View Full Version : Steampunk on a budget?

04-15-2009, 01:00 PM
IS there any way to make a steampunk costume on a budget and no sewing ablility whatsoever?

04-15-2009, 01:03 PM
As in, you can't even thread a needle? Not really.

If you can do basic stuff like hemming and adding trim, editing stuff from Goodwill and similar stores is a time-honored steam tradition.

04-15-2009, 02:09 PM
So is dumpster diving!

04-15-2009, 02:38 PM
I fully support dumpster diving. And dismantling things found on the side of the road.

04-15-2009, 10:18 PM
Anything NOT illegal? -_-

04-15-2009, 10:28 PM
I don't think dumpster diving is illegal. They clearly don't want it. Another mans trash is another mans treasure....... or a cosplayers rather. Also, getting stuff from good will ant taking a pair of scissors and a needs to it is hardly illegal.

05-06-2009, 03:28 PM
Lots of things in thrift stores can be spiffed up pretty easily with dye or paint. You can use hem tape and hot glue. I know in costuming you have 3 choices: cheap, fast, and quality. You can only choose two.

05-08-2009, 04:17 AM
Steampunk is totally achievable on a budget. i mean, it's still Punk.
I got a cheap trenchcoat, and used plastic vacuum hoses affixed to the arms. i'm going to spraypaint some designs on the back, and add some more detail.

just look around your house for some cool looking, steampunk-looking stuff. think victorian. watch the time machine.

you can do it.

08-25-2010, 05:11 PM
Yep. I did it. :)


I only had to sew the pouch and the black vest together, and I altered the shirt as well. But the skirts and brown vest I already owned, as well as all of the jewelry.

I made the goggles using this tutorial:

Basically anything can be used for steampunk; you just have to be creative with it.

paper cosplay
08-26-2010, 12:06 PM
these go from early atempts at steam punk to later costumes
just stuff from my closet. Cut arms of a shirt to make a vest. the geek glass are from dollar store so is the eye patch

the jacket is a find form good will. That's the big secret hit good wills look for old jackets and vest. with steam punk man and women can get away with vest and suits jackets if the cut is an older style.
the toy guns the most expensive was like $ 10 the goggles are welding goggles I got form Menardes for 4.99 the scarf is a fabric scrap i bought at Joans it was perfect for a scarf i used liquid stitch to hem the edges no sewing need.

metallic gold & bronze paint can be your friend for cheap plastic to metal. the goggles are the same as the previous photo I just painted them and fond gear that could replace the lenses. then put painted gears on their shafts. the gun eye is the geek glasses from earlier the lenses out and a dollar store pistol painted and cut down to fit into the glasses. (legal not never mount and fire a real gun this way you will shoot your eye out.).

most of this costume is from good will even the saddle bags (an amazing find). now the gun is from family dollar, the gas mask on belt and the pipe are form a costume shop, being used once again my goggles and scarf.

08-29-2010, 12:51 AM

If you have a few items you can get a Steampunk look together. You should visit your city's Thrift store or second hand stores and use this guild.

Nell Interimo
08-29-2010, 04:50 PM
Absolutely possible. I agree with some of the tips on here--hot glue is your friend. For the record, Dumpster Diving is definitely illegal, but a lot people do it anyway.

Just take pieces that you see and think "Ooh, that's kind of victorian/edwardian" then say "how can I add depth and interest?" If you take a magpie approach this is easy. Basically, rummage around and smash together anything that you think looks cool.

Neko Transfan
08-31-2010, 06:35 PM
I was under the impression that Steampunk's main attraction aside from being totally awesome was the ability to essentially build and create an outfit based on thrift store scraps and crafty supplies like paint and paper and foam.

I didn't sew anything on my costume. It's made from an old blouse(free from my mom), an underskirt from a wedding dress (thrift store $0.99), a man's large vest (thrift store $5), a plastic belt from a Santa Clause costume ($.20), a bionic eye I made from an old bubble container and a small round box, and then a wind up power pack made from foam, brown vinyl, and random pieces from the hardware store I painted with silver and antique gold finish.

I didn't sew a thing!

09-06-2010, 03:44 PM

All of my outfits are scavenged! You can see a few of them here. (http://www.cosplay.com/costume/212809/)But I have also been hunting for pieces for a very long time. It's a matter of patience and creativity. Also, the more you verse yourself on historical fashion, the easier it will be to spot clothing with "lines" that will lend itself well to a SP ensemble. If you have an event coming up, you may find yourself having to hit thrift stores and Goodwill once a week at least.

Those who have the best scavenged outfits tend to be the most creative the best educated, so do your research!

09-06-2010, 11:44 PM
"A Budget" is really vague. Your budget could be $2 or $2,000. There's obviously a lot of difference in what you can buy depending on what your budget actually is.

So, really - I encourage you to figure out what your budget IS. Then, design or come up with a general idea or plan. THEN you can figure out if and how it can be done on whatever your budget IS.

For instance, I've made the SAME COSTUME for $100 and for $1,000.

09-08-2010, 07:06 AM
I agree with Kelley. I currently have plans for a steampunk character, but as right now my budget is $0, it makes it a bit tricky. Thankfully I don't need said costume anytime soon.

-Know your budget
-Know what pieces you want
-If you are thrifting or using what you have, then start with that and work from there.

09-10-2010, 10:16 PM
Its never good when the cops catch you dumpster diving and you explain its for making a costume. They really think you need to be in the looney bin. What I have done is put flyers in the mailboxes of every house in my subdivision asking for any trashed appliances, leftover hardware items....anything that is inorganic that they are throwing out. I have got a few things that I am still working out designs for making. I had 3 old and very rusted outdoor porch lights (brass-ish) and have taken them completely apart and salvaged every piece. the amount of screws and little bitty bits is amazing.
as far as clothing....my first costume, i raided my mothers early 90s work suits. the blazers/suit jackets are perfect and the skirts i have added an over skirt and bustle to. i take old clothes and tear them apart and remake into new ones. before i could sew, fabric-tac was and still is my best friend. its great for pretty much good as a sewing replacement.

paper cosplay
09-18-2010, 09:45 AM
I asked a bike repair shop if I could get some old gears

09-19-2010, 01:09 AM
Try the thrify shops and ask if they have any busted watches. Most will be electric but if your lucky you might get some gears out of them.

09-26-2010, 01:51 PM
yup, figure out your range first and go from there.
if you're on a tight budget then make a simplier design and pick your fabric more wisely. using cheaper ones rather than expensive ones.

paper cosplay
10-03-2010, 03:41 PM
a friend of mine borrowed my goggles at a con and thew this little number together. great working class character suspenders and cigar

10-03-2010, 10:04 PM
a friend of mine borrowed my goggles at a con and thew this little number together. great working class character suspenders and cigar

Putting goggles on does not make someone automatically a steampunk...

paper cosplay
10-04-2010, 12:10 AM
your right goggles don't make steam punk but he had a character and he was a nice working class bloke. a railroad labor I like people doing working class characters.

glitter bomb
10-04-2010, 02:51 AM
If you're on a budget I say start in your own closet first. :) Once you get familiar with the historical clothing and the general steampunk style you can then begin to see the articles you have in a different light. You'll probably realize you already have a lot of usable items that can be repurposed for steampunk costume. If you're having a hard time getting the groove check out some library books on historical clothing for reference (free!). Once you've mined your own closet then I suggest hitting the thrift stores, asking friends for unwanted items, checking out things like craigslist and freecycle. The benefit of steampunk is that it's fantasy only loosely based in history, which means you can DIY much of it.

I just discovered the base for at least 4 totally different steampunk outfits/characters in my own closet. If I were to spend some time doing minor alterations, or scrounging the house for accessory or embellishments I could put together some respectable steampunk outfits. If I invested $25 in materials from the thrift store and hobby shop, and did some DIY, I could take it up a notch and make some cool costumes (enough to look like a steampunk regular). If I invested $50 for materials I could probably come up with some quality, compliment-worthy versions.

so you can definitely do steampunk on a budget. I mean, you can spend hundreds of dollars on cool period clothing and custom made accessories. But it's not necessary to play. :)

glitter bomb
10-04-2010, 03:00 AM
oh, I forgot to address the OP's "no sewing" issue. Before I got a sewing machine all of my costumes were made with fabric glue and safety pins. You can do a lot with just pins and staples. And most of the accessories and embellishments don't even require sewing. Just the ability to use spray paint and a glue gun. And maybe a screwdriver.

That said, I do suggest getting a sewing book, like Sew-U or something, and a cheap sewing machine. Or at least learn a few hand stitches. I opens up a whole world of options, and often reduces your costs because you don't have to buy everything new.

10-04-2010, 05:15 AM
If you don't have any talent, parts, or gumption, you can always hire me.

I'm a watchmaker, clockmaster and jeweler. I also know my way around a needle and thread. I work with all budgets, I work fast, and in cases of extreme expense I have worked out payment plans and trades.

Also, if you like moving gears on your pieces I'm the guy to talk to. I made a moving "Time Ring" which was basically a ring with wires and an exposed watch movement that looked really flash. Then I made a really nice necklace called "Metal heart" and it looked like it sounds, a heart shaped locket with moving clock gears and a steam pressure gauge on the side.

If anyone needs a rush by Halloween, I'm taking in new orders now but not for long, so PM me. thanx.

paper cosplay
10-04-2010, 09:56 AM
I find a cheap source for little gear is to take apart broken or unused mechanical toys or house hold appliances before geting rid of them open them up and pull out what you can use. pull back cars, broken wall clocks, card sufler. many times these gears are plastic so you will have to paint them.

10-31-2010, 10:07 PM
i'm putting together an outfit and by far the most expensive thing is my boots

11-26-2010, 06:24 PM
If you want some gears and stuff for little detail work, find an old busted camera. Most or all of the gears would be plastic, but a little brassy metallic spraypaint can fix that.

12-04-2010, 01:13 PM
Its never good when the cops catch you dumpster diving and you explain its for making a costume. They really think you need to be in the looney bin. What I have done is put flyers in the mailboxes of every house in my subdivision asking for any trashed appliances, leftover hardware items....anything that is inorganic that they are throwing out.

Just as a little note, it's also illegal to put things in other people's mailboxes. Most people don't know it, though. :)

paper cosplay
12-10-2010, 02:16 PM
what kind of budgets are we talking here
I've seen a lot of people looking to do the costumes for next to nothing but what about just spending a little cash I have steam punk robot or power armor have not decide which way to go. so far I'm under $50.00 I'm using a plastic trash can I got at big lots and some items I got from good will.

the can is tipped on its side a hole cut in the lid took a lamp from good will and now it kind of looks like the front end of a steam engine. I'm still trying to figure out the limbs but I hope to finish it some day and keep it under $100. I may just use scrap peices for the rest of it and finish it for less then $70

01-04-2011, 02:36 AM
yeah... i gave up on doing this with a budget and am just going to wait for tax time lol

http://draculaclothing.com/aviator-steampunk-corset-p-393.html /sigh

01-11-2011, 07:08 PM
I went to my local Thrift store and bought all but the goggles and shoes.

glitter bomb
01-11-2011, 07:18 PM
I went to my local Thrift store and bought all but the goggles and shoes.

btw, military surplus stores can be great places to find both, cheaply. :)

01-17-2011, 07:36 PM
antique stores are also a great place to look up stuff.

01-23-2011, 08:10 AM
To be honest I have been pricing items for my steampunk and all together it may cost me $150 dollars if I buy eveything new. I am currently looking at thrift stores in the areato see if I can bring that down a bit.

If you can try buying pieces at a time....my main plan is to buy things one at a time so it's only $20 one week and $30 then next time. If you are on a time crunch then stick with the thrift stores and such. I even found an antique store that sells gears and cogs for $0.50 and most of these were brass and copper and all over an inch in circumference.

As for the no sewing..... As was mentioned earlier I would suggest learning how to make some basic stiches. there are a few tutorials online and some even are videos on youtube....this will open up so much of what you can do.

01-23-2011, 02:31 PM
I can't really sew either but I'm working around that. So far I've got a design for a steampunk cosplay I want to do. I've rummaged through my closet and found quite a few things I could use with minimal adjustments. I think if you have an idea of what you're aiming for then budgeting will be a lot easier since you'll know what to look for :) That, and the parts that need adjusting need sewing, but only the bare minimal. I think learning a few basics would be good and it would definitely open up a lot of options for you :)

01-28-2011, 10:57 PM
The best way to steampunk things on a budget for me has been going to places like thrift stores and purchasing clothes that look steampunk already or can be easily steampunk'd for half the cost of what a clothing store would charge. :3 My friend calls it "treasure hunting"
I hope you can find a way that works for you!

01-30-2011, 12:14 AM
I've done it many times, as I am poor XDD The thrift store is your friend, hardcore. :D
Think Victorian looking shirts, and then dye them in tea to give it that old look. Look for pearls, they DO not have to be real, but try to avoid the cheesy plastic ones. You dont HAVE to have goggles, but they are cool. Unfortunately, those are super expensive/time consuming to make. However, you can make them for cheap. :D Or, just get the plain goggles from goodgoth.com and superglue some gears on them :>

Also, have you considered synthetic dreadlocks? They look really cool with steampunk outfits as long as its a bit more on the natural looking side, or a darker color. The hair is very cheap (the giant kankelon or whatever braids at the beauty store) and once you get the hang of it, very easy to make, however time consuming. There are tutorials on Youtube.
Good luck! ^__^