View Full Version : Steampunk: Outfit or Outlook

07-25-2010, 09:29 PM
I know I'm new, but I figure this is as good as any time, as the idea struck me. This year, I will be attending a convention in Steampunk garb for the first time. I attended a fair few panels on the subject last year, and I have always had at least a passing interest in it. Ever since deciding to do it, I have done my homework and crafted a character I think fits in the generally accepted word and rules of this subculture, and I have even begun writing some short fiction featuring him. BUUUUUUT... I have my moments of insecurity, and upon lurking in this and a few other forums, I am worried about something. My clothes are store-bought, and not made of period accurate materials. This is mostly due to budgetary constraints and as a first-timer, I think it's acceptable as long as you have the spirit right. However, I am worried that this view will NOT be shared by others, and I will be laughed out of any convention because I DARE wear a poly-cotton blend frock coat.

My question for this forum is as such: Is the spirit behind your outfit and character more important than the clothes on your back? Assuming that they LOOK accurate to the period (and if not, why bother? No steampunk enthusiast is going to wear a tshirt and jeans and claim to be in costume) how much does it matter if your clothes are not handmade and/or not made of accurate materials? in short, which is more important; the outfit or the outlook? (edits thread title, as that sounds better than "a question")

07-25-2010, 09:37 PM
If people are nagging on your costume because its not made of silk/wool/whatever, ignore them, they're simply being elitist. Steampunk is not Victorian re-enactment, so you don't have to be super accurate right down to the type of fabric and number of buttons you use. And if anyone gets on you for it, ignore it. As long as you're happy with your character and how it looks, that's what matters.

As for hand made versus store bought, I think it just depends on the person. Its not that frowned upon to thrift things for steampunk... a lot of people do it. In fact, some of the better outfits I've seen out there have been partially or completely thrifted. Not everyone knows how to so, and not everyone wants to jump into something as complicated as Victorian based outfits. So there's nothing wrong with assembling bought pieces.

I would say its more outlook than outfit, as you put it. As long as you're happy with what you have, that's what matters. Just have fun with it.

07-26-2010, 10:18 PM
The idea that people will laugh you out because you don't fit the perfect mental image they have is something that a lot of people who cosplay feel at first, whether its steampunk or any other thing. It's really their problem if they want to be elitist, not yours. There is a pull between some people who think all cosplays should be handmade or they aren't "real", which is pretty crappy, so just go in there to enjoy yourself and have fun.

I think it's way more the outlook than the outfit.

07-27-2010, 12:32 AM
As far as MY steampunk costumes go, yes, I do like to have a firm grounding in period-correctness and use that as my jumping off point for whatever props/embellishments I want to add. I do devote a lot of time to research, try to use period correct materials when I can, etc. I find that a lot of steampunk is a modern interpretation of the Victorian era mixed with a little sci-fi, but I'd rather mine start with the proper Victorian stuff, then step back and think about how someone from that era might image a particular character/prop/idea/whatever.


When it comes to someone else's costume I really don't give a damn about how they go about it so long as it looks good and like you put at least a little effort into it.

07-27-2010, 12:39 AM
People can't see the spirit behind your costume from across the room, so in my humble opinion it doesn't really count for much. THAT SAID: screw period accuracy. If the end result is a neat-looking outfit in which the pieces make sense together, you have succeeded.

(I speak as somebody whose main outfit's fabric is 80% synthetics and 100% inappropriate for the period and station in life it's supposed to represent. It gets compliments every time it comes out.)

If you want to take some extra time and effort with your outfit to make it look more 'together' and less thrifted, focus on the ornaments and accessories. You can do a LOT with trim and buttons and ribbon and ruffles and what-not. Adding coordinated trim and bits to different pieces of your getup will instantly make it look more like they were made to be worn together. So will sticking to a color 'family' (i.e. browns, or blues) with one or two accent colors scattered around the outfit.

07-27-2010, 01:52 AM
^ this

Even if everything you're wearing started life in a thrift store, having a good sense of what sort of design you want to accomplish and stick to it with help immensely

And do you want to know a secret? I've been told that my fabric is oh-so -late1880s, and won awards for that particular costume. Do you know what it was made out of? Upholstery fabric that I still don't know what fiber content it was even after flame tests.

07-28-2010, 10:19 PM
thanks everyone! you've given me a lot to think about. unfortunately, there are no thrift stores within 30 miles of where I am, so Internet shopping is my best option for now, and I have assembled most of the key components, but in the future, I WILL go on the hunt for a thrift shop in order to find what I need. I figure the character will stay the same, but I will evolve the outfit over time. I guess I'm going to have to learn how to sew now.

...So will sticking to a color 'family' (i.e. browns, or blues) with one or two accent colors scattered around the outfit.

in fact, I am already doing that. The outfit as of now consists of brown pants, hat and coat (probably brown shoes, but it depends if I can find ones that fit the slabs of ham that I call my feet) accented with a bright green vest and a black bow tie. As well as the briefcase-like phonograph disc etcher prop that I will be building from spare parts I can scrounge up from my job at a hardware store (It works for the character, and I'll make a post in a relevant thread for this)

08-11-2010, 11:20 PM
Don't worry about it. Though I suppose, I would say that, I sell costumes for a living.

08-12-2010, 07:23 AM
My clothes are store-bought, and not made of period accurate materials. This is mostly due to budgetary constraints and as a first-timer, I think it's acceptable as long as you have the spirit right.

This is completely fine, and if people give you crap about it, don't even bother paying attention to them.

Hell, I just did my first steampunk costume a few weeks ago and it went great. Most of my clothing was from the mid-50s (I think lol). Most of them came from a thrift store and for the life of me I could never tell you what the materials are because I honestly don't know. The look was right in my mind and it all felt fine and right when it was done. Thatís all that should matter :)

08-19-2010, 03:45 PM
I've only done one real steampunk cosplay and I haven't heard anything about not being period accurate or anything like that

People appreciate the effort you put forth, be it looking real hard for nice vintage finds or making it from scratch. It is also important to show you're enjoying yourself~ there is nothing worse than walking up to someone and getting a kind of blase response despite the fact that your oozing affection for their costume.

I Third pretty much everything stated above. Most people understand that not everyone can afford real silks, wool is hard to work with, and not everyone can sew.

May you keep stempunking and enjoy it thoroughly!

08-22-2010, 09:01 PM
Start with an idea and go with it. If you are comfortable with your costume then that is all that matters, esp. if you are starting out. If you wish make your costume more historical accurate you can always change parts as you go. But that choice is yours not someone elses. Remember, this is about fun.

I like to start with a historical base and modify to my taste. But that's just me. When costuming is no longer fun then I will stop doing it. There is enough stress in my life, I don't need to add more with costumes.

ps: Homemade spats can hide modern shoes, are easy to make even without a sewing machine, and add a period touch to a steampunk costume.