Putting together all the various things that I made (goggles, hats, bracers and weapons), here are the finished costumes. I’ve included the costumes for me and my boyfriend – and also pictures of a couple of friends who went to the same party, so you can see other takes on the steam punk theme.
For mine, the garments I used were a plain white shirt, a corset, a pair of beige leggings, and some boots. Plus a ton of belts. I wrapped belts around the boots. I used one belt to attach the gun to my waist, and another to hold one to my boot. I wore a belt just as decoration.
I was going for a sort of Amelia Earhart thing. The white blouse had French cuffs, so I made cufflinks with clocks on them. The corset I already had – I’d found it thrift years ago. The pants are intended to look sort of like jodhpurs. And I just lucked into the boots on a thrifting trip. I was looking for boots with lots of buckles and studs on them. There were quite a few every time I looked. It was just lucky that I found them in a light brown color, which worked well for this outfit.
Most of the base garments for Chris were the same ones used for the Mad Hatter outfit: A white shirt with French cuffs, a vest with pockets, a white suit jacket and black pinstripe pants.
I looked around a TON for a nice brocade vest for him. I think brocade would have pushed the outfit even more toward the Victoria-era look. But all the ones I found either looked like old-fashioned sofa fabric, or they didn’t have pockets. And pockets were essential to this outfit. We hung a chain to look like a watch fob from one pocket, and he had an odd instrument on a chain poked into another pocket. He also hung eye glasses from his vest.
Vertical stripes are a very Victorian / Steampunk thing, too. The pin stripe pants add an old-time formality to the costume.
I made so many hats and goggles and weapons that I had some left over for friends to borrow. Their costumes, while very Steampunk, are quite different from mine, so I thought I’d show you what they did.
Viva went with a black dress. Combined with boots, a belt, and a side purse – it makes a much more feminine steampunk look. Even though the dress wasn’t long, and she didn’t pin up a corner of the skirt (both very common for women’s steam punk outfits) the color, the wide skirt and all the accessories clearly make it “steam punk.” This is a great example of how a simple simple garment – if it’s the right color and shape – can be used to good effect.
Of course, she also has that really amazing air brushed make up running along her arm and decolletage. One of my personal guidelines for costumes is “no body paint” but this particular paint was dry and didn’t rub off onto everything. And because it’s monochromatic in a bronze-y brown color, it really serves to add more of a steam punk flavor to the outfit without over powering the whole look.
My friend Amy also used some very simple foundation garments – a long, ruffled shirt with black leather pants. And once you throw some body paint and accessories on top, you get another very steam punk outfit. Again – lots of belts and clocks and gears throughout the ensemble, with simple, old-timey fabric colors.
Holy Toledo! I just learned the best trick EVER for making good-looking, aged costume guns. Maybe I’m late to this party, but I just had my mind BLOWN!
I bought a couple of squirt guns that I was going to “steam punk up” by spray painting them and gluing on various bits and pieces. Here’s the first one – before and after being painted gold. Painting it gold is NOT the trick. The trick comes later – stay with me. (I removed the bulb on the end and separately painted it silver, FYI.)
Then, I learned about Rub n Buff Metallic Wax. I went to Michaels craft store, and while they didn’t have the Rub n Buff brand, they did have some metallic wax (with one little tin on clearance) so I bought that to try out.
The first step is to paint the gun black. I masked just a few parts of the gold before painting it black – just in case it didn’t turn out very well. I also kept the bulb part silver. I wanted at least SOME variety.
Then, you take a TINY amount of the metallic wax on your finger. Like, just touch the wax. You should see the color on your finger tip, but no accumulation of wax. Like you’re going to taste something with ghost pepper in it.
And you rub the wax on the black gun. I’d suggest starting with the high points (edges and rims and exposed gun barrels) and stroking along the length of the high point (along the barrel, or around an edge.) Starting with a black gun, it took me about fifteen minutes – including removing the masking tape from the gold parts and putting the silver bulb back on. The results are amazing.
The wax paints the gun, but only where you rub it. So the black parts in the crevices and nooks and crannies stays black – and looks like oxidation. The metal color looks as though the actual metal of the gun is showing through.
I did this with a TON of other guns – and will show some before and after pictures below. A few things I learned.
First, I glued gears and springs onto the guns BEFORE I painted them black. I didn’t like the new/shiny look of the gears, and gluing them before hand worked fine.
Also, I went ahead and bought some silver Rub n Buff – the real stuff. It was much more concentrated than the wax stuff I bought from the craft store. And actually a bit more difficult to work with as a result.
I bought some curlers and painted them black. The outer cage part looked excellent on the guns, especially mounted on the top as a ‘scope or sight. I painted them black, touched them up with the wax paint and glued them on after the gun was completely done. Otherwise, I would have had a very flat black area underneath them on the gun (where I couldn’t reach to use the waxy stuff.)
Finally, I used a black permanent marker to correct any small “mistakes” that I made with the wax paint. I would sometime accidentally put a bit of color where I didn’t want it, and while the marker didn’t look fantastic, it helped remove the errors and make them much less visible.
One of the things that I noticed when I Googled steampunk costumes is that, in addition to top hats, guns and goggles, many people wore bracers – leather sleeves that wrap around your lower arm. They were adorned with many of the same things as the hats that I saw – although they tended to look more mechanical and involved. I wanted to make sure that I crafted at least one.
I went looking for stiff leather. The leather pants that I bought were soft and flexible. I wanted something thicker or stiffer that would hold its shape better. I found a purse that met all my criteria. It was a) brown or black, b) stiff leather, c) large enough that I could make a full bracer, and d) less than about $8. I cut it into four peices – basically just cutting out the four light leather panels, keeping them as large as possible.
Then, we need a way to hold the bracer onto your arm. For the first two of the bracers, I used grommets and laces. Very easy and straightforward.
I would recommend finishing up the functional part of the bracer (lacings, for example) before adding any decorations. Once you have the foundational bracer complete, you know exactly how much room you have available to decorate. I decorated one of the bracers by riveting (okay, Bedazzling, really) a large panel of soft leather onto it. I needed to do this first, so my design wouldn’t interfere too much with the look of the rivets.
Also, you’ll want to lace it up before you glue things to it. Because bracers will be worn wrapped around your arm, a design that works in two dimensions while laying on the table may not work once it’s been curved to fit your forearm. Lay out a design of various bits and pieces on a table. But before you glue the items in place, wrap the bracer around a soda or Pringles can so you can see how the pieces might need to twist.
I wanted to bracers to look more functional and mechanical than the hats, so I crafted several little mechanisms using fake clocks, flower vials (with one end cut off), fish tank tubing, springs, and hose clamps. These are many of the same bits and pieces that I used on the hats, just put together into more complex designs.
Here are pictures of my bracer designs, and you can see the evolution of one of the bracers as the designs progress. In the first picture, I’ve just laid some dark brown leather over the lighter, stamped leather, and then started putting different elements on top of it. I’m looking for how the colors go together, what might fit onto the bracer, and how the different elements look side-by-side.
Then here is a picture of a later mock up of the same bracer. I cut the brown leather to shape – but didn’t yet glue it on. I constructed the clock / tube / spring mechanism, but didn’t secure it immediately to the bracer. This is a near-final design, but it still needs to have the darker brown leather tacked on, and all the elements glued down. Some of the key pieces are actually a) a black camera lens cover with a clock face glued into it, b) a flower vial with the end cut off and caps at both ends, c) fish tank tubing painted copper-colored, then threaded through a spring and the flower vial, d) a poker chip with some locking washers and lock nuts glued to it.
Here is the first bracer, finished and ready to go. You can see how similar it is to the mock-up above. Just a few changes before gluing it all together.
By the time I got to the second bracer, I already had a variety of elements and combinations of things that I liked. So this one went faster. At first, I’m just checking colors and shapes. How the brown copper color looks against the light brown leather, for example. Or whether there are too many (or too few) clocks and gears.
Here’s a later design. I’ve switched to the textured leather, and I started looking at maybe adding some side panels of dark leather because I didn’t care for how wide the gap along my forearm was when I put the first bracer on. You can see that I haven’t cut the dark leather to size yet, because I’m still playing with the design. I just laid it out to see how it all looks together. At this point, the main clock / tube / clamp / spring mechanism has been glued together, but it’s just sitting on the leather. Likewise, the gears and the clocks are just laying on the leather, so I can add or subtract things until I like the look of everything. The next step after this photo would be to attach the darker leather to the sides of the caramel colored leather, cut it to size, and add grommets.
Here is a photo of the finished product. You can see rivets along the sides. The rivets are fake. They are just Bedazzled on, basically. They make the darker leather looks as though it’s riveted in place – although the leather panels are actually just glued on. I did a slight change in the tubing configuration (because one of the ends of tubing would not stay adhered to its hose clamp). I also put a colored, camera filter on top of the fake clock to make it look more finished. And I glued the gears (plus a spring or two) onto a fixed metal background for stability.
I’d also seen bracers with a series of buckles, and liked the look of those. I went thrifting for shoes with at least two functional buckles per shoe, and landed a pair of sandals with three small buckles per shoe for about $5. Score! Some challenges with this that I didn’t anticipate.
First, the leather straps on a shoe aren’t straight. They are curved to go around your ankle. So they were tricky to wrangle, and I needed to work hard to get them to not curve out in different directions. In the layout below, the first and last straps were the “real” ones that go around your ankle, and you can see that they are not straight at all.
Second, four of the six buckles, while technically functional, were really meant to be decorative. Those straps were almost too thick to thread through the buckle, and clearly weren’t meant to be easy to buckle and unbuckle. In fact, the buckles were SO difficult to work with that this bracer ended up not being worn. Next time, I’d spring for two or three pairs of buckled shoes and use ONLY the easy-to-buckle parts. If it’s too hard to put on, it really isn’t useful.
Third, trying to make the buckle design look “clean” was tricky. I wanted it to fit a wide range of arm sizes, so I needed the leather straps to be fairly long, but also to be able to be buckled to fit a very thin wrist. I wanted most of the bracer to be decorated with mechanical stuff, not just leather straps, also. In retrospect, the grommets were much easier, and would suggest going with those if you want something easy.
Here is a picture of the bracer with the straps attached, and an initial design laid out but not yet glued.
And here is the final, completed, 3rd bracer.
I removed the elastic, and then masked the center of the goggles, so that you could see through them if you wanted to. Then I spray painted them silver. They are a little sticky, even after the paint dried (which was also a complaint mentioned in the tutorial) and I think that is just the way spray paint behaves on dollar store goggles. If you plan on repeatedly wearing the goggles on your face, you may want to find a different solution.
I also cut down the salt containers (along with lots of other things) to make tubes, and mocked up the goggles repeatedly, putting different “lenses” on the various cylinders until I got a combination that I liked. One “lens” was always the lid of a metallic tin, so that I could actually see out of the goggles, if I wore them. The other was often obscured by different perforated or textured metal (or metal painted plastic). I kept trying different cylinders of different lengths, and various lens until I was happy with the result.
Once I had a good idea of which pieces were going with which, I spray painted everything silver or gold or copper.
The next step was using hot glue to put it all together. You should try to be as tidy about this as possible, but I found that strips of leather, or the corrugated headbands off the tiaras, could be wrapped around the goggles afterwards to hide the hot glue joint between the cylinders and the goggles. You’d do that in two steps – first the glue joint that holds the pieces together, then later hiding the joint by gluing something over it. In the pictures below, you can see the sloppy hot glue seam between the gold cylinders and the goggles, and then how I’ve covered it over with leather strips that I’ve “bedazzled” with rivets.
Then, I added various finishing touches. I replaced the elastic strap with a strip of leather. I drilled holes for the thumb tacks and them glued them on. I took strips of leather, added studs to them, and used that to mask the messy hot glue joints. I did the same with the tiara head bands, after cutting them in half.
You can also cut up cheap eyeglasses and add them as loupes. I didn’t have much success with this – and ended up concocting loupe-like bits using some curtain hardware and window screen. You can see an example of that in the finished goggles above.
I went looking for a steam punk goggle tutorial online and found a whole bunch – but I was looking to put one together on the cheap. You can find the tutorial I ultimately used here, unless time has gone by and the link is broken. (If so, I’m sorry.) I made quite a few modifications, but true to the original tutorial, most of what I used was procured at the dollar store.
Some of the dollar store items that I picked up include:
Chemical goggles (for $1! Wow!)
Salt: The original tutorial used plastic orange juice containers, because the top fit snugly onto the cylinder. I don’t drink OJ, but found large salt containers that had screw-on tops with a nifty perforated pattern on part of them. I didn’t end up using the tops – but did use the perforated flap as an extra element.
Magnetic tins: These were suggested, but not used, in the tutorial. The tops of the tins fit well over the salt containers, were metal colored, and already had a plastic “lens” in the middle of them. Perfect.
Tiaras: A fantastic recommendation from the tutorial. The corrugated headband of these children’s party favors worked very well to wrap around the salt-container cylinders and hid any hot glue mess from the assembly of the goggles.
Thumb tacks: These serve as good, cheap, fake rivets. I bought both silver and gold.
Reading glasses: For $1, these were a good addition. The thrift shop had some “better” ones – rounder and more antique-looking. But those screws were hard to get in and out, and the temple pieces of the dollar store glasses were straighter, and easier to manipulate. I ended up using both kinds in different ways.
I had an empty jar of jewelry cleaner that included a lifting-basket. It turned out to be just the right size to fit onto the end of one of the goggles. Same goes for the pickle-lifter from the empty jar of gherkins that I had. I looked for a metal steamer – the kind that opens up like a flower – thinking that I could use one of the “petals” somehow. But I couldn’t find one.
Finally, I had a box of curtain hardware lying around that had some round curtain clips that I used, with the window screen, to craft little accents that looked like loupes.
I ordered some cheap felt (not plastic) top hats from Windy City Novelties for $4 apiece. I already had one of their hats, and knew that it was cheap, but also well constructed. I was concerned that a plastic hat might melt, and I wanted something durable enough that it would last a while.
I also looked at a TON of different steam punk hats on the internet, paying close attention to the elements that I saw, and to things that looked like they were easy enough for me. In particular, I saw buckles, clocks, keys, gears, key holes, chains, rivet and lacing.
For a couple of the hats, I fashioned a hat band out of leather. In one case, I used a belt. In the other, I just glued some of the leather from the leather pants into a band. I felt it was “safer” to glue things to the band rather the hat. Also, it means that I can remove the band later, if I want to use the hat for another costume.
Then, I started making little adornments. Using the bits and pieces, I glues gears and clock faces onto painted poker chips. I used thumb tacks to hide hot glue, if necessary. I attached chains to parts of eye glasses. If I had skeleton keys, I would have incorporated them, too. (I didn’t have a cheap source of keys, basically.) I added grommets for lacing and for chains. I tucked parts of eye glasses into hat bands or grommets. There really isn’t much more to them than gluing a bunch of different steam punk elements to the hats.
Here are the “finished” hats, along with some close-up details. I found that, as I went along making the bracers, I kept adding little elements to the hats so I’m not sure at what point, exactly, they were “finished.”
I also thrifted a ton of belts. Belts with chains on them. Belts with studs on them. Belts with grommets in them. Some of them got cut up for the chains or decorations. Some got wrapped around boots. But at least one ended up wrapped around a hat.
Steampunk outfits require a LOT of little bits and pieces. Gears. Gauges. Tubes. Clocks. They get added to things like goggles and hats and bracers. I tried to make as many of these as possible as cheaply as possible. Here are some of the ingredients that worked for me.
Leather: I went to the thrift shop and bought a pair of dark brown leather pants for about $8. Leather coats are usually more expensive, and if you are only looking for the leather itself, the pants will provide lots of nice, large pieces. My experience is that leather pants don’t sell well, and you can usually find them for half-price thrift. I cut them up and used them for leather trim, straps, and accents. A strip of leather can hide the hot glue that is actually holding things together, and if you add rivets, it looks like it belongs there. The rim around the base of the goggles shown below is a good example of that. It hides a mess of hot glue that actually secures the gold cylinders to the face of the chemical goggles.
Stud-setter / Bedazzler: I stumbled onto a GeMagic stud setter (like a Bedazzler) at the thrift store and didn’t realize how much it would come in handy for this project. I could mount studs into leather, making them look like rivets, and then just hot glue the leather down. Or if the leather is thin, and you are only going through a couple of layers, you can actually use it to hold the leather down. For example, I used them to mount vials to a hat band:
Grommet setter: I used a TON of grommets in this project, so if you don’t have a couple of grommet setters, borrow one or two ASAP. You’ll use them for hat bands, and to tie bracers to your arm. You can also use them decoratively, or to help hang various “instruments” and “gauges” off your costume.
Metallic spray paint: This was essential. I painted EVERYTHING. It’s astonishing the things that you can use if you know that you can make them look metallic. I bought one can each of silver, gold, and copper – and used all three quite a bit.
Conduit Locknuts: These nuts are used to connect pieces of electrical conduit, and they look a LOT like gears. They come in different sizes – from about 1/2″ inch on up – and are pretty inexpensive. I bought mine at the Habitat for Humanity Restore for about 10 cents each. I chose the ones that were the most squared off, so that they looked as much like gears as possible.
Toothed Locking Washers: Locking washers also look a lot like gears, and some have teeth on the inside, some on the outside. These are much smaller than the conduit locknuts, so they add some good visual variety. Again, they are very inexpensive, especially if you buy them in a lot, rather than one at a time at a hardware store. I ended up buying a HUGE assortment of about 700 of them on Ebay for $10.
Poker chips: I painted the poker chips in metallic colors – after which they just look like metallic poker chips. But if you glue a clock face on them – they become clocks. Glue a compass image on them – they become compasses. You can also use them as a foundation to hold gears in place.
Thumb tacks: I bought huge packages of silver and gold tone thumb tacks for $1 each and used them to look like rivets. You can either snip the pointy part off, or leave it in place to add strength. In the case of the poker chip / gear construction above, I used a thumb tack to help hide the hot glue that holds the whole assembly together. I used them quite a bit on the goggles, also.
Buttons: I printed out a whole lot of clock faces onto card stock and then glued them onto all sorts of things – like poker chips and buttons. I also collected metal buttons to add more metallic decorative elements to the hats and bracers. There is a product called “dimensional media” that is like glitter glue without the glitter. It puts a thick, surface shine – like a plastic or glass coating – onto paper. I used that to make the clock faces shiny, looking a bit more like they were under glass. As you look through the images, know that no real clocks were used for any of these costume elements.
Cut flower vials: I stumbled onto a bag of little test tubes in a thrift shop, and have used these repeatedly for this costume. They are little vials that have a cap with a hole in it. You put them on the cut end of flowers, with some water, to keep the flower fresh. Unless you are working on a steam punk costume, in which case you cut them down into mini-test tubes and mount them on hats; or you cut the end off and use them to look like glass tubing; or you put springs inside of them and use them as gun barrels. You can see them mounted on the side of the hat, above.
Eyeglasses: My dollar store has reading glasses for $1, and my local thrift shop has a bin of old eyeglasses for 89 cents apiece. I looked for wire rims, and then cut them in two and added them to hats in various ways. If you remove the temple piece and add a chain, they can pass for a monocle hanging down from your vest. If you glue them to goggles, they can look like a loupe.
Fish tank tubing: Buy the tubing. Spray paint it copper. Voila – copper tubing that is easy to bend and cut.
Springs: I found a big box of small springs in the basement at an estate sale, and used them in many places. Tiny ones were added in and around the “gears”, and longer ones were put inside (or wrapped around) the plastic flower vials.
Window screen: I cut up an old window screen into manageable pieces and then painted them copper. I then cut it up and added it in various places.
Camera filters: On Ebay, I found an assortment of old camera filters and rings and lenses. I found that I could add dials and gauges and clock faces that I printed out to make realistic-ish instruments. Of course, you might be able to add them to the goggles, too. The colored ones in particular might make a nice touch.
Other stuff: Look around the basement and the garage for interesting textures or small round things. Look in your recycling bin for plastic cylinders or perforated sieves and sifters. Wander around the hardware store and look a chains and tubing and conduit and anything else that looks useful. At the drug store, look for tiny bottles of anything, round make-up containers with clear lids, guns in the toy section. Once you tune your vision on small round things, and metallic things with an interesting texture, there is a TON of stuff out there.