Interdisciplinary. Community. Advocacy. Humor.
Fashion plays a huge role in the steampunk world. More than any other art form is used to express the personality of the practitioner. This aspect of the genre offers the most freedom for personal expression. Ranging from conservative, traditional Victorian style attire to full blown Sci Fi human augmentation. The body quite literally becomes the canvas and people build or sculpt a persona.
Gentlemen in long coats, women in bustles; waistcoats and corsets, walking sticks and parasols. Victorian fashion was elaborate, time consuming and vital for civilized society. One did not simply stumble out of the house in sweat pants and Ugg boots. In that same aesthetic, Steampunk clothing is elaborate, complicated, and is often made or altered by the wearer to suit their specific tastes.
A staple of the Steampunk genre are hats. (Usually topped with custom made goggles or various other adornment) Ranging from the Derby, to the Stovepipe, Bowler to Fedora; one never leaves home without the proper hat to top the outfit. During the Victorian era the hat making industry was stronger than it ever was or has been since. Gentlemen and ladies alike were nothing if not particular about fashion and style. While one might only own two or three pairs of shoes, Hats would number closer to ten! Hat makers and vendors are now seeing a kind of second renaissance. Men and Women are buying and wearing more hats than they have since the 1950’s. Does this have anything to do with the Steampunk movement? Hard to say for sure; but I and others would very much like to think that the underlying cause is a return to vintage styling. That is to say; that which was fashionable before will be fashionable again.
How does art and jewelry fit into steampunk fashion? In a very direct way actually, clothing dictates the type of person you are perceived to be and that extends to jewelry as well. Our initial albeit superficial first impressions are ever so important to Steampunks. There are those who wear period clothing every single day, embracing their eccentric nature and actively sculpting their lives around it; and there are those who only engage in such behavior during social events like conventions or fairs.
However one thread seems to connect them all and that is the overall desire to express oneself in a manner counter to pop culture. It may seem shallow but the image that one presents to the world matters a great deal to steampunks and artists which of course is a double whammy for Steampunk artists! We are not pleased if we are not being noticed by the community. Either for our manner, clothing or our creations we demand attention from our adoring fans. Not all Steampunks are dandies but we all strive for the attention that one gets for being viewed as one.
Perhaps not in a direct sense where women will start to wear full length dresses and corsets and men will return to Frock coats and top hats; but I believe we will be seeing classically dressed gentlemen and ladies making a return to fashion runways. I and others like me would also like to see a return to full figured women and men with well groomed hair and beards but that may be little more than a pipe dream. We will continue to dream however and reality may soon begin to reflect fantasy.
For now it stays within the movement but you may just see a gentleman strutting down the boardwalk with a top hat and cane in the not too distant future and I hope that you will stop them and ask: Are you a Steampunk?
Images are all collected by myself and others over several years and cannot be properly cited, if you are or know who these individuals are or who took the photos please contact me so I can give credit properly. Thank you for reading!
Fascinating blog ! I am wondering: Are you too wearing these clothes occasionally or often (photo, please) ?
As far as sources for the images are concerned:
- The top 2 (Victorian era drawings): http://yourvintagewedding.com/victorianera.php
- The steam punk gent can be seen on a lot of sites, this following is particularly interesting because it talks about an interactive iPad adaption of a Sherlock Holmes story with mashup of steampunk elements, I think you would like this: http://theclevermonkey.blogspot.com/2011_06_01_archive.html
- Bottom image of 5 gentlemen in top hats : http://www.bbc.co.uk/berkshire/content/image_galleries/royal_ascot_...
I wear steampunk clothes whenever I can! I only have so much as it tends to be costly; but I often like to incorporate vests, hats, cravats and various other things, I am working on ways to do that more and thankfully I live in New Orleans where men often still dress like gentlemen and traditional ladies attire is seen from time to time. So it's not completely off the beaten path for this area's culture! I look forward to a time in my career where I can wear my more excentric attire on a regular basis!
Would it be correct to say that steampunk pays particular attention to what goes on the head and face of a wearer? I may be completely wrong here, but it seems that there are a lot of goggles, masks, hats and other apparatuses made. I would love to see a blog about that at some point, please.
Here are some headgear images with sources:
Book on the topic: http://trialbysteam.com/2011/05/11/1000-steampunk-creations/
Thanks for all of the info Brigitte! Yes it accurate to say that emphasis is on the head and face. I speculate that it is becuase that is where most human interaction comes from either outgoing or ingoing. All senses except touch are centered there and most outgoing signals either vocal or otherwise are directed from there. So especially with regards steampunk creations they tend to be centered around the head. Often intended to enhance a specific sense or attribute. Goggles, Glasses, Hats, Helmets, Monocles, Face masks etc. I will certainly add that to the list of future blog topics!
Thanks for your continued interest!