Cosplay steampunk-fashion-660 (1)

Published on January 14th, 2014 | by Cheryl CS


Steampunk fashion and Victorian staying power

It started as almost all trends start: with great fiction. Based on fiction typically set in a steam-powered Victorian era, steampunk sets itself apart from historical fiction by introducing some pretty cool anachronistic technological elements to give the story a kick. Body parts made from nuts and bolts; houses that walk around on metal feet; arms that are actually cannons – you’ll find them all in the various forms of steampunk fiction.

In any case, steampunk is unique. If you’re reading a book and aren’t quite sure whether or not it’s steampunk, just ask yourself: are there steam-powered trains? Metal-bound limbs? Top hats, monocles, and technologically-advanced buildings? Yeah…you’re probably there.

Steampunk – as a genre of fiction and as a fashion style – has permeated the modern consciousness so quickly and pervasively that, while many people know the term, few realize its origins. Few realize what it means, assuming that it’s something to do with goggles and punks and vampires.

Steampunk style originates from Victorian roots. The whole history of fashion since Queenie V’s reign has been influenced by what those sensible Victorians wore. Steampunk takes that traditionally Victorian style and introduces it to the industrialized, technologically advanced 21st century imagination. The result is a new style that nods to the 19th century while embracing technological advancement.

Last November, Edmontonians took to the streets (well, to the Ramada Inn) for the city’s First Annual Steampunk Ball. What did they wear? Rich, flowing gowns, beautifully tailored suits, cocked top hats, and the usual ray-guns, ammo belts, and gear accessories. The Edmonton Steampunk Group might have taken their cosplay to a fabulous extreme, but steampunk elements exist in modern fashion just as prominently as leggings and Michael Kors watches.

Pocket watch necklaces, lace chokers, jewelry made from gears and watch parts, monocles, fingerless gloves – the list goes on.

If you’ve already decided that you’re a hardcore steampunker, you might have already gotten your hands on a prosthetic metal gear arm. You might already own a vintage monocle, with added fabulous moustache.

There’s a whole world of culture behind the steampunk trend and it all goes back to its beginnings in literature and other fiction. You can check out The Official Edmonton Steampunk Group for future events in our city and, in the meantime, take a stab at some fiction and fancies in the following lists. You might just find that you’re more of a steampunker than you’ve let on.

  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (anime)
  • Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne (novel)
  • Hugo (film)
  • Howl’s Moving Castle (novel and animated film)
  • The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson (novel)

You can visit the following local (and online) stores for steampunk-inspired fashion finds:


CC photo credit: Technewsdaily and Renee Keith/Getty Images

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About the Author

| Editor-in-Chief and founder of The Pulp. Cosplayer, gamer, comic book collector, and anime lover. Fond of the Oxford comma.

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