The definition of steampunk can be vastly different depending on the person asked. In an article for The New York Times, Ruth La Ferla generously offered references to vaudeville (1880s-1920s), the Victorian era (1837-1901), the Gothic era (1150-1500) and the Edwardian era (1901-1910) to try and encapsulate the look and fashion of the steampunk culture.
Many followers of this science fiction subgenre worship the images of aviator goggles, pocket watches, dirigibles, steam locomotives and machinery, and gears beyond counting. Jeff Vandermeer and S.J. Chambers even created a mathematical equation for steampunk in their book “The Steampunk Bible.”
Steampunk usually encompasses adventure, mad scientists, alternative history, rebellion (the “punk”), industrial revolution, retro-futuristic elements and according to Vandermeer and Chambers “progressive or reactionary politics.”
I was only able to crystallize a concept of steampunk in my mind after I saw numerous photographs of costumes, film stills and artwork.
Steampunk is an extremely personalized culture and there are no set guidelines.