Annalisa Giglio

No Money? No Problem. Steampunk on a Budget

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Clockwork and dollar menu deals...

This article is about the steampunk genre. So, for those of you who have been living in a mayonnaise jar for the past few years, you can find what exactly steampunk is here. Truth is, steampunk goes far beyond what is described in that link, delving into aesthetics and philosophies and a specific mindset. That being said, let’s move along.

Being reasonably involved in the New England steampunk community, I’ve seen my fair share of well, everything turned into neo-Victorian science fiction. Go to a convention and nine times out of ten, you’re bound to see some variation of the steampunk genre come to life. The community is growing at a steady pace as steampunk becomes more and more popular, but enthusiasts of the genre always run into that one speed bump that afflicts most cosplayers: money. Well known steampunks in the community are well known for a reason. Their outfits and props are very noticeable. Even in a room full of neo-Victorian anglophiles, there are always those few who blatantly stand out because of their elaborate steam powered outfits. A few examples of this are a gentleman who is often seen around conventions as the steampunk Boba Fett (yes, that’s right. Star Wars and steampunk), and a lovely lady who goes by Madam Mercy Roulette. A quick Google or Facebook search of either of those two will give you photos of amazing outfits that no doubt cost a pretty penny. But for those of you who are just starting out and are on a budget, steampunk isn’t a problem.

madam mercy

-Madam Mercy Roullette

There are certain elements that are necessary for any cosplay being hand crafted, not just strictly steampunk. Creativity is key. You can make stunning pieces with cardboard, paint, foam, and a little know how. Keeping the creativity thing in mind, not everything has to be made from scratch. Take Macklemore’s catchy song advice and go to a thrift shop. Seriously. You will be amazed at some of the things that I’ve gotten at a thrift shop or a Savers for costume pieces. It honestly makes life a bit easier when you’re using pre-made items to craft a costume. I guarantee you’ll be able to find something that can be easily altered by you to fit your vision. One of the steampunk outfits that I made, I used a $5 lace dress that I found hidden in the racks of a Savers store. Simple, right? That paired with the Simplicity steampunk pattern and a clever monogoggle purchased on Etsy, I was good to go. It wasn’t necessarily a memorable character, but it was something that I was proud of. In the end, that’s what really counts in cosplay: creating something that you can be proud to wear and proud to show off.

Even you, steamdog. Even you!

Even you, steamdog. Even you!

Steampunk on a budget consists, really, of being resourceful. Want machine gear accents sewn into your clothes? Drop by your local hardware store. They sell small gears for 7 cents each. Want something to look brassy? Pick up some all-weather brass spray paint (the all-weather lasts longer). Also, NEVER underestimate the importance of an antique shop. Personally, I’ve gotten numerous inexpensive trinkets and doodads at a large antique shop on Cape Cod. You’d never think to look at an antique shop if you’re just starting out, but that’s what I’m here for. To educate you, you lovely readers. I am aware that this article is kind of the bare-bones structure of budget steampunk, but that’s because the thing with steampunk is that it has no limitations in regards to creativity. It can be whatever you want it to be. Hell, I know a guy who made functional, folding Icarus wings using a backpack, hardware store pipes, and some fabric. You’ll hear a lot of people tell you that steampunk is hard to define because it has so many facets to it, and they’re right. You can get the simplest definition of it, but the truth is, it really can be whatever you want. You’ll see dragon girls, people with tentacles coming out of them, living automatons, half androids, sailors, airship captains and crews, and everything in between. The steampunk genre allows it’s enthusiasts to use every bit of their imagination and it’s truly a glorious thing because you can make anything look like it belongs in the Victorian age of steam with a little bit of elbow grease, a Nerf Maverick, and spray paint. That being said…go forth, my readers, and create! Create something worthy of Jules Verne on a budget! You got this.


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2 Responses to No Money? No Problem. Steampunk on a Budget

  1. Kam April 16, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    Such an interesting genre. The future in the past, inquiry and inovation, quality-made items and goggles. Everyday should be goggle day. Thanks for the post!

  2. Annalisa Giglio April 20, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    I agree. Every day should be goggle day. Because why the hell not. :D


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