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Steampunk Basics: Costuming Made Easy

You Can Create a Steampunk Costume

Steampunk, also known as Victorian science fiction, has exploded in popularity in the past few years. If you haven't heard of it yet, I guarantee you will. It's been in the papers and in articles—there was even an episode of Castle. I run a convention called Steamcon in the Seattle area that's dedicated to steampunk, and I educate people about it, so I do a lot of dressing up. To some folks, the dressing up is the best part. So whether you are just looking for some quick ideas for a Halloween costume, or you want to dress up for a convention or event, I have come up with a few tips and tricks to get you started.

The Base

The main portion of your outfit will be the Victorian or Edwardian clothing. You need to decide whether you are high class or not. For upper class, you will want fancier clothing. Suit coats for men and dresses for ladies. It's easier to portray lower or middle class generally, so let's stick to that. I often find good base-clothing at thrift stores. A high collared shirt, fitted jackets, or vests are good for both men and women. A long skirt, bloomers, or even pants for the women, depending on the look you are going for.

A Few Good Online Merchants

If you are having trouble finding what you need in a thrift store, these online merchants are an invaluable resource.

The Hat

Any good Victorian would be wearing a hat generally—men especially. You can choose not to, but it will make your costume less readily recognizable. Top hats, bowlers, pith helmets, boaters, or flight helmets all work well. Any period chapeau will really "cap" off your look.

I have seen some outfits that were completed by having a spectacular hat. My favorite hat is my mini pith helmet. You can go and buy a hat from a Halloween shop and then spray paint it, glue things on to it and really make it unique. Be creative. Have fun!

Finding Hats

I recommend seeking out your local haberdashery and getting a decent hat, but you can also find some good ones online. If this is for a one time costume, you can go to your local Halloween store.

Goggles

The most iconic piece of equipment on a steampunk costume is the goggles. Be aware, there are lots of goggles out there, but most aren't the right period or look. Swim goggles, and ski goggles are right out. Also single lensed goggles look wrong. You want cup type welding goggles generally speaking. You can get them from various sources, even costume stores. If you want to get crafty, you can buy a basic pair from a welding supply store and customize them. You will want to paint them, because plastic is too modern. I recommend Krylon Fusion spray paint for the base coat at least. Add metal bits to them and generally make them your own. Again, be creative! It's what steampunk is all about.

Buying Goggles

If you are not a crafty type, or you have more time than money, you can buy some suitable goggles in varying price ranges. Harry Potter Quidditch goggles will do in a pinch, but look better if you at least take the time to remove the logo.

Props

The main thing besides goggles that distinguishes a steampunk outfit from an outfit that is simply historical is it's props. Since you are portraying a character from a science fiction/fantasy story you need something that show the viewer that aspect. A weapon of some sort is good. We tend to carry aetheric disintegrator pistols or discombobulator rifles. The point is that it should NOT look ordinary or even real. Remember that you are in Victorian times. A flintlock such as a pirate would carry is too old fashioned and not in the least bit gadgety.

So, if you are a crafty type with time on your hands, you can "mod" a squirt gun and make your own weaponry. See my earlier lenses for "how to" advice.

Buying Props

Here again, it can be time versus money and you might have more of one than the other. I have often found inexpensive options on Amazon and eBay.

Belts and metal bits

Steampunk is a genre with a penchant for brass, or copper. Belts with fancy buckles and studs can really make an outfit. Wear several at once. They are good for carrying your raygun or your brass compass. And don't think that belts are only for your waist. They make great accessories elsewhere as well. Use a belt as a hat band, a choker, or a chest strap to add more interest to your look.

You can also add brass binoculars, or a compass to help add to the explorer or adventurer look.

I definitely won't be making through a metal detector in this get up.

Footwear

I recommend finding fairly low heeled granny boots for the women. Preferably without zippers. They look right and won't kill your feet. If you are planning on wearing your skirts hiked up or bloomers or pants, you will want to find slightly nicer boots. Luckily boots are in right now, so they are fairly easy to find. Men, you can find decent boots too. Just think really hard before you ruin a perfectly lovely outfit by wearing sneakers.

So there is a little run down on steampunk costuming. I hope this helped. Feel free to ask question or let me know how it worked out for you.

Let me know your thoughts. 96 comments

anonymous 5 years ago

One or two other things:

For men, if you want to go for easy pant styles, try to find pinstriped flat front pants in adrker colors - they have a very period feel. Pair these with a white high-collared shirt for a nearly instant sp base costume. A tuxedo vest will go a long way in adding to the feel of this look.

For ladies like me, who simply are unable to wear any sort of heel higher than one inch, try your local Payless Shoe Source - I found a really cute pair of nearly flat lace up boots that come up over my ankle for under $30, and I can wear them all winter. They look a little like a very conservative Doc Martin, only without the platform soles.


hysongdesigns profile image

hysongdesigns 5 years ago

always fun looking at SP tho I don't really 'do' it, I have younger friends that do. Passing this along


BFunivcom profile image

BFunivcom 5 years ago from Wherever Human Rights Reign

I love the look but have not had a good excuse to rig up. Yet


miaponzo 5 years ago

This style is really interesting :) Congrats!


Zenchantress profile image

Zenchantress 5 years ago from Lucerne Valley, CA

I'm so happy to see someone who is about my size doing this, because it helps me visualize the clothing so much easier. I'm really dragging my feet making a steampunk outfit. I need all the help I can get. And congrats on being the lens of the day.


seeker2011 lm profile image

seeker2011 lm 5 years ago

Different and interesting. Nice lense


CarolineS01 profile image

CarolineS01 5 years ago

very nice costume! I wish someday, I can wear one attire like this one!


gherishjhoven 5 years ago

Excellent statements. The style was indeed great...!


COOKINGFUN66 5 years ago

interesting, never realized that anyone would put such thought into a holloween costume, most people just but them. great lense


AdeleW profile image

AdeleW 5 years ago

We have been getting some requests for Steampunk costumes, and I must admit that it does tend to confuse us. This lens has been fantastic,we can now help our customers so much more, thanks for taking the time to share, I will look your other lenses now.

Congratulations on being chosen as the Lens Of The Day!


seegreen 5 years ago

I love steampunk and have often thought about making a costume. You have some great tips. Congrats on LOTD


Kandy O profile image

Kandy O 5 years ago

Great lens! My friend has a Steampunk bookstore and every once in a while she'll do a sewing class there, too. Just fun stuff. = )


NidhiRajat 5 years ago

a simple word "WOW". congratulations a ton!!!


cdevries profile image

cdevries 5 years ago

Great Lens! Steampunk is an interesting style... the research has got to be fun. Thanks for the info.


Kailua-KonaGirl profile image

Kailua-KonaGirl 5 years ago from New York

Another fabulous lens by a lensmaster who really knows and understands her subject. I will be adding this link to my Adult Steampunk Costume lens too. Congrats on LOTD!


anonymous 5 years ago

Great inspiration! I especially like steampunk combined with manga


agoofyidea profile image

agoofyidea 5 years ago

Congratulations on LOTD. The outfits are awesome. Steampunk is so much fun.


yogeshingress 5 years ago

I thing this is very good lence


JeremyAce 5 years ago

modifying the goggles to look right imo is some of the most fun. Though my friend is a wiz with metal bits and carries that off well. Glad to see others talking


Bercton1 profile image

Bercton1 5 years ago

Nice fashion and great costume. Congratulations on LOTD!


katiecolette profile image

katiecolette 5 years ago

What a fun dress-up idea!


KirstenAshley 5 years ago

You look verrrrry familiar. Did you attend the steampunk session of Dr. Sketchys Philadelphia perchance?


LiteraryMind profile image

LiteraryMind 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

Very interesting and very thorough and well done lens. Steampunk is interesting.


Diana Wenzel profile image

Diana Wenzel 5 years ago from Colorado

So much creativity. This is such an enigma to me... the Steampunk movement. I can see how much fun this would be. Congrats on LotD and how you have found your compelling niche.


sncalo lm profile image

sncalo lm 5 years ago

Love it, love it, love it. Congrats!


lucy439br profile image

lucy439br 5 years ago

Really interesting :)


Close2Art LM profile image

Close2Art LM 5 years ago

cool idea for Halloween, I could be Ming from Flash Gordon, would that count...


plrsource profile image

plrsource 5 years ago

Congrats on a great lens...Everything about your lens is cool.The style the costumes...Everything....GREAT JOB!!!!


squidoolover76 5 years ago

Great lens with some wonderful costumes idea.


PainMan1 profile image

PainMan1 5 years ago

Very cool lens! Great job on this interesting topic!


HeartBroken62 profile image

HeartBroken62 5 years ago

Never heard of it until now...really neat and unique. Great job. Thanks for sharing your passion. Congratulations on LOTD.


NevermoreShirts 5 years ago

Awesome, absolutely love Steampunk style.


Dianne Loomos profile image

Dianne Loomos 5 years ago

I love the steampunk art genre but had not thought about dressing up. Enjoyed reading this page.


Ilonagarden profile image

Ilonagarden 5 years ago from Ohio

Great lens- love the creativity of your costuming. Congrats on LOTD:)


junecampbell profile image

junecampbell 5 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada

I love this lens! I love Steampunk! You have done a great job!


anonymous 5 years ago

I love steampunk! So far, I haven't dressed up--but it's really tempting because it's just so cool.

Congratulations on LOTD, and a great lens!


anonymous 5 years ago

Now I know what is steampunking all about.

Congrats on LOTD.


Diana Vick profile image

Diana Vick 5 years ago from Pacific Northwest Author

@Close2Art LM: Ming is actually from 1950s pulp science fiction and so too late in time. You could do a Victorian take on Ming and make it steampunk.


Diana Vick profile image

Diana Vick 5 years ago from Pacific Northwest Author

@KirstenAshley: No, sorry. I have never been to Philadelphia. Dragoncon maybe?


Diana Vick profile image

Diana Vick 5 years ago from Pacific Northwest Author

@JeremyAce: It can be quite an art. Creativity is the best part of steampunk imo.


ElizabethSheppard profile image

ElizabethSheppard 5 years ago from Bowling Green, Kentucky

How fun! I love steampunk costumers. Thanks for this lens.


Laniann profile image

Laniann 5 years ago

Great lens and you also look great in steampunk costuming. Blessed by a Squid Angel.


happynutritionist 5 years ago

Great fun...I first heard about steampunk through one of your lenses a while back, and was so proud of myself when I recognized it on the Castle episode you mention in your intro thanks fo you:-) Congrats on the Lotd...great lenses on a fun topic.


delia-delia profile image

delia-delia 5 years ago

Congratulations on LOTD! I like the prop costume with the big gun(?) fun idea...


legaleze 5 years ago

I love the goggles


Brandi Bush profile image

Brandi Bush 5 years ago from Maryland

Very fun! Congrats on LotD!


JennySui 5 years ago

Great lens! Congrats on LOT.


BunnyFabulous profile image

BunnyFabulous 5 years ago from Central Florida

Very cool! Love the photos and great explanations. Steampunk costuming looks like a lot of fun.


OOPSY LM profile image

OOPSY LM 5 years ago

Great lens!


OOPSY LM profile image

OOPSY LM 5 years ago

Also, Congrats on your LOTD!


MrWidemouth profile image

MrWidemouth 5 years ago

I like the style :)


MS-Strait profile image

MS-Strait 5 years ago

Great lens. I've heard the term "steampunk" before, but didn't know what it meant. The costumes remind me of something I saw in a Dr. Who episode.


DuCiel LM profile image

DuCiel LM 5 years ago

Love the piece by piece approach, very thorough and informative ^_^


greatlegs 5 years ago

Very cool. Nice job on the LotD! Never really heard of a steampunk before.


SquidooFlowers 5 years ago

What fun! Thanks for the intro to steampunk costuming :)


myraggededge profile image

myraggededge 5 years ago

Love Steampunk. I realise now that it's the look I was trying to achieve with my lace-up granny boots and tweed culottes back in the late 70s. Blessed :-)


catbehaviors profile image

catbehaviors 5 years ago

I'd heard of steampunk before but didn't know a thing about it. This lens was very helpful, and congrats on LotD! Looks like it would make an awesome costume. :)


IWS LM profile image

IWS LM 5 years ago

Cool! Congrats on LOTD!!


mrducksmrnot profile image

mrducksmrnot 5 years ago

Great idea and Congratulations on Lens Of The Day. ? What about renting costumes just for Halloween? That would create a lot more places of small business in different communities both big and small and would boost the economy not only at Halloween but for just about any occasion.


lilymom24 profile image

lilymom24 5 years ago

Congratulations on Lens of the Day! =)


LasgalenArts 5 years ago

Hey I love the steampunk look. I've seen many cool artists creating steampunk art which is awesome too. Good tips on your lens. And congratS!


pawpaw911 5 years ago

Cool lens. Congrats on LOTD.


Shoputopian profile image

Shoputopian 5 years ago from Lower Mainland of BC

Congrats on Lotd, I love this look, angel blessed!


anonymous 5 years ago

Congratulations on your Lens of the Day!


bassetmonkey profile image

bassetmonkey 5 years ago

love the lens. thanks for the paint suggestion and the googles suggestion. Awesome!


Susanne-Iles profile image

Susanne-Iles 5 years ago from Ireland

I loved, loved this lens! Great work..great tips...and you look fabulous!


lbrummer profile image

lbrummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

Congratulations on the LOTD. Very cool lens.


Faye Rutledge profile image

Faye Rutledge 5 years ago from Concord VA

Interesting lens. Congratulations on LotD!!


mbgphoto profile image

mbgphoto 5 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

Interest and fun! congratulations on your LOTD


fugeecat lm profile image

fugeecat lm 5 years ago

This is great. I love the steampunk look and I am going to have to look at how you advise people to alter squirtguns to look steampunk.


Dragon 40 profile image

Dragon 40 5 years ago from Nanaimo, British Columbia

How bizarre...now I'm feeling my age :-)


elyria profile image

elyria 5 years ago

How fun and creative! Congrats on lotd!


anonymous 5 years ago

Wow what a Great Lens. I love these Steampunk Costumes! I just love the hats. And I defiantly love the dresses, I just adore that old fashion style, but I think you punked it up to our modern day, Just wonderful.


Marelisa 5 years ago

This is fantastic. I so want a pair of goggles now. :-)


McAllisters profile image

McAllisters 5 years ago from Southern California

So cool! A fun LotD!


Nancy Hardin profile image

Nancy Hardin 5 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

How crafty of you to think of this...great tips and ideas for steampunk costumes. Thanks for sharing.


smithlights profile image

smithlights 5 years ago

I've never even heard of steampunk. Thanks for filling me in!


smithlights profile image

smithlights 5 years ago

I've never even heard of steampunk. Thanks for filling me in!


Sspain 5 years ago

Excellent Lens on putting a personalized steampunk outfit together! The style definitely has a unique appeal that you capture in this lens. Thanks for sharing!


Scarlettohairy profile image

Scarlettohairy 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

Great costumes. Such a cool look!


DavidCzajka profile image

DavidCzajka 5 years ago

Beautiful Lens created.


WeirdStuff 5 years ago

Those aviator hats are absolutely cool!


DebMartin 5 years ago

As always, I love the steampunk stuff. Wish I were as creative as you, however. Nice lens.


Franksterk profile image

Franksterk 5 years ago from California

What a fun lens with plenty of cool things. Congrats on LOTD. Blessed. Bear hugs, Frankster


DreamsBloom profile image

DreamsBloom 5 years ago

Last year I dressed up for Halloween in a Steampunk costume and went to a dance...only One person other than myself knew what steampunk was! So sad. But I loved my costume and enjoyed it. I made a pair of "goggles" from a tutorial on Instructables.com using a baseball! Ingenuity is one of the greatest things about steampunk!


anonymous 5 years ago

Very creative lens. Thanks


anonymous 5 years ago

Wonderful collection of Steampunk costumes and accessories! :)


Diane Ellen profile image

Diane Ellen 5 years ago

I find steampunk quite interesting. It's cool that you have gone into a lot of detail for those who want to dress in steampunk - nothing is left out!


zillermil profile image

zillermil 5 years ago

I've been trying to figure out how to make a good steampunk costume! This is great, thanks!


gypsyman27 lm profile image

gypsyman27 lm 5 years ago

I like the look, but I don't think I could pull it off. I have been known to dress in unusual fashion, but Steampunk would be pretty far out even for me! I like the way some of the outfits look on women, but that goes without saying.:~) See you around the galaxy...


VSP profile image

VSP 5 years ago

Great niche! Almost makes me want to put a costume together.


Atomika07 profile image

Atomika07 5 years ago

I just recently got into steampunk and I really love it. This lens is a get guide, thanks for sharing!


anonymous 4 years ago

hello i am a color guard designer for a marching band that is doing a show about time. I want to introduce steam punk time traveling women as a story telling idea. I also want to use the same character and costume for my indoor program to the Music from the movie HUGO. This is basically a dance activity that usese rifles, sabers and flags to tell abstract stories on football fields and in high school gyms... what are your thoughts.. I learned so much from your blog..Thank you Carl


CollectorsHeritage 2 years ago

Earlier I didn't knew much about steampunk clothing like what all categories will come into it and how to actually implement them on us. After reading your blog I was fascinated to research more on steampunk fashion and concluded with many online steampunk clothing stores which I will refer before going for my next steampunk festival.


CollectorsHeritage 2 years ago

Nice steampunk collection. Can I get them online?


SteamMaster 8 months ago

well, this helped a lot, thanks hubpages.com! You guys are amazing! taught me a lot! Really!

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