My friend Caroline wanted to develop a steampunk costume for Halloween this year and I was happy to pitch in and help with it. Steampunk is basically this: If you were a steam-powered Victorian, what would your vision of the future be? That’s steampunk in a nut shell. Think HG Well’s time machine, The Golden Compass, that sort of thing. Gears, gadgets, corsets, Victorian car coats, granny boots, goggles, and “tarted up” Victorian garb, you get the idea.
Caroline found this cute rattan woven basket and a canteen that looked pretty steampunk, so we used those to accessorize the outfit. I lined the small basket with left-over corset fabric so she could use it as a purse put her keys in there without them rattling around all night. We added some upholstery tacks to the outside, and I braided a long length of twine for a waist strap.
SteamPunk corset with gears and the rattan purse.
We started with a simple corset design. Just a few layers of fabric, some bias tape, a few inches of boning, some grommets, a grommet installation gadget, and some twine and a pinch of hot glue were all that were required. We started with two layers of muslin for thickness. I sewed the two pieces together at intervals to provide channels for boning to be inserted. then we added a top and bottom layer of fabric. Caroline wanted this to be reversible so she could use it for Shakespearean productions, Renaissance costumes, etc. After all the layers were basted together and the boning installed, we finished the edges with bias tape trim, added grommets for lacing and phase 1 was complete. We later added a zipper down the back because we wanted it to look more SteamPunk-ish. That allowed us to remove some fabric from the back. The final design then had a bigger “gap” where it laces up in the front and the whole thing could be cinched tighter for a flattering waistline. We cut some gears out of silver fabric which we layered with very thick interfacing. We added some brads (the kind you use to hold reports together) and I hand tacked the gears to the corset. Caroline had some game pieces that were little wrenches, so we hand sewed that to the corset as well.
Later, we adjusted the goggles to a more jaunty angle on the hat.
added a zipper
I made the goggles by sawing off the bottom of some transparent, red plastic cups. I wrapped them in twine, decorated them with hot glue and some “pleather” I harvested from a faux leather jacket my daughter wore in grade school. I added some grommet to some leather strips and attached those to the goggles and voila!
Swaped the yellow plastic buttons for these metal ones, added the canteen. Goggles in the background.
The skirt was from a dress pattern that Caroline had that she knew fit her very well. I cut out the skirt pieces from the dress pattern, added a waistband, a zipper, some skirt hooks, and gathered the skirt up the back to form a bustle. We gathered the skirt a few inches in several places all around the hem so that it would have fullness and let the petticoat underneath peek out. Then I added a large ruffle down the back and tacked it in place by hand. I wanted her to be able to get in and out of it without having a dresser’s help (we just don’t know any Victorian ladies’ maids). That meant I needed to attach the bustle ruffle BELOW the zipper and add a hook and eye to the top of the ruffle and the waistband so she could slip on the skirt, zip it, and hook the bustle in place at the waist all by herself.
skirt front deatail.
Some bustle action in the back.
I replaced the buttons on a yellow silk overcoat Caroline had, so they would look more Steam-punk. I just had these buttons at the house on a coat that was no longer in style, so I re-purposed them. They were big round and metallic and they looked great on the coat. Caroline added some great accessories like pattern stockings, a vintage hat, brown leather gloves, a scarf, and voila!
We spent one afternoon hanging out with Caroline’s awesome children, P and M when they came over one afternoon while we were working on the costume. They went as a TV (with changing channels!) and a POP Star Diva.
Caroline and her two wonder-kids, M and P.
Happy belated Halloween!