Sunday, March 11, 2012

Evolution of a Steampunk Outfit

There are two questions that myself and other steampunks get asked fairly regularly: "How long did that outfit take you to make?" and "How much did it cost you?"  These are generally really difficult questions for most steampunks to answer.  Other cosplayers tend to decide to recreate a specific outfit, build that costume until it's finished, and then wear it.  But most steampunks are constantly adding and modifying and upgrading their costumes.  Everything a steampunk has on may represent years of searching and making and buying.  So we honestly have no idea how many hours we spent on a particular costume or how much it all cost put together.  We're picking up bits here and there, making pieces, embellishing them, adding, borrowing from other outfits, etc.

To illustrate this point, I'm going to take you through my black and silver outfit from birth to the present and show you how it's changed.

January 2011 - Clockwork Wonderland- Dallas, TX
This is the first time I wore my black and gray outfit.  The black overskirt/bustle skirt is something I made from scratch to go with a previous steampunk outfit, so that garment was doing double duty.  The gray petticoat skirt I sewed from a bedsheet using the free instructions here.  The corset is a steel-boned underbust I bought on ebay. The shirt under the corset is from Target because I just needed SOMETHING to wear with this outfit.  The fingerless gloves were handknit by me from this pattern.  My steampunk belt of chains and steamy things is something I put together for my previous outfit as well.  Most of the things on it came from ebay or etsy or I already owned.  And finally, the wrap is a plain black wrap I already owned and I'm wearing it because it's cold out.

Here's a side view.  You can see that even though I have bustled fabric poufs in the back, it's totally flat because I'm not wearing a bustle pad or cage under the skirt.

March 2011 - All-Con, AggieCon - Dallas and College Station, TX

 In two months I had made some changes.  First I modded the corset by sewing a fabric panel over the front opening and attaching some gold buttons.  Around this time I was really interested in using knitting to make parts of my steampunk costume.  So the T-shirt/sweater I'm wearing under my corset is handknit by me.  The lace opera gloves are also handknit from some gorgeous 100% cotton laceweight yarn.  They actually are meant to go over the elbow, but they wouldn't stay up.  I've also bought some skirt clips and clipped up the front of my overskirt.

This photo shows a couple of other changes.  I now have gray heeled Doc Martens and I have made myself a bustle pad.  Now my skirt is a little more Victorian in shape.

April 2011 - Aetherfest - San Antonio, TX

There are only a couple of small additions to my outfit here.  I made myself some hair falls out of black and silver feather yarn, and I asked my friend Linda to make me a hat to go with this outfit.  I had just gotten the hat from her at the event, and hadn't sewn in any combs so it's not on my head correctly.  And I put some elastic at the top of my gloves, so they stay in place now.  (Also, I'm at the Alamo.  Just, in case you didn't notice!)

August 2011 - San Japan - San Antonio, TX

Absolutely nothing has changed from April-August, except that I have my hat on correctly and you can see it better.  Also, I'm really hot in my sweater.  That's probably why I'm not wearing the opera length gloves. So it was around this time that I decided I needed to get rid of the sweater top and make myself a new corset for this outfit.

So I made myself a black and silver corset and  a black bolero to go over it.   I didn't finish these until December.  

January 2012 - Clockwork Con - Austin, TX

 So here's the bolero all steamed up with some extra large, antique brass hooks and eyes and various medals.  There are lots of other little additions to the outfit.  I found a little octopus plaque/cameo and glued it to the front of my hat.  I also have a new spiffy gun with a custom holster a friend made me, and I've added a few other things to my belt as well as changed the way the chains hang so it's more of a chatelaine and less a belly dancing belt.  What you can't see is that I also added some black braid trim to the bottom of my bed-sheet petticoat.

February 2012 - Twisted Gears - Houston, TX

I knew I wanted to make a new underskirt to upgrade from my awesome-but-still-a-bed-sheet petticoat.  So I measured how much of the silver brocade fabric I had left and went looking for a pattern.  I finally settled on the Truly Victorian 261 for the overall versatility of the pattern.  I got frustrated with another project last week and so I whipped this skirt up in a day and a half.  When I wore it this past weekend I got so many compliments on my totally tied together outfit or "dress."

The fact that the corset has side panels made from scraps leftover from my overskirt that I made over a year before really ties it all together.  It looks like I made this all at once, or as if I knew what I was doing.  But both my time and my costs were spread out over about a year and a half.  

So for now, this outfit is "done."  Until I decide that the underskirt needs some braid or trim or the jacket needs epaulettes or just way more medals...


  1. Beautiful job! And isn't it so much more satisfying to work this way?

    1. Thanks! It really is satisfying to constantly be adding little touches and constantly making your outfit more awesome.

  2. Where did you get your belt? I have a belt and it's one of those goth belts with two rows of holes all around the belt. It works nicely for me, but it is falling apart and I am looking for a new one.

    1. I bought it off of ebay. A quick search turns up a few:

      My husband has a belt with two rows of holes, and it's falling apart, too. Thanks for reminding me to look for one for him. :)

  3. Utterly fascinating and lovely to watch the development of your costume. What pattern did you use for the corset, is it gored?

    1. The pattern is Laughing Moon 100 - the Silverado version with the gores.

  4. just out of curiosity, how on earth did you find somewhere to start on all of this?

    1. Take a look on my post on the subject. You start one piece at a time until you have enough for an outfit, then you start upgrading the pieces you're not happy with. I originally wanted to do a black and white outfit instead of grey and black, but it was difficult to find black and white striped fabric, so I made the underskirt out of a grey striped and it went from there.