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Origins and Developments

Oh the Victorian era – flamboyant dresses, massive hair dos, cheeky under-garments. First let me start off with some history, then develop my way to how this era was enmeshed with what is now known as pseudo-Victorian mechanical ‘steampunk’.

Mainly, Victorian fashion involved various fashions and trends in British culture that emerged and grew in province throughout the Victorian era. Throughout the 63 year reign by Victoria, fashion and clothing changed dramatically  These changes would include; changes in clothing, architecture, literature, and the decorative and visual arts. By mid-century, the lock-stitch sewing machine was introduced, which simplified both home and boutique dressmaking, and enabled a fashion for lavish application of trim. Lace machinery made lace at a fraction of the cost of the old, laborious methods. In the 1840s and 1850s, women’s gowns developed wide puffed sleeves. Dresses were simple and pale. Realistic flower trimming were on dresses. Petticoats, corsets, chemises were worn under gowns. By the 1850s the number of petticoats was reduced and the crinoline was worn; as such the size of the skirts expanded. Day dresses had a solid bodice and evening gowns had a very low neckline and were worn off the shoulder with shawls.c9e9b3b182aa7982d130b4bf75404924

Nowadays, incorporating this fashion sense has been made accessible and functional. Through the use of mechanical steam-powered machinery, the love for a fashion that never grows old, art nouveau design and films from the mid-20th century, various modern utilitarian objects have been sought out by individual artisans into a pseudo-Victorian mechanical ‘steampunk’ style, and a number of visual and musical artists have been described as ‘steampunk’. It is so referred to as a style that mixes the clothing styles of past generations, with modern conveniences. This thereby creates inventions that look as if they could have been created generations ago. It can also have the ‘do-it-yourself’ attitude where steampunk items would be ready to buy materials and in turn one would customize them. The entire subculture is based on mostly on aesthetics, though functionality is highly prized as well.

Steampunk fashion has no set guidelines! Common attire would include; gowns, corsets, petticoats and bustles; suits with vests, coats, top hats and spats; or military-inspired garments. Steampunk-influenced outfits are usually accented with several technological and “period” accessories: timepieces, parasols, flying/driving goggles, and ray guns. Modern accessories like cell phones or music players can be found in steampunk outfits, after being modified to give them the appearance of Victorian-made objects.

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Author: Alexia Micallef

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