What is A Steampunk Costume? Here’s Everything You Need to Know!

There has always been a fascination with all things Victorian. Science fiction, on the other hand, tells us of possibilities that may come to be. Steampunk is the best of both worlds as it combines the sensibilities of the Victorian age with retrofuturistic fiction. 

Historically, the Victorian era is known for the growth of industrialization, the emergence of a scientific temper, and the advancement of technology. However, this was also a period in history that gave great importance to mysticism, romanticism, and aesthetics.

This article will explain to you all the basic features of a steampunk costume and help you look at the part with our step-by-step guide.

What is Steampunk

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Steampunk is a genre in art, film, literature, and fashion that fuses retro-futuristic ideas inspired by the 19th-century star invention: steam-powered machinery. 

It often envisages an alternate history set either in the Victorian era or the American Wild West (another treasure trove of ideas). The prime focus is on the fashion, culture, art, and architectural features of those ages.

Alternately, steampunk may also support the setting of a fantasy world, created entirely out of creative imagination but still having certain facets that reflect real-world concerns.

When and Where Did it Begin

Despite the contemporary sounding word, steampunk has its roots in the literature preceding the 19th century, primarily written by Jules Verne (Journey to the Centre of the Earth), Mary Shelly (Frankenstein), and Mervyn Peake (Titus Alone). 

The term was coined in the 1980s by K.W Jeter (Sci-Fi author) in an attempt to categorize futuristic works by a triumvirate of writers. In Japanese aesthetic culture,  steampunk is found in anime and manga works as early as the 1940s. 

What is A Steampunk Costume

Steampunk fashion is a very popular genre, especially in cosplay and media. It is characterized by its unique industrial age meets Victorian-era designs. It’s not just a way of style but a manner of lifestyle for some.

With fabulous costumes that make heads turn and the added spunk of steam-engine couture, steampunk is a fashion choice you cannot go wrong with. If you are new to this style or are looking for some good old-fashioned inspiration, you have come to the right place.

Steampunk Costume Styles

Since steampunk costumes envision a world different from the one we live in, the outfits reflect an out-worldly charm. Before you begin to create your look, you should think of the aura you want to exhibit.

You can choose from:

  • Victorian (19th century) Fashion – Long gowns, layered skirts, tailed coats, corsets, and bodices 
  • Dystopian Costumes – Regal bodice jackets, tulle trimmed skirts, leather, lace, chains, bowler hats, goggles, pistol canes, and canvas coats
  • Mechanical Designs – Addition of robotic face masks, mechanical wings, gears, robotic hands, and clock cogs used to accentuate clothing

These are not strictly ruled out categories, and one can find a lot of mixing up of these three styles in most costumes. 

How to Decide on A Steampunk Costume

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Putting together a costume is not an easy task. The idea is to stand out while being uniquely yourself, but often, this is a challenging look to achieve. Thus, we bring you this step-by-step guide to help you decide on your steampunk costume.

1. Choose Your Theme or Character

There are various subgenres to choose from when it comes to steampunk. You can either decide on a general retrofuturistic aesthetic or portray a popular character from literature, films, or games.

If going for a dystopian look, choose your character wisely or add a twist to the conventional mad scientist, aviator, or member of the gentry.

2. Pick A Dress 

It is common to be confused at this point, so we suggest just picking a costume that looks victorian enough and adding a few personal steampunk touches to it. 

This can be done simply by adding gears to top hats or adding a little velvet here and there. If going for a female look, do not forget the corset and a layered skirt to add to the aesthetic. 

3. Adding Punk

A costume is only truly steampunk with the addition of some industrial paraphernalia. Lace is a must, but so is ripping. You can nail the look perfectly using metallic buttons, some goggles, a little bit of dyed hair, and a lot of dystopian makeup.

4. Resonate Your ‘Self’

Even in cosplay, you must not forget to add a little bit of you to the costume. Enjoy your time, and do not stress too much about what fits where. The idea is to discover yourself through costuming and, more importantly, to have fun while doing it. 

5. Styling and Accessories

Style your hair to suit your character. Tied-up hair is an effortless way to add some elegance to your costume. For male characters, gelled hair parted to one side does the trick (unless you are the mad inventor of course!)

Accessorizing is an essential part of steampunk costumes. Adding a steam-powered jet pack or even something as subtle as a broken clock goes a long way in making a statement. 

Add a pair of boots that tie up to your ankles and a pair of flying goggles to complete your look. Additionally, walking with a cane in hand or a parasol might be a great idea. 

Where Can You Get Steampunk Costumes

Steampunk costumes are often handmade, but you can also find some in a thrift store. Making your costume or adding a little bit of personal touch to the design is an excellent way of expressing yourself. 

But not everyone has the skill, time, energy, or the kind of patience costume designing demands. But fret not, for you can find a variety of steampunk options online that are just the right amount of classy, out worldly, futuristic, and victorian.

To help you decide what to buy, we have a curated set of category-wise articles on steampunk fashion with links to costumes that we think are dapper and point on –

Cynthia Williams
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