Photo by Danielle Lirette.
Steampunk cosplay has seen a steady incline in popularity in recent years. More often than not, you’ll see a steampunk cosplayer in convention halls or at comic cons.
If the thought of dressing up as a Victorian vixen or an industrial scientist sparks your interest, make sure to do it right. Steampunk cosplay is an art form on its own. However, being a part of this almost fantastical world is not that hard — you just have to unleash your inner steampunk persona.
But first — what is steampunk anyway?
A particular subculture, steampunk is inspired by the Victorian era and the industrial innovation of that period. It’s retrofuturistic when it comes to the esthetic. Furthermore, steampunk draws inspiration from an ingenious viewpoint of the Victorian era. Novelists like Jules Verne imagined a different present back then, and today that “past that never was” inspires an entire culture.
And what is steampunk cosplay?
Steampunk is best described as an alternative, fictional history. Although it’s more mainstream than it used to be, steampunk cosplay is still particular and unique. Therefore, it includes a lot of metal bits and pieces that look as if they were taken from a steam engine.
The entire look of steampunk cosplay exudes that Victorian inspiration, but with a hard, cyberpunk edge to it. Steampunk is a fusion of opposites, after all. It’s retro-futuristic, nostalgic and visionary at the same time, and it has an overall science-fiction esthetic.
As you can imagine, it’s not that easy to encompass all that and portray a steampunk persona. However, the great thing about steampunk is that it’s a mashup of different styles. Therefore, you can let your imagination run wild while creating your ideal steampunk cosplay look.
Creating the perfect steampunk cosplay persona
Creating a cosplay persona starts with the costume. While die-hard steampunk devotees will call steampunk a lifestyle, not many of us are prepared to call steampunk clothes “regular outfits.”
Therefore, the costume is the first step. A persona requires a personality as well, and many steampunk cosplayers love to make up a backstory and the history of the character as well. However, if you are unwilling to spend so much time and effort on steampunk cosplay, you can simply pick a costume that seems most appealing to you. Luckily, it will quickly become apparent which personality best matches which costume.
The Inventor (or the Scientist)
The Inventor is one of the most typical steampunk cosplay ideas. You can go one of two ways with this persona.
The typical Scientist is a revolutionary figure in the Victorian ages. They are respected and admired. They also have a distinct look. When you are creating a steampunk cosplay look of a Scientist, go for aged white coats adorned with glasses and goggles. Of course, long leather gloves are a must!
However, the Inventor can also look more like a mechanic. Thus, long leather covers and various tools like huge wrenches will complete the Inventor look. Goggles are the staple piece here as well, and you can even create your own invention to go with the costume. Pick something steam-powered, or at least reminiscent of a steam engine, of course.
The Explorer or The Adventurer is also a fan-favorite when it comes to steampunk cosplay. This look is usually associated with free spirits. What’s more, it also differs from the scientist quite a lot. Considering that only wealthy people could spend their time traveling and exploring, the adventurer look is more formal and has more accessories. After all, every adventurer needs a map, field glasses, and sturdy shoes.
If you’re looking to go even more formal, try the aristocratic look. You can also partner up with an Explorer. It will be quite fitting, as the aristocrats were patrons of those who dared to explore.
As the name suggests, The Aristocrat is adorned informal, luxurious clothes and jewelry. Furthermore, leather gloves, tiny hats, and fashionable parasols are ideal accessories when you’re cosplaying as a member of the highest social class. Of course, you can add signature steampunk accents to all these pieces — gears, goggles, screws, and even mechanical wings.
The Mechanic or The Ragamuffin is a very recognizable persona. What’s more, this cosplay character will allow you to play around with makeup, accessories, and props.
Ragamuffins are of low social class. They are manual workers, most commonly known as the steam-engine operators. You can see why they are very distinctive.
Mechanics or ragamuffins do the dirty work — quite literally. That means that you can tie your cosplay look together by rubbing some makeup in lieu of dirt on your face, hands, and clothes. Other than that, copious amounts of leather details, like belts, boots, and coveralls are also commonly seen on ragamuffins. Furthermore, gadgets like long, mechanical gloves, goggles, and even mechanical rucksacks are a great addition.
Pilots and other military personnel were very esteemed back in the Victorian Era. Furthermore, they had very distinct uniforms, which really comes in handy when you are choosing a steampunk cosplay look.
You’ve probably gathered by now — you can’t go wrong with oversized, Victorian goggles. The Aviator look also requires a helmet, leather jacket and boots, and a cheeky attitude. Well, the attitude is a choice, but it goes well with that devil-may-care attitude that’s commonly associated with pilots.
Furthermore, with The Aviator, you can be as imaginative as you wish. Create faux medals or rank insignias, add copper piping to your uniform, adorn your helmet with gears and, of course, don’t forget the gloves.
With steampunk cosplay — the sky is the limit
Cosplay, like any other art form, is a way to express ourselves. Steampunk cosplay allows us to be someone else, someone much cooler-looking for a day or even more.
Furthermore, there are many steampunk personas, and you don’t have to limit yourself to these five we mentioned. Try being a steampunk pirate for a day, or reimagine yourself as the Victorian Femme Fatale. The options are practically endless, and you can let your imagination run wild.
While most people advise being consistent while cosplaying, you can imagine a persona that suits you the best. A fallen aristocrat forced to work in the mines? Sure, why not? An explorer turned hunter on a desert island? Of course, whatever your heart desires. In the steampunk movement, there’s room for everyone.