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Basic Tips for Steampunk Costumes

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Steampunk outfit

Steampunk outfit

Tips for a DIY Steampunk Costume or Outfit

If you haven't heard of steampunk 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, 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.

Base steampunk clothing

Base steampunk clothing

The Base

The main portion of your outfit will be 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 can work for the women, depending on the look you are going for.

Steampunk hats

Steampunk hats

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 onto 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.


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 will look better if you at least take the time to remove the logo.

Steampunk props

Steampunk props


The main thing besides goggles that distinguishes a steampunk outfit from an outfit that is simply historical is its props. Since you are portraying a character from a science fiction/fantasy story, you need something that shows 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 articles 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.

Steampunk belt and metal bits

Steampunk belt and metal bits

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 it through a metal detector in this get-up.


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 questions or let me know how it worked out for you.

Let me know your thoughts.

Penelope Strong from California on November 13, 2019:

Thank you for your article and for striving to help people understand what steampunk is! I'm a fan of steampunk (SP) literature and am becoming something of a purist as I go, so I wanted to put my two cents in. In the twenty or so SP novels I've read, the one thing I've never seen is a tart. It bugs me that so many of the women pictured in internet ads for the costume pieces do look like brainless tarts.

Now with that said, SP is a broad genre so along with high-class ladies and gentlemen, air pirates, zombie hunters, explorers, scientists, engineers, military personnel are also lower-class folks like street urchins, Victorian-era street gangs, etc.

Maybe I'm taking it a bit seriously! :) However, I'm about girl power and all the SP novels I've read have strong female characters who are intelligent and brave. Just wanted to throw in the mix my thoughts that one can indicate a SP cosplay "sexpot" look with a corset and a pair of goggles, but there's more to it than that.

Oooo...and don't get me started about gluing a handful of metal gears to something and calling it SP. ;) IMO, a cosplay should have a story and a personality...some depth.

OP, your cosplays are very good and you did really well about giving an overview of SP with nice photos, examples and explanations of why and options for where and how to get or make pieces for a good cosplay. Thanks again!

Cameron C. on December 15, 2016:

This helped out great. I still need to acquire the boots and jacket though.

SteamMaster on March 20, 2016:

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

CollectorsHeritage on April 23, 2014:

Nice steampunk collection. Can I get them online?

CollectorsHeritage on April 23, 2014:

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.

anonymous on July 28, 2012:

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

Atomika07 on November 02, 2011:

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

VSP on October 21, 2011:

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

gypsyman27 lm on October 09, 2011:

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...

zillermil on October 06, 2011:

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

Diane Ellen on October 06, 2011:

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!

anonymous on October 06, 2011:

Wonderful collection of Steampunk costumes and accessories! :)

anonymous on October 06, 2011:

Very creative lens. Thanks

DreamsBloom on September 29, 2011:

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 using a baseball! Ingenuity is one of the greatest things about steampunk!

Frankie Kangas from California on September 29, 2011:

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

DebMartin on September 29, 2011:

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

WeirdStuff on September 29, 2011:

Those aviator hats are absolutely cool!

DavidCzajka on September 28, 2011:

Beautiful Lens created.

Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on September 28, 2011:

Great costumes. Such a cool look!

Sspain on September 28, 2011:

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!

smithlights on September 28, 2011:

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

smithlights on September 28, 2011:

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

Nancy Carol Brown Hardin from Las Vegas, NV on September 28, 2011:

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

Mike and Karen from Southern California on September 28, 2011:

So cool! A fun LotD!

Marelisa on September 28, 2011:

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

anonymous on September 28, 2011:

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.

elyria on September 28, 2011:

How fun and creative! Congrats on lotd!

Dragon 40 on September 28, 2011:

How I'm feeling my age :-)

fugeecat lm on September 28, 2011:

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.

Mary Beth Granger from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA on September 28, 2011:

Interest and fun! congratulations on your LOTD

Faye Rutledge from Concord VA on September 28, 2011:

Interesting lens. Congratulations on LotD!!

Loraine Brummer from Hartington, Nebraska on September 28, 2011:

Congratulations on the LOTD. Very cool lens.

Susanne Iles from Canada on September 28, 2011:

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

bassetmonkey on September 28, 2011:

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

anonymous on September 28, 2011:

Congratulations on your Lens of the Day!

Karnel from Lower Mainland of BC on September 28, 2011:

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

pawpaw911 on September 28, 2011:

Cool lens. Congrats on LOTD.

LasgalenArts on September 28, 2011:

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!

lilymom24 on September 28, 2011:

Congratulations on Lens of the Day! =)

mrducksmrnot on September 28, 2011:

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.

IWS LM on September 28, 2011:

Cool! Congrats on LOTD!!

catbehaviors on September 28, 2011:

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. :)

myraggededge on September 28, 2011:

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 :-)

SquidooFlowers on September 28, 2011:

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

greatlegs on September 28, 2011:

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

DuCiel LM on September 28, 2011:

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

MS-Strait on September 28, 2011:

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.

MrWidemouth on September 28, 2011:

I like the style :)

OOPSY LM on September 28, 2011:

Also, Congrats on your LOTD!

OOPSY LM on September 28, 2011:

Great lens!

Erin Hardison from Memphis, TN on September 28, 2011:

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

JennySui on September 28, 2011:

Great lens! Congrats on LOT.

Brandi from Maryland on September 28, 2011:

Very fun! Congrats on LotD!

legaleze on September 28, 2011:

I love the goggles

Delia on September 28, 2011:

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

happynutritionist on September 28, 2011:

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.

Laniann on September 28, 2011:

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

Elizabeth Sheppard from Bowling Green, Kentucky on September 28, 2011:

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

Diana Vick (author) from Pacific Northwest on September 28, 2011:

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

Diana Vick (author) from Pacific Northwest on September 28, 2011:

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

Diana Vick (author) from Pacific Northwest on September 28, 2011:

@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.

anonymous on September 28, 2011:

Now I know what is steampunking all about.

Congrats on LOTD.

anonymous on September 28, 2011:

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!

June Campbell from North Vancouver, BC, Canada on September 28, 2011:

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

Ilona E from Ohio on September 28, 2011:

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

Dianne Loomos on September 28, 2011:

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

NevermoreShirts on September 28, 2011:

Awesome, absolutely love Steampunk style.

HeartBroken62 on September 28, 2011:

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

PainMan1 on September 28, 2011:

Very cool lens! Great job on this interesting topic!

squidoolover76 on September 28, 2011:

Great lens with some wonderful costumes idea.

plrsource on September 28, 2011:

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

Close2Art LM on September 28, 2011:

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

lucy439br on September 28, 2011:

Really interesting :)

sncalo lm on September 28, 2011:

Love it, love it, love it. Congrats!

Renaissance Woman from Colorado on September 28, 2011:

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.

Ellen Gregory from Connecticut, USA on September 28, 2011:

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

KirstenAshley on September 28, 2011:

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

katiecolette on September 28, 2011:

What a fun dress-up idea!

Bercton1 on September 28, 2011:

Nice fashion and great costume. Congratulations on LOTD!

JeremyAce on September 28, 2011:

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

yogeshingress on September 28, 2011:

I thing this is very good lence

agoofyidea on September 28, 2011:

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

anonymous on September 28, 2011:

Great inspiration! I especially like steampunk combined with manga

KonaGirl from New York on September 28, 2011:

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!

cdevries on September 28, 2011:

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

NidhiRajat on September 28, 2011:

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

Kandy O on September 28, 2011:

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. = )

seegreen on September 28, 2011:

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

AdeleW on September 28, 2011:

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!

COOKINGFUN66 on September 28, 2011:

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

gherishjhoven on September 28, 2011:

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

CarolineS01 on September 27, 2011:

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

seeker2011 lm on September 27, 2011:

Different and interesting. Nice lense

Fayme Zelena Harper from Lucerne Valley, CA on September 27, 2011:

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.

miaponzo on September 27, 2011:

This style is really interesting :) Congrats!

Allan R. Wallace from Wherever Human Rights Reign on September 27, 2011:

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

hysongdesigns on September 27, 2011:

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

anonymous on September 08, 2011:

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.