“The Devil’s Cloth” – Stripes In Steampunk

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Steampunk style–what is it?

As tempting as it is to begin my residency here at SPWS as fashion reporter with a verbose and pretentious tirade about style philosophy, I believe my audience is likely informed and intelligent enough to already know enough about the genre to grok the basics.

Let me make this quick so we're all on the same page: I will address steampunk fashion as a style of dress that has nostalgic elements lifted from the 19th century (and other time periods, not limited to the past) married to speculative nods toward the fantastic, cheeky, or romantic. I think we can all [mostly] agree on this vasty description.

So, with that out of the way, let's talk nuances. Let's talk about one of my favorite style motifs, one that belongs equally well to the mainstream as well to a plethora of subcultures: STRIPES. There are entire books on the pattern, including a fantastic read by Michel Pastoureau called The Devil's Cloth: A History of Stripes. Pastoureau considers the stripe as an optical illusion of sorts that "clarifies and obscures the view, disturbs the mind, confuses the senses". Marvelous!

Striped clothing has a long and sordid past, trending as far back as the Middle Ages as the reviled dress of outcasts, prisoners, prostitutes, ruffians, and deviant sorts. You know–punks.  The motif was even reclaimed as a symbol of rebellion during the French Revolution. However, Kristin Young of Luxist.com says "Over time, disgust with stripes became fascination. Fascination became exotic. And exotic became sought after."

Seek after stripey clothing for your own steampunk wardrobe–it's period correct for Victoriana enthousiasts and nods at the goth/punk cultures of the 1970s and 80s, and is edgy but still trendy. Vertical stripes tend to lengthen the body; horizontal stripes add curves. Pinstriped trousers slim and dress up an outfit; wide horizontal striped knee-high socks with garters are sexy for shapely calves. Striped stockings in brilliant colors are a fantastic way to brighten a sepia-toned ensemble, or take a brightly-colored petticoat down a notch with tea-stained white and black striped tights. Mismatch your stripes and wear them layered and tattered for extra texture.

Here are a few suggestions for adding stripes to your closet:

Poplin Woven Shirt – Brown Stripe
Target  |  $19.99-21.99

Heartworks Steampunk Striped Red T-Shirt
VooDooBunny by Liz Spain  |  $20.00

Dark Brown Knees
Sock Dreams  |  $6.00

Striped Suspender Clip Sock Garters
Sock Dreams  |  $18.00

Grey Striped Jersey Rattie Tattie Bustle Skirt
Kathleen Crowley  |  $110.00

Russian Navy Sailor Summer Striped Shirt -Telnyashka
The St. Petersburger  |  $21.00

Thank you!