By Ashley Hasna

Steampunk is defined as a sub-genre of science fiction typically featuring steam-powered machinery. These stories are often set in alternate histories such as post-apocalyptic Victorian era or the American “Wild West.” Think The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Van Helsing, and Wild Wild West. If the combination of old-fashioned clothing with industrial textures and items makes your gears turn then you’ll love steampunk to switch up your typical cosplay for Salt Lake Comic Con.

This FanX participant certainly drew attention:


If you’re looking to switch up a character costume or create your own steampunk cosplay from scratch, cover yourself from head to toe with these 10 essential steampunk elements:

Women’s Basic Elements:10295797_10152356683652370_33280839274116863_n

  1. Corsets and Waist Cinchers: Given the Victorian era nature of the genre, this is pretty much an essential element for any woman wishing to create a steampunk cosplay. However, unlike the waist-synching corsets worn in England, steampunk corsets should be worn over your shirt as should the waist cincher. Bonus points if you incorporate them both like this Sleeping Beauty.
  2. Bustles or Fishtails: Victorian women did not wear pants, and neither do women steampunk cosplayers. While there are always exceptions, for the best bottom elements, incorporate bustles or fishtail elements into your skirt. Note Maleficent’s above. Length is also key here: the shorter the skirt the more accessories and elements you should add to keep from looking burlesque. Not to say you can’t show any leg. Hiking up your skirt with a front bustle and leather straps is always an option, or you can place several bustles on the back. You get bonus points if you can incorporate a corset back onto a fishtail skirt.

Men’s Basic Elements:

  1. Vests: Steampunk bring the best elements of romantic poetry and suits into one with the shirt and vest combo. Note the first picture above again. Although they can come in different patterns, colors, lengths and shapes, this is one piece to coordinate it all.
  2. Long Coats or Tailed Coats: If a vest is too simple, bring your gentlemen or outlaw out with a long coat. Add tails and wrist buttons for a refined look, or keep your mystery alive with a long trench.

While the basic elements are essential, details make the outfit. Now for the fun part.

  1. Leather: While this isn’t exactly an accessory, due to the industrial nature of the subject, leather should be incorporated throughout your outfit. Corsets, cuffs, belts, straps, and top hats can all be made of this to pull elements together. Speaking of top hats…
  2. Top Hats: Victorian era at its finest. This is a fun element for both men and women to add extra pizazz. Make it match your vest or corset, or use for a fun prop. Top hats come in different heights and shapes, and you can add additional accessories to them such as…
  3. Goggles: The key to this industrial element is the shape: make sure they’re round for the greatest genre fit. Goggles can be added to a helmet (such as in the first picture), worn alone, or placed around the brim of a top hat. Don’t forget to investigate additional eyewear such as monocles.
  4. Boots: Whether black or brown, boots are definitely the footwear that should be worn for this cosplay. Open-toed shoes weren’t protective in industrial settings. This still gives plenty of variety however with the length, and with the addition of splatter guarding spats, boots can have accessories of their own.
  5. Fingerless Gloves: Gloves were a permanent accessory in the Victorian era; steampunk just made it more functional by leaving access to your fingers. This finishing detail can add a more industrial look if the gloves are made of leather and buckles, or they can add a softer touch with fabric or lace.
  6. Gears: These machine elements can add great finishing details to any part of the costume. Add them to the brim of a top hat, side of goggles, sleeves of your shirt, or front of your corset. You can even wear them as jewelry such as on cuffs or a necklace. There’s no rule saying you can’t place a gear somewhere, so give it a go.

Although these are all elements of steampunk, remember you don’t have to use all of them. In fact, it’s advised that you don’t. Build your basic element and go from there. For example, spats won’t do as much good on a fishtail skirt as they would on one with a side bustle. And adding every accessory listed here may make your costume come off as crowded rather than complete. Start small and expand from there.

Along with creating a steampunk version of your favorite character such as the Aurora and Maleficent shown above, you can also add a few steampunk elements to a costume without completely committing such as the Loki shown here:


Have you ever tried steampunk? Or is there a character you’d like to see? Let us know in the comments below.