Heard of Steampunk? It’s Britain’s latest fashion trend

Steampunks Megan Waller, aged nine, and her father Heath Waller during Whitby Goth Weekend

Steampunks Megan Waller, aged nine, and her father Heath Waller during Whitby Goth Weekend

Fashion trends can originate from several sources and get their inspiration from many different influences, but there can be non so unique and contrasting as Steampunk. And if you haven’t heard of this genre yet, you soon will, as apparently it is the latest big thing set to hit the high streets.

Steampunk is basically how the Victorians would envisage the future, a kind of retro-futuristic blend of Victoriana and sci-fi if you will. Steampunk originates from literature, and although some would argue against this, many agree that certain literary works lend themselves to this fashion trend beautifully. I’ll explain, imagine H G Well’s The Time Machine; here we have a Victorian setting but with a science fiction premise. Or The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, where the story takes places in the 19the century but with advanced machinery.

Steampunk therefore usually involves the social and technological side of the Victorian era, but with a twist of Victorian fashion thrown in.

Kate's Clothing

Kate’s Clothing

A strong aesthetic of Steampunk is to use the antiquated gadgetry of the 19th century, and turn them into accessories. For example, old watches, goggles in particular, pipes etc can be reused as brooches or badges. Think brass and copper, glass and polished wood, engraving and etching, and details for the sake of details. The details in clothing are added and not what a normal Victorian citizen would typically wear. And the trend has a strong following, with tens of thousands who regularly buy their clothes from sites such as Kate’s Clothing. But not everyone is a fan, with Jess Nevins commenting: “Steampunk is what happens when goths discover brown.”

Michael Falzon performs during a dress rehearsal for War of the Worlds, in Steampunk-style garb

Michael Falzon performs during a dress rehearsal for War of the Worlds, in Steampunk-style garb

A computer expert at IBM, however, has predicted that the once closet fashion of Steampunk is about to be the world’s next big hit. Dr Trevor Davis says that internet trends can predict what is hot and what is not, and there are serious rumblings that the Steampunk will now become much more mainstream, and cites the Paralympics Closing Ceremony, which featured Rihanna singing on a steam sailing ship, as highlighting the trend’s growing popularity. he says: “The trajectory for steampunk as a popular social and cultural trend is on the rise. From 2009 to 2012 the amount of social media chatter about Steampunk rose by an astonishing 11 times. Recently, the 2012 Paralympics closing ceremony put the global spotlight on steampunk when singer Rihanna made her entrance on a steam sailing-ship to a world television audience of 3.4 billion. In addition, Lady Gaga has been photographed in neo-Victorian garb. Now a US television network is writing a steampunk-inspired TV show for the fall 2013 season.”

Dr Davis has even produced an infogram to show how Steampunk has come to the world’s attention.


The infogram reveals that since 2010, more than 20 major department stores and other retailers had become “steampunk savvy”, with fashion labels, accessories suppliers and jewellery-makers all expected to integrate steampunk looks into their designs – from corsets and aviator goggles to lace veils and frock coats.

Gary Oldman modelling the style for Prada in Milan

Gary Oldman modelling the style for Prada in Milan

And designers have already cottoned on to this latest trends, with Prada’s winter men’s campaign featuring several of Hollywood’s leading males, including Gary Oldman, Jamie Bell and Willem Dafoe – dressed for adventure in heavily tailored, steampunk-inspired suits. In a similar fashion the hats and equestrian-themed outfits in John Galliano’s summer 2013 collection for Dior are said to have the Steampunk influence.

Whilst on the high street, retailers are now embracing this trend, with Topshop and Asos stocking ox blood dresses and corsetry.

According to The Independent, this is their guide to Steampunk attire:

  • Headgear Toppers, bowlers, veils, and even ball masks
  • Coats Military trenches and greatcoats
  • Jackets Double-breasted, pin-stripe suits with waistcoats
  • Shirts For her, the chiffon blouse; for him, collarless
  • Underwear Bustles, corsets and petticoats
  • Dresses Mix and match velour, velvet and lace
  • Trousers Jeans make the look less severe
  • Shoes Spats, platform lace-up boots from cut-price fashion chains
  • Accessories Goggles are a must, as are opulent brooches and pocket watches. Mobile phones can be “Victorianised”

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