What is a Steampunk Aesthetic Style? A Guide For Beginners

Plague Doc Blog

Have you ever wondered what is called a steampunk aesthetic? Or even more, what does steampunk style reflect? Honestly, these are questions that we’ve all done to ourselves as soon as we started diving deep into steampunk.

In short words, steampunk aesthetics is a visual code that includes a balanced blend of futurism, Victorian aesthetics, and post-industrial elements. Steampunk aesthetics are based on a narrow color palette: Metallized dark and light brown, gray, black, silver, copper, and gold.

But you probably knew this beforehand. In this post, we will go through the elements that add up to create the steampunk style in fashion, home decor, cosplay, and fiction.

Keep reading to find out more!

Steampunk Style Origin

If you have been around the steampunk theme for a while, you’ll notice that there are certain patterns that are repeated in fashion.

Steampunk is a fictional subgenre that was born from masterminds which created amazing content in the nineteenth century. Artists such as KW Jeter and J Verne are responsible for this type of cultural genre.

If you come to think about it, creativity is the capacity to interlink ideas in order to create new ones. But nothing comes out from the emptiness itself.

I believe that these artists did a great job in entwining everything they had at hand during that time. The result: A magnificent fresh aesthetic subgenre. Nothing any has seen before.

Steampunk fashion outfit for men

Steampunk Fashion by osseous. Licensed under CC

Steampunk Style in Fashion

We need to explain this before you can dive deep into the steampunk aesthetic in fashion. Now that we’ve said that, you can start thinking about the ideas that reign the whole fashion steampunk concept.

Steampunk Victorian style

To make it easier for you, we have split the steampunk style into two main categories.

The steampunk Victorian style is the easier one for you to recognize. Why? Well, it’s easy to see that corsets, white shirts, leather accessories, and long top hats in steampunk are influenced by the Victorian period.

In here, you will find the classic steampunk women outfit: the Leather Corset. Underneath, white shirt, two-tone skirt, leather boots. On top, long top hat. Steampunk jewelry is also frequently seen: Bracelets, necklaces, and even sunglasses.

On the other hand, there is the steampunk attire for men: Long top hat, leather bell pulls, white shirt, brown trousers, and long calf leather boots.

There is a blend in between steampunk and Victorian. You’ll recognize that as soon as gears, cogs, brass and copper attachments appear on any outfit, things tend to drift to the steampunk style.

Steampunk industrial style

The most important difference between this subtype and the one we talked before, is that, basically, industrial designs include much more metalized objects than the one before.

If we talk about women style, you’ll find out that there is much more emphasis placed on cogs, gears, and attachments than the Victorian style.

If you’re looking at a steampunk industrial girl, expect to find a metalized mask (such as the gas mask), bracelets, steam-powered backpacks, and even steampunk metallic props.

Usually, women are prone to a more steampunk victorian style. The reason for this is that girls usually tend to wear this kind of costumes in a stylish manner.

This means that women tend to reflect much more uniqueness and greatness in their Victorian rather than their industrial steampunk style.

On the other hand, steampunk industrial style for men is a much more developed topic. Expect here to find people with the strangest masks, armors, and props.

Other themes come into play as well

In this way, you’ll always find that steampunk has more to offer. And in this case, you can find mixtures between post-apocalyptic, western, gothic, and even Asian influences on both as well.

We’ve seen recently that there are also quite interesting combinations with the cyberpunk aesthetic code. It’s something to consider because they do not correlate directly in many forms. They have several differences, which we covered in our previous steampunk vs cyberpunk post.

Steampunk Style in Home Decor

Industrial and Victorian take a part in the scene

Once again, there are several reasons to see it from this perspective. But in this case, differences are notorious.

If we talk about the first case, you’ll see that there are clear references to the industrial style in a part of the steampunk aesthetic code. In fact, it gets quite hard for anyone to stand out the differences between them in certain items.

What is true, is that in steampunk industrial style, you’ll see that there are certain metals that are used over the others.

Style in the kitchen and bathroom

For example, if we’re talking about a kitchen, there is a tendency to use copper pans, stoves, and even cutlery.  There are usually copper tubes around, which can be used for decoration or even to hang towels around.

The same concept is valid for steampunk bathrooms. One of the most interesting features is the copper bassinet. I have even found some interesting steampunk copper bathtubs around the web.

Style in the bedroom and living rooms

Though you can find Victorian styles for these rooms as well, I have made a different subsection because I think that this is more appropriate for Victorian styles.

Why is that? Well, I think there are plenty of Victorian details that just fit into a bedroom and living room. Take as an example wooden carvings. They are a perfect match for chairs, wardrobes, and stuff related to these rooms.

This doesn’t mean that you won’t find steampunk victorian bathrooms and living rooms. The idea behind is that there are some rooms that, perhaps, are more suitable for one style than the other.

One has to be quite strict in this concept to not fall into a pure Victorian style. You’ll need some metallic elements as well. Steampunk lamps and art will do the trick here.

Steampunk Lighting: A common theme

We’ve talked about this issue several times. When talking about steampunk aesthetic style in home decor, there is something that glues up altogether. And this is steampunk lights.

How could we define steampunk lights? Basically, in two words: Newtonian lighting.

Lightbulbs composed of copper wires inside provide a dim light that is representative of the nineteenth century but also has certain futuristic appeal.

This kind of light bulbs can be placed in each and every room in your house. If accompanied correctly, they will transmit a steampunk feeling to your visitors.

Steampunk style in cosplay for men and women

OKIMG_0612 by taymtaym. Licensed under CC

Steampunk Aesthetic Style in Cosplay

In Steampunk cosplay you’ll find several elements of steampunk style in fashion. But the real difference is found in their roots.

All in all, steampunk cosplay is about portraying those unique characters that can be found in movies, games, anime, and books. This means that, depending on the baseline, each steampunk cosplay will have a distinctive detail compared to one another.

Western Style

As you might have guessed already, there are plenty of combinations out there. Well, one of them is the Western Style. There are many similar findings between what we talked about Victorian style and the western.

You will find that a couple of leather boots, a white shirt, some bell-pulls, and some brown trousers are the same basic stuff for Victorian and western like aesthetic styles.

For this reason, western-like aesthetics must be complemented with steampunk accessories. It is vital to keep it steampunk. You should add up some steampunk goggles, masks, or something that is quite appealing.

If you don’t do so, this kind steampunk hybrid theme won’t be clear. People will think you’re more of a cowboy than anything else.

Post-Apocalyptic Style

This is a little bit more easy to steampunkize. And there is some common sense to it. If you come to think about it, there have been several steampunk references in post-apocalyptic games, fiction, and movies.

This creates a direct association between steampunk and post-apocalyptic themes in people’s minds. For this reason, it is way easier to turn into steampunk a post-apocalyptic design than a western one.

As a matter of fact, you can even find out that differences are subtle and rely on the color pattern. A gas mask, some bullet belts, and some shirts and trousers will be just plain steampunk if you follow the color gamut: gray-black gold copper and silver.

Asian Influences

As a matter of fact, this subtype is always considered into what we can call steampunk hybrid aesthetic styles. This means that you can find throughout the history of steampunk several artists that have reproduced steampunk characters but have changed several properties for Asian elements.

So what are Asian elements? Bamboo sticks, feathers, and cloth paper are some.

This is an exceptional steampunk hybrid theme. If you find somebody wearing a steampunk Asian outfit out there, shoot a photo of them. They are unique and this kind of steampunk cosplay is hard to find in festivals.

Steampunk Goth

Perhaps one of the most known steampunk hybrid aesthetic styles anyone can find out there.

Goth and steampunk have similar origins as well. There was an important development of the gothic literature throughout the XIX century. As a matter of fact, there are many publications around those years that were not considered by their authors as steampunk, in essence.

Steampunk boundaries are ill-defined. There are several artists out there that hop in and out to the steampunk culture but belong to other subgenres. And that is fine.

Steampunk nourishes from other subgenres. As a matter of fact, there are even movies in which the steampunk style is merged with Goth elements. Take Van Helsing, as an example.

The difference between this type of steampunk subgenre and others is the pattern of colors. Aesthetic designs in accessories tend to be the same. But the distinctive pattern of the steampunk goth aesthetic style is that light colors are not used.

You won’t find silver, gold, and copper in the proportions that you’ll find in a pure steampunk aesthetic design. Black, dark brown and velvet red are predominant over the rest.

Steampunk Cyberpunk

As long as people keep on pushing their creativity towards new frontiers, these kinds of styles will keep on flourishing.

People have found that there are certain aspects of these two styles that can be blended. But how do you differentiate between them?

Steampunk cyberpunk designs have cybernetic attachments that you wouldn’t find in a pure steampunk style.

After all, steampunk is retro-futuristic. It resides in a time when the digital revolution has not taken place yet.

All in all, the steampunk cyberpunk style is about digital concepts and steampunk details. The items that are perhaps more representative tend to be the steampunk arms people tend to craft for cosplay.

Steampunk hot air balloon drawing.

Voyages by Jeanne. Licensed under CC.

 Steampunk aesthetic style in movies, films, and anime

Steampunk Epic

If you have been in the steampunk genre for a while, you’ll notice that there are certain steampunk stories that are epic in their essence. They are about rescuing a princess or bringing peace between reigns.

This type of steampunk fiction usually includes aesthetics that bring joy and a feeling of awesomeness to the spectator. Landscapes are astonishing, aircrafts are overwhelming.

This kind of steampunk aesthetic style is proper of an epic story. For this reason, we have split it into a separate subgenre.

You will always find fantastic elements embedded in these stories. Flying airships, magic, even strange creatures are found on the way.

Regarding aesthetics, most of the materials tend to be proper from a Victorian time. Wood, brass, copper, and tin can be found as essential elements that are crafted to become airships, armors, steam-powered motors, and weapons.

Steampunk Thriller

On the other hand, you will find the steampunk thriller aesthetics. Lights tend to be dim. Cities are overwhelmed with people. Alleys are dark. Newtonian lights hang from the light post in a foggy and humid night in London.

In this kind of steampunk novel, the aesthetic pattern is much more gloomy than the one before. There is a predominance of dark colors. You won’t find many glimmers from metallic elements.

Nevertheless, steampunk aesthetics will be present in the inner decorations of the rooms, the Victorian-London fashion, and the steampunk gadgets used throughout the story.

Blends

As we talked before in the cosplay section, there are plenty of variants in the steampunk literature. Expect to find Western, Asian, goth and post-apocalyptic scenarios as well!

Steampunk Style in Pinterest

We’ve opened our steampunk Pinterest account a couple of weeks ago. In there, you will find each and every type of steampunk style we’ve talked about scattered all over our posts. Feel free to check them out at our site here!

Conclusion

Steampunk style can be properly defined. You’ll see that there are several differences when talking about certain things, but there are main dots that connect the line in a pretty straightforward way.

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