Cindy Spencer Pape is an award-winning author of nineteen novels and more than forty shorter works. When not hard at work writing she can be found dressing up for steampunk parties and Renaissance fairs, or with her nose buried in a book. Learn more about Cindy and her books at her website.
Glue a Gear on It
While steampunk started as a subgenre of science fiction, it swiftly turned into a trend that encompasses art, music, home décor, and perhaps most strongly, fashion. The three most common elements that define steampunk fashion are probably goggles, gears, and top hats, tiny or full-sized. In the case of full-sized top hats, they are often decorated with both gears and goggles worn as hatbands. Since I’m a girl who doesn’t always like wearing hats, especially big heavy ones, I often wear my goggles as a headband to hold back my hair, or hanging from my belt if I want them available but am wearing something else on my head, like a small fascinator. Above I’m in a leather corset from Crimson Chain Leatherworks, a skirt from a random booth at a long-ago Renaissance Festival, and a bustle coat from Ties that Bynde. The photo, taken by a friend with my phone, is originally in a hotel parking lot. The cool background was added by another friend.
Steampunk fashion is based in the Victorian aesthetic—corsets are usual for women, and sometimes men, hoopskirts are common and bustles even more so. But there it diverges. While some folks go for full-on Victorian reenactment wear, others give it their own style, adding modern, military, or even futuristic accessories and touches or funky makeup. For example, corsets are cool—so why not wear them on the outside? (We’re both wearing kilts/skirts by the amazing Shoptroll. I’m in a corset from corsetstory.com, his jacket is from Pendragon, hair and makeup are by Diana Williams, and the photo is from the wonderful Russ Turner Photography.) This is more in the style of post-apocalyptic steampunk, where you’ll see folks in gas masks with laser pistols and diesel punks in World War I era fatigues but with fantasy swords.
In steampunk, nearly anything goes.
My husband recommends kilts, which are also common in steampunk, because they are comfortable. They can be worn traditionally, or not. The photo here is of my husband and son, each rocking the kilt in his own way. Both kilts and fly plaids (the shoulder scarves) are from got-kilt.com, the top hat is from Steampunk Emporium, both vests are Salvation Army, and the coat is an actual Victorian antique found at a convention. Incorporating thrift shop and vintage pieces is all part of the fun. The gun my son is carrying is a non-firing reproduction, of course.
The main thrust of the steampunk community is craftsmanship. If you look at anything, no matter how prosaic from the Victorian era, it’s often made with a touch of elegance, even if it’s a stamping machine in a factory. The return of that ideal is what steampunk fashion is all about. So, yes, I have earrings made from gears and a necklace featuring washers and bottle caps—but when brought together with style, they can be lovely. And the entire scene can make a chubby, middle-aged woman feel good enough about herself to let people take her photo. Often. And believe me, that says a lot.
I may go on to write books in other genres, but I’m never leaving behind the fun and friendship I’ve found in steampunk.
Ether & Elephants:
A Gaslight Chronicles Novel
Sir Thomas Devere and Eleanor Hadrian have loved each other most of their lives—but sometimes love doesn't conquer all.
Their chance at happiness was ruined by Tom's hasty marriage to someone else. Heartbroken, Nell left home, finding a new life as a teacher at a school for the blind. But when one of her supernaturally gifted students, Charlie, is kidnapped, Tom reappears and her worlds collide.
Tom claims he hasn't seen his wife since the day of their marriage…yet he fears the missing student could be his son.
The deeper they dig, the more Tom and Nell discover: a deadly alchemist, more missing gifted children and long-suppressed feelings neither of them is ready for. A race on airship across England and India may lead them to answers—including a second chance at love—but only if all of British Society isn't destroyed first.