Are there visual styles with a stronger digital connection than a physical one? Steampunk fashion might be an example of subculture grown strong in digiculture, a phenomena at the fringes of pop culture.
Steampunk as a term bloomed in the eighties having grown out of a vast referencial system in literature and film. Cyberpunk’s sci-fi sibling has been described as “what the future would have looked like if it had happened sooner”. It is a pseudo-Victorian dream with attributes of industrialism playing with elements of air balloons, steam-powered machinery, and mechanical computers. It explores the anachronistic idea of what would have happened if society built upon steam as a primary energy source and maintained the Victorian visual style.
Steampunk fashion typically utilizes 20th century technology, patterns, and aesthetics.
Steampunk refers to any of the artistic styles, clothing fashions, or subcultures that have developed from the aesthetics of steampunk fiction, Victorian-era fiction, art nouveau design, and films from the mid-20th century. Various modern utilitarian objects have been modded by individual artisans into a pseudo-Victorian mechanical “steampunk” style, and a number of visual and musical artists have been described as steampunk.
Throughout the years it has become not just a literary subgenre, but an entire lifestyle for some people. There are conventions, fashion shows, and even music festivals dedicated to this unique way of living. Popular game titles like Bioshock and the Witcher series have also been inspired by Steampunk.
As a fashion genre, it is one of the most loved and hated fashion trends out there. It encompasses passion, a love for history and engineering, a keen eye for intelligently-placed details, and an ounce of nostalgia for the old times. Still, with cross media popularity, it still is mostly appreciated in video games while having a movement like analog life. It is a popular subcultural manifestation outside the fashion spotlight still evolving and finding new visual expressions.
As a fashion genre, it has no set guidelines but tends to synthesize modern styles with influences from the Victorian era. Such influences may include bustles, corsets, gowns, and petticoats; suits with waistcoats, coats, top hats and bowler hats (themselves originating in 1850 England), tailcoats, and spats; or military-inspired garments. Steampunk-influenced outfits are usually accented with several technological and “period” accessories: timepieces, parasols, flying/driving goggles, and ray guns. Modern accessories like cell phones or music players can be found in steampunk outfits, after being modified to give them the appearance of Victorian-era objects. Post-apocalyptic elements, such as gas masks, ragged clothing, and tribal motifs, can also be included. Aspects of steampunk fashion have been anticipated by mainstream high fashion, the Lolita and aristocrat styles, neo-Victorianism, and the Romantic Goth subculture.