Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Steampunk Fashion Guide: Skirts & Dresses

Steampunk fashion draws heavily on the Victorian era. In this period of British women's fashion, the hourglass was the most sought after silhouette. Tight corsets created a tiny waist, while exaggerating the bust and hips. Corsets (worn under fitted bodices) remained a constant throughout the Victorian era, but skirt styles changed drastically over this time. In the beginning, the hips were exaggerated through full skirts that created a bell shape. By the end of the era, the natural hips were emphasized with skirts fitted so tightly down to the knee that they literally hobbled the wearer.

Here's a brief explanation of the evolving skirt styles during the Victorian period:

  • 1830s - Women wore long full skirts with layers of horsehair petticoats to create a bell shape
  • 1840s - Skirts lengthened and widened due to the invention of the horsehair crinoline. Ruffles, flounces and other decorative accents gained popularity.
  • 1850s - Skirts widened and expanded with the invention of cage crinoline, a large hoop structure that eliminated the need for layers of petticoats. Ruffles and flounce remained in fashion.
  • 1860s - Crinolines flattened in front and expanded in back as long trains become popular. The bustle became the ideal way to create the same silhouette.
  • 1870s - The tournure (a cage bustle worn at the back of the skirt) and draped overskirts created an exaggerated rear, resulting in the "big butt" trend of the Victorian era (what women resorted to before fat injections and butt implants were invented).
  • 1880s - As women started living more active lifestyles, large bustles and draped skirts began falling out of fashion.
  • 1890s - Bustles and petticoats were ditched altogether. Skirts flared out naturally from the waist. Toward the end of the decade, they tightened around the hips and flared out mid-thigh.
  • 1900s - Skirts eventually narrowed and tightened all the way down to the knee before flaring out.

All of these Victorian skirt styles and their modern, sexier incarnations provide women with a wide variety of skirt and dress shapes to choose from.

Learn more about the skirt and dress styles commonly worn in Steampunk fashion:

Guide to Steampunk Bell skirts, based on victorian era bell skirts and dresses BELL SKIRT (1830-1870)

This steampunk style skirt called the tiered skirt, ruffle skirt or flounce skirt is based on victorian era ruffled petticoats
CAGE SKIRT (1860s)
 BUSTLE SKIRT (1860-1890)

The high low hem skirt (or mullet dress or hi lo skirt) is popular in women's steampunk fashion, dervied from victorian era overdresses that were short in the front to show off layers of ruffled petticoats

The trumpet skirt is a popular silhouette in steampunk fashion, based on victorian era hourglass silhouettes
TRUMPET SKIRT (1890-1900)

The Steampunk showgirl skirt is popular with steampunk burlesque dancers and cabaret dancers. It's based on a victorian era french cabaret skirt style.
   SHOWGIRL SKIRT (1890-1900s)

This Steampunk dress/skirt shape is from Victorian era fashion when skirts fitted tightly and flared below the knee.


In Part 1 of the Guide, everything you ever wanted to know about corsets. Underbust, overbust, longline and waspies--how Victorian era corsets have influenced Steampunk Fashion: Corsets

Learn how to recreate popular Steampunk costumes: Tutorials

Browse our carefully curated photo gallery of beautiful Steampunk cosplayers: Fashion Inspiration

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