Steampunk On a Dime: 7 Tips You Can't Live Without

Posted by Ophelia P on

Image: flickr (Username: nathansandiego)


Ready to get your steampunk on - but low on those unlimited funds you wish would fall from the sky? Then try these tips to pull together an AMAZING anachronistic ensemble.


What it Is


In order to create an awesome steampunk ensemble, you'll want to know what you're generally going for, then pinpoint your own style and preferences.

So what is steampunk, anyway?

According to Wikipedia, steampunk is:

a subgenre fantasy that incorporates technology and...designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery.

Merriam-Webster adds its double-pence:

...a style of design and fashion that combines historical elements with anachronistic technological features inspired by science fiction.

Okay, we'll buy that. But we'll take it a step further: steampunk is an attitude, one of bucking trends, defying convention, and truly being unique, since there are no limitations on time or technology in this culture.

That means you can go wild with your steampunk outfit. Even better, it means you don't have to conform to one exact outfit piece or accessory and instead can hunt for the BEST deals to put together your delicious steampunk getup for pennies on the dollar.

Let's get down to it!

TIP ONE: Peruse Thrift Stores


Thrift and consignment shops often have out-of-date or unusual clothing. We can't tell you the number of multi-ruffled 70s style giant skirts or cute ripped tops we've discovered there, as well as girl-engineer boots (spray paint them black; that's what we did), chunky jewelry, unusual hats, feathers and other touches that lend themselves perfectly to kick-A steampunk supergirl.

If you're an Extraordinary Gentleman, thrift shops are are great for you too as they are often a treasure trove of outmoded double-breast or open suit jackets, prom or wedding best-man dress slacks worn once and then shuffled off to the Goodwill, shiny shoes and hats. Sometimes you can find cool colored sunglasses there, too.

Beware: not every thrift shop find is a deal. You'll need to do some hunting. You may also need/want to modify some of the items you find. But if you take your time, you can find outfit elements for literally pennies on the dollar.

TIP TWO: Have one BASIC Outfit

You can go crazy and get dozens of looks from just ONE basic outfit. The key is in accessorizing, zipping or unzipping, hitching up/letting down, or adding colorful elements to your basics. This is actually an old fashionista trick: you can get so many looks out of one outfit if you make sure the outfit will blend well with a variety of modifications.

So if you're looking for a corset, make it a neutral color or a color that you know will go with any accessories you'll be choosing. Grab one AWESOME skirt that can be flirty, uber-sexy, or primly Victorian depending upon whether you lift the side up into the waistband, let it down or wear something underneath it.

It's like getting three, four or even more future outfits for the price of one.

TIP THREE: Make Use of Dyes and Spray Paints


Found the perfect outfit piece but it's simply the wrong color? Add some Rit or another inexpensive dye. You can find these for a buck or two at Walmart or your local grocery store.

Dyeing isn't hard and if you have a really stubborn base color, go for black, which goes with everything - especially in the steampunk world.

Spray paint is another quick way to kick your accessories up a steampunk notch. Hot glue rivets or bolts onto goggles and jewelry and spray paint the entire piece in gold, silver or bronze spray paint.

TIP FOUR: Add a Drape of Fabric


A pencil or otherwise plain skirt gets a Victorian fantasy boost if you circle a length of tulle or other fabric around it. Ask your local sewing shop whether they have fabric scraps they're willing to give away to you. If not, tulle and other filmy fabrics are quite cheap when purchased with unfinished edges. That's perfect for a Mad Max-infuenced steampunk style.

Not handy with a sewing machine? It's easy to tack material on material with a hot glue gun or fabric staples, or if you'd rather the change be temporary, clip onto the inside of the waistband with baby pins and allow to flow over the band and over the underskirt.

TIP FIVE: Play Up Your Hair

Image: pinterest

Hair figures in hugely to a steampunk attitude and style. Don't have much length/fullness? Invest in a cheap hair extension clip from Amazon or Ebay. Spray with dry shampoo to take down the shine so it looks more realistic, add cool accessories so the seam line doesn't show and you're good to go.

Gentlemen: you're in luck; super-short flipped-up front cuts are popular in the steampunk world just as they are in the 21st century one, so add some gel for finesse, or go full Victorian by slicking the sides parted in the center and down.

TIP SIX: Attend Meetups For Ideas

Image: flickr (username Ardlas)

Friends don't let friends overpay for steampunk! Find a Meetup in your area or attend a convention and look around. You're sure to see dozens of great, creative ideas that may be home-grown, ergo cheaper than you might expect. 

People are usually VERY flattered when you compliment their outfits, so if you want - go right up and ask! Be polite and tell the wearer you love his/her special outfit trick. Ask her if she's willing to divulge her secret. We've gotten hundreds of ideas this way.

TIP SEVEN: Watch for Sales


Have a favorite steampunk vendor? Like him/her on Facebook, Interest, IG and Twitter. Don't hurry to buy that "forever" expensive piece (boots, for example); either wait for a sale - there's always a sale! - or contact the vendor to find out when the product might be on special promotion. Sign up for newsletters, too - they're often advance peeks at steals so you can get there first.



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