Friday, August 17, 2012

Steampunk: A Cosplay Guide

Cosplay, short for “costume play,” is awesome.  People dress up in fantastic, hand-made costumes that are creative, innovative, and beautiful, and we get to watch from the comfort of our laptops.  It’s a lovely little world we live in.

Steampunk in particular is a fantastic division of cosplay, mainly because that while cosplayers typically dress up like their favorite existing characters, steampunk cosplay is more of a style, rather than an attempt to exactly replicate what has appeared on film or television.  Mainsteam media appears to be reacting to the growing trend, as we see an increase in the appearance of steampunk throughout television and film.  Steampunk has appeared in the BBC series Doctor Who, SyFy’s Tin Man, in one memorable episode of ABC’s Castle, and in films like Hugo (2011), The Three Musketeers (2011), and Sherlock Holmes (2009).  Of course, there is also the Will Smith film Wild Wild West, which is a very entertaining movie despite its 21% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

But for the most part, cosplayers are left to their own devices in creating their own steam-powered, Victorian-themed costumes and gadgets, or in bringing the machines of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne to life. It’s Victorian-age fashion and steam-powered gadgets, so how can we lose?

Clothing designer Bibian Blue has tons of photos of leggy models in the loveliest Steampunk fashions, including this one.  There are also excellent examples aplenty on Flickr, including this by user JasonWalton, some Wild West steampunk photographed by Flickr user Steamcrunk, this steampunk couple, and the aptly described “Steampunk stilty guy,” photographed by eidolon.  io9 has also gathered some fantastic steampunk cosplay, sorted in their amorphous "Miscellaneous Cosplay" feature, including this one.  The level of detail in these costumes is awe-inspiring; we find a perfect example in Deviantart user SteampunkOverlord’s photo showing a close-up of his mechanical arm.

For steampunk integrated with existing media, we find a steampunk Iron Man, an amazing cosplay concept featured on Tumblr.  Unsurprisingly, this took home first place in the Marvel Costume Contest at the 2010 New York Comic Con.

Also, some excellent Star Wars steampunk, Batman steampunk, and, from Deviantart user orlarose, steampunk Poison Ivy cosplay.  And then there's my personal favorite, some Flash steampunk photographed by user Dvann562.

Creativity has no bounds in steampunk, as demonstrated by this photo, one in a series by Flickr user hobbes8calvin demonstrating “The Benefits of Zombie Domestication presented by The League of S.T.E.A.M.”

For help and ideas for your own Steampunk cosplay (this is your early warning for Halloween, folks!), check out’s steampunk forum.

Mo Rocca (of Daily Show fame) introduces the world of steampunk here:

PBS also did an excellent little video on steampunk, including some information on steampunk music. Enjoy!

And you can find everyday steampunk wear in Modcloth’s Steampunk Style section.  Perfect for back-to-school!

By Jacqueline Porte