Insider's Guide to Steampunk Fashion

by Hannah Rothstein

What's in the book?

Learn how to incorporate Steampunk into your style!

    • What is Steampunk, Anyway?
    • Dissecting Steampunk Dress
    • Weaving Steampunk Into Your Wardrobe
    • The Steampunk Style Zeitgeist




The gateway to the intoxicating experience of the subculture, steampunk fashion has an element of interest for almost everyone, whether they’re a history buff, craft creator, or giddy free spirit. Though it sprawls across literature, music, art, film, and more, steampunk – a sort of retro-futuristic Victorian fantasyland – is a movement most easily recognizable, especially for those unfamiliar with it, by its fashion.

Now that the subculture is chugging full steam ahead onto the radar of the general public, it’s important to remember and embrace the depth behind steampunk style; we can’t have the whole aesthetic become irrigated by canals of triteness, after all. But if steampunk style is more than just goggles and gears, what is it?


After a childhood rabble-rousing in Upstate New York, Hannah Rothstein jetted off to Brandeis University, where studied French and art history and minored in business. Always interested in fashion, Hannah spent many of hercollege summers costuming plays at Harvard University, and upon graduating, she hopped a flying machine to London, where she spent six months interning at Kerry Taylor Auctions, specialist in costume and textiles.

Once she’d finished wreaking havoc, breaking hearts, and learning about all eras of fashion in London, she returned to the United States and snagged a job writing copy, communications, and editorial delights for an online fashion boutique.

Now living rather happily in San Francisco, Ms. Rothstein spends her free time running hills, going on bicycle adventures and hikes, singing karaoke, and dancing like her middle name is Saturday Night Fever. She also crafts and curates a blog of sartorial satire that you may locate and guffaw over at


Some break the term down for analysis, stating that steam alludes to powering technology as the Victorians would have done it, with revolutionary steam power, and punk – well, that depends who you ask. Some, such as G.D. Falksen, state that the punk part of steampunk is nothing more than a residual word leftover from the cyberpunk from which steampunk descended, while others clamour about the punk part being derived from the do-it-yourself spirit of steampunk and a “defy the man” attitude. However a person chooses to define steampunk, several common denominators underlie the subculture.

Any sort of divide amidst definitions of steampunk is bridged by a general agreement upon the unwitting forefathers of the subculture, Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. These two names should be ringing not just a bell but a carillon, as these two gents presciently penned some of the Victorian Era’s most famous science fiction works, namely Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (Verne) and The Time Machine (Wells). Wells and Verne dreamt up fantastical technology, much of which came into being years later, and all of which was powered by steam.

Hmm, sounds a lot like steampunks’ alternate history world in which steam is a dream source of energy for everything from clocks to computers. Coincidence? Of course not! The worlds Verne and Wells wove together provide a thick blanket of inspiration for steampunks.


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