Full Steampunk Ahead

steampunk illustration by ModCloth

If I asked you what aesthetic I’m describing when I say, “a volcanic eruption of Victorian-style frocks and frock coats, retro-ified technology, and cog-composed accessories,” would you be able to answer? Okay, you probably can; I kinda gave it away in this post’s title. I’m talking about steampunk.

Though it’s easy to recognize (look at ModCloth’s Steampunk Style section  to get a bit of a better idea), steampunk is a bit harder to describe. Undaunted, though, I set out with a Captain Nemo-ean vengance in an effort to pin down a concise definition of this unlike-any-other style.

Steampunk — a sub-culture and aesthetic with roots dug deep in the eponymous literature genre, a blend of science fiction and fantasy. Steampunk is recognizable by its neo-19th century garb and retro-futuristic technology revamping, an overall look that could be described as Victorian science fiction.

Are you familiar with steampunk? How would you describe it?


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  1. Avatar
    Debbie 11/10/2011 at 2:03 pm #

    I would describe Steampunk as Captain Nemo.

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    Ciara 11/10/2011 at 3:45 pm #

    A adventurous combination of Victorian fashion and Victorian technology. Dress like it’s 1904 in an alternate universe, and you are going to fix your combat dirigible to go rescue your friend (comic relief) from the dastardly clutches of a cult bent on world domination with the help of a dashing, idealistic revolutionary.

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    Crystal Dawn 11/10/2011 at 4:14 pm #

    “Steampunk involves a setting where steam power is still widely used—usually Victorian era Britain—that incorporates elements of either science fiction or fantasy. Works of steampunk often feature anachronistic technology or futuristic innovations as Victorians may have envisioned them, based on a Victorian perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, art, etc” – Wiki

    I have done these costumes before and have had a blast making them and wearing them!

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    Katie 11/10/2011 at 6:56 pm #

    Steampunk is something that my boyfriend and I both love and we tend to describe it as “Victorian meets Industrial, elegant meets gritty, and technology meets classicism.”

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    Lindsey 11/10/2011 at 7:46 pm #

    I live in the land of hipsters (Asheville) and you often glimpse a hint of steampunk amongst the fedoras and tight pants, like a pair of vintage steampunk safety glasses. Hipster and steampunk don’t always go hand in hand, but they have an organic vintage connection.

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    Jade (ModCloth) 11/10/2011 at 10:53 pm #

    A fashionable industrial revolution on steroids! Leather, top hats, rocket science, and the Full Metal Alchemist come to mind. Thanks for writing about Steampunk, Hannah! <3

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      Kylee 11/15/2011 at 3:48 pm #

      mentioning FMA was completely correct 😀

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    Alia Pyatt 11/13/2011 at 9:18 pm #

    I know it as the past that would’ve been if the future happened sooner.

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    Samantha 11/13/2011 at 9:54 pm #

    At the heart of Steampunk is innovation, invention, and imagination. It produces a sense of wonder at fantastical elements, drawing on the potential of human creativity. It emphasizes vintage, industrial technology: steam power and clockwork devices. Wrap that up in a neo-Victorian world inspired by Jules Verne, and you have Steampunk.

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    Sara C. 11/14/2011 at 4:59 pm #

    I had previously worked on a short lived Steampunk web series. I always described it as Victorian Sci-Fi. There are many degrees of it. Many Japanese Anime are set in a Steampunk setting, especially Miyazaki Hayao’s films such as Laputa: The Castle in the Sky. There are also Steampunk bands, such as Abney Park.

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    Abigail 11/17/2011 at 7:23 am #

    The best description I’ve ever heard of steampunk is, “when goths discovered brown.” I wish I could take credit for it–a friend heard it at a library conference.

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