Steampunk Costume is a retro-futuristic style inspired by 19th century steam powered technology. With its amalgamation of historical and science fiction elements, steampunk allows for dramatic, intricate costumes that let wearers fully immerse themselves in imaginative alternate worlds.
If you’re looking to put together an impressive steampunk outfit, there are many options and details to consider. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know to create a show-stopping steampunk costume.
What is Steampunk Fashion?
Steampunk fashion combines influences from the Victorian era, the American Wild West, and imagined futures powered by steam-driven technology. The style is intended to look like clothing that people might have worn in past era when steam power was cutting edge, like the late 1800s.
Common steampunk costume and accessories include:
- Corsets, bustles, petticoats and suits inspired by Victorian-era styles
- Leather aviator caps, dusters, chaps and other Wild West-inspired clothing
- Goggles, ray guns, watches, and pseudo-scientific gadgets suggesting futuristic elements
- Clockwork imagery and heavy use of gears, cogs, and metallic embellishments
- Riches fabrics like brocade, velvet, lace and leather paired with rugged and worn-looking elements
- Earthy color palettes accented by brass, copper and gold detailing
Steampunk fashion combines a sense of adventure and gritty utilitarianism with upper class refinement. The style romanticizes past eras while adding surreal sci-fi touches.
Planning Your Steampunk Costume
The most important first step for any steampunk costume is establishing your character and their personality. Your outfit should support the identity you create rather than just being a mishmash of random steampunk elements.
Here are some key questions to ask yourself when starting to plan:
- What is your character’s background and social class? A wealthy aristocrat? A scrappy airship pirate? An engineer or inventor?
- What is their profession or role in the story you’re telling with your costume? Airship captain? Mechanic? Explorer?
- What is their personality? Refined and elegant or gritty and tough? Shy bookworm or swashbuckling action hero?
- What colors suit their temperament? Red for fiery, green for worldly, brown for rugged, etc.
Having a solid concept will make it much easier to select cohesive costume elements that bring your steampunk character to life.
Building Your Steampunk Outfit
Once you’ve decided on your steampunk character, it’s time to put together the perfect outfit. Here are the main wardrobe elements to think about for assembling your costume.
The main garment establishes the overall historical time period and style for your outfit.
For women, the main element is often a Victorian-inspired dress or separates like a ruffled blouse and long skirt. Corsets or bustles accentuate the silhouette. Wide hoop skirts can add drama. Avoid overly modern looking fabrics; opt for rich brocades, velvets, cotton, linen, lace, leather and suede instead.
Men can wear formal suit vests, duster coats, frock coats, waistcoats, jodhpurs and other pieces inspired by 1800s menswear. Look for pieces with subtle steampunk accents like clock gears. Rich colored shirts and ascots complete the look.
Make sure your main garment matches the personality you envisioned for your character. For example, a Wild West outlaw might wear rugged leather chaps while an aristocrat would don a refined gown.
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No steampunk costume is complete without a pair of pseudo-scientific goggles. Goggles signal that the outfit is future focused while still retaining a vintage vibe.
- Round aviation goggles with leather or metal rims
- Welding goggles featuring multiple lenses and adjustable straps
- Rimless circular glasses evoking John Lennon style shades
- Small circular spectacles for a more scholarly look
- Oversized skiing goggles for a gritty post-apocalyptic feel
Make sure your goggles complement your outfit. For example, a pilot’s costume calls for aviator style while an engineer might opt for more complex looking welding goggles.
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The right accessories can bring your steampunk outfit together, adding personality and visual interest. Consider carrying prop gadgets like:
- Ray guns or futuristic looking pistols
- Gears, watches, and mechanics tools (wrenches, screwdrivers, etc) hanging from belts or chains
- Magnifying glasses, telescopes, or binoculars
- Map cases, notebooks, pens and measuring instruments evoking scientific exploration
- Pocket and wrist watches, ideally with visible clockwork elements
- Canes, walking sticks, or ornate umbrellas
Jewelry like pocket watch necklaces, monocles, and cog charms also make striking steampunk accessories. Weapons like elaborate swords or crossbows can add intrigue.
Choose accessories that make sense for your character’s interests and story. For example, a soldier character might carry weapons while an inventor would have gadgets and gizmos.
Don’t neglect your character’s shoes or boots. Options include:
- Knee high riding boots
- Lace up leather boots with buckles
- Victorian style men’s boots
- Brogue shoes with clockwork elements
- Work boots for a rugged look
Ladies can wear heeled or flat boots with buttons, buckles or cogs. Platform boots help create a futuristic look. Mens shoes should be ankle or knee high in rugged leathers and suedes.
Make sure your footwear suits your steampunk persona. An aristocrat would wear refined leather boots while an airship pirate might prefer scuffed up work boots.
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Hair and Makeup
The right hairstyle and makeup completes your steampunk look.
For ladies, consider:
- Elaborate updos with ribbons and feathers
- Finger waves or pin curls for a retro look
- Partially upswept hair overflowing with curls
- Crimped or teased pixie cuts
Dark smokey eyes, bright red lips, and porcelain skin suit the Victorian influence. Add monocles, cameo chokers, and hatpins as classy final touches.
- Slick side parts or tousled hair with natural texture
- Mutton chops, handlebar mustaches, or five o’clock shadows
- Liner to emphasize eyes
Hats like bowlers, top hats, flat caps, and tweed newsboy hats finish gentlemen’s hair nicely.
10 Steampunk Character Costumes
Here are 10 ideas for a awesome steampunk costume to inspire your own unique look:
1. Steampunk Soldier
Base this costume on a British army or navy uniform from the 1800s. Wear a royal blue wool tailcoat with gold buttons over a cream vest and shirt. Add jodhpurs, knee high leather boots, and gloves. Top with a military style hat and strap on a rifle or sword. Grab a spyglass and pocket watch to complete your soldier’s utility belt.
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2. Steampunk Detective
Being part investigator, part inventor, the steampunk detective wears rugged yet refined clothing. Start with a long brown wool coat, white collared shirt, green vest, and black trousers. Accessorize with sturdy boots, magnifying glass, notebook, fountain pen, and wristwatch. Don’t forget a functioning pipe and a deerstalker cap like Sherlock Holmes.
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Also a good idea is the glasses!
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3. Steampunk Scientist
To look like an ingenious inventor, wear a white collared shirt, dark vest, and tan canvas work trousers or skirt held up by leather tool belts. Accessorize with welding goggles, gadgets like a spyglass or microscope, and notebooks. Wear leather gloves and practical boots for venturing into the lab. Top with a bowler, top hat, or hair ribbons.
4. Steampunk Explorer
This adventure seeker wears durable, outdoor inspired garb. Start with a canvas duster coat, cargo pants or skirt, and lace up leather boots. Accessorize with gadget filled utility belts, compass, telescope, canteen, and field notebook. Goggles, a pocketwatch, and walking stick can help navigate new worlds. Choose a hat like a wide brimmed felt piece.
5. Steampunk Cowboy Or Girl
Bring the wild west to the retro-future with pieces like a broad brimmed hat, leather chaps, cowboy boots, flannel shirt, and bandana. Arm yourself with a ray gun pistol and holster. Add gadgets like a mechanical lasso, pocket watch, and binoculars. You can also incorporate corsets, canvas dusters, or ruffled skirts for a feminine twist.
6. Steampunk Aristocrat
Display your high class status with elegant tailcoats, waistcoats, and top hats for men or gowns, corsets, and ornamental hats for women. Incorporate expensive looking fabrics like silk, brocade, and velvet. Carry accessories like canes, decorative parasols, and cigars. Monocles, pocket watches, and cufflinks complete the refined look.
7. Steampunk Pirate Captain
Channel your inner airship raider with stylish seafaring pieces. Wear thigh high leather boots, jodhpurs or leggings, vest, peasant blouse, and bold captain’s coat. Accessorize with goggles, spyglass, compass, sword, and pistol. Finish with tricorn hats or decorative hair scarves.
8. Steampunk Mechanic
As a gadget building grease monkey, wear rugged work shirts, sturdy trousers or coveralls, and thick leather tool belts. Carry prop wrenches, gears, ratchets, and gadget blueprints. Wear welding goggles, fingerless gloves, and heavy work boots. Top with a newsboy hat or scarf to keep engine grease off your neck.
9. Steampunk Dandy
Regal fabrics like velvet and lush colors like wine and emerald help create a wealthy steampunk look. Wear an embroidered tailcoat, high-waisted trousers, and ruffled ascot. Accessorize with a decorative cane, pocket watch, monocle, and top hat. Knee high leather boots complete the posh outfit. Ladies can wear an elegant dress accented by jewels and feathers.
10. Steampunk Aviator
Soar back to steampunk’s early flying machines wearing bomber jackets, goggles, and scarves. Gear up with bulky parachute backpacks and leather flight caps. Display medal and badge covered uniforms with knee high boots. Arm yourself with ray gun pistols and jetpack props. Grab maps, compasses, and notebooks to navigate your airship voyages.
Sewing Your Own Steampunk Costume
Creating your own steampunk costume allows for complete customization to suit your unique persona. Follow these tips for sewing your own costume:
Choose the Right Fabrics
Target textiles like cotton, linen, burlap, leather, suede, and brocade. Create contrast and texture mixing rugged and elegant materials. Distress fabrics by tea dyeing, sanding or burning edges for a worn, vintage look.
Use Clockwork and Military Inspired Details
Look for patterns with gear, pocket watch, and other mechanical motifs. Epaulets, fringe, belts, and metal buckles add military flair. Buttons, chains, and zippers also suit the industrial style.
Don’t just buy pre-made accessories. Create your own with items like antique pocket watches, compasses, and binoculars. Spray paint Nerf guns metallic colors to make realistic ray guns. Use metallic spray paint and hot glue to transform plastic goggles.
Follow Historical Silhouettes
Study real Victorian, steampunk and Wild West garments for inspiration. Use shapes, seams, proportions and construction details that create an authentic retro look.
Avoid Overtly Modern Fabrics and Cuts
Stick to vintage aesthetics. Avoid very stretchy fabrics, pronounced graphic prints, plastic-y materials, and modern cuts like t-shirts. Do a fabric burn test – synthetics didn’t exist in the steampunk era!
Steampunk outfits shouldn’t just be a single garment. Layer pieces like dusters, corsets, vests, blouses, and trousers to create complexity. Mix rugged and elegant layers that complement each other.
Buying Ready Made Steampunk Costumes
Not up for sewing your own outfit? Many online stores sell steampunk costumes, clothing and accessories. When buying, look for:
- High quality, durable construction from natural fabrics like cotton, linen and leather
- Authentic vintage inspired details like edwardian seaming or real clock movements
- Complimentary pieces allowing versatile layering and customization
- Items matching your specific persona whether soldier, pilot, aristocrat, etc
- Flexible sizes or made-to-measure tailoring for a perfect fit
- Items designed for real life wear, not just cheap costume party fare
Avoid flimsy polyester costumes with low quality accessories. Seek out specialty vendors focused on genuine steampunk style. Be wary of Asian mass manufactured products with non-authentic designs.
Whether you sew it yourself or buy readymade pieces, your costume should feel like a natural extension of your character. The right outfit empowers you to fully inhabit your steampunk persona.
Bringing it All Together
A successful steampunk costume combines the right wardrobe, accessories, personality and attitude. The key is consistency. Every piece should work together to create a unified character and story.
When selecting items, repeatedly ask yourself:
- Does this match my character concept?
- Does it look like it all comes from the same universe?
- Does the color, texture and style complement the other pieces?
Little details are crucial for bringing cohesiveness to your outfit. Make sure accessories relate directly to your persona. For example, a pilot’s goggles and scarf differ from a detective’s magnifying glass and notebook.
Aim for pieces that look worn and practical while avoiding anything too pristine. Distress, paint and modify costume elements so they appear authentic rather than store bought.
Most importantly, inhabit your character. Adopt speech, mannerisms, and posture that match the story behind your steampunk style. With the right costume and a little acting, you can truly transport yourself to past eras and imagined worlds.
The intricate, imaginative nature of steampunk fashion makes it a joy to wear. This guide covers everything you need to know to create wearable costumes that exceed even your wildest retro-futuristic dreams. Start planning your outfits now and get ready to wow at the next steampunk event!