Review: Anatomy of Steampunk The Fashion of Victorian Futurism

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“The tyranny of the body type is o’erthrown, something that my way cooler and hipper wife pointed out to me. Whereas Cosplay 1.0, happily percolating and gestating away in it’s Asian Urgrund, was predicated on its practitioners being insanely cute, five-foot-nothing, ninety-five-pound Japanese teenage girls, working out their manga fixations in some public park in Tokyo, steampunk lays down no such strictures. Everybody looks good in it.” K. W. Jeter

Taken from the foreword to Anatomy of Steampunk, the quote above is perhaps one of the best. While other fashions and cosplay outfits feel restricted by age, size and gender, Steampunk is accessible to everyone. This is its beauty, that anyone can give it a go without worrying if they’re young enough or slim enough.

The Steampunk community has only been growing bigger over the last few years and much of the evidence is in this incredible book. “Anatomy of Steampunk The Fashion of Victorian Futurism” (if you feel like saying the full title) is an expansive anthology that covers the wide range of fashions within Steampunk. The fact is even if you thought you’d seen a lot of different varieties of Steampunk clothing, this book is out to prove that you ain’t seen it all.

The first thing you’ll want to do once the book is in hand is to slowly flick through the pages and gaze in wonder at the treasures within. Gorgeous photos decorate every page and with the added designs it makes the book something you will just want to have in your hands. Sadly there are a few photos that just aren’t up to scratch. One or two are slightly out of focus or of a poor quality when compared to the professional standards of the rest. There are only a handful like this out of the hundreds of perfect ones so it shouldn’t ruin your enjoyment.

anatomy-steampunk-coverFor a cosplayer, Steampunk or not, this book is a treasure trove of ideas. A quick glance will flood your mind with ideas for your next comic con outfit. A full read through will have you set for a lifetime. Starting with “Fine and Formal” and ending in “Street Style” there’s an interesting journey to go through.

Some of the best designs are those that you would never have expected. While Steampunk is usually Victorian English, you can find examples like the Chinese-inspired green dress. Designer Jeannette Ng has even coined the phrase “Ricepunk” to describe her special style. Elsewhere there are Japanese influences that result in some cute dresses.

Anatomy of Steampunk displays a wide range of designers, musicians and performance troupes. There are even special appearances from actors like Felicia Day. The stories that accompany their photos are an interesting insight in to what they do and what they enjoy. But what is especially prevalent is the attitude that generally accompanies the people that love this genre. It’s usually one of confidence and fun.

Dotted throughout the book are various tutorials on making your own Steampunk accessories (because it’s all about the accessories). There are ten in total, two for each section of the book. Some are harder than others but nothing too difficult, so they should be an excellent starting point for anyone wanting to get in to cosplay or Steampunk. And of course you’re suggested to mix it up and come up with your own ideas.

If this book proves anything it’s that Steampunk is a genre that can break its own rules and there lies its brilliance. Anyone can take it and make it their own. Katherine Gleason has managed an impressive feat with Anatomy of Steampunk bringing all of that variety together.

So should you buy it? If you’re a Steampunk fan then you need to see this book. If you’re a cosplayer you need to see this book, and if you’re in to fashion then you need to see this book. Because in the words of Steampunk icon Diana M. Pho, “Anyone can become a fashion icon.”

Anatomy of Steampunk is available now and if you’re reading this before the 4th November you could try your luck at winning a copy! If you’re interested in reading more on the Steampunk genre, check out our article on Lantern City, and for a taste of Steampunk fiction take a look at Steampunk! An Anthology.

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