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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.