The steampunk philosophy is additionally indicative of the lifestyle. Like steampunk itself, the philosophy is also difficult to define. Dara Fogel, who has a PhD in philosophy, says in her article, “The Philosophy and Spirituality of Steampunk” that it is, “unrepentantly optimistic, intentionally calling upon the past for the inspiration to build a better future, free ourselves of limiting inequities, and to make a place where each individual is empowered to explore their own creativity” (10). The optimistic view of the future that Fogel speaks of evidences how steampunk contrasts with the dystopian themes that have become popular in many modern science fiction novels. Steampunk has been criticized, according to Fogel, for “cherry-picking” the Victorian era by “selecting only the parts [they] like, and ignoring the rest” (8). However, many steampunks would argue that they are not pretending like the social injustices of the time never happened; rather, they take inspiration from certain aspects, such as fashion, and use it to create the unique blend of Victorian and science fiction that characterizes them as a subgenre.
The use of the word “punk” in steampunk should also be taken into consideration. It “infuses a healthy dose of anti-authoritarianism, eschewing rigid definitions and limitations imposed by culture” (Fogel). Steampunk is the antithesis of the mass-producing, materialist society that some would say America is. The blend of certain Victorian themes and fashion with steam technology taking place in modern America certainly does eschew limitations imposed by culture, as Fogel says. Those limitations can include standard fashion, novels, music, and the mass-produced nature of many items. Steampunk prefers uniqueness inspired by creativity. Costumes and casual wear with steampunk infusions are oftentimes handmade. If not, sometimes a person will take an item and remake it into something that reflects their own personality. This may include more than just clothing; clocks, phones, and jewelry are just a sampling of items commonly remodeled with steampunk characteristics.
Steampunk fashion is indicative of the Victorian era—corsets, parasols, vests, and decorative hats—with a twist. Quirky watches or goggles add to the technological aspect of steampunk. Earth tones are commonly seen. It is at steampunk events such as steampunk conventions, tea parties, or time-traveling balls where people can wear elaborate costumes. They can be homemade, purchased, or, more likely, a combination of the two. Vintage clothing stores are certainly a common site for finding pieces fit for a steampunk costume. There are also patterns available for people to sew their own ensembles. As steampunk has grown in popularity, there is also a new outlet for people to find steampunk clothing-designer stores. Brands and designers such as Alexander McQueen, Prada, and even Ralph Lauren, to name a few, are embracing the steampunk look.