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What is steampunk style?

By Catalogs Editorial Staff

Wondering what is steampunk style then Helena Bonham Carter is your go-to person

Wondering what is steampunk style then Helena Bonham Carter is your go-to person

What is steampunk style? It may be difficult to pin down a description to one word or phrase but you will certainly know it when you see it because it’s very unusual and eye-catching.

Steampunk is actually a sub-category of science fiction, usually featuring steam-powered machinery as a background. The story line is often motivated by industrialized Western civilzation during the 1800s and is frequently set in an alternative history of the Victorian Era in Britain or America’s Wild West, in a post-apocalyptic future, during which steam power has once again become conventional. Sometimes the story takes place in an imaginary world setting. 

Steampunk in Fashion

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This is an extremely eclectic and historical style, representing the best of merging influences. Eclectic means assorted, miscellaneous and diverse. It is the opposite of conservative and conventional. This is fusion fashion. Fusion means to merge, blend, combine and meld. 

This is probably not a style your child’s kindergarten teacher wears to work nor the outfit of choice for the bank clerk. It is for the avant-garde among us, who like creating new ideas and that includes in their clothing.

Actress Helena Bonham Carter is undoubtedly the quintessential example of steampunk fashion. She wore it in Sweeney Todd and in Les Miserables. She often wears it in her every day life.


It is a grouping of often disparate fashions, genres and eras. Think a little bit Victorian, a splash of gypsy, some Pirates of Penzance, some Johnny Depp, a touch Goth and some medieval with a dollop of urban or punk, a hint of dance hall girl, a nod to the Wiccans and there you go.

“Steam” refers to days gone by when people took long voyages on steampships. They were a daring, adventurous and sometimes a bawdy bunch. Once disembarking from the ship, they traveled to places such as the Wild Wild West and other places heretofore unexplored.

How do you put the look together?

Mixing and matching is encouraged. Combine Victorian threads with something futuristic or feminine pieces with masculine articles. Carry a pocket watch, wear petticoats, striped leggings, granny boots, machinist goggles and lots of buckles. 

Victoriana plays a big role in steampunk fashion. Velvet and lace are often part of the ensemble as are ruffles, corsets, bloomers, bustles, chokers, cameos, brooches, crinolines and veils. 

Male steam agers sometimes wear top hats, use walking sticks, wear monocles and don waistcoats, frock coats, dusters, breeches and vests. 

Hats are an integral accessory. Top off your ensemble with a ladies’ riding hat adorned with do-dads and contraptions or a top hat featuring gears and mechanisms, sprockets, goggles and keys. 

Other examples of this look include a fable top featuring a crochet-trimmed collar, brass-tone front buttons, cap sleeves and figure-shaping crisscross ribbons gathering and trailing down the back. This top can be worn alone or with a gypsy blouse. 

A lock waist-cincher, a daring choice, featuring brass locks in the front and cross-corded in the back is certainly going to get you some attention.

Slip into a steam age jacket in a Victorian style jacquard weave, with brass buttons in front, satiny lapels and a fitted, ribbon lace-up back. Ooh la la! 

Another great look is a woman’s cut-away jacket, lavishly brocaded in silver and gold, lined in satin, featuring a cutaway rippled with black lace and ribbons at the stand up collar. 

Step into some knee-high, gear-buckled boots, which reflect the propulsion craze of the steampunk era.

If you’re a tad eccentric and love mixing and matching fabrics, genres and fashions from various centuries, this may be just your cup of tea.


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