, and wools were used. Another key is shape; this came from the corsets both men and women wore during this time frame. Yes, men wore a type of corset too. Can you imagine!
In the Victorian era you’ll see corset shape like these: Ranging from natural-ish looking, supper skinny, to the S shape.

Things like war, trade growth, and new kings or queens were huge influences on fashion all throughout time, too. These few key elements can help define a historically correct costume. Here are some photos from the Victorian era. Note that war, the American Civil War is an element that changed the shape and style. In the 1880’s the American style was the big hoop skirts, where as, in England skirts were more slender.

The Victorian era covered a long time span.  So, we see the influence it had on steam- punk.  There are different types of steam-punk that have developed; cowboy steam-punk, as in Wild, Wild, West with Will Smith is one of them. This photo is a great image showing the combination of history and sci-fi:
Another type of steam-punk has an aeronautical influence.
And, there is always the Victorian - science fiction...
Oh! A note about historically correct corset shape: this corset shape is modern because it has a more natural waistline. Corset shapes from the nineteenth century were extreme. Women wore them from such a young age that soon their rib cages molded to the corset shape. Ouch! This is most apparent in the S shape.  The poor women who had to wear those!  Are women glad that’s not in style today!
Colors in steam-punk are very neutral, muted colors. [see right]

Goggles!  They are the steam-punk symbol.  Many people think a steam-punk outfit is not complete without them. [see left]

 Here’s some other steam 
punk goodies- Just for fun!

I hope you've enjoyed our walk through fashion history. Comment if you've learned something!


  1. This was really interesting. I learned a lot =)

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