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Goth Steampunk

goth steampunk

A Guide to the Darkly Elegant Aesthetic

Steampunk, a subgenre of science fiction inspired by 19th century industrial steam-powered machinery, has exploded in popularity in recent years. Characterized by brass, gears, airships, goggles, and corsets, steampunk revels in neo-Victorian fashion, technology, and aesthetics. The steampunk subculture and art movement features a unique retro-futuristic style that merges science fiction with alternate history.

A darker offshoot of steampunk has emerged that incorporates gothic elements: goth steampunk. Blending romantic steampunk with moody gothic influences, goth steampunk creates a distinctive eerie, mysterious, and morbidly beautiful aesthetic. This guide will explore the history, fashion, makeup, home decor, and pop culture around goth steampunk style.

Origins and History

Steampunk traces its origins back to the 1980s and 1990s in science fiction novels by pioneers like K.W. Jeter, Tim Powers, and James Blaylock. The term ā€œsteampunkā€ was coined by Jeter as a reference to the techno-fantasies within cyberpunk fiction, but driven by steam rather than cybernetic technology.

As steampunk grew into its own artistic and literary genre, do-it-yourself craftsmen began building steampunk inventions, costumes, and decor. Steam-powered vehicles, goggles, airship models, and Victorian-inspired fashions defined the early steampunk aesthetic.

Goth culture emerged in the late 1970s post-punk and deathrock music scenes, defined by darker moods, morbidness, and introspection. Gothic rock bands like The Cure, Bauhaus, and Siouxsie and the Banshees made black clothing, vampiric makeup, and melancholy cool.

Inevitably, these two subcultures overlapped. The goth interest in the macabre and romantic artistry blended with steampunkā€™s darker neo-Victorian influences. Voila: goth steampunk was born.

goth steampunk

Characteristics of Goth Steampunk Style

Goth steampunk style combines the Victorian elegance of steampunk with the dark mystique of gothic aesthetics. Here are some key features of the goth steampunk aesthetic:

  • Black and red color palette – The dominant colors reflect gothic sensibilities, accented by the polished brass of steampunk. Black clothing, dark red lipstick, blackened wood, and brass gears and accents create moody contrast.
  • Victorian-inspired gothic architecture and decor – Goth steampunk interiors feature Baroque-style chandeliers, candelabras, clawfoot tubs, ornate picture frames, taxidermy, moody landscape paintings, and old-world globes and maps.
  • Macabre influences – Visual references to the gothic include ravens, bats, full moons, vampires, cemetery statues, Ouija boards, tarot cards, potion bottles, and secret passageways. Gothic horror touches add mystery.
  • Steampunk technology with romantic influences – Airships, clocks, goggles, time machines, gears, leather journals, gramophones, monocles, telescopes, skeleton keys, and anatomist curiosities call back to the neo-Victorian science fiction side of the aesthetic.
  • Patinated metals – Tarnished and distressed brass, copper, bronze, and gold add an antiqued elegance. Clocks, weaponry, jewelry, and scientific gadgets often incorporate metal accents.
  • Leather, lace, velvet, brocade – Dark romantically-styled fabrics like crushed velvet, leather, silks, and heavy brocades reference decadent Victorian Gothic. Lace adds feminine allure.
  • Androgynous gender expression – Gothic steampunk fashion plays with Victorian gender roles. Men often wear corsets, heeled boots, lace, velvet coats, and ascots. Women sometimes adopt masculine accessories like top hats, waistcoats, and military jackets.
  • Mystical, melancholic mood – The overall vibe is darkly theatrical, sensual, and introspective. Goth steampunk visuals tell tales of mystery, madness, isolation, science gone wrong, and doomed romance.
goth steampunk inspired

Goth Steampunk Fashion and Accessories

Clothing and accessories are a huge part of expressing goth steampunk style. Here are some of the key elements of gothic steampunk fashion:

  • Corsets – These Victorian undergarments become sexy outerwear. Corsets cinch waists and add femme fatale allure. They can be worn over billowy gothic blouses, vests, or coat dresses.
  • Tailcoats, frock coats, and greatcoats – Gothic overcoats reference 1800s menswear. Coattails and high collars add drama. Materials like wool, tweed, velvet, and leather convey luxury.
  • Vest waistcoats – Ornate brocade, silk, or leather vests add aristocratic detail when paired with blouses, corsets, or frock coats. Bold silk ascots finish the formal Victorian vibe.
  • Ruffled lace or brocade blouses – Blouses with puff sleeves, jabots, or cravats nod to 1800s silhouettes. Blood-red, black, merlot, and plum or inky blue colors keep it moody.
  • Kilts and tartans – Kilts, military uniforms, and tartan plaids add a touch of Byronic flair.
  • Top hats and mini top hats – These striking Victorian accessories amplify the dramatics. Mini top hats perched on updos add femme mystique.
  • Goggles – Gogglesnod to the retrofuturism and inventiveness of steampunk. They come in old-fashioned aviator,welding, and scuba styles.
  • Weaponry – Gothic steampunk outfits incorporate items like sheaths, holsters, and belt scabbards that lend a swashbuckling vibe, often adorned with cogs, chains, and studs.
  • Clocks – Pocket watches, necklaces,and belt buckles shaped like clocks play up the time travel fascination of steampunk.
  • Jewelry – Jewelry has patinated or rusted metals, watch parts, cameos, insect/animal motifs, and dark stones like jet, garnet, and onyx. Layered necklaces, charms, lockets, and stacked rings add mystique.
  • Heeled leather boots – Both mens and womens footwear favors stacked heels, harnesses, buckles, and distressed leather. Boots range from midi to over-the-knee.
  • Fishnet tights – Pair with skirts, shorts, or mini dresses for a modern goth look.
  • Velvet coats – Dark jewel-toned velvet adds allure when done in long frock coat or short jacket cuts for 18th century elegance.
  • Studs, spikes, chains – Edgy punk hardware amps up the drama of goth steampunk accessories and clothing. Chokers, cuffs, and belt buckles shine in worn finishes.
  • Leather bags – Structured satchels, messenger bags, and purses crafted from aged leather suit the aesthetic.
  • Parasols and lace fans – Accessorize with delicate umbrellas and hand fans for a lady-like gothic vibe.

Goth Steampunk Makeup and Hair

The right beauty look pulls together a goth steampunk outfit. Hereā€™s how to get the makeup and hair just right:

  • Dark, dramatic lips – Deep red, plum, burgundy, black, and brick lipsticks and glosses pair perfectly with pale complexions. Go for matte, high-pigment formulas or add pops of metallic sheen.
  • Smokey eyes – Shadow a mix of dark greys, purples, greens and bronzes around eyes. Use kohl liner to create a sultry, smudgy effect. Focus the intensity at top and outer corners of eyes. Skip lower liner for wide-eyed allure.
  • Strong brows – Frame smoldering eyes with bold, natural-looking brows. Brush brows up and out, filling and defining the shape with brow pomade.
  • Porcelain skin – Go light on the base makeup for a pale, flawless complexion. Spot conceal only where needed. Sweep a sheer powder across the T-zone to set.
  • Accentuate bone structure – Sculpt sharp cheekbones with a cool-toned contour powder in hollows of cheeks. Dust a true red blush on the apples of cheeks for a doll-like flush.
  • Highlight collarbones and dĆ©colletage – Brush luminizer along cheekbones, down the nose, and above brows. Glide highlighter over collarbones and shoulder tops to accentuate these sensual areas.
  • Oxblood nails – Paint fingers and toes in deep bloodred or burgundy nail polish. Go for an edgy pointed shape.
  • Tattoos – Body art like shoulder cameo portraits, birds, botanicals, insects, anchors, knives, garters, and gothic lettering complement the darker steampunk aesthetic. Place strategically to be visible.
  • Victory rolls – Sculpt hair into voluminous pin curls or high-domed rolls for retro allure. Create exaggerated finger waves to one side. Accessorize with feathers, veils, and birdcage fascinators.
  • Braids and updos – Intricate braided chignons lavished with ribbons and jeweled pins exude Victorian elegance with a morbid twist. Wear hair parted deeply to the side.
  • Wispy bangs – Airy, face-framing bangs and tendrils soften harsh lines for feminine mystique.

Home DĆ©cor in Goth Steampunk Style

To make over your home or event space in gothic steampunk style:

  • Incorporate antiqued woods – Furniture, flooring, and millwork in oak, walnut, and mahogany stained darker for an aged, gothic effect. Scuff and distress new pieces for character.
  • Use baroque frames – Ornate gold frames surround moody romantic art prints and creepy specimens behind glass. Group in galleried salon style.
  • Light darkly – Black candelabras, aged lamps with draped silks, and darkly-stained table lanterns set a macabre mood. Accent with flames, dimmers, and Edison bulbs.
  • Display oddities – Alligator skulls, butterflies under glass, anatomical drawings, celestial maps and globes, insects pinned in shadowboxes, and preserved plants and animals create peculiar arrangements.
  • Add ornate mirrors – Floor mirrors, dressing mirrors mounted to fireplaces, and leaning cheval mirrors give depth and reflect candlelight beautifully. Frame with baroque gold finishes.
  • Use gothic wallpapers – Flock-printed kois, birds of paradise, palms, espalier trees, flowers and vines set a moody botanical backdrop when papering accent walls or inside cabinetry.
  • Incorporate steamer trunks – Use vintage steamer trunks as rustic coffee tables or stack as end tables. Soft velvets and leather finishes suit the aesthetic.
  • Display bell jars – Glass bell jars showcase odd natural specimens like snakes, sand dollars, peeled bark, antlers, and bones floating in tinted water or glycerin.
  • Throw decadent textiles – Velvet table runners, bedspreads, canopies and window treatments contrast beautifully with distressed woods. Fringe and tassels amp up ornate shapes.
goth steampunk movies

Goth Steampunk Movies and Books

From film to fiction, here are some key goth steampunk movies and books to dive into:

Movies:

  • The Brothers Grimm (2005) – Two con-artist brothers hunt supernatural beings for wealthy patrons in this fantastical, fright-filled period film.
  • Sleepy Hollow (1999)- Tim Burton’s gothic retelling of the headless horseman legend starring Johnny Depp oozes creepy steampunk vibes.
  • Sweeney Todd (2007) – The Demon Barber of Fleet Street haunts 1800s London, slitting throats in this darkly comedic musical.
  • Van Helsing (2004) – Set in the late 1800s, this monster mash pits vampire hunter Van Helsing against Count Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster.
  • The Prestige (2006) – Feuding magicians in Victorian England seek the ultimate illusion, marked by gothic twists and steam-driven contraptions.
  • The City of Lost Children (1995) – This surreal French steampunk fantasy evokes a gloomy, dreamlike world.
  • Interview With the Vampire (1994)- An 18th century aristocratic vampire turns a plantation heir, binding them eternally in gothic immortality.

Books:

  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) – Robert Louis Stevenson’s slim gothic masterpiece tackles the duality of man’s nature through science gone wrong.
  • Dracula (1897) – Bram Stoker defined modern vampire lore in this dark epistolary novel with lingering gothic atmosphere.
  • Frankenstein (1818) – Mary Shelley pioneered scifi horror with her ghastly tale of experimental reanimation. Very influential for steampunk creators.
  • The Night Circus (2011) – Magic and romance converge after-hours in a mysterious Victorian circus in this lyrical fantasy.
  • The Anubis Gates (1983) – Considered one of the early seminal steampunk novels, this time travel tale features ancient Egyptian sorcery and vivid world building.
  • The Historian (2005) – A historian’s daughter uncovers the truth behind the Dracula legend, spanning centuries and continents in parallel narratives.
  • The Difference Engine (1990) – Co-written by William Gibson, this alternative history novel envisions Victorian London ruled by advanced steam-powered computing.

Goth Steampunk in Pop Culture

Beyond books and film, goth steampunk influences extend into other pop culture mediums:

  • Music – Gothic steampunk bands add a darker edge to the steam-powered aesthetic. Check out Abney Park, Vernian Process, The Cog is Dead, Valentine Wolfe, Ghostfire, and Unextraordinary Gentlemen.
  • Fashion designers – Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, and Vivienne Westwood interpret 18th and 19th century gothic silhouettes through modern dramatic sensibilities.
  • Video games – The metal-limbed characters, neo-Victorian cities, and mystical technologies seen in games like Thief, Dishonored, and BioShock Infinite reflect gothic steampunk style.
  • Television – Shows like Penny Dreadful reimagine Victorian monster myths in a sinister gothic light. Warehouse 13’s paranormal artifacts stem from steampunk science.
  • Comic books – Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentleman assembles famous fictional antiheroes from Victorian literature to save an alternate England.
  • Maker/hacker culture – Gothic steampunk’s handcrafted ethos has inspired an underground community of tinkerers who build elaborate costumes, mechanized curiosities, and DIY home decor using salvaged materials.
  • Events – Sci-fi and comic conventions like San Diego Comic Con and Dragon Con often feature gothic steampunk themes. Attendees dress up and shops sell related art, jewelry, cosplay accessories, housewares, and more.
goth steampunk fashion

Embracing the Mystique of Goth Steampunk

More than just a fashion statement, goth steampunk represents an entire moody, romantic aesthetic that celebrates the mystery of the past, the possibilities of the future, and the beauty in macabre curiosities. Darkly theatrical, quietly melancholic, richly detailed – gothic steampunk’s dramatic self-expression empowers people to invent imaginative new identities and explore extravagant alternative realities. If you feel drawn to Ouija boards and underworlds, airships and inventors’ workshops, ravens and top hats, then goth steampunk offers an immersive creative escape.

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