Artist impression of a steampunk airship cockpit.

What is Steampunk?

Steampunk is a genre of science fiction or speculative fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery and Victorian or Edwardian-era settings. It often incorporates elements of alternate history, imagining a world where steam power remained the dominant technology, leading to anachronistic inventions, advanced machinery, and elaborate aesthetics blending the styles of the 19th century with futuristic elements.

The term "steampunk" itself is believed to have originated in the late 1980s and was used to describe a particular style of science fiction literature that drew inspiration from the works of authors such as H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, as well as the industrial revolution and Victorian-era culture. Since then, it has expanded to encompass various forms of media, including literature, art, fashion, and even music, with enthusiasts often creating their own steampunk-inspired costumes and gadgets.

What happens at a steampunk festival?

Steampunk festivals are gatherings where enthusiasts of the steampunk genre come together to celebrate their love for all things Victorian-era, science fiction, and industrial revolution-inspired. These events typically feature a wide range of activities and attractions designed to immerse attendees in the fantastical world of steampunk.

Costume Contests: Steampunk festivals often include costume contests where attendees showcase their elaborate steampunk outfits. These contests can have various categories, such as best individual costume, best group costume, or most creative use of materials.

Vendor Markets: Steampunk festivals usually have vendor markets or artisan alleys where visitors can browse and purchase handmade steampunk-inspired merchandise. This can include clothing, accessories, jewellery, artwork, props, and gadgets.

Live Entertainment: Live entertainment is a common feature of steampunk festivals, ranging from musical performances to theatrical acts and street performers. These may include steampunk-themed bands, circus acts, magic shows, or interactive storytelling performances.

Workshops and Panels: Many steampunk festivals offer workshops and panels on various topics related to the genre. These can include crafting demonstrations, DIY costume tutorials, discussions on steampunk literature and art, or presentations on historical and technological aspects of the Victorian era.

Tea Duels and Social Gatherings: Tea duelling is a fun and quirky tradition at some steampunk festivals, where participants compete to see whose biscuit can withstand the longest dip in a cup of tea without crumbling. Social gatherings like high tea or Victorian-style picnics are also popular, providing opportunities for attendees to mingle and socialise.

Themed Events and Activities: Steampunk festivals often feature themed events and activities inspired by elements of the genre, such as airship races, time-travel scavenger hunts, murder mystery dinners, or immersive theatrical experiences.

Art Exhibits and Installations: Art exhibits showcasing steampunk-themed artwork, sculptures, and installations are common at these festivals. Attendees can admire and purchase pieces from both established and emerging steampunk artists.

Lectures and Presentations: Some steampunk festivals host lectures and presentations by experts in various fields related to steampunk, including history, science, literature, and fashion. These talks can provide insights into the inspirations and influences behind the genre.

Overall, steampunk festivals offer a vibrant and creative atmosphere where enthusiasts can come together to express their passion for steampunk culture, connect with like-minded individuals, and immerse themselves in a world of imagination and wonder.

What clothes should men and women wear?

Steampunk fashion for both men and women is characterised by a blend of Victorian or Edwardian-era clothing styles with elements of science fiction, industrial machinery, and adventure. Here's a breakdown of typical steampunk clothing for both genders.

Men's Steampunk Clothing

Man in steampunk style outfit with a tall top hat with tan detailing and featuring a tan waistcoat.  He holds out a bunch of large, old keys.Man in steampunk style outfit with goggles around his head, and a dark green or khaki trench coatMan in steampunk style outfit with a brass coloured band around a top hat, airforce blue trousers and low-cut waistcoat, a white frill dress shirt and purple coat with gold brocade.

Jackets and Coats: Long, tailored coats reminiscent of Victorian frock coats or military greatcoats are common. These may feature brass buttons, epaulets, and intricate detailing.

Vests and Waistcoats: Waistcoats, often adorned with pocket watches, gears, or other steampunk motifs, are a staple of men's steampunk attire. They can be worn over a shirt or under a jacket.

Shirts: Ruffled or high-collared shirts, sometimes with puffy sleeves, are popular choices. They may be paired with vests or worn alone.

Trousers: Trousers are typically high-waisted and may be tailored or accessorised with belts, buckles, or straps for a mechanical or adventurous flair.

Accessories: Accessories such as goggles, top hats, bowler hats, monocles, pocket watches, and leather gloves are often worn to complete the look. Belts, harnesses, and utility pouches may also be added for a more rugged appearance.

Women's Steampunk Clothing

Woman in steampunk style outfit with goggles around a top hat, and a white chiffon top.Woman in steampunk style outfit with goggles around a top hat, and a black corset with brown detailing over a black satin top.Woman in steampunk style outfit with goggles around a top hat, and copper or light bronze bodice.

Dresses and Skirts: Dresses and skirts in Victorian or Edwardian styles are common, often featuring bustles, corsets, and intricate lace or ruffled detailing. Some dresses may incorporate asymmetrical hemlines or layered skirts for a more adventurous look.

Blouses and Tops: Blouses with high necklines, lace accents, or puffed sleeves are popular choices. These can be paired with skirts or trousers.

Corsets and Bodices: Corsets are frequently worn to achieve an hourglass silhouette and evoke the Victorian fashion aesthetic. They may be worn over dresses or paired with skirts and blouses.

Trousers: Trousers or leggings with a steampunk twist, such as leather or lace-up detailing, are also worn by women in steampunk fashion.

Accessories: Accessories play a significant role in women's steampunk attire. Goggles, mini top hats, fascinators, lace gloves, chokers, and ornate jewellery featuring gears, keys, or clockwork motifs are popular choices. Belts, harnesses, and holsters may also be incorporated into the ensemble for a more adventurous look.

Overall, steampunk fashion encourages creativity and individuality, allowing enthusiasts to mix and match elements from different historical periods and genres to create their own unique looks.

What can children wear?

Girl in steampunk style outfit with a tall and laced top hat, black corset over a lace top.Girl in steampunk style outfit with bowler hat, goggles on hat, and holding a magnifying glass to her eye.Boy dressed in steampunk style with bowler hat and onate goggles.

Creating steampunk clothing for children can be a delightful project! Rummage through charity shops, or ask granny and grandad. Here are some ideas and elements you might consider incorporating:

Victorian-style Clothing: Start with basic Victorian-style garments like shirts, blouses, vests, and trousers for boys, and dresses or skirts for girls. These can be made from traditional fabrics like cotton or linen.

Accessorise with Gears and Cogs: Add gears, cogs, and other mechanical elements as accessories. You can sew these onto hats, vests, or even attach them to belts or bags.

Goggles: Steampunk goggles are a classic accessory. You can make these from scratch using materials like leather, brass, or even cardboard painted to look like metal.

Hats and Headpieces: Top hats, bowler hats, or aviator caps are great choices. Decorate them with goggles, gears, feathers, or small trinkets to give them a steampunk flair.

Corsets and Waistcoats: For older children or teenagers, corsets and waistcoats can add a more authentic steampunk look. These can be made from faux leather or fabric with metal accents.

Utility Belts and Pouches: Utility belts with pockets and pouches can be both practical and stylish. They can hold small trinkets or accessories and add to the overall steampunk aesthetic.

Boots and Shoes: Leather boots or shoes with buckles or gears can complete the ensemble. You can find pre-made options or customise existing footwear with steampunk elements.

Accessorise with Jewellery: Pocket watches, compasses, and key necklaces can add a touch of adventure to the outfit. Look for antique-looking pieces or make your own using polymer clay or found objects.

DIY Props: Consider making simple props like toy guns, telescopes, or mini treasure chests to complement the outfit and encourage imaginative play.

Layering and Distressing: Layering different fabrics and textures can add depth to the outfit. You can also distress clothing items with tea staining or strategic rips and patches to give them a weathered, lived-in look.

Remember to prioritise safety and comfort when creating steampunk clothing for children, especially with regards to any accessories or props. Have fun with the design process and encourage your child to get involved in creating their own steampunk-inspired look!

Do I have to wear brown, or are bright colours allowed?

Steampunk fashion often incorporates a wide range of colours, although it tends to lean towards earthy tones and metallic accents. While the stereotypical image of steampunk may feature a lot of brown, brass, and copper, modern interpretations of the genre embrace a broader colour palette.

Brown: This is perhaps the most iconic colour associated with steampunk, representing leather, wood, and aged materials.

Brass and Copper: Metallic tones like brass, copper, and gold are frequently used to add a sense of industrial elegance to steampunk outfits.

Cream and Ivory: These colours can evoke a sense of Victorian elegance and can be used for blouses, shirts, or dresses.

Black: While not as prevalent as in some other alternative fashion genres, black can still be used as a base colour or for accent pieces in steampunk outfits.

Deep Reds and Burgundies: These colours can add richness and warmth to steampunk ensembles, especially when used for accessories like corsets or jackets.

Green and Teal: These colours can be used to evoke elements of nature, such as verdigris on metal or the rich hues of forest foliage.

Purple and Plum: These colours add a touch of luxury and sophistication to steampunk attire, especially when paired with gold or brass accents.

Navy Blue: A darker alternative to black, navy blue can provide depth and contrast to steampunk outfits.

Burnt Orange and Rust: These warm, autumnal colours can add a rustic, industrial feel to steampunk attire.

Accents of Colour: Additionally, steampunk fashion often incorporates pops of colour through accessories like scarves, hats, goggles, or jewellery. These accents can be virtually any colour and can add personality and flair to the outfit.

Ultimately, the colour palette you choose for your steampunk clothing will depend on your personal style preferences and the overall aesthetic you're aiming to achieve. Don't be afraid to experiment with different combinations to create a look that's uniquely yours!

What did the Victorian’s do for us?

The Victorian era, spanning from roughly 1837 to 1901, was a time of significant innovation and technological advancement. Here are some notable inventions and innovations from that period:

Steam Engine: While the steam engine predates the Victorian era, it was during this time that it saw widespread use and refinement, powering everything from trains to factories and revolutionising transportation and industry.

Telegraph: Invented by Samuel Morse in the 1830s, the telegraph enabled near-instantaneous communication over long distances, transforming the way information was transmitted.

Telephone: Patented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876, the telephone allowed for voice communication over long distances, further revolutionising communication technology.

Electric Light Bulb: Thomas Edison is often credited with inventing the practical incandescent light bulb in 1879, although there were other inventors working on similar technologies around the same time. The light bulb transformed indoor lighting and extended the productive hours of the day.

Photography: The development of photography progressed significantly during the Victorian era, with pioneers such as Louis Daguerre and William Henry Fox Talbot contributing to the invention of various photographic processes.

Sewing Machine: Patented by Elias Howe in 1846 and later improved upon by Isaac Singer, the sewing machine revolutionised textile production and made clothing more affordable and accessible.

Refrigeration: The development of mechanical refrigeration in the mid-1800s, with inventions like the vapour-compression refrigeration cycle, allowed for the preservation of food over extended periods, leading to improvements in public health and nutrition.

Typewriter: The first commercially successful typewriter, invented by Christopher Latham Sholes in 1868, facilitated faster and more legible writing, particularly for business and administrative purposes.

Railways: While railways were already in existence before the Victorian era, their expansion and development during this time were crucial for the industrial and economic growth of many nations.

Bicycle: The bicycle underwent significant development during the Victorian era, with innovations such as the chain drive and pneumatic tires making it a more practical and efficient mode of transportation.

These are just a few examples of the many inventions and innovations that emerged during the Victorian era, contributing to profound changes in society, industry, and everyday life.

Who was Jules Verne, and why is he associated with Steampunk?

Jules Verne, a French novelist born in 1828 and passing away in 1905, is often regarded as one of the pioneers of science fiction. His works have had a profound influence on both literature and popular culture, inspiring countless readers and writers around the world.

Verne's novels often featured futuristic technology and fantastical inventions that were ahead of their time. His vision of submarines, airships, and other innovative machinery aligns closely with the aesthetic and themes of steampunk.

If you don’t fancy reading old literature, seek out the films instead. Some are made in more modern times and will give you a flavour of steampunk’s inspiration.

Some of Jules Verne's most famous works include:

"Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" (1870): This novel follows the adventures of Captain Nemo and his submarine, the Nautilus, as they explore the depths of the ocean. It's a captivating story filled with underwater wonders, huge and exotic sea creatures, and themes of exploration, technology, and environmentalism.

"Journey to the Center of the Earth" (1864): In this novel, a professor and his companions embark on a daring expedition to the Earth's core, encountering prehistoric creatures and geological marvels along the way. It's a thrilling adventure that captures the imagination with its depiction of a hidden world beneath our feet.

"Around the World in Eighty Days" (1873): This novel tells the story of Phileas Fogg, a wealthy Englishman who makes a bet that he can circumnavigate the globe in just eighty days. Fogg's journey takes him across continents and oceans, offering a fascinating glimpse into different cultures and landscapes.

"From the Earth to the Moon" (1865): In this novel, members of the Baltimore Gun Club embark on a daring mission to launch a projectile to the moon. Verne's depiction of space travel was remarkably prescient, anticipating many aspects of real-life space exploration that would occur decades later.

"The Mysterious Island" (1874): This novel follows a group of castaways who find themselves stranded on a remote island in the Pacific Ocean. As they struggle to survive and unravel the island's mysteries, they utilise their ingenuity and resourcefulness to overcome various challenges.

Verne's works are characterised by their attention to scientific detail, imaginative speculation, and sense of adventure. He had a knack for envisioning future technologies and exploring the possibilities of human exploration and discovery. Through his novels, Verne not only entertained readers but also inspired them to dream of worlds beyond their own.

HG Wells, futuristic sci-fi novelist

H.G. Wells, another prolific writer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, is often considered one of the founding figures of science fiction literature. While his works do not fit neatly into the steampunk genre, they share thematic and aesthetic elements that have influenced steampunk fiction.

Wells' novels, such as "The Time Machine" (1895), "The War of the Worlds" (1898), and "The Invisible Man" (1897), explore futuristic technology, alternate realities, and the consequences of scientific advancement. Like Jules Verne, Wells was a visionary writer who anticipated many scientific and technological developments of the 20th century.

While Wells' stories often feature more advanced technology than traditional steampunk settings, they share a similar fascination with Victorian-era aesthetics, speculative inventions, and themes of industrialisation and social change.

Additionally, Wells' works frequently delve into the darker aspects of scientific progress and the potential dangers of unchecked ambition—a theme that resonates with many steampunk narratives.

In essence, while H.G. Wells' novels may not fit squarely within the steampunk genre, they have undoubtedly contributed to its development and inspired subsequent generations of writers and creators. His imaginative storytelling, exploration of scientific concepts, and critique of society continue to influence speculative fiction, including steampunk, to this day.