It’s brown, it’s leathery, it’s corsets and its the “Time Machine” rolled into one. I’m referring to Steampunk for which I’ve been delving into over the last week, researching the styles and format for a design of a poster I am working on. It’s been around for a few years now as an underground counter-culture movement although I’ve only been aware of it referred to as “Steampunk” for the past year. Based on literature produced in the late 80’s with Victorian era settings as opposed to cyberpunk’s contemporary/future backdrop, Steampunk has slowly wormed it’s way into fashion and design as a complete movement.I had been using various design techniques ubiquitous with the genre unconsciously for many years now without knowing that that’s what it was called, and having friends involved with the Society for Creative Anachronisms (SCA), well, these people have been dressing up in Victorian clothes for decades now and they didn’t call themselves “Steampunk” so go figure. I’m guessing you could say that it has only galvanised itself as a separate movement for the last couple of years across the broad fields of literature, fashion, music, film, design and art.
Motifs of the style are top hats, corsets, flying goggles, Victorian-era clothes, fob watches, monocles, brass, clock gears and, of course, steam engines combined with sci-fi elements from the movie “The Time Machine” (think of the movies of Terry Gilliam). Steampunk is the imagining of a Victorian-era computer or what it would look like if it was invented then; or if dirigibles were developed further; or of Victorian-era hearing-aids; a kind-of parallel universe of things that might have been.
So I have been delving in my bookshelves for Victorian swishes, decorative drop caps, flourishes and winsome dames in bustles holding parasoles to adorn my poster design. However I don’t think I would go so far as to dive into a corset yet, although the over-the-top costumes look fun. Kind-of reminds me of my goth/hippy youth… Below behold some of the fashions. Photograph below by Viona Art (check out her website for a different take on fashion photography!). Ok, ok for those pedantics: I know she’s wearing black but she ISN”T a goth (you can tell because of all the timepieces and the dress). There is apparently quite a selection of Steampunk handmade jewellery and regalia available on etsy so I think even though I haven’t actually seen a steampunkist on the street (is it because I don’t go out much???) it certainly is a succinct undercurrent of counter-culture… coming to a street near you, if actually not already there.