Steampunk Accessories for Men

Steampunk Suspenders
Gentlemen of the Victorian era wore suspenders, and belts were not common, except for working class people who used them to hold tools or weapons. The buttons needed to hold them on are rarely found in modern clothing, but most come with clips that can be used with any trousers.

Steampunk Vests
Also known as waistcoats, the vest is one of the few vanities permitted to Victorian gentlemen. Florid colors and bright fabrics were considered unseemly for men after the Regency period, and even then a man who wore bright waistcoats was referred to as a “dandy” (i.e. not a serious man at all). Luckily this is no longer true, and one way to be unique and stand out amongst all the brown and black frock coats is by choosing a really individual and unique vest for yourself. If you are ever going to spend money on a Steampunk costume, this is one of the areas where you are better off finding a costume shop for something special.

All good Victorian gentlemen wore a coat or jacket out of doors. Some even wore them to go to bed! (Dressing gowns). Steampunk coats come in a number of styles, including frock coats, tailcoats, or even something a bit more modern. This is another place where you might want to someday spend money because the length and fullness of the men’s Victorian frock coat really died out after the Edwardian era. They are also a good way to develop your character since the coat he wears is bound to be reflected this way. Explorers need sturdy coats, military men and airship captains will have uniform coats, etc.

Hats are common accessories for Steampunk, since men were especially expected to cover their heads out of doors. There is a wide variety to choose from. Working class characters may wear a flatcap or a Sunday-Best Pork Pie hat. A middle-class character might wear a bowler, and an aristocrat a Top Hat. Specialty hats for military men, explorers, and sportsman are also very much in evidence.

Image Courtesy of taymtaym


Men’s Steampunk Costume Basics

When you’re just starting out on building a men’s Steampunk outfit, it might be some consolation that most men’s fashions haven’t really changed much in the last 200 years. Except for a few odd trends, for the most part, a shirt, pants, and jacket has been the basic male uniform for all occasions since 1800. You may already have options hidden in the back of your closet. You can also find vintage wear at thrift stores and charity shops. A few basic items will form the foundation of your Steampunk attire wardrobe while making or purchasing specific pieces that help define your character will provide that Steampunk look.

Steampunk Shirts
Plain work shirts with simple wooden buttons provide a utilitarian look appropriate for explorers, adventurers, and military men. Buttons can run all the way down the front, or halfway down; note that halfway is usually more casual. Stand collars are popular because they give a historic look, but common pointed collars are acceptable.

Shirt colors vary with the occasion, of course, and formal occasions require a bright white shirt, as it was only historical achieved when using fine fabrics. Rougher fabrics and off-white colors were used for working attire. Colors such as navy or red suggest a uniform for an airship crew, military man, or sailor.

Steampunk Pants
Dark dress pants are pretty much standard and go with everything. Necessary for a formal look, look for black dress pants in a fine fabric. Avoid pleats, as they were not common during the Victorian era. For working class or working professional Steampunk garb, try corduroy or broadcloth in a khaki, dark green or brown. Avoid denim unless you’re doing Wild West, and even then, remember that anyone that was allowed to sleep inside the house would not be wearing jeans.

Steampunk Footwear
For everyday wear, boots go with pretty much everything. Whether you are a military man, engineer, or aristocrat out riding, you’ll probably find boots are a comfortable and practical option. For formal wear, dress shoes work well for any character.

Image Courtesy of Robert

Women’s Steampunk Costume Basics

Women have a lot of options for costuming when it comes to Steampunk. There is a great deal of variety from proper Victorian lady to Wild West Burlesque and even menswear for the engineer or adventuress look. But the basic women’s Steampunk costume consists of a skirt and blouse. Accessories can be added to define the character more fully according to occupation or social status.

Steampunk Blouses
For those who are looking for feminine flare, there are a number of lacy, ruffle blouses to choose from. For more serious characters, a crisp high-neck blouse is in order. If you are just starting out with your costume, one of each will give you a lot of options, in black or white.

Steampunk Skirts
During the Victorian era, skirts were generally long enough to touch the toes. As time moved on, and women became more active in public life, hems crept up to the ankle during the latter part of the era. These days, even ankle length skirts can be cumbersome for modern life, and the good thing is that no one is going to have a problem if you opt for a shorter skirt.

You’ll want a full skirt, many gored, whether it’s long or short, and they look really cute over a ruffled petticoat to add some flirt. You can also add layers of skirts, in contrasting colors, with the top skirt pinned up in places to show off the underskirt. You can also add a bustle for a perkier looking behind.

Most Steampunkers opt for boots, simply because they are flexible and can be worn with anything except eveningwear. One interesting note of history: rich people wore button boots and poorer people wore laces in the Victorian era, because button boots required custom fitting. These days, there are a variety of boots that look vintage, are made of faux leather, and have hidden zippers.

Some women in Steampunk like to add a corset, particularly as an outer garment on top of a blouse or under a jacket. Since so many today are so beautifully decorated, it seems a shame not to show them off. They’re not mandatory – nothing is – but they do look great on women with nearly any type of figure.

Steampunk often includes elements of utility – rather than just show. Belts are worn over corsets, around the hips, or crossing the chest, and you can clip tools and bags to them to hold necessary or even decorative items.

Hats are found so commonly in Steampunk because the Victorians took hats seriously. Even the lowliest flower girl or newsboy had and wore a hat whenever outside. It was the only options for polite society. In Steampunk, a lot of women wear smaller versions of the top hat, more highly decorated than the male counterpart, with bows, ribbons, feathers, net, and flowers.

Because of the formality of Victorian society, Steampunk has also adopted the wearing of coats and jackets as regular day wear. There are several types, from long frock coats to tiny trim boleros. If you’re just starting out, go with a practical, all-purpose Steampunk jacket that makes the most of your shape in a black or brown. You’ll get the most use out of it, rather than going with something a bit more unusual or customized to a specific character.

Image Courtesy of Bryan Thompson

Thrift Store Steampunk

If you’re into Steampunk, thrift stores can be the best thing you have every discovered. Full of decades of old clothing, you can take advantage of garment elements that have gone in and out of style for the last 200 years! After all, there are only so many ways to clothe the human body, and some things never change. You can find cheap accessories, trims, buttons, and even whole sections to create new Steampunk fashion.

Natural Materials
Try to find clothing made of natural materials. Some fabrics just don’t translate well into the Victorian era. Like polyester. Some knits, particularly from the hippie fashion era, have a bit of a Victorian flair using by using paisley and prints. If they are done in the standard 70s polyester, they will look cheesy. Maybe for an accessory or as a last measure but anything bigger than say trim on a vest is going to look cheesy. Stick to natural materials.

Natural Materials
Wool has been around forever! And has been one of the mainstays of fashion for the Northern European for hundreds and hundreds of years. Since there are only so many ways to make trousers, stick to wool trousers. You can find dozens of them in the old suit section and they come in a number of suitably Victorian somber patterns. Avoid pleats, as these were not used for making men’s trousers in the 1800s. For women, there might be a bit more leeway, since generally women didn’t wear trousers at all, so it’s difficult to maintain period accuracy. However, for the average action-oriented Steampunk lady in trousers, a slim fit will be more practically, and looks more balanced when tucked into those boots.

Modest Designs
Collars were high and sleeves were long. There is a bit of burlesque in a lot of Steampunk, but generally maintaining modesty was pretty important during the Victorian era. For women, it meant covering up. For men, modestly meant somber, dark clothing with little jewelry. This is in direct contrast to previous era, such as the Georgian and Regency era. Georgian fashion featured scandalously low necklines for women and intricately embroidered waistcoats for men and lots of bling for both. Regency era fashion for women was practically nothing but the flimsiest of chemises. Victorian era fashion was much more modest in comparison. Look for somber colors, long sleeves, and high necklines for both men and women. You can modernize with accessories and fancy waistcoats. These seemingly plain pieces can be the foundation of your Steampunk wardrobe, and mixed with other, more lively pieces, for a more relaxed effect. Bare arms with a long skirt, a pair of dark flat front trousers with a lace trimmed pirate shirt.

Don’t forget the accessories! Certain styles, particularly of jewelry, have been fashionable in the not-so-distant past. Cameo brooches were just as huge in the 1970s as they were in the 1870s. Scarves and shawls pretty much come in common models that have stood the test of time, so as long as the color scheme is appropriate and the fabric is right (or at least a good facsimile thereof), they make a great addition to your Steampunk outfit and add a touch of class.

When shopping at a thrift store, make sure you keep your picks with you. Overly ambitious clerks will rehang items the minute you turn your back in a desperate attempt to keep up. Other thrifters may lie in wait for you to put that great wool suit down for just a second. Many thrift stores have certain discount days to bring in foot traffic during slow times, like Wednesday afternoons. Take advantage by shopping on these days, or bring your grandma for that senior discount.

Cosplay is about fun – it’s about “play.” Thrift stores can open up opportunities to play with new combinations and create new outfits with a minimum of investment – so if it just doesn’t work out, it’s okay – it only cost a couple of dollars. Have fun with it!

Image Courtesy of Véronique Mergaux

Victorian and Edwardian Fashion: the Differences

For those of us who are not history experts, the Victorian and Edwardian eras may as well be the same thing in our minds, especially when it comes to costumes and fashion. However, there are differences in the styles, just as there are differences from one generation to another, and if you want to make sure your costume isn’t backwards or forwards in time from your intended year, you may want to study this guide.

For reference, when we talk about the Victorian era, we are talking about the years 1837 to 1901, while the Edwardian era consists of the years 1901 through 1910. Eras often overlap, and it is common for fashion trends to span years over their official time.

Women’s Fashion

During the Victorian era, the comfort of women was not the forefront of design. Tight corsets gave women hourglass figures at the expense of breathing, and women could wear layers of petticoats that weighed a total of up to 14 lbs. However, in the Edwardian era, a new corset was created which gave women an S-shaped curve to their back and allowed them to breathe far easier compared to its predecessor. Skirts became thinner as well, with fewer layers to weigh them down. Dress sleeves followed this pattern, with Victorian sleeves being tight everywhere but around the elbow, while Edwardian sleeves were looser, softer, and often tied and decorated with ribbon.

Men’s Fashion

There was less of a change in men’s clothing between the two eras. The main difference of note is that men’s coats in the Victorian era were long and ended past the knees, whereas the coats of the Edwardian era were closer to what we see in modern times in men’s fashion, including straighter cuts and fitting closer to the body. Men’s clothing in the Victorian era also tended to be looser and more dramatic compared to the Edwardian era.

The reasons for these differences would require lots of study into the field of history to fully understand, but the simplest explanation comes from knowing that King Edward of Britain enjoyed travelling more than his mother, Queen Victoria, and so the fashion he enjoyed and inspired was influenced more by the surrounding European countries than it had previously been.

Image courtesy of Raenef

The History of the Corset

I’m sure many women would like to know the name of the man who dared to invent something as horrendous to breathing and spinal movements as the corset (there’s no way a woman would be masochistic enough to invent it), but unfortunately, the true origins of the corset are unknown to historians. It is also unknown why they lasted so long through history, from the 16th century into the early 20th century. What are known through records are the forms corsets took and their changes throughout the eras.

The earliest confirmed corsets are found in 1530, for paintings of women in that time were the first to have waistlines impossible to achieve without the aid of a corset. Unfortunately, corsets from the earliest time could not be preserved, so the only records we have of them come from these paintings. In the 16th century, corsets were used to flatten a woman’s chest rather than to push it up.

By the 18th century, stays (the name used for corsets) were considered underwear and worn under dresses. In this century, corsets begin pushing women’s chests upwards instead of flattening them, and the bottoms had slits cut into them to allow room for the hips.

During the 1790s, stays went through multiple cosmetic changes, the most prominent being the first use of cups for the chest. After the late Gregorian period, stays fell out of use, as women with naturally well-defined bodies did not need them.

The term “corset” didn’t replace “stays” until the 19th century. During the 1820s, corsets had a resurgence in popularity as the waistline returned to its natural location, though it was still very small. They became a requirement once again in the middle of the 19th century, and it was around this time that corsets finally took the hourglass shape that we know them as now. However, this shape became so tight around the waist as to begin to rearrange even the organs inside women, and physicians of the time began sounding warnings against corsets.

Because of the warnings of doctors, in the Edwardian era, corsets were given a new shape, one designed to take pressure off the stomach region. However, the new shape created an unnaturally exaggerated S-shape to the spine, pushing the top of the spine forward and creating even more health risks.

Luckily, by the end of the Edwardian era, in the early 20th century, it was once again decided that corsets are unneeded for elegant fashion, as dresses of the time become straighter instead of emphasizing an hourglass figure, thanks in part to both feminist movements and WWI. While they still exist in different shapes from time to time throughout the 20th and 21st century, never again will they be a requirement or a health risk.

Steampunk HatSteampunk in Pop Culture – Or Where to get Costume Inspiration

Do you need help coming up with a unique idea for a steampunk costume? Do you have costumer’s block and need a dash of inspiration to kick-start the creativity? Have no fear, there are plenty of sources from which to derive steampunk ideas and make them your own.

Although the word “steampunk” wasn’t around until 1987, the fashion and movement itself is inspired by works from the 1800s, specifically the scientific side of the century. Famous 19th-century authors like H. G. Wells, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelly, Jules Verne, Arthur Conan Doyle, and H. P. Lovecraft help to inspire today’s steampunk movement. However, it was the visual film media that had its largest impact on steampunk fashion. Movies from the late 1950s and 1960s such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Time Machine, and Captain Nemo and the Underwater City are the most notable steampunk films and where the popularity of combining Victorian fashion with modern technology comes from.

Since then, steampunk has grown immensely in the entertainment fields, with countless books, movies, and comics in the style. Popular steampunk movies include Wild, Wild West, Van Helsing, The Golden Compass, and the 2009 Sherlock Holmes. Even Disney has produced two steampunk-themed animated movies: Atlantis: the Lost Empire and Treasure Planet. Video games are a great source of steampunk fashion as well, from Professor Layton to Final Fantasy VI, Nostalgia, Bioshock, Wolfenstein, and online games like Guild Wars 2.

Steampunk has reached countries as far off as Japan, where a comic called Fullmetal Alchemist features an older time period but a main character with mechanical limbs. Studio Ghibli’s film Howl’s Moving Castle is similar in time period, but instead of mechanical limbs, features a fully steam-powered moving castle, as the title suggests.

There is more steampunk in the field of entertainment than mentioned here. With the endless sources to draw from, feel free to pick and choose your favorite aspects of steampunk or your favorite costume pieces and combine them into the perfect steampunk cosplay for you.

Image courtesy of Floor