3D Printed Steampunk drawing. Source: Sandra Strait on flickr.com
3D Printed Steampunk drawing. Source: Sandra Strait on flickr.com

For those of us not familiar with steampunk, our first question is: What is steampunk? Think of it as a collision of punk with the steam-engine technology of the Victorian era. What you have is a mish-mash of the Ramones meet Sherlock Holmes.

How Steampunk Started

Steampunk is science fiction based on the idea that futuristic industrial societies never got past the technology of the 19th century; essentially steam engines. The term steampunk made its first appearance in 1987 by the author K.W. Jeter as an alternative to the term cypberpunk. Jeter’s novel, Morlock Night, is inspired by 19th century settings. However, cultural references of steampunk have occurred in books and movies as early as the 1950s.

Two famous 19th century authors, H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, added to the imagination of readers with unlikely or impossible inventions in their respective books, The Time Machine published in 1895 and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea published in 1870. These books have informed the steampunk revolution.

Movie representatives of steampunk are Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows with Robert Downey Jr. and the Wild, Wild West with Will Smith. Other examples are Stardust, the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Steamboy is a steampunk anime film.

Video games such as Skyrim feature Dwarves that are essentially steampunks in that they have created machinery that includes gears, cogs, and other mechanics. Bioshock 2 operates in a world of airships, machinery, and other steampunk elements. Resonance of Fate is a game set in the future with a steampunk edge.

Steampunk Social Events and Community

Steampunk conventions are becoming increasingly popular. SalonCon began in 2006 and ran for 3 years as a neo-Victorian and steampunk combination.  Other steampunk conventions, such as Steamcon in Seattle, Washington and the Steampunk World’s Fair in Piscataway, New Jersey are popping up everywhere, with the promise of more to come. The Royal Caribbean has begun a steampunk-themed cruise.

Steampunk communities are gathering together and including several other communities such as gothic, Victorian, and Lolita enthusiasts, among others. (Lolita fashion is based on the book of the same name by Vladimir Nabokov. The style is characterized by childish, innocent Victorian fashions.) Proponents argue that steampunk includes all of these elements and should be considered as a super-genre as opposed to a sub-genre.

Making a Steampunk Fashion Statement

The elements that make up steampunk fashion include gears, goggles, mechanical hearts and wings, top hats, compasses, bomber jackets, clocks and cogs, and many other things. There is little nature or natural elements in steampunk, which thrives on machinery and mechanics.

Brown is a primary color used in steampunk as is home-made jewelry with cogs and gears glued on glass or metal. Corsets, Victorian gowns, and lace-up boots, top hats, vests, pocket watches, and old-fashioned trousers are popular choices. Making and DIY are a large part of the movement, so get out your glue gun and scrap metal.

DIY Steampunk

Try gluing cogs and gears on a flat metal disc (bronze or tarnished silver) and glue a cameo in the middle. Glue or otherwise affix the piece onto a brown or black piece of velvet for a home-made choker necklace.

Take a cog and glue metal wings to the piece. Add sapphires (or faux jewels) in a pattern of your choice to the piece. Glue the cog onto a sturdy bobby pin or metal comb for a unique hair piece.

Watch a PBS Video About Steampunk

3D Printed Steampunk Goodies

If you’re new to steampunk, WhiteClouds can get you started with your steampunk collection. If you’re an old hand, add to your collection with our unique pieces.

Browse Steampunk Products