Costuming is one of the great joys of nerdom, but it is often hampered by the lack of time, talent, or money it can take to put together a good looking costume. Except there is one form of costuming where this this isn’t an issue: Steampunk. Yes, that neo-Victorian/Edwardian way of dress is a costume that you can put together by yourself on the cheap. Not only that, I’m going to do you a favor and show you how.
The first thing you want to do is look through your closet. You’ll be amazed at the stuff you’ve acquired over the years. Look for anything at all that could possibly be used. Are there a pair of shoes that look vaguely steampunkish? GREAT. If you’re a guy, do you have any slacks that you no longer wear, or maybe even a vest that you bought for that wedding a while back? That is a good start to an awesome costume. Gather everything you could possibly think of using in a room and evaluate it. If you’ve got any items that pair well together, then you can design the costume around them. Keep those items in mind as we make a trip to a magical place for steampunk: the thrift shop.
Thrift shops are steampunk heaven because of the amazing things that people give away, and is a great place to add to your garb. As you start looking through the store remember that you want the garb to look like something somebody would actually wear. We don’t want anyone dressed like Delirium of the Endless in the Victorian era, so stay focused. It’s also why I cannot recommend enough to at least have a vague idea of your character to help you stay focused. Now I’m not saying you need to have a complex back story, but are you an explorer, or a mad scientist, or a citizen. Your character will dictate what items you want to buy.
When going through the thrift shop I cannot recommend enough to keep an open mind. Whether or not you have a keystone item to build the costume around, you don’t want discount anything cool you may see. For guys I really recommend starting at the vests, or jackets. If you can find a great vest or jacket, both are major items that you can design the costume around. For women, check the dresses and skirts first. I’ve got some friends who created their outfits based on items they found there. For both men and women, do not forget to check the hats. I got one of my favorite hats from a local thrift shop. Also, I cannot emphasize this enough: if you don’t find anything usable on your first trip, do not get discouraged. The outfit I have shown with this article took months and many thrift stores to find that jacket. Cool things will show up, so feel free to search other stores in town and just understand this may take a bit of patience.
Time to accessorize our garb, and this can be done both fun and cheap. If you want a steampunk gun, buy a water or nerf gun. Now figure out the color scheme you want. Steampunk generally has earthy tones, along with a bit of silver. That said, this is your gun so pick a scheme that you think looks cool. Next buy paints of the colors that you want. Be sure that that the paint you’ve bought will stick to plastic. Now, obviously, paint the gun to steampunk it. Goggles, can be found at Steampunk Emporium for under $20 as I type this, so if you want em, they can be bought fairly cheap. For some extra bling, buy some copper or bronze looking chain at a craft store or even Walmart, and sew it onto parts of your garb.
Now, you know the cheapest way to get a costume together: make your pilgrimage to the thrift shop. Have fun finding cool items, and thinking about what you want to be. Never forget that you are not building your costume to anyone else’s standards but your own. The important thing about this is that you think that you look badass! Finally, have fun doing this. Be creative, and let your mind go wild.
With steampunk there are almost no wrong answers.