Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
Subject: steampunk
Culture: American 
Setting: gaslight 

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Croll 2014 p87-88
"The twenty-first century saw the continuation of a lot of subcultures (hip-hopskate, and goth are still going strong), as well as the proliferation of some new ones.  Steampunk is a particularly odd example; at once history- and technology-obsessed, steampunks live in a quaint fantasy world that mixes modern gadgets with nineteenth and early-twentieth century style.  Steampunks buy leather cases for their iPhones, and wear
Edwardian waistcoats and bowties, or corseted dresses.  With its quirky appeal and geeky fanbase, steampunk has inspired a raft of how-to books and provoked concerned online speculation about whether it's set to invade mainstream fashion; meanwhile, it's tough to determine whether the looks on the runways of designers like Prada, Louis Vuitton, and Alexander McQueen are steampunk inspired, or whether the influence is simply history."

* Young 2016 p220
"The 1980s saw a new cult literary genre for science fiction, romanticising Victorian London and its streets lit by gas lamps, its mahogany interiors and repressive but ornate costumes. By the 1990s this genre would expand into fashion and inventions. The movement grew from the way people could share their ideas over the internet and in blogs, encouraging the explosion of steampunk. Artists and designers have created highly intricate designs and technological contraptions along with the fashions on display at conventions and festivals."

* Grymm/Saint John 2011 p6
​"Although the descriptive term Steampunk was coined in the world of literature within the past thirty years, the origin of the ideas go [SIC] back much further.  Born from the writings of H.G. Welles [SIC], Mary Shelley, and Jules Verne and the inventions of Nikola Tesla, Steampunk offers a melding of late 1800s aesthetic with scientific discovery and otherworldly technology.  Though Steampunk has reached a tipping point recently, it is not just a current trend.  The Steampunk aesthetic has been woven throughout our media and consciousness for more than a century in books, film, music, fashion, and art."

* Winchester 2014 p10-13
"[S]teampunk as we know it today began primarily as a form of literature in the early 1980s.  Its analogue, mechanical nature was intended as a riposte to cyberpunk's tales of the digital and the binary, and a big part of steampunk's attraction remains the way in which it rejects sleek modern technology in favour of something more primitive."

* Campbell 2009 p9
"'Steampunk... What's that?!'  That question is a common reaction from people new to the name of this style trend -- one that's been around for more than twenty years, since the term was first coined in 1987.  Generally, Steampunk is a fashion, design, and popular-culture phenomenon that combines romance and technology.  Among its many influences are futurism, time travel, and the Victorian Age.  These seemingly disparate facets combine into a resulting look that might be called 'Mad Max Meets Jane Austen.'"

* Donovan 2011 p31-32 (GD Falksen, "Steampunk 101" p30-33)
"[T]he term Steampunk is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the cyberpunk genre rather than a reference to the punk subculture.  Moreover, 'punk,' in the context of punk rock, was  the product of very specific circumstances following the Second World War, which makes it fundamentally distinct from the Victorian aesthetic that inspires Steampunk.  Individuals interested in exploring a Steampunk equivalent to twentieth century punk, however, can find a wealth of material in nineteenth century counterculture groups ranging from the Luddites to utopians to hooligans.  Add a dash of Victorian street culture and a sprinkling of ragtime and Steampunk 'punk' comes into focus."

* Donovan 2011 p30 (GD Falksen, "Steampunk 101" p30-33)
"In three short words, Steampunk is Victorian science fiction.  Here, 'Victorian' is not meant to indicate a specific culture, but rather references a time period and an aesthetic: the industrialized nineteenth century.  Historically, this period saw the development of many key aspects of the modern world -- mechanized manufacturing, extensive urbanization, telecommunication, office life, and mass transit.  Steampunk uses the existing technology and structure to imagine an even more advanced nineteenth century, often complete with Victorian-inspired wonders like steampowered aircraft and mechanical computers."


* Winchester 2014 p14
"There remains a great divide in the steampunk world between those who simply embrace its unique aesthetic, and those who delve into its rich literary trappings.  It's best summed-up by Reginald Pikedevant's humorous song 'Just Glue Some Gears On It (and Call it Steampunk)', in which he states that: 'Calling things 'steampunk' to try to sound cool makes you look like a bloody fool!'  It's an inclusive view into what steampunk has become to some people, transferred from a well-informed and meaningful discourse into the mere act of applying a layer of fake brass to an everyday object and, indeed gluing some gears on it."

* Young 2016 p221
"Steampunk fashions combine neo-VictorianEdwardian, and military style with brass goggles, harnesses and clockwork pendants, and a ray gun held at the hip. Costumes use cogs, bolts, bras piping and screws to bring these technologies into fashion. As well as Victorian costumes, steampunk can also be based on fashions from other lands in the nineteenth century -- JapanIndia, the Wild West. Will Smith's Wild Wild West was a 1990s steampunk film that combined Victorian Wild West fashions with fantastical technology. Japanese animation, with its goggle-wearing hackers, is also a plundered fashion source.
    "Steampunk men wear explorer's helmets and brass goggles, Dr Watson tweeds, Mad Hatter top hats, and elaborate Mad Max style gas masks. They have the appearance of a gentleman cowboy in a leather trench or frock coat, or an aristocrat in a waistcoat."

* Winchester 2014 p18
"Steampunk fashion is almost immediately recognizable: think smartly dressed people in brass goggles and top hats and you're there.  But, as with other steampunk forms, it's defined by taking certain elements from the past and fusing them into a strangely cohesive whole.  There are inevitable anachronisms -- we don't think many Victorians would have used smartphones, no matter how many gears and pipes were glued to them -- but this is all part of the joy of dressing as a character.  This rose-tinted vision of history means that there is a lot of leeway in costumes, too, and you don't have to subscribe to a particular look.
    "Kitted Up  The best steampunk costumes and characters embrace these dualities between the past and the present, and the normal and the weird.  You could, for example, completely go to town with a steampunk costume and festoon every inch of it with cogs, brass plating and pipes, but it's far better to simply go to town on a single element, such as an artificial arm or a bizarre helmet, and wear pseudo-Victorian dress for the rest. This throws people off kilter, and instantly gives them something specific to examine and concentrate on."

* Donovan 2011 p32 (GD Falksen, "Steampunk 101" p30-33)
"Goggles are often encountered in Steampunk clothing and imagery.  This can create the misleading impression that they are somehow fundamental to the Steampunk 'look.'  Although goggles are associated with both science and mechanized travel, both of which are common themes in Steampunk, this does not mean that everyone in a Steampunk setting wears goggles.  In fact, only people who have a reason to wear them do so and then only while it is useful.  As with scarves, driving coats, aprons, and overalls, goggles area piece of fashion that can help give life to a Steampunk world when used properly and in moderation, but can rapidly border upon the ludicrous when turned into an end rather than a means."


* Donovan 2011 p32 (GD Falksen, "Steampunk 101" p30-33)
"The gear is an easily recognized symbol of Steampunk, but it is not unique to the genre.  It was invented long before the nineteenth century and it remains in use today. The gear in Steampunk joins related devices such as flywheels and pistons as the 'power lines' of the steam age.  Steam power is mechanical power and its transmission demands a network of moving parts in the same way that electrical power transmission demands wires.  The gear on its own is not especially Steampunk, but when put to use in nineteenth century machinery, it becomes a key icon of the genre."

* Kerr 2014 p118
"The main use of Cthulhu in fashion ... is in jewelry.  There are some extraordinarily beautiful items to be found -- Necronomicon necklaces, Cthulhu amulets, medallions and rings.  Just right for impressing your fellow dancers at the Steampunk Ball."