What is needed to start a basic Steampunk outfit/costume?

I was recently asked this by a few parents during Halloween this year at the school I teach and to tell you the truth I found it hard to answer considering anything goes in Steampunk.   So I told them what basics I needed to start my costume.

1. Goggles (optional)

2. Corset or Corset Dress

3. Gear decorations (optional)

What were your basics when you started your outfit/costume?

I know there are a lot of new people to the world of Steampunk who are looking for help starting an outfit and I'm a little curious myself as to what you used as your base.

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I struggled for a while, though having the corset as a base is an excellent place to start from in that it is the most defining and hypothetically costly part of your costume. But it also determines what kind of top you need and type/size of skirts, etc.  But what I found most useful was deciding on a character, which would then drive the rest of the outfit. Am I a fancy lady or a grimy airship engineer? Am I a hunter of cryptozoological specimens, a hapless time traveler, or just a dandy about town?  And then you find things that serve that character. That way you don't have an engineer's bodice over a fine lady's skirt and adventurer wellingtons.

All that said, if you have a great story that ties your elements together, you pretty much can't be "wrong" in steampunk. It's now HOW you dress, it's THAT you dress.

As for "glue some gears on it" that's all fine for Halloween but generally it's good if your bits have a purpose or function (even if it's fake, like "this tube generates the aether.")

: )

I think it is funny, because I make corsets, and yet when I think of myself in a Steampunk outfit I hardly ever think of myself in one. 

And then, I have clients that should never go without one because they look so good in one. 

So although I think it is a great basic piece, I don't see it for every girl. 

I do see things like white blouses, full skirts and boleros and vests. To start wit I mean...then you start adding the leather belts, gears, and the infamous GOGGLES! 

I think it depends on the type of character you are trying to portray. What is their occupation? If it was an occupation that was around in the 19th century, what elements will you pull from that? If it wasn't an occupation back then, what will give it that 19th century aesthetic. Being a woman, people will often ask me about my experience with corsets because that was the 19th century fashion for women back then and it's assumed that it is a basic in the steampunk wardrobe. While corsets hold that 19th century female aesthetic, and while I love them very much, I've made an executive decision not to wear them for piratic Arabella because to me (although, again, I do love them so much), the corset represents something restrictive that society wants to squeeze her into. Not only can you not wear a corset while working on an airship, it holds value to her as a pirate (cause I'm so rebellious and badass :p) to not wear one.  It's a symbol of conformity to her. (ugh, such a hipster)

  I like the look of a corset and am extremely guilty of window shopping on corset-story during a boring class or what not. and if you type steampunk into women's clothing on amazon.com, trust me, you'll find that there won't be a single page without at least 3 corsets on them.

    As for goggles, again, it depends. However steampunk attracts a lot of adventurous people and characters. Goggles, being eye protectors hold an appeal for adventure and danger!

   As for gears? No matter what the steampunk hipsters tell you, gears are very much a steampunk symbol. Now the idea of gluing gears on something and saying "this makes it steampunk" I'm not really a fan of. However, back in the steam powered world, gears and other mechanical elements held power over the way things worked. Gears are a symbol of the industrial revolution, the new machines with their gears and cogs that replaced workers in factories and the handmade way of life. I think that gears are wonderful as a representation of the time period and because, in steampunk fashion, we put the genre into a visual piece, gears do a wonderful job when done right! But of course, they are not required in order to make something steampunk. Although, DISCLAIMER: I think electricity in steampunk is totally fine and cool.

       If anyone asked me how to build a basic steampunk wardrobe, I would tell them to find things that hold 19th century aesthetic and bend the accuracy a bit (adding a modern flair). If they are not sure what the 19th century folk wore, let them know some sources where they can get a good idea. There are many steampunk costume guides sold at Barnes and Noble and plenty of historical reference books. If all else fails, something easy about today's world is the internet. Google has done me wonders for research on pirates and the 19th century.

    Now to the question, as a pirate I have a few different factors in mind.

   1. the countries and nationalities of places/ships I have been and/or looted

   2. practicality for working on an airship (movement and comfort)

   3. classic stereotypical elements that tell people I am a pirate (The classic Jack Rackham skull and crossbones really. I used to do eye patches but found that I didn't and couldn't get used to the change in depth perception while walking around however I do have an animal sidekick as many pirates do (although I find that the koala has been a lot more useful than the familiar parrot))

   4. Just as the classic pirates of the 17th century had similar clothing to the normal sailor / whaler/ whatever,  what did the normal sailor wear in the 19th century.

     Now I'm still working on that last one but did find a peacoat looking jacket thing in the back of my closet recently and plan to pirate it up a bit. As for basics, I've found that I make a more exotic look  and free feel for element 1  when I turn a pashmina scarf into a shirt. I've found that these scarves, along with the comfy harem pant has become a real basic in my steampunk wardrobe and could be really cool when paired with the pea coat, military looking shrug thing.  

Being the only guy to reply thus far, I should state that I do not wear a corset.

Basic men's costumes tend to require a waistcoat, shirt, pants, shoes or boots, a top coat, and top hat. Then you have the bits and bobs which typically include a weapon of some form, the obligatory goggles, and a few gears.

That being said, my kit has very little of that represented in it. I don't even wear pants as a rule. 0.o

My kit uses the logic brought up by a couple of others here. It is based on my function. My character is a minister that serves as Chaplain and commanding officer to a Civil War home guard unit. It actually has uniform regulations based loosely on the 79th New York Volunteer unit. They are as follows:

Uniform Regulations for the Volunteer Home Guard Unit of Henry Township, Ohio; Known as the “Swamp Tigers”

The Volunteer Home Guard Unit known as the “Swamp Tigers” was established on All Saints Day of the year of our Lord 1861 in order to serve both as a defense against Secessionist  forces and crime in the Hamlet of it’s founding and the surrounding areas of Henry Township in Wood County, Ohio.

In accordance with the Military Regulations of the United States of America, this unit has one Chaplain selected by it’s members who, having been passed by myself, has been given commission as a Captain in the Regular Army and is therefore the only member of rank. It therefore falls to this officer to serve as the unit’s Commanding Officer.

This unit has exercised it’s right as a volunteer unit to assemble regulations pertaining to it’s own uniform. However do to the expense and divergence from the standards of the United States Army uniforms, it is wholly responsible for the entire cost of it’s issue.

The uniform regulations for this unit are as follows:

All members of this unit are required to have three grades of uniform. These uniforms are broken into the three classes of Dress No. 1 (ceremonial/full dress), Dress No. 2 (non-ceremonial)/Dress No.2 variant, and Field/field variant.

Dress No. 1 (ceremonial/full dress):

Kilts and Trousers

A kilt of the Scottish National tartan.

Va: Chaplains are to wear the Clergy tartan befitting their station

Shirts and Neck Wear

A white shirt with lace ruffs at the cuff and a jabot.

Va: N/A

Socks and Garters

Kilt hose of a red and white diced pattern with either black or red garters.

Va: Officers may wear ribbons of tartan matched to their kilt in lieu of garters.

Jackets and Waistcoats

Regulars: A shell jacket of dark blue with a single row of six brass buttons and two buttoned epaulettes of matching cloth.

Officers and NCOs: A double breasted shell jacket with two rows of six brass buttons on the front, two buttoned epaulettes of matching cloth, a row of three smaller buttons on the back seam of each cuff, and two buttons on the back just below the waist line.

Va: Officers may choose to add gauntlet cuffs, cloth epaulettes, and closure lining of blue or black contrasting material to their jackets. See also “Plaids, Sashes, Braids, and Epaulettes”

Leather Goods

A black waist belt with brass plate, a sporran of the soldier’s own choosing, brogues of a high polish, and if applicable, a cross belt of black leather for the hanging of a sword.

 

Plaids, Sashes, Braids, and Epaulettes

Officers are to wear a plaid matching their kilt on their left shoulder. All others are to wear a braid of orange and black on their left shoulder. All officers and NCOs are to wear a waist sash tied above their left hip of a color fitting their position in accordance with the Standardized Uniform Code of the United States of America.

Va: Gold fringed epaulettes may be worn by officers when in parade or when meeting Government Officials.

Weapons

All members of this unit are to wear a dirk from their waist belt on their right hip and a sgian dubh in the top of their right sock. Officers are to wear a Scottish broad sword with a red tassel, a brass basket hilt and a scabbard of white metal on a cross belt on the left hip. NCOs are to wear the pattern 1840 NCO sword on a cross belt on their left hip. 

Va: Officers and NCOs may substitute their swords with swords befitting their situation. Examples of this may include NCOs carrying the same pattern sword as officers, and organizational or heirloom swords being carried by either rank. Small swords may be suspended from the waist belt on the left hip. All swords must be able to be worn on the hip and approved by the unit’s commanding officer.

Head Wear

All members of this unit are to wear black Scotch bonnets with self-colored cockades and tie ribbons. On the cockade will be worn the badge of the most numerous clan in the unit.

Va: All members are permitted to wear the plant badge of their own clan behind the cockade. If there is no clan affiliation, a hackle or owl feather may be substituted.

Kilt Pins, Brooches, and Other Jewelry

All members must wear a kilt pin of their own choosing, and in the event that a plaid is worn, a brooch of their own choosing as well.

Va: All members are allowed one right hand ring, a watch and fob, a set of wedding rings, and any insignia of rank or societal affiliation so long as it does not interfere with the dignity of the uniform.

 

Dress No. 2 (non-ceremonial):

Kilts and Trousers

A kilt of the Scottish National tartan.

Va: N/A

Shirts and Neck Wear

Officers and NCOs: A white shirt with ruffs at the cuff and a lace jabot.

Regulars: A plain white shirt with a white neck stock tied so that the knot is at least partly visible above the collar of the jacket.

Va: If a waist coat is worn officers and NCOs may substitute a white neck stock for the jabot.

Socks and Garters

Kilt hose of a red and black diced pattern with either black or red garters.

Va: Officers may wear ribbons of tartan matched to their kilt in lieu of garters.

Jackets and Waistcoats

Regulars: A shell jacket of dark blue with a single row of six brass buttons and two buttoned epaulettes of matching cloth.

Officers and NCOs: A double breasted shell jacket with two rows of six brass buttons on the front, two buttoned epaulettes of matching cloth, a row of three smaller buttons on the back seam of each cuff, and two buttons on the back just below the waist line.

Va: Officers may choose to add gauntlet cuffs, cloth epaulettes, and closure lining of blue or black contrasting material to their jackets.

Officers and NCOs may wear the jacket open with the flaps buttoned back and a waist coat of brown wool. A waist coat of fine black cloth may be substituted for events after 17:30.

Leather Goods

A black waist belt with brass plate, a sporran of the soldier’s own choosing, brogues of polished leather, and if applicable, a cross belt of black leather for the hanging of a sword.

 

Plaids, Sashes, Braids, and Epaulettes

All members of this unit are to wear a braid of orange and black on their left shoulder. All officers and NCOs are to wear a waist sash tied above their left hip of a color fitting their position in accordance with the Standardized Uniform Code of the United States of America.

Va: Chaplains may wear a plaid of the Clergy tartan in lieu of the braid to denote their position.

Weapons

All members of this unit are to wear a dirk from their waist belt on their right hip and a sgian dubh in the top of their right sock. Officers are to wear a Scottish broad sword with a red tassel, a brass basket hilt and a scabbard of white metal on a cross belt on the left hip. NCOs are to wear the pattern 1840 NCO sword on a cross belt on their left hip. 

Va: Officers and NCOs are may to substitute their swords with swords befitting their situation. Examples of this may include NCOs carrying the same pattern sword as officers, and organizational or heirloom swords being carried by either rank. Small swords may be suspended from the waist belt on the left hip. All swords must be able to be worn on the hip and approved by the unit’s commanding officer.

Head Wear

All members of this unit are to wear black Scotch bonnets with self-colored cockades and tie ribbons. On the cockade will be worn the badge of the most numerous clan in the unit.

Va: All members are permitted to wear the plant badge of their own clan behind the cockade. If there is no clan affiliation, a hackle or owl feather may be substituted.

Kilt Pins, Brooches, and Other Jewelry

All members must wear a kilt pin of their own choosing, and in the event that a plaid is worn, a brooch of their own choosing as well.

Va: All members are allowed one right hand ring, a watch and fob, a set of wedding rings, and any insignia of rank or societal affiliation so long as it does not interfere with the dignity of the uniform.

 

Field:

Kilts and Trousers

Trousers of tan or buff color.

Va: Officers and NCOs may substitute trews in the Scottish National tartan for the trousers.

Shirts and Neck Wear

A white shirt with plain cuffs and a black neck stock tied so that the knot is at least partly visible above the collar of the jacket.

Va: Chaplains may substitute a clerical shirt and collar.

Socks and Garters

N/A

Va: N/A

Jackets and Waistcoats

Regulars: A shell jacket of dark blue with a single row of six brass buttons and two buttoned epaulettes of matching cloth.

Officers and NCOs: A double breasted shell jacket with two rows of six brass buttons on the front, two buttoned epaulettes of matching cloth, a row of three smaller buttons on the back seam of each cuff, and two buttons on the back just below the belt line.

Va: Officers may choose to add gauntlet cuffs, cloth epaulettes, and closure lining of blue or black contrasting material to their jackets.

Officers and NCOs may wear the jacket open with the flaps buttoned back with a waist coat of brown wool.

Leather Goods

A black waist belt with brass plate, shoes of black leather, and if applicable, a cross belt of black leather for the hanging of a sword.

Va: If a small sword is worn, it may be suspended directly from the waist belt.

Plaids, Sashes, Braids, and Epaulettes

All members of this unit are to wear a braid of orange and black on their left shoulder. All officers and NCOs are to wear a waist sash tied on their left hip of a color fitting their position in accordance with the Standardized Uniform Code of the United States of America.

Blankets are to be worn folded and diagonally across the chest and fastened at the right hip with cord.

Va: Officers may wear laird’s plaids of their own choosing.

Chaplains may wear a plaid in the Clergy tartan to denote their position.

Weapons

All members of this unit are to wear a dirk from their waist belt on their right hip and a sgian dubh in the top of their right sock. Officers are to wear a Scottish broad sword with a red tassel, a brass basket hilt and a scabbard of white metal on a cross belt on the left hip. NCOs are to wear the pattern 1840 NCO sword on a cross belt on their left hip. 

All NCOs and regulars are to carry muskets, and all officers are to replace the dirk with a side arm.

Va: NCOs may be suspend their sword from the waist belt on the left hip.

The side arm may be omitted by Chaplains as per the Standardized Uniform Code of the United States of America.

Head Wear

All members of this unit are to wear black Scotch bonnets with self-colored cockades and tie ribbons. On the cockade will be worn the badge of the most numerous clan in the unit.

Va: All members are permitted to wear the plant badge of their own clan behind the cockade. If there is no clan affiliation, a hackle or owl feather may be substituted.

Kilt Pins, Brooches, and Other Jewelry

All members must wear a kilt pin of their own choosing, and in the event that a plaid is worn, a brooch of their own choosing as well.

Va: All members are allowed one right hand ring, a watch and fob, a set of wedding rings, and any insignia of rank or societal affiliation so long as it does not interfere with the dignity of the uniform.

 

 

These Uniform regulations have been submitted, reviewed, revised, and approved by myself; Brigadier General Lorenzo Thomas, Adjutant General, Army of the Potomac.

December 7, 1861

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