Steampump Part 2

This post should be in conjunction with Part 1.

I work backwards when I’m writing this blog. The outfit and ideas come first and I try on pieces of clothing without really understanding what I’m doing. I take some pictures, do some doodles and then a sit down in front of my laptop in an attempt to articulate my mental process. If you found my Part 1 post confusing or too vague hopefully this post will make everything clearer and provide a visual understanding of how my particular brand of steampunk fashion works.

If this outfit looks somewhat familiar it’s because I basically designed my zombie costume based on it. While this particular outfit has a lot of luxury items meaning I am wearing approximately $400 worth of stuff you really don’t need to spend a lot of money to get the same effect. My zombie costume cost under $20 (and that was mostly the ingredients for blood) and you can easily recreate a similar look by creatively using suggestions from Part 1. Thrift stores have a lot of cheap items that you shouldn’t be afraid to mod, pin or even *gasp* cut up.

Unfortunately the only full-body shot I got of myself was very blurry so extra thanks to Joshua Button for allowing me to use his photographs on this website!

Layers and Silhouette

The reason I’ve overlaid the picture is because it’s extremely blurry AND so you can more clearly see the layering effect in action.

Top: I am wearing four layers of clothing and the reason it looks so layered is because you can see all of them simultaneously and that’s because I chose to wear a lot of “cropped” items. My white shirt was the base item, the next layers were the corset that only covered my stomach and the shrug that covered my back and shoulders. The harness partially covers the corset with straps that go over the shoulders.

Nothing’s wrong with wearing a very pretty shirt and not-layering. But if you’re on a budget and have a lot of plain-looking items you can definitely create effective steampunk outfits by layering them up. You’ll want to use items with complimentary colours and textures but ensure each item stands out against each other; for example you probably wouldn’t want to put two items of a similar shade on top of each other because from a distance it’ll look like one item rather than something layered.

Bottom: The skirt tiers are made up of individual layers in order to give a more layered and voluminous effect. The ruffles become clear separator for the layers – without them the layers would lie flat and you wouldn’t get the same segmented effect. You don’t necessary need a skirt with actual layers of material because the illusion of layering can be created by having a skirt with clear panel separators.

Look at the bottom of this skirt. Although there’s only one layer of material the segmented and ruffled areas kind of look like there’s an underskirt. Be on the lookout for items that use different textures and colours to give a multi-tiered illusion.

Here’s something to thing about: the top half of my outfit uses many plain but differently-coloured items to create a layered effect, but the bottom half of my outfit uses one elaborate multi-textured items to create the same effect.

Heagear, Footgear and Accessories: I think I covered this pretty well in Part 1 so I’ll just self-indulgently quote myself:

A cravat or choker can add extra class, a pocketwatch and chain makes a waistcoat look that extra bit awesome, and a hat, hairband or fascinator is almost a must! You might also want to think about adding scarves, shawls, gloves, pipes, cuffs, rayguns, watches, canes, parasols, fans, masks, eyepatches, goggles, spectacles, monocles, weaponry and a number of other easily-obtainable (or makeable) extras to personalise the outfit…

If you’re a “beginner” in steampunk aesthetics it’s useful to think about a character or occupation to impose constructive limits. For example a lady would tend to wear brighter colours, more elaborate textures like silk and satin and carry a parasol or a fan. On the other hand airship crew would have more practical clothing, wear matte textures like linen and cotton, stick to black, grey and brown, carry rayguns and goggles.

I’m attempting an Airship First Mate sort of thing which is why I’m wearing goggles, a military cap and a bandanna around my neck. I have an epic steampunk weapon but didn’t bring it that night since I had a SLR camera to lug around as well.

Item Breakdown


I told you this picture was blurry. Unfortunately this is the best (only) picture I have for an over all impression of what I wore:

  • Goggles bought from Wildilocks then modded. $25 + extras for paint and stampings.
  • Military cap, Camberwell market $15
  • Bandanna, thrifted $2.
  • White shirt, on sale $10.
  • Brown Supre shrug, thrifted ~$3
  • Corset, Louise Black ~$130 (from back in the day before she got famous)
  • Pleather harness, on sale $6 (this is actually the exact same harness from Clockwork Couture but I found a store in Box Hill that was selling these super cheap. Unfortunately they also run super small so it was tight for me even though I fall within “standard” sizing AND I was wearing a corset).
  • Gauntlets, originally gloves that got cut-up $4
  • Skingraft cotton ruffle skirt ~$180 from PostWarTrade.
  • Striped underskirt, secondhand Camberwell market $3
  • Stockings, Myer on sale ~$7
  • Brown ankle-length boots, Zoe Wittner on sale $40(!!)

Reviewing the Outfit

When I did this pose during the photoshoot Joshua said I looked kinda scary as if I was going to beat someone up with the cane. I felt like Guy Ritchie's version of Dr Watson.

Variations of this silhouette and these items have been my default steampunk outfit for a while. There’s been small changes over time I’ve gradually swapped out many items for new pieces I’ve acquired. The thing with freeform fashion styles (and why I love the steampunk aesthetic) is that an outfit is never “finished” because it can always be altered.

As much as I like stripes I kind of feel the underskirt is a bit much. I’ve wanted to make bloomers for this outfit for a while and never got around to it, but I recently bought a pair of shorts that might do the job. I’m not really happy with the guantlets/armwarmers either (as warm as they were) and ideally they’d be replaced with fingerless leather gloves I don’t own. But you know these are just nitpicky things and I’ve altered the outfit enough times to be really satisfied with it.

Some Final Words

There are a lot of different looks in steampunk and these posts are really the tip of the iceberg. I prefer a post-apocalyptic, hastily-cobbled look but there are other people dressed in Victorian re-enactment, Weird West, Lolita, heavily gadgets, military, non-Western, 70s punk, mad scientist, belly dance, burlesque, dieselpunk, etc etc that are all accepted members within the subculture. There’s a lot of room for exploration and creativity to fit within your own style of dress.

What I personally love about this aesthetic is the postmodern remix of old and new, often incorrectly described as “nostalgia”. Steampunk embraces the technology and discards of today to create beauty with elements of retro aesthetic. If you ask me steampunk is forward-looking with its upcycling and DIY ethos, and its positive use of technology to create communities and circulate information. My brand of steampunk isn’t nostalgic but a prettier-looking cyberpunk 😉

Part 1

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2 responses to “Steampump Part 2

  1. Pingback: Steampump Part 1 « Not a Cosplayer

  2. Pingback: Mid-year sales « Not a Cosplayer

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