What Is Steampunk?

The term “Steampunk” was coined in 1987 by author KW Jeter in relation to fantasy/science fiction with  Victorian technology especially that powered by steam.  But it has been around much longer than that if you think of HG Wells’ The Time Machine writing in the late nineteenth century and Jules Verne’s 20,00 Leagues Under the Sea.

Steampunk is a design style inspired Victorian era industrialism and retrofuturistic technology and aesthetics.  But it has come to embrace music, literature, fashion and art, celebrating creativity in all its forms.

Though the setting is pseudo historical harking back to the Victorian period,  the Steampunk movement does not promote any of the inequalities of the past. It is deliberately an all inclusive, friendly community embracing all ages, sizes, genders, abilities and ethnic backgrounds and we come from all walks of life.

Steam-powered machines with lots of exposed moving parts and shiny metal fittings are very Steampunk. Here are a few glimpses of magnificent machines in action at Papplewick Pumping Station, near Nottingham.

Why the Goggles? 

They serve many purposes such as keeping the wind out of your eyes on an airship, protection from dangerous chemicals for the mad scientists, protection from sparks and hot steam in the lab or boiler room or even from solar flares.

Why the Punk?

In the seventies Punk represented rebellion against contemporary society.  But in this contex, the Steampunk movement instead rebels against the throwaway society, poor manners and antisocial behaviour and promotes courtesy, care about the environment and the past.

Creativity and DIY is very strong in Steampunk alongside sustainability with the clothing and accessories often upcycled and repurposed.

Aims and Aspirations of the Movement

Perhaps this can be summed up by a question. Who doesn’t love dressing up?  Creating and  Promenading in wonderful sometimes weird and wacky outfits is part of the fun.

 The aspiration and motto of the Steampunk community is  Be Splendid!

So What Can I Wear to a Steampunk Event?

Don’t worry, it’s all about having fun.  It’s not prescriptive, which is why it can be confusing because it is so broad. You can be a Pirate, Space person, Explorer, Scientist, Romantic poet, Engine driver, Burlesque.  Come as you are and maybe tweak a little what you have. Even just wear a hat.  You will probably find that you have items in your wardrobe already that you can wear.  Straw hat, wedding hat, dinner suit, net underskirt, waist coat, flat cap, platform shoes, long skirt, kilt, lab coat, walking stick, umbrella, corset.  Borrow bits of your kids fancy dress outfits for school, capes, masks, Halloween costumes.  Check out charity shops for items to repurpose from prom dresses to old suits.  Toy shops can be great to get wigs, moustaches, pirate costumes etc  Goggles are good to add to any hat.  It doesn’t have to be expensive.

Get Creative and Be Splendid !