How to Dress Steampunk

Three Parts:Planning a CostumePutting Your Costume TogetherAccessorizing Your Costume

Steampunk is a culture and fictional genre based on an alternative Victorian history. Whether it's in a novel or a costume, steampunk aims to capture a Victorian vibe alongside modern or futuristic ideas. Dressing up in costume is a large part of the culture. Although a steampunk costume is limited only by your imagination, you should begin with a Victorian foundation, and add the sci-fi flair from there. The steampunk culture can be a lot of fun when given a proper chance. Better still, the fandom at large offers a chance to make lifelong friends.

Part 1
Planning a Costume

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    Imagine a character you want to be.[1] The first step in planning out a successful steampunk character is thinking up a vibrant, interesting character you want to dress as. Because steampunk can be so broad, you can choose to settle for an archetype. Do you want to be a gentleman steampunk? What about a mad inventor, or an aviator? Thinking up an interesting role for your character to play in this imagined world will make it easier to come up with interesting costume ideas.
    • Learn about the origins of Steampunk.[2] Steampunk is seen to have originated from writers Jules Verne and other writers who made their then-contemporary Victorian aesthetic futuristic. Steampunk is influenced in equal parts by history and fantasy.
    • There should be a real-life counterpart to most of these possible archetypes. Look up photos from the Victorian era or early 20th century and look at the things they used to wear. You can use those examples to inform your final costume.
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    Begin with a Victorian outfit and add from there.[3] Steampunk fashion is essentially a science fiction take on old Victorian elegance. If you're having trouble knowing where to start, it may help to start out with a purely Victorian theme, adding the extra doodads once a foundation is ready. Vests, overcoats and corset-aligned dresses make up the basis of Victoriana.[4]
    • Bowties, top hats and tweed vests are all part of male Victorian fashion.
    • Corsets and dresses are a staple of female Victorian fashion.
    • Anything that attracts attention while retaining elegance may be seen as falling in line with a Victorian fashionista's ideology.[5] Vivid colours such as deep red, royal blue and sea green were commonly used.[6] These colours may be used in contrast with the "industrial" colours of steampunk.
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    Include some punk aesthetic in your costume. It's important not to forget the "punk" aspect of steampunk. Although some in the subculture choose to ignore the punk rock aesthetic, some people have had great success with sprucing up their costumes thanks to punk styles, including dyed hair, piercings, ripped clothing and tattoos.
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    Mix steampunk with ideas from other fandoms.[7] If you're keen on cosplaying in general, chances are you have items from previous costumes laying around. It's not uncommon for individuals to combine steampunk's distinctive look with that of other cultures or fandoms. Star Wars is a common thing to combine with the steampunk aesthetic.
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    Be yourself.[8] Above all, the point of steampunk is ultimately to have fun. Even if you're preparing for a big convention, remember to relax! Creating a costume should be an enjoyable experience. Even if your first attempt doesn't work out the way you may have wanted, you're still gaining valuable knowledge that you can put towards your next project.
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    Look up costume ideas for inspiration. Thanks to the internet, it's never been easier for subcultures to thrive. While you're in the beginning stages of your outfit design, it's always a good idea to check out the costumes of other successful steampunks. Many steampunks will include a quick rundown of the supplies they used to realize their costume. Sites like Etsy are well-known for their Steampunk communities.
    • If you're stuck with your costume and particularly admire the work of one cosplayer, you may stand to gain from getting in touch with the person. Ask for tips on the specific type of costume you're going for. Most steampunks are very friendly towards others in the fandom.

Part 2
Putting Your Costume Together

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    Raid a thrift store for your costume. Thrift stores are perfect when you're trying to put together a costume. If you have a strong idea of the character or items you need, it's a simple matter of diving into one or more thrift stores and finding items that at least approximate what you are looking for.
    • Costume stores acknowledge the popularity of steampunk. If you're willing to spend a bit more money, you can find steampunk-specific articles as well.
    • Consignment stores are another budget-savvy way of building up a costume quickly.
    • Check your own closet, too. If someone in your family owns an old coat, you can use that as the basis for your costume. Old, well-worn clothing is great, because it adds to the rustic quality that steampunk aims for.
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    Augment your costume with colourful fabrics. While you can find the majority of your costume at thrift stores, DIY steampunkers may choose to go the extra mile and add onto their costumes. Common steampunk fabrics include leather, brocade, wool, cotton. All of these may be found at fabric outlets. Fabrics should be sewn or taped to embellish your basic costume with a steampunk look.
    • Common steampunk colours include browns, bronzes, dark golds, burnt ambers, dark purples, dark forest greens, and deep burgundies. Also, dark teals, creams and just colors that appear to be greyed, worn, or "rusted" in any way.
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    Incorporate a vest or a corset into your outfit.[9] For men, a vest under an old-fashioned overcoat is a great place to start for a costume. For women, corsets are notably common. Although a corset was traditionally seen as an elegant item for social occasions, you can reconfigure the corset to match a variety of character roles and situations.
    • Vests and corsets aren't as commonly used in today's fashion. With that said, their archaic appeal ca be combined with a ton of other fashion styles.
    • Sewing on a utility belt to a corset is a good idea if your character assumes a mechanical role.
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    Sew gadgets onto your costume. Effective use of fabrics in modifying parts of a costume depends on having a strong idea of what you want to do. Use your character's role as an inspiration. For instance, if your character is an aviator or soldier, you can sew leather strips to the outside of the coat to give the outfit a more protective look. Begin with a regular piece of clothing, and spruce it up in a steampunk style.
    • Reinvent your costume as you go along. Most DIY costumes end up at least a bit differently than the way they were first imagined. As you go on, don't be afraid to switch it up as you see fit. If you are new to the process of costume making, you'll be able to put new skills to better use. Tweak your plan to suit your improved costume-making skills.
    • Dye your fabrics for a more authentic look. Fabric dyes are available at any well-stocked arts store. If you want to go with a fully DIY approach, you can dye things at home using a mordant commonplace kitchen supplies like tea bags and onion skins.[10]
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    Style your hair accordingly.[11] Hair is an important part of any costume, especially if your character is supposedly of upper stock and class. For women, doing your hair up can give your character an added elegance, even if the costume itself is intentionally ratty. Punk-oriented hairstyles also work great in steampunk costumes for the purpose of contrast.
    • Pinning your hair up will give your hair an elegance loo if you're playing a woman character. In true steampunk fashion, you can let strands of hair hang loose to add to the costume's industrial feel.
    • If you're playing a male character, combing your hair over to the side and gelling it in place will evoke a high class elegance.
    • Don't underestimate the importance of makeup in a good costume.

Part 3
Accessorizing Your Costume

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    Make your own steampack. If it suits your character, a steam-powered jetpack can be fashioned by gluing old coffee cans together and painting them over. A compass or broken wristwatch can be reworked to approximate a steam gauge. Affix leather shoulder straps to the coffee cans so that you can wear the pack on your back. Brown or black nylon straps will also do the trick.
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    Make a steampunk-themed gun. A steampunk gun can be made by using the basic form of a nerf gun. Get a nerf gun or plastic water gun. In order to make it steampunkish, you'll need to simplify its appearance. To do this, sand down the original model's details as much as you can. From there, paint it in a golden brown or one of the other typical steampunk colours. When that is done, you can paint gauges, industrial imperfections (like metal scratching) and other details using different shades of the colour your originally used.[12]
    • A coat of primer paint may be needed before using your colour paint.[13]
    • Plastic guns can be bought cheaply from a dollar store.
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    Create steampunk goggles.[14] Goggles are arguably the most recognizable trope in steampunk fashion. A pure Victorian costume can easily be "steampunked" by adding goggles. Your goggles should be large and cumbersome. If you prefer not to wear the goggles over your eyes, you can strap them around your forehead or wear them over a top hat.
    • To make a set of your own, take a strip of leather that can cover both eyes comfortably. Secure the back either using a shortened belt (with two buckles attached to either side of the goggles) or a knotted string, tied through two holes on either end around the end when worn. Cut out two eye holes and glue on metal eyelets or rings as accents. Paint your goggles when done for a more steampunkish look.
    • You can make glass eyelets by taking mason jar lids and cutting out the centre.[15] Most glass cutters can offer grey-smoked plexiglass for your goggles at a cost.
    • Due to the increasing popularity of steampunk culture, costume stores should have some pre-fabricated steampunk gadgets at hand for sale. Goggles are very popular and can be found from a professional outlet.
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    Walk with a cane or parasol.[16] When you're walking around in dress, you can be made to appear more interesting if you have something to hold and carry around. A walking cane is a great choice for men, and for ladies, a parasol or quaint umbrella is a good fit for most costume ideas. *The cane or umbrella may be reconfigured to look like it has a more important, steampunk-oriented function by adding a compass or other hardware to look like a gauge.
    • Add-ons to your props can be done with soldering, taping or gluing, depending on the materials in use.


  • Network with other fans online.[17] There are dozens of forums online specifically devoted to the steampunk sub-culture. Networking with other fans is recommended because it means you'll have likeminded friends to attend conventions and other events with. Log onto a forum, and take part in the conversations. If you're sufficiently enthused with steampunk, you'll quickly find lots of common ground with the other forum users.
  • Attend conventions. Conventions are the lifeblood of many subcultures. Cosplay conventions often attract a number of devoted steampunk enthusiasts. There are also conventions that are specific to the steampunk subculture. One way or another, it's a perfect opportunity to express your enthusiasm in a public forum. Conventions are very enjoyable to attend as a group. Better still, you might try dressing together with a common theme.
  • Embrace all forms of steampunk media.[18] Steampunk is both a subculture and genre. The aesthetic can be found in books, film and video games. Although you may have a preference for one of these forms of media, it's a good idea to explore all angles of steampunk. There is even steampunk music. The progressive rock band Rush used a steampunk theme for their concept album Clockwork Angels.
  • Be tolerant and inclusive. One of the great things about steampunk is that it can be enjoyed by a diverse range of people. With that in mind, it's important not to be judgemental towards others who are expressing their fandom. If you don't care for someone's costume, it's still a good idea to show support. After all, you're all ultimately interested in the same thing. Feel free to offer constructive criticism to others for their respective costumes, but make sure not to be nasty about it.


  • In summer, the layers and often heavy fabrics of steampunk may cause you to overheat. Go easy on yourself and tone the outfit down - and always, steampunk or not, carry water with you and drink it!
  • It is highly recommended you have a firm backing in sewing if you think about adding to a costume on your own. A DIY approach is not necessary for this or most other kinds of costume.
  • Unfortunately, most "real life" environments aren't conducive to steampunk fashion. However, if you're subtle, you might sneak a gadget or two into the workplace without raising much suspicion.[19]

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