Steampunk Cosplay Tips

So you wanna get punked and be a Steampunk? Here are some tips...

Steampunk Cosplay is not a rag-tag anything goes free-for-all like other forms of hobby costuming. Precision, symmetry, technical expertise, color coordination, and the ability to make perfection look antiqued make Steampunk almost museum-quality cosplay.

Our boots give you a large, sturdy canvas to anchor your magnificent creation. Click here to shop Aris Archer Steampunk Boots.

It has been said that “Steampunk happened when Goths discovered the color brown.” While that’s adorably funny we all know that both cultures have a long history of attention to detail in their presentation both to outsiders and, more importantly, to each other. So since you’re in an artisanal outfitting clan we’ve made our boots to give you a large, sturdy, permanent canvas to anchor your magnificent creation. Don’t do all that work on a pair of boots that’ll be in tatters after the first day! You’ll have enough repairs to do on the rest of your masterpiece. Click here to shop our basic cosplay boots.

Like any good cosplay, amassing the parts for your Steampunk masterpiece will take time and diligence. From experience, we know that the best first step would be to create a small part of your ensemble, a gauntlet, watch, arm band, hat, pair of goggles, or a side pouch would be an excellent place to start. You'll learn so much from your first piece. Don't try to make your very first project a set of full-sized mechanical wings or a robotic arm. If you insist on doing something complicated, maybe make a tiny one for your cat. The excitement and applause you'll garner from that will give you the encouragement and enthusiasm to then tackle much more ambitious projects.

Maybe start with an existing accessory - an old watch, a top hat, a vest, then add bits of other items, and finish it off with some bronze-colored paint. Kit-bashing is almost as fun as bespoke - but a lot faster.

Best practices:
• Choose a base metal -
• Choose 2-3 colors. Steampunk is busy in mechanics - not in colors. Stay basic and mostly earthtone.
• Amass photos of the style you like.
• Be resourceful, learn new processes, get help from your friends, watch videos:
- While you can certainly buy everything you need ready-made, nothing beats the feeling of being able to say “Why yes, I made the whole thing myself!”

• Parts and pieces you can source at thrift stores:
 - belts that can be cut down to fit around your arm or leg
 - tiny metal frames
 - large ornate frames that can be cut down into swirly embellishments
 - children’s toys that can be cut, embellished, and painted (weapons, instruments, doll clothes and hats)
 - the sides of children’s plastic automobiles can be cut up to provide mirror-image components
 - leather jackets that can be cut up and glued to parts of your costume
 - broken chains
 - formal dresses that can be harvested for satin, taffeta, and lace
 - old camera cases and boxy purses
 - plastic tigers, gators, dinosaurs, and sharks (heads and tails can easily be sprayed with metallic paint and antiqued with black paint to embellish jewelry, millinery, or weaponry)
 - used book bags and backpacks can provide fabric, straps, and hardware
 - odd kitchen implements, pan lids, faux crystal, old Christmas ornaments
 - plastic children’s model kits (trains, planes, and automobiles all provide tiny parts useful to “industrial-up” you’re accoutrements)

Don’t forget Antique Malls and Yard Sales in your quest.

• Buttons are screw-back and can be replaced with any other screw-back or stud buttons (they have been fastened with Loctite - if they are difficult to remove try heating them with a blowdryer or other warming device).
• The laces can easily be replaced with cord, ribbon, leather, ribbon, or twine.
• They are unlined: this will allow you to easily embellish them with stitching, beading, or studs.

(Every one of these tips has tons of videos about them online - please watch them!)

Never cover your face. The owner of Aris Archer has a permanent shin scar from trying to walk the Baltimore Bar District (Fell’s Point) in a Frogman costume. Which had a mock snorkel. Which blocked the view of anything below the knee. Which happened to be a low marble set of stairs. Walking one second… laughing on the ground the next. Lots of blood. So: design your costume so you can see where you’re walking!

Evolution. Your costume will evolve over the years. Layering is the key. It’s much easier to make half a costume than start over every year. Much greener, too.

Start EARLY. There’s nothing worse than having to stay up all night because you kept putting things off. Costuming always takes double the time you think it will.

Sewing your very first piece? One of the best ways to start is to lay your favorite shirt, pants, jacket, etc. on a large piece of paper, trace it, then cut that out to use that as your pattern (lay it on your fabric, trace around it with chalk, then cut the fabric (please watch videos about this before you start). If you make the pattern too big you can cut it down. If you make it too small you can tape pieces of paper to it to make it larger. You can also start by making a doll-sized version. Or get the cheapest fabric possible and make one first before you cut into that vintage tapestry you purchased on Etsy. Ask a friend for help if you know someone who regularly sews.

Scissors! Cutting up existing clothing also works pretty well. Pirate shirt? Buy an XXL burgundy button down shirt at a thrift store. Borrow your mom’s New Year’s Eve sequin dress from 2002. Cut it a bit, hem it a bit… voila! Fit for a Pirate King!

Live and dye Steampunk. Most cotton fabric can easily be dyed. A pair of cotton Khaki pants will have lots of pockets, be quite comfy, and can be dyed most dark colors. Just make sure to wash it several times with very dark things before you ruin everybody else’s clothes by throwing it in the machine while the dye is still unstable. Look up dying light colored fabric with tea. Gives them a nice vintage look.

Safety first. Safety pins are your friend. Both to hold your outfit together - as well as for making on-the-spot repairs if something rips when you’re out in public. Pin a dozen somewhere inside your outfit. Maybe you’ll be able to make a new friend when you hear the MC ask if anybody has an extra safety pin for somebody whose wings are falling off!

Have a pocket watch? Don't forget pockets. Build your garb in a way to hold your phone, ID, money, etc. Either build a secret compartment into your costume or, if you forget, just pin a sock inside your pants, jacket, or skirt (two pins are better than one!). Better to add a half-assed pocket than leave your phone on a table because you keep putting it down. Just make all of your “pockets” very deep. It’s no good to think your valuables are safe only to find out you dropped everything back on 5th Avenue while you waited for the light to change.

Paper Mache:
• Your new best friend. Need a fake musket or sword? Form it from cardboard, cover it with cheap packing tape, then mix equal parts white flour with water (maybe a little extra water). Dip strips of paper in your flour/water mixture, Lay them on your armature, let each layer dry, then sand or cut away mistakes, and keep applying layers of paper (must dry thoroughly every time you add a layer) until you get the look you want. It’s cheaper, and greener than buying a commercial product - plus you get bragging rights: “I made this myself!”. You never hear anyone say: “I bought this myself!!” Lame!

• Costuming is an easy way of belonging to a crowd that you may or may not be friends with yet. You may think you’ll look like an idiot in a get-up. Not so: you’ll look like an idiot in your street clothes when everybody else is running around channeling an alter ego. You don’t want to be that guy who didn’t care enough to bother to put a costume together. Join in the fun!


We are looking for a few pros to trade boots and belts for photographs. Please contact us at 410-990-0005 if you are interested. We will require you to provide links or email us photos to show us the quality of photography we can expect.