Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Victorian Fashion with a Steampunk Twist

By: Stephanie Burkhart

One genre picking up steam these days is steampunk. It's a bunch of fun to write but the genre insists on a certain look and feel to it.

In a nutshell, a steampunk story is generally set in the early industrial period, where steam power is more widely known. Popular settings include Victorian England and the American West, but the story can placed anywhere. I've read stories that take place in Brazil and Egypt. Steampunk adds a second element such as science fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy or paranormal. Also, the majority of steampunk stories are set in alternative/parallel universes.

HG Wells, Jules Verne, and Mary Shelley are considered some of the founding "fathers" of the genre. What I find fascinating is that they would all be considered steampunk contemporaries considering the time period they were writing in.

Dressing up your steampunk characters

Generally, steampunk characters are a bit "grittier" and "earthy." There's an emphasis on form and functionality in the clothes. They've got to give and stretch. Items involving brass, iron, wood, and leather are common in design.

There's no set design in the clothes which can include traditional gowns, corsets, petticoats, vests, cloaks, and boots, however in steampunk, there's always a twist – the gown is made of leather, the vests are black with steel rivets for buttons and the clothing always falls on the earthier side.

Accessories make the man or woman when it comes to steampunk fashion. Expect to find military styled garments and fantastical timepieces made of brass, iron, goggles, and even ray guns. (Transmogrifiers) And let's not forget the steel earrings.

In my novel, "A Gentleman and a Rogue," Lord Ridgecroft embodies the steampunk look:

What made Ridgecroft stand out in a crowd was his manner of dress. He looked like he belonged in a circus poster. Ridgecroft wore leather pants and black boots that came to his mid- calves. He possessed a heavy leather jacket, almost a copper-brown color with thick creases. He was never without his goggles and if he didn't have them on his eyes, giving him a bug-eyed appearance, they hung around his neck like an old friend. The cherry on the top was the stash of cigars he always seemed to be able to hide in the jacket, though Keira never knew where they would fit.

His daughter, Jocelyn, is the apple of his eye:

His daughter, Jocelyn, inherited her fashion sense from her father. Jocelyn was Keira's age, and while Keira had had a more traditional education at Cambridge, Jocelyn received hers from tutors her father approved of. Tonight she wore a dress made of leather that went straight down to her ankles. Her leather jacket accentuated her upper body and her goggles protruded out of the belt that hugged her waist. Keira thought Jocelyn didn't wear a corset simply because she had no idea how it fit. Her thick ebony hair tumbled over her shoulders and down her back. She wore a heavy layer of black mascara -- or was it midnight blue -- on her eyelids, but aside from the makeup around her eyes, her cheeks and lips were not done up. Brass hoop earrings hung from a clip on her ear. Most men avoided her like the plague -- except for Jonas and Jax Ruston. Jax worked with his father at the Ruston's metal works building heavy duty steam-powered equipment and locomotives. The Rustons were well known for their quality.

Steampunk fashion strives for a retro-futuristic look and is only limited by your imagination. As Jocelyn might say: "Accessorizing can be shocking."

Author Bio: Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 Dispatcher for LAPD. Prior to that she spend 11 years in the US Army. Her latest release is "A Gentleman and a Rogue," Book 2 of The Windsor Diaries, her steampunk romance series.


"I was hooked in it and did not want it to end. All of you romantic historical fans don’t miss this one – it is a winner." - 5 Stars, Trudi LoPreto for Reader's Favorites

"It’s the Amazing Race with energy sources in Stephanie Burkhart’s second steampunk." - 5 Stars, Muddy Rose Reviews













Keena Kincaid said...

Hi, Steph. It's good to see you here! I love Steampunk. It's just so much fun. So what does Jocelyn want for Christmas?


Maggi Andersen said...

Sounds like a treat, Steph. I love steampunk.

Stephanie Burkhart said...

Keena it's great to see you here, too. Jocelyn's in a pickle. She can't decide between Richard Windsor or a new pair of goggles. :)

Steampunk is fun and the Windsors are a hoot!

M. S. Spencer said...

Fascinating Stephanie! I presume the "earthy" fashion statements are for current steampunk--didn't Capt. Nemo and Phileas Fogg represent the height of Victorian fashion and taste? Meredith

Stephanie Burkhart said...

Meredith, Yes, you've nailed. Phileas Fogg was very much a Victorian gentlmen. The fashions for now for steampunk have 'earthier' looks and feels to them - modern authors add a little creativity and imagination when he comes to the genre.