Been lots of interest and questions, so here is a quick synopsis of what I think:
To define Steampunk there are 3 basic elements:
1. The Industrial Revolution
2. Victorian Fashion
3. Fantasy that reflects the genre’s roots in science fiction and fantasy
Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction, alternate history, and speculative fiction that came into prominence during the 1980’s and early 1990’s. What makes Steampunk different from science fiction is it uses the science basics to create a fantasy world. Works of Steampunk often feature futuristic innovations as Victorians may have envisioned them, with that perspective on fashion, culture, art. etc. Think H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. Almost anything from science fiction can be created into Steampunk, but only using technology which existed in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
Victorian clothing influences the dress style of Steampunk. Men often wear vests, tailcoats and boots. Women use structured undergarments, such as corsets and petticoats, and it’s not uncommon to see them wearing trousers, or shorts and of course boots and hats, such as top hats, fedoras or aviator caps. The colors of clothing tends to reflect the colors of metal: oranges and golds, browns and dark reds; gray and blacks in various shades. Because mechanics are such an important part of the steampunk world, it is also integrated into the dress styles. Watches are reconstructed, and taken apart to use their innards. Gears are used to make jewelry, or sewn onto clothing and used as accessories. Metal is used a lot in clothing, in forms of decorative studs, d-rings,rivets, chains; just about any way one can imagine. Almost anything you find in Victorian clothing is used, along with props, such as parasols, or funky outrageous items like pistols ans guitars. And let us not forget those most popular accessory; goggles, worn by both men and women. Simple to ornate with all kinds of embellishments. Some are works of art unto themselves.
Flying, a fantasy which has been pursued from earliest times, is also a huge part of Steampunk. The ancient Greek myth of Daedalus, created wings for him and his son to escape their prison; records show of a Chinese man attempting to reach the moon by strapping fireworks to rocket a chair skyward. Leonardo da Vinci sketched designs of flying contraptions. In the early 1900’s what had always been fantasy, became reality. Using science and physics, the Wright Brothers were able to break free from gravity. Their innovative designs set the groundwork for all mechanical flight as we know it, and flight is everywhere in the world of steampunk; including dressing styles.
Groups enjoy gathering together dressed in the steampunk style; artists stretch their imagination to it’s limits by taking bits of “trash” and assemble them into wonderful abstract pieces. Locally our own John Patterson is well known for his “Farm Art”, but his work easily fits into the Steampunk.
As a doll artist I find I have now been bitten by the Steampunk Bug! What started out to be a one time project, has grown into several. There seems to always be another “punker” emerging in my mind. In part thanks to the Internet which readily brings this off the wall world into mine. So as one project is completed, another is taking form. I love this process of creating my soft sculptures in a new and exciting way. Much like mermaids and fairies, which are always popular subjects, they allow you to go beyond reality, into a wonderful fantasy world. Then of course there’s the benefit of finally using all those “things” artists seem to collect for “just in case”. Besides, let’s face it. I could not dress myself in the Steampunk fashions, but I sure can get my kicks creating these dolls that do! So I do, and I will continue until I run out of steam. But I don’t think that will be any time soon.