This relatively new subculture is known as steampunk. And the first-year festival is one of many that have popped up across the country, and in Europe, in the last few years.
In a sense, steampunk is about reenacting a time that never existed, a game of "what if" in the Gilded Age. Festivalgoers imagined themselves as characters who traveled through time or piloted steam-powered airships. They stayed true more to an idea than to an era.
Charlie Mahoney wore brass goggles with a cowboy hat and long duster. In short, he was a character out of the Wild West in an alternative version of this nation's Industrial Revolution.
"Nothing has to be perfect," said Mahoney, 31, a registered nurse from Wilmington.
The event, which attracted a couple of hundred people by early afternoon, included role-playing games, fascinator/boutonniere making workshops, and leather-working 101. It also was a celebration of a time before the planned obsolescence of computers and phones, when products lasted a long time.
Vendors sold old-time clocks, various metal gears, and skeleton keys.
"Steampunk is very much a maker's culture," said festivalgoer Sarah Beetham, 29, a doctoral candidate in art history from Wilmington. "We're embracing a time of wood and metal and lace."
Steampunk festivals have attracted vendors from renaissance festivals, pirate events, and Civil War reenactments - many of whom sell similar wares from the 19th century, such as leather corsets.
But Willeford, who is based in Harrisburg and who has written books on steampunk, said vendors were simply going where the money is. The genres are not the same.
"This is new and fresh," he said.
The three-day festival, which is at the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel in King of Prussia, continues through Sunday afternoon. For more information, visit www.gildedfestival.com.