Worried about zippers in your Steampunk wardrobe? Never fear. They've been around in some form or another since the end of the 19th century.
Elias Howe patented an “automatic continuous clothing closure” on Nov. 25, 1851 (patent #8450), but he was so caught up with his other inventions (hello sewing machine!) that it wasn’t ever fully developed.
Whitcomb Judson patented the “clasp locker,” a shoe fastener on August 29th, 1893.
He tried to market it with his company Universal Fastener Company, with business partner Colonel Lewis Walker, at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, but met with little interest. It was expensive to make, and didn’t perform that well – it developed a reputation for tearing fabric and popping open.
Gideon Sundback, an employee of the Universal Fastener Company, patented the “hookless fastener” in 1913, and the improved “separable fastener” on March 20, 1917, the zipper which we are familiar with today.
The name “zipper” was coined by the B.F. Goodrich Co. in 1925, when they began using them in their galoshes. They tried to trademark the word zipper, but were only allowed to trademark “Zipper Boots.” “Zipper” was determined to be a common noun, and too much in common usage.
They first became used in clothing in the 1930s, first in children’s clothing, and then in pants.
Since 1934, Yoshida Kogyo Kabushikikaisha (Yoshida Industries Limited) has been the leading producer of zippers, and also the machines that make zippers. They're estimated to make over 90% of the world's zippers today! That’s why so many zippers have the initials “YKK” on them.
So zip away! As the years progressed, even though clothing styles in a Steampunk world may have not changed much, the ease of clothing yourself would have, I'm sure, let the zipper find its way into many a wardrobe.