Sunday, December 22, 2013

Steampunk Fashion Tips

(Source: Julia Hatmaker for

Steampunk events are all about the costumes.

Sure, there's music, vendors and maybe an author signing or two. And, in the case of Steampunk UnLimited at Strasburg Rail Road - which continues at 11 a.m. Nov. 17 - there's also a high tea and some sweet train rides. But the real crux of the event is checking out what everyone's wearing - and what they're doing.

"It's theater where the audience and the actors are the same people," said Steampunk UnLimited attendee Spencer Waldron.

With that in mind, how do you capture the perfect steampunk look? Here are seven tips to follow.

1. Remember, you are not a re-enactor. If you want to be completely historically accurate, that's fine, but steampunk is all about subverting the historical aesthetic. So don't sweat the thread count or the fact that your buttons feature an insignia that was created in the 1950s. If someone pesters you about it you even have an easy answer: You're a time traveler. All problems solved.

 2. Don't get locked into the Victorian England box. Steampunk UnLimited costume contest winner Charlie Mahoney of Wilmington, DE put it well: "I'm American and we had the 1800s as well." So if you'd rather not be a fussy Brit, embrace your inner cowboy or branch out as an Asian pirate and bid those Europeans adieu.

3. Haunt the thrift stores. A lot of steampunk ensembles are composed of multiple thrift store finds. Thrift stores are the go to for Mahoney and his fellow costume contest winner Sarah Beetham. So frequent your Salvation Army, you'll never know what you may find.

4. Don't shy away from a sewing machine. Yes, needle and thread can seem a bit daunting, but sometimes you gotta face your fear. Beetham made her award-winning outfit, which gave her supreme control when it came to the garment's final look.

5. There is no such thing as "too much." "You know how people say 'Look at yourself in the mirror and take something off?" said Mahoney "In steampunk, it's look at yourself in the mirror and add another thing."

6. Traditional fashion rules do not apply. Typically, mixing and matching a wide variety of fabrics is a big no-no. In steampunk, however, it's a huge yes-yes. Mixing fabrics and patterns adds a quirky element to your dress that fits the steampunk vibe. "It has a DIY atmosphere too," Beetham said. "It's throwing a look together."

7. Get resourceful. One man's trash is another man's treasure. It's cliched, but true - especially when it comes to steampunk. Those 2-liter soda bottles you just emptied? Put some paint on them and you've got a jet pack (okay, there may be a few more steps than just paint...). Old watches are perfect for spicing up your outfit with little gears and whatnot. So before you throw something away, think first - could this be steampunked?

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