Handmade Conversations — What Is Steampunk?

Posted by on Mar 26, 2013

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What is steampunk? Is it a lifestyle, a manner of approaching the world or just a creative celebration of a long-past era? According to Calista Taylor, author of "Steampunk Your Wardrobe: Easy Projects to Add Victorian Flair to Everyday Fashions," steampunk is a Victorian-inspired genre that includes clothes, books, movies and more. She references the Robert Downey Jr. movie "Sherlock Holmes" to help those new to steampunk get a general reference. The genre often blends the tight corsets and top hats of that British styling with steam-powered machinery. Calista shares how she first broke into the unique world of steampunk as well as her favorite tips for refashioning clothes already hanging in your closet into the unique, fiesty trend.

what is steampunk?
Your book "Steampunk Your Wardrobe" is so stylish and practical, with how-tos for brown capelets from old coats and refashioning a button down into a Victorian-inspired shirt. How did you get started with steampunk design, and what do you love about it?

I write fiction and was interested in setting my story in the Victorian time period when I came across steampunk in my research. Steampunk seemed like it was just starting to pick up steam (pun intended), and I was immediately fascinated by the possibilities of setting my story in a steampunk world of my making.

The leap to steampunk design came when I decided to head to a steampunk fair and needed something to wear. I'd spent over a decade designing garb for a medieval historical group I was a part of, so it was a relatively easy leap. What I love most about steampunk is the flexibility of the genre and the designs. As long you keep in mind the Victorian aesthetic, I feel everything else is open to interpretation.

What is steampunk? Is it for everyday wear or special occasions?

I think that as long as it is Victorian-inspired, and coupled with creativity or ingenuity, it can be called steampunk. But it really is pretty flexible. As for everyday or special occasions, I'd like to say both! Steampunk is fashionable enough to incorporate into a modern wardrobe for everyday, but it's also easy enough to take to another level for special occasions.
what is steampunk?
What are some common features or details in steampunk fashion?

I think the common features are often features you'd find during the Victorian time period — bustles, ruffles, corsets, lace, top hats, etc. But you'll also find elements that call to the ingenuity and inventiveness of the time period and the steampunk genre, such as gears, brass and leather elements, goggles, and a variety of home-made gadgetry.

What are the basic supplies needed to get started with repurposing and refashioning clothes into a steampunk esthetic?

The supplies needed are very basic — scissors, lace and trim, fabric and a sewing machine can be helpful, but isn't always necessary. Most importantly, I think you need a carefree attitude. The great part about steampunk is that it's so flexible and individual, that it's pretty hard to get it wrong, even if your project doesn't come out exactly how you planned. Just keep in mind the Victorian aesthetic and have fun with it.
what is steampunk?
Calista Taylor is the author of "Steampunk Your Wardrobe: Easy Projects to Add Victorian Flair to Everyday Fashions,"  published by Design Originals.

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