Wednesday, February 10, 2016

How to Recreate This Steampunk Burlesque Dancer Costume

If you're thinking of putting together your own steampunk costume, you'll find a carefully curated collection of photos in the Fashion Inspiration section. Today we'll take one of the most popular photos and show how you can recreate this look with your own flair.
Model: Rin / Photographer: Kato for

This is well-known Steamgirl Rin, in an outfit I like to call "Steampunk Burlesque." There are a few elements that give this a burlesque or showgirl feel, differentiating it from other steampunk character styles: the sexy underbust corset, the showy high-low hem of the ruffled skirt and the glamorous feather cap (which isn't really a feather at all, but more on that in a minute).

how to dress as a Steampunk burlesque dancer - steampunk clothing and costumes for women

Lets start with the underbust corset (aka underbust bustier or bodice--learn more about corsets in our fashion guide). Like a traditional corset, it laces in the back to accentuate the bust, cinch in the waist, and achieve an hourglass shape. But the underbust is sexier than the overbust corset or bodice since it runs under the breasts, leaving the cups open. This gives you the option to wear whatever you want underneath, from a colorful tube top to a bikini, or-- if you want to go full burlesque-- pasties.

Here's a dark grey underbust corset that looks almost identical to Rin's:

  Or a gorgeous black brocade underbust corset with buckles and leather detailing:

Find more underbust corsets here.


The skirt is a long tiered ruffle skirt whose front has been tied up into a bustle. This gives a dramatic long-in-back, short-in-front shape, and explains why it's sometimes called a "mullet skirt", "high low skirt" or "dip hem skirt" (learn more about the high-low hem skirt). The raised front is also a flashy way to show off your legs, which is important in a burlesque costume.

Kato doesn't seem to be selling her Steampunk Couture clothing anymore, but another shop has licensed her designs, so you can get her actual Black and Grey Vex Skirt here.
buy steampunk couture vex skirt steamgirl kato womens clothing

If you're looking for a more affordable option, here's a black high low skirt with great customer reviews (also scroll down to check out the customer submitted photos in the review section):

Here's a more modern version of the ruffle high-low skirt by Dreamgirl. This is made of multiple layers of satin ruffles. It doesn't have a bustle, but the short  front maintains the showgirl effect. The photo shows the skirt with the shortest part over one leg, but as customers point out in the reviews, you can turn it toward the front:

Another option is to wear your own mini skirt, and add this long ruffle skirt over it. This allows you to play with the fullness by having a second layer to act as a petticoat:

It's a really unique and versatile piece. Here's just one example of what you can do with it:

Finally, a gorgeous pinstripe skirt with button and ribbon detailing on the waist, and cascading waterfall ruffles down the back:

Find more high-low hem skirts here.


At first glance, Rin looks to be wearing some kind of feathered showgirl headpiece, but it's actually a combination of three things: an aviator cap, goggles, and her hair. What looks like a white ostrich feather is actually Rin's hair pulled into a pony tail and sticking out a hole in the top of the cap. I assume she did this to give an appearance of a show-girl's feathered headdress, contributing to the burlesque style.

Here's a great faux leather aviator hat (aka bomber hat or aviator cap) under $20:

An Ostrich feather plume is a cheap addition to your costume (this one is less than $5) and available in every color. Attach it to your aviator cap for a pop of color and an instant steampunk burlesque headpiece. Add more feathers for a bushier plume, creating a more dramatic headdress:

 And top it with a pair of cheap steampunk goggles (this one is under $10):

Now, with the main showgirl/burlesque elements in place (underbust corset, hi-low bustle skirt, feather plumed aviator cap), you can get creative with the other accessories.


You'll need to wear something under the underbust corset (or you can opt for some cool pasties instead).

Try a striped bikini top, lace bra, spaghetti strap tank top, bralette, colorful tube top:


The ruffled skirt's high front is designed to show off your legs, so it's also a great way to show off a sexy pair of boots. Look for something knee-high. Choose lace up boots to up play up the Victorian element of your Steampunk costume like these black patent leather boots:

Or these lace up boots available in grey, black, tan and brown:


Add some sexy vertical striped sheer thigh high stockings:


Finally, we have the fingerless gloves. They come in every color and pattern imaginable, but keeping with Rin's muted palette, here are two cheap black and grey striped options:

Emo goth fingerless black and gray striped gloves
Striped Goth Fingerless Gloves
gothic emo striped black and grey arm warmer gloves fingerless
Black & Gray Striped Fingerless Arm Warmers


Because it wouldn't be Steampunk without some Victorian influence, make sure you top it off with a cameo necklace. Try something with a little edge, like this Lolita Skull Cameo Pendent:

Finish off the look with some leather arm cuff bracelets and a wide leather belt.  

For more guides like this, check out Recreate This Look. If you need shopping resources, visit the Where to Shop page.

Model: Rin
Photographer: Kato 

Fashion Guide - Understand the elements of Steampunk fashion and learn to put together your own costume

Tutorials - The best (free) Steampunk costume, weapon, & prop tutorials and DIY guides from around the web

Fashion Inspiration - Browse our photo gallery of Steampunk cosplayers

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