Fashion is part of the appeal of steampunk for me. I love seeing cosplayers at conventions and am fascinated by the styles of the Victorian Era. Not gonna lie–the main reason I set The Ghost Machine in the 1880s is because I like the style of the dresses in that era with the bustle in the back.
There are lots of different types of steampunk fashion, but this article isn’t a costuming guide. I want to spotlight some steampunk book covers that have their heroines looking particularly fierce and fabulous. So let’s take a look at the leading ladies of steampunk and what they wear on their adventures.
The Devious Dr. Jekyll by Viola Carr
I love the double rows of buttons running of the bodice of this dress. The square neckline with the high collar in the back looks great, too, and really showcases the pearl necklace. Though the best part is her pair of glasses and the look on her face that says she’d happily beat someone with whatever it is she’s holding. (A cane? A sword? Not sure, but it looks dangerous.)
Gunpowder Alchemy by Jeannie Lin
Fashion is all about having the right accessories, and that knife-edged fan the heroine is holding is killer in both the figurative and literal sense. The red dress is lovely, too, with its gold embellishment, and this is just a beautiful cover all around. I’m not sure which I prefer, this dress, or the outfit worn on the cover of the sequel…
Clockwork Samurai by Jeannie Lin
You can’t go wrong with an all-black assassin look. Her shoulder guard looks awesome, and it’s a shame the front of her armor isn’t visible from this side-view. If you look closely, I think she’s wearing a spiked choker, which my inner 90s punk loves. All-around, this outfit screams “I can and will kick your ass.”
My Lady Quicksilver by Ben McMaster
Speaking of kicking ass, the heroine on the cover of My Lady Quicksilver looks absolutely fierce. Are swords the best fashion accessory or what? The dress is such a rich, deep shade of blue, and the glimpse of her stocking and garter belt is super sexy. The sleeves, necklace, and goggles are also nice touches.
Wolves and Daggers by Melanie Karsak
Check out the armor on this heroine. You can’t see all of it because of the angle, but I love the slight ornamentation on what’s visible. And the crimson cloak is the highlight of the look. I’ve seen different takes on the concept of “Steampunk Red Riding Hood” in art and think this is one of the best.
Gossamer Wing by Delphine Dryden
Not everyone can pull off an all-white ensemble, but the heroine on this cover totally rocks it. The aqua scarf and aviator cap add a nice splash of color, as does the brown corset and belt. I just hope the pristine white clothing doesn’t get dirty on her airship adventure.
A Trace of Copper by Anne Renwick
I wish more of this outfit was visible. The brown leather bodice looks awesome with all its buckles, and there are all those cool keys danging from her belt. I love the pattern on the sleeves, and there’s a hint of a nice design on her skirt, though it’s a bit obscured.
The Dancer Wore Opera Rose by Shelly Adina
The rosy pink skirt with all its ruffles is gorgeous, and it ends at just the right length to show off her sturdy leather boots. The corset and white blouse are a classic steampunk look, and it’s all complimented by the differing shades of pink in that pretty watercolor background.
And I’ll stop myself here before this list becomes twenty covers long. What’s your favorite steampunk look? Who do you think are the best-dressed heroines in steampunk fiction? Let me know in the comments!