How to Create a Steampunk Costume

For the last two weeks I said I would share how I created my own steampunk costume, including some things I made myself or how I cut the cost on some of my items. One thing I love about steampunk is its variety and eclectic style. There is really no right or wrong way to create a steampunk costume. The very nature of steampunk is pulling odds and ends together. So feel free to pick and choose what you want to create your style.

When I first started thinking about my own costume, I knew I wanted a corset. There is something elegant about a corset. But I didn’t want to wear a Victorian gown. I wanted something more spunky and adventurous. So when I went to choose my corset, I spent days searching out Pinterest and steampunk sites figuring out what style I wanted.

The most expensive part of my costume was my corset, but that was fine since—for me—that was the most important part. I created the rest of my costume around the corset. After searching, I settled with a steel boned, overbust, brown brocade corset and love it! For those of you wanting numbers, it was about $80. Note: you will need to take your measurements carefully in order to get the right corset. Steampunk costume

Once I had my corset, it was time to add all the other pieces. First thing I did was search my closet for a shirt or blouse and skirt. Why buy something when I might already have what I’m looking for? I found a cute peasant shirt that looked perfect with the corset. Cost? $0 🙂

Unfortunately, I needed to buy a skirt. So I started popping into clothing stores whenever I was at the mall. I knew I wanted the skirt to be brown, but I wasn’t sure about long or short. I wasn’t in a hurry, so I was able to be casual about my search. After a couple months, I found a knee length skirt with lots of creases and natural wrinkles, giving it a worn look (perfect for that adventurous look I wanted). Cost? $20.

All right, I now had a shirt, skirt, and corset, but needed something for my feet. And with a knee length skirt, I knew I wanted boots. I expanded my search to include online and thrift stores. Note: You can find some awesome things at thrift stores, so pop in and look. I ended up not only finding a pair of boots, but some small ivory kid gloves at a local thrift store. I wanted gloves too, but could never find leather gloves small enough for my hands that didn’t go above my budget. The gloves were the wrong color and not fingerless (which I wanted), but I figured at $1 I could experiment and try making my own gloves. And the boots were $3.

Steampunk costume

Dying gloves was definitely an experiment. I tried different dyes, resulting in different colors, the last one being a dark hunter green. Nice color, but not the color I wanted. My husband had one more idea and brought home some shoe polish. I thought sure, why not, and rubbed the polish into the gloves. Not only did they turn out the right shade of brown, the polish made the gloves look like leather (score!). I then cut the tips off and had my own fingerless gloves! The only problem I ran into was a small bit of the polish came off after wearing the gloves for a couple hours, but it was hardly anything and worth the leathery look.

For my head, I had a couple options (top hat, goggles, lace, etc…). Since I was going for that spunky look (and wanted something to hold my hair back), I went with goggles. I found a pair online for $10, but they were black. So I bought a can of brown spray with texture, covered up the goggle part with tape, and sprayed them a nice brown that matched the rest of my outfit.

I finally had my costume and could now customize if I wanted to. I found a wire necklace at a hobby shop and a key charm. Total: $6. I found a watch with a leather band and charms online for $2. And I found a pocket watch which I technically got for free during a bogo event, but would have cost $15.

So after months/years of casual searching at the mall, thrift stores, and online, I spent a total of $135 on my costume, $80 of it on my corset. I’m sure I could have found a skirt at a thrift store and saved even more, but $135 on a costume I will wear every year at cons, book signings, and parties is not bad 🙂

So how can you create your own steampunk costume without breaking the bank?

First, decide what look you are going for. Western? Victorian? Adventure? Elegant?

Second, decide what piece(s) are important enough to you to spend money on.

Third, take the time to look. The wonderful thing about steampunk is you can find all sorts of fun and strange things for your costume in places other than a costume store. Try thrift stores, army surplus, flea markets, and online.

Fourth, make it your own. Want cogs? Go for it. Want lots of lace? Go for it. Steam prosthetic? Go for it. There are not set rules for steampunk. Have fun and be creative!

Steampunk costume

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3 thoughts on “How to Create a Steampunk Costume”

  1. I love how straightforward and step by step this is. It’s especially inspiring for non-sewers like me, who often get intimidated by the very complicated ways to trick out steampunk clothes. And the finished costume is adorable and spunky. Thanks for sharing!

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