We’ve been noticing an array of elegant old-timeyn-ess on Etsy. It’s hard to put your finger on it exactly—there is such a variety of items on Etsy—but it’s an amalgamation of the Gothic and the Neo-Victorian, the glitter and the grime. When scrolling through the listings on Etsy, certain traits start to speak to us. Sometimes we catch a whiff of something subcultural going on.
Many of you are no doubt saying to yourselves, Duh, STEAMPUNK! Haven’t you heard? But for those of you who didn’t already know, the Etsy Costume Contest is your perfect opportunity to masquerade in the subculture.
Manoela, one of our summer interns, found Bell‘s shop and admired her jewelry made of clock parts. When we noticed she was using the keyword "steampunk," we got curious. We asked Bell what it’s all about.
Steampunk is a small subculture that is just starting to find its place in the world. It is a bit of an offshoot from the neo-Victorian movement, but focusing more on machinery, gears, and gadgets of the emerging industrial revolution. Also a lot of steampunks have a strong interest in the literature of H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and Mary Shelly. Kind of like Cyber-punk but an alternate older reality that runs on steam as its main power source. The electricity wars between Tesla and Edison are also a small part.
I only just recently found out there was a term for my love of the Old World tinkerer aesthetic and since then I have been hunting everywhere for others like me. On Etsy I have found a few items that could be interpreted as steampunk.
Here’s a random list of steampunkish things:
- Pocket watches
- Gears and Cogs
- Wilson safety glasses
- Neo Victorian Dress
- Trains (steam)
- Brass and Copper
- Mad Scientists
- Literature Late 1800’s early 1900’s
- Old fashion style laser guns
- Unusual inventions
There’s another thread that connects steampunk with the DIYers: in order to create such a look, you have to make it yourself. When Etsy went to the Maker Faire in May, we saw many a "mad inventor" type fully immersed in the steampunk aesthetic. And it’s not just the look; it’s also the lifestyle. Steampunk embraces a kind of engineer’s mentality—a tinkerer’s inventiveness. It’s not always manifested through building a brass flying machines powered by a mini steam furnace, it’s also expresses through the detailed and curious clusterings in jewelry and clothing. Steampunk fashion often has weird little doodads and hooks and functioning parts—but always with that anachronistic, Victorian look. Michelle, an Etsy Labs admin, has her eye on the Neo-Victorian trend.
The ultimate Halloween costume would be like the (mythical) ultimate bridesmaid’s dress—something that you’ll want to wear again in your normal life. And while I still haven’t found a use for any of the lilac monstrosities from the Big Box Bridal Shoppe, I could wear these little numbers over and over…
Here’s to a steampunk-inspired Halloween costumes in the Costume Contest!
A great resource for finding out more about steampunk is Brass Goggles.
Wikipedia’s entry on Steampunk.
More steampunk photos on flickr.