What Is Colonial Steampunk Fashion?

Steampunk fashion draws inspiration from the Victorian era, often with a focus on technology, industrialization, and science fiction elements. Colonial steampunk fashion incorporates these steampunk elements while also drawing inspiration from the colonial period in parts of North America, Asia, Africa, and beyond. Colonial steampunk fashion combines Victorian, colonial and steampunk influences to create a unique aesthetic. Here’s an overview of what defines the colonial steampunk fashion genre.

The Victorian Influence

Like other steampunk styles, colonial steampunk fashion takes cues from Victorian fashion. Key elements include:

  • Corsets and bustles for women
  • Tailcoats, vests and top hats for men
  • Lace, ruffles, brooches, gloves and parasols as accessories
  • Earth tone colors like brown, tan, cream, green and burgundy
  • Materials like leather, suede, linen and cotton

The Victorian era lasted from 1837 to 1901. Steampunk often draws from the later decades of this period, when industrialization was in full swing.

The Victorian influence provides an old-world feel with formal silhouettes and fabrics.

The Colonial Influence

Colonial steampunk also incorporates influences from the various colonial eras around the world.

Key elements from colonial fashion include:

  • Safari jackets, jodhpurs, and pith helmets for exploring the colonies
  • Lightweight cotton, linen, and khaki fabrics suitable for warm climates
  • Accessories like maps, compasses, canteens, and hunting rifles
  • Hats and gloves to protect skin from the sun
  • Boots suitable for outdoor terrain
  • A military or naval uniform aesthetic

The colonial influence brings in a sense of adventure and far-off lands. It’s about dressing practically while maintaining style and decorum.

The Steampunk Influence

No steampunk outfit would be complete without some key steampunk elements:

  • Goggles, often rounded or aviator-style
  • Clockwork mechanisms and cogs incorporated into clothing
  • Items made from brass, copper, or bronze
  • Gadgets like pocket watches, magnifying glasses and compasses
  • Belts and straps with buckles
  • Knee-high boots with buckles and gears
  • Aviator-style caps and leather helmets
  • Shoulder epaulettes reminiscent of military uniforms

These details give a nod to speculative and science-fiction elements.

The steampunk influence brings in technology, hardware, and a spirit of invention.

Putting It All Together

By combining these three major influences, colonial steampunk fashion creates a distinctive look.

For women, a colonial steampunk outfit might include:

  • A bustled striped cotton day dress
  • Sturdy leather boots laced up to the knee
  • A leather aviator cap with goggles
  • A tooled leather satchel with brass accents
  • Elbow-length suede gloves
  • A parasol made from lacquered bamboo with a carved handle

For men, key elements could include:

  • Khaki jodhpurs and leather knee-high boots
  • A white linen shirt with a cravat
  • A tan canvas safari jacket with plenty of pockets
  • A pith helmet
  • Leather straps across the chest for holding tools and gadgets
  • Aviator goggles
  • A pocket watch on a long brass chain

With the right mix of fabrics, silhouettes, colors, textures, and details, you can create colonial steampunk ensembles that are rugged yet refined.

The outfit should look like it came straight out of a Jules Verne novel, ready for exploring exotic locales.

DIY and Upcycling

One of the great things about steampunk fashion is that it embraces DIY culture. Many steampunk outfits incorporate upcycled pieces, hardware, and found objects.

For a colonial steampunk look, you can upcycle:

  • Old leather jackets, belts, boots and bags
  • Vintage hats like top hats, bowlers, and pith helmets
  • Brass items like buckles, bells, and trophies
  • Pocket watches, compasses, and goggles
  • Suitcases, maps, canteens, and other luggage

With some creativity, you can give modern items a colonial steampunk twist. For instance, use spray paint and stencils to add designs to a plain top hat or leather satchel.

Sew gears, cogs, or antennae onto jacket lapels. Create jewelry by combining scraps of leather, watch parts, and found objects.

The possibilities are endless!

Accessorizing Your Look

The right accessories can take a basic colonial steampunk outfit to the next level:


  • Necklaces, rings, and cuffs made from hammered brass, copper, or bronze
  • Jewelry incorporating watch parts, gears, or aviation motifs
  • Pocket watch necklaces or chains attached to clothing
  • Carved tribal motifs and natural materials like wood, shell, horn, and stone


  • Round or aviator goggles, either worn or propped on a hat
  • Monocles or magnifying glasses on chains or ribbons
  • Tinted flying or driving goggles to block sunlight


  • Top hats, bowlers, safari helmets or aviator caps
  • Turbans or bandanas for a rugged explorer look
  • Hat goggles, feathers, antennas, or other embellishments


  • Hunting rifles, revolvers, or pirate-style sabers and cutlasses
  • Tool belts for holding gadgets and gizmos
  • Bandoliers with vials of fantastical steampunk concoctions

Other Accessories

  • Pocket watches on long chains
  • Map cases, field journals, and pens for recording discoveries
  • Telescopes, sextants, compasses and spyglasses
  • Steampunk ray guns or fantastical weapons when appropriate
  • Canes, walking sticks, or elaborate parasols

With the right accessories, you can create a complete persona and backstory for your colonial steampunk adventurer.

Consider going full-out steampunk for events in the UK, Europe, or the US.

But you can also incorporate subtle steampunk touches into everyday wear, tea parties, or weddings.

Makeup and Hair

To complement your colonial steampunk outfit, consider:

  • Creating soot smudges as if you’ve been working steampunk machinery
  • Using black or brown liner to get the “goggle effect” around your eyes
  • Applying darker lip and nail polish for a dramatic impact
  • Styling your hair in Victory rolls or elegant updos decorated with cogs
  • Adorning hair with feathers, flowers, lace, gears, or goggles
  • For men, modeling facial hair like mutton chops, waxed mustaches or goatees

Makeup and hair can make your outfit complete. Go bold and inventive to become a true steampunk dandy or dashing rogue.

Variations Around the World

The colonial period had different impacts around the world. There were British, French, Spanish, Dutch, and other colonies across various continents.

So the cultural influences of colonial steampunk fashion can vary greatly.

Some examples include:

  • British colonial: Safari jackets and pith helmets from British colonies like India, Egypt, and Kenya
  • Western: Cowboy and Native American influences from the American West
  • Spanish colonial: Bold patterns and fabrics from Central and South America
  • North African: Middle Eastern silhouettes and textures mixed with European elements
  • Asia: Kimonos, saris, or martial arts uniforms combined with steampunk

Use your imagination to think of other cultural mashups. Borrow elements from Korean hanboks, Indonesian batik, Maori warriors, West African fabrics, and more.

Colonial steampunk fashion embraces influences from cultures that encountered colonization and industrialization.

Inspirational Examples

Need some visual inspiration for colonial steampunk style? Below are just a few examples of how people around the world are rocking this aesthetic:

  • The steam-powered creations of costume designer Jeme, incorporate influences from Asia, Africa, and beyond.
  • Models from the “Van Helsing” photo shoot mixing steampunk and colonial fashion.
  • Designs from the brand Steamgirl, including corsets made in Kampala, Uganda.
  • The imaginative costumes and performances of the musical group Abney Park.
  • DIY upcycles from makers like The Rogue and Wolf, using vintage military pieces.
  • The creations of cosplayer Miss Darling, modeling ornate parasols and gloves.
  • Distinct combinations like gadget-adorned sarees and mixed cultural motifs.

Use these and more as jumping-off points to create your own vision of colonial steampunk style. Make it rugged, make it elegant, make it functional, make it theatrical – the choices are endless!

Incorporating Colonial Steampunk Style Into Everyday Fashion

You don’t have to wear a full steampunk ensemble to incorporate touches of colonial style into everyday outfits. Here are some subtle ways to add steampunk flair:

  • Leather or canvas satchels with brass hardware
  • Safari jackets or vintage military coats
  • Ascots, cravats, and embroidered silk neckties
  • Watch fobs and pocket watches
  • Hats like fedoras, bowlers and newsboy caps
  • Brown, khaki or olive trousers or pencil skirts
  • Lace-up boots with buckles
  • Leather tool belts or holsters
  • Scarves in paisley or ethnic patterns
  • Jewelry made from carved horn or wood
  • Compass, map or aviator cufflinks or rings

Mix one or two statement pieces into casual outfits or business attire. With the right details, you can feel like a globe-trotting adventurer, even if you’re just commuting to work!

Events and Places to Flaunt Your Style

Once you’ve put together the perfect colonial steampunk outfit, you’ll want to show it off! Some events where you can strut your stuff include:

  • Steampunk conventions: Major events like The Steampunk World’s Fair attract fellow fans to admire your creative look. More local gatherings happen nationwide.
  • Renaissance faires: The old-timey atmosphere is perfect for steampunk styles. Just avoid very modern-looking gadgets.
  • Cosplay gatherings: Show off your costume at steampunk meetups and cosplay conventions.
  • Music festivals: Outdoor festivals like Burning Man welcome wildly imaginative fashion.
  • Tea parties: A steampunk tea party offers a relaxed chance to dress up with friends.
  • Photoshoots: Pose for portraits in your steampunk finery at locations like old train stations, factories, beaches or the woods. Check out steampunk photoshoot locations.
  • Halloween: Trick-or-treat in steampunk style or wear it to a costume party.

Don your best colonial steampunk outfit at events where you’ll fit right in with the spirit of adventure and imagination.

Creating Character and Persona

One of the most creative aspects of steampunk fashion is using your look to develop a persona. Your outfit tells a story – what adventures has your character been on? Consider details like:

  • Backstory for your alter ego
  • A name that fits the colonial steampunk aesthetic (see creative steampunk names)
  • Appropriate skills like inventing, piloting an airship, or collecting artifacts
  • A mode of transportation like a hot air balloon or personal velocipede
  • Goals your character wants to achieve
  • Allies, enemies, or a nemesis
  • Possessions that support the story like maps, journals, tools and weapons

Have fun dreaming up the tale behind your colonial steampunk look. Share your character’s exploits with others who will appreciate the creativity.

Blurring Boundaries – Punk, Goth and Other Genres

Steampunk fashion overlaps and intersects with many other aesthetics. You can blend your colonial steampunk style with:

  • Goth: Create “steamgoth” by mixing in black lace, leather and dramatic makeup. Refer to elements from the steampunk vs gothic comparison.
  • Punk: Add a rebellious spirit with ripped fabrics, spikes and offbeat DIY elements. Various punk aesthetics can provide inspiration.
  • Fantasy: Incorporate mythical elements like dragons, fairies or magical symbols. Refer to the steampunk vs fantasy distinction.
  • Science fiction: Expand beyond history to include futuristic innovations and technologies for an anachronistic flair.
  • Military or naval: Emphasize the adventuring soldier or sailor aspect with uniforms, medals and regimental details.
  • Western: Add cowboy hats, leather chaps, Native American motifs and more for a Wild West vibe. Consider the relationship between steampunk and the Wild West.

The most creative outfits borrow elements from different aesthetics. Make colonial steampunk style your own with personalized touches.

Wrapping Up: What Is Colonial Steampunk Fashion?

Colonial steampunk fashion combines influences from the Victorian era, the colonial period, and the steampunk genre to create striking looks. Key aspects include formal silhouettes, adventuring gear, industrial flair, DIY spirit, and cultural mashups.

With the right mix of fabrics, accessories, props, and backstory, you can craft an outfit that transports you to past eras and imagined realities. Embrace your inner explorer, engineer, soldier or adventurer!

Let your creativity run wild.

What will your colonial steampunk style say about the tales you long to tell? There are infinite possibilities, limited only by your imagination. Chart your own course, and see where the journey takes you!

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