Costumery Week Special - Steampunk

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By MyntKat
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As part of the Costumery Week to highlight this amazing Artisan Crafts gallery, I am posting themed interview specials every day during this week. I am also posting features and specials as part of this week, check them all out here.

Today's Special is all about Steampunk Costumes and Props.


What is Steampunk?
Steampunk is a science fiction / fantasy genre which focuses around the idea of a world which widely uses steam power and is often set in the 19th century or Victorian times or even in a "paralell universe" where electricity was never invented. Technology is very prominent in steampunk and is either based on modern technology adapted to the steam energy concept or fictional technology based on the ideas of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne.
Steampunk costumery consists of costumes and accessories/props. There is also steampunk jewelry and furniture and many other items in the Artisan Crafts galleries as well as many steampunk inspired artworks all over dA. We will focus on custumes and accessories today.

Steampunk Costumes:
The costumes are often based on the Victorian styles (see Period Costumes) but incorporate many specific steampunk features such as leather armor, gears, accessory belts, pockets and pouches and much more. Costumes can be based on historical or fictional occupations in the steampunk world, such as airship captain, airship pirate, various mechanics, soldiers, thiefs, scientists, inventors, mercenaries and many many more.
Steampunk colors are often based on browns, copper and brass but there is no limit to the colors that can be used. Since most steampunk settings focus on the time between the late 18th and early 19th century, costumes are often based on colors and styles from those times.

Steampunk Accessories/Props:
There is a huge variety of props and accessories in steampunk style, creativity knows no limits here. Starting with jewelry, hats, spats, goggles and gloves moving on to larger accessories like tool belts, backpacks, armour and masks all the way up to custom made NERFguns and fictional mechanical devices. Steampunk style accessories can be made specifically to complete an outfit and are often held in wood, leather and brass materials. This style is also known to often incorporate clockwork elements like gears and watch hands as well as keys and buckles. But again, there are no strict rules to creating steampunk artwork.



Today I would like to introduce three of the many costumery artists here on dA who create amazing steampunk costumes and props. There is much more steampunk artwork to be found here on dA, so start a search and browse your favorite categories to find more!


Hello! Could you please introduce yourself?
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:iconfrocktarts:
FrockTarts : Hello! Ah, an introduction. My name is Jen, though I mostly go by Frocky. I'm a mid 20 something, self taught tinkerer/seamstress. My partner in crime is my twin InKibus , you'll run into her a lot if you hang around my gallery or DA page. And no, we are not identical. Yes, we do get asked that, yes, it is annoying considering we haven't even looked the same since before we were wearing footy pajamas.
Honestly, I think I was born loving steampunk. My grandfather and two great grandfather have all been tinkerers and had rather steampunk trades... one worked on the B&R railroad back when it was steam, and my other great grandfather was a ship builder. My grandfather worked at Edgewood arsenal, as the "sheet metal fabricator!" (what ever the heck that is) .... We have lots of knick knacks around the house that they made in their spare time on the metal presses and cutters and such. Plus an arsenal of hand tools they left mom. So, you could say I have a strong genetic background in that stuff already...

I've mostly taught myself sewing, with some help from my mom and lots of books. I started sewing pretty young, and there was no Google to help me find the info I wanted. So it was try and try again! And want doesn't work, makes nice rags.
Right now it is a hobby, though I do sell some stuff... I take commissions, try and run a Etsy store, and am tentatively looking to work with local artisans in my area to support the arts like independent movies and such. I'd love to take my work professional, but that's still a ways away. I've been trying to incorporate my Steampunk stuff in to my everyday clothes, cause really, it's too neat not to.

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:iconsteampunk-creator:
SteamPunk-Creator : I am SteamPunk Creator, my actual name is Paul and I am currently 38 years old. I discovered Steampunk around 1996, and I have been working on this theme since 2003. I have no trained skills in costume designing, other than the fact that I am an electrical engineer, so the technique behind my props usually actually works. Sewing is something I just started with, and it works like it should (not always ofcourse, you have no idea how many times I take everything all apart to start over again :))

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:iconskinz-n-hydez:
Skinz-N-Hydez : Hi! My real name is Ian Finch-Field. Most of you know my as Skinz-N-Hydez.
I have lived in Canada my whole life, mostly in British Columbia. I have a dog named Akiva and my beautiful wife Cristy. (www.cristysjewelry.com)
We both create! She makes jewelry and I make steampunk gear and leather accessories.

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WIP SteamPunk Full Brace by SteamPunk-Creator Steampunk Plasma Pouch by Skinz-N-Hydez The nurse and death by FrockTarts
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What does steampunk mean to you?
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:iconsteampunk-creator:
SteamPunk-Creator : SteamPunk means a lot to me, it's my way of creating my
techniques like I always wanted to do. You should know that I always have been working on these kind of things, but since the late 90's I found out I am not the only one. The victorian theme is not really my cup of tea, I am more the Atomic Steamer as you can see in my pictures. I do like the victorian theme ofcourse, with all the neat props and suits and clothing styles, but the Atomic theme is more my thing. And in Steampunk there is no right or wrong, every costume or prop is cool, and every steamer likes other people's stuff, so there is a commitment to not be jealous about other stuff. I like the fact that every steamer immediately has friends for life, and is not judged by what they do.

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:iconfrocktarts:
FrockTarts : Heh. What is Steampunk? That question might get me in a lot of trouble, but here it goes. Steampunk is, to me, the reinterpreting of a truly astounding era, re-imagining it with more updated ideals. The Victorian era was the last "explorer" era we had, where the "civilized" world started to apply "scientific" ideal to everything (no matter how misguided they were). Exotic lands to see! Faster transportation! Planes! Trains! Onward! So, it is a bit of escapism for me. I know lots of people say they like Steampunk because "Ladies act like ladies and Gentlemen act like gentlemen", but I don't think that is as big a factor as some would believe. I think I like it, because even though it is fanciful, it is grounded more in Science Fiction than fantasy. Growing up, I wasn't into the unicorns or fairies many little girls were into at the time... I was the little girl who got a microscope and raised pet tadpoles to little frogs, and had a bug collection. I use to read lots of Andrea Norton, some of her books are very pulp Steampunk, and was stomping around in those huge work boot that are really popular right now. I was the one whole would nag my mom and dad to buy me the rings of old keys out of the junk shop. It's just been a culmination of my hobbies and interests, but now it has a name, and sub culture.

A tip I want to pass on... weather and distress your costume appropriately! If you're a mechanic, you are not going to be spotlessly clean! If you're a down on his/her luck airship captain, make it look like you're down on your luck. Trust me, that little bit extra will go a long way to getting you the look you want, instead of looking like you're just "dressing up".

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:iconskinz-n-hydez:
Skinz-N-Hydez : ...hrm..... I guess to me its an art form. It helps me to create wearable art. Creating is my passion, without it... I am lost!

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The Grand Doctor by FrockTarts left brace sp on arm by SteamPunk-Creator Steampunk Overlord - Color by Skinz-N-Hydez
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When you create a costume/prop, how do you go about it?
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:iconskinz-n-hydez:
Skinz-N-Hydez : I guess it depends on what I am making and if I'm making it for someone who has requested it.

A lot of people usually sketch out their work before actually starting. I usually just start. I have an idea and I build it. Although sometimes it would be easier if I had a plan... a lot of time is wasted sitting, staring, and thinking... Oh, and a lot of what not to do.

I could explain in depth, step by step instructions but I am sure someone else has already thought of that and posted it on the web somewhere ;)

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:iconsteampunk-creator:
SteamPunk-Creator : I go inside the laboratory (thats my workspace), and I just take a seat and look at everything I already made, at the cabinets and the stuff inside them. I put some music on, have a drink and start to wonder about things that just pop up in my mind. If there is anything Steampunk going on in my mind that I like, I try to remember it, and make a sketch. Then I gather anything I can, and just start building. Thats all it takes, just start. Ofcourse it helps that I have a workspace, a LOT of copper stuff, wiring, leather, rivets, lanterns and things, but it actually does not take that much of inspiration. And along the way I change a lot of things, my ideas become clearer or vanish and have to start all over again. But the beauty of it is the fact that you start and it usually becomes something out of its own, and I work with that.

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:iconfrocktarts:
FrockTarts : Really, sewing for myself, I go for something that inspires me. It can be the look, or maybe even the color combo... I try not to be too picky, because If I'm recreating an outfit I'll spend a lot of time trying to break down the lines and see the pattern shapes. Which, since I do a lot of recreation for TV and Movies, means a lot of time with my nose pressed to a computer monitor, freeze framing scenes.
The internet is a gold mine for info too, from photos and behind the scene pics you can find, to maybe even some research someone else has done. There are fan sites for just about anything, so someone may have gone though the trouble of freeze framing for you!

After that I pick out patterns that will work, and modify them to my taste. I always use mockups, I have never had a pattern work right out of the bag for me. NEVER. This is the biggest mistake I see, people dive right in with their good fabric, and have something that does not fit, or looks bad on them. I have a twisted back, so it takes about 3 to 5 mock-ups to get a complex pattern right for me, but it's so worth it.

If I am making an original design, I really try and look in off the wall places for inspiration. For instance, I'm currently turning a 50's style pattern into a Dark Queen of Harlequins outfit. It should be interesting, to say the least.

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steampunk Gauged shoulder by Skinz-N-Hydez what you are now, I will be by FrockTarts phantasium, SteamPunk by SteamPunk-Creator
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Where do you get your materials?
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:iconfrocktarts:
FrockTarts : I'm very opportunistic with where I find materials. The Internet is a godsend for me, since all the small, local fabric stores have gone out of business. Fabric.com is were I get the bulk of my basics; eBay is also good for all kinds of stuff and off the wall fabric, like seasonal prints or trim that you need out of season. Etsy is a growing potentiality, it has a lot of vintage trims and fabric, as well as some interesting vintage or hand made props. Emma One Sock is a very nice online store, they get lots of finds and end lots, often from some high end places.

Then, there are thrift stores... you'd be surprised how many yards of fabric can be in the skirts of an old prom dress. Old curtains are great too. Not the ones with rubber backing though. Even bed sheets can be used! Upholstery fabric is great but again, I really try and avoid the stuff with rubber backing.

Props.. well, for steampunk I love to cruise Sportman's Guide. Especially the military surplus page. Some of the stuff is junk, but then you hit some gems (careful, it's real gear most of the time, not replicas, some items may be illegal to own in your state or country!).
Again, thrift stores, consignment shops, flea markets.. you might find only one item, but it will be worth it, and don't forget to haggle! Check the item over... see a small flaw? Point it out, they'll often drop the price. Look towards modifying. Buttons can come off, sleeves can be chopped, trim can be added. It may need a dying, bleaching, or weathering. Do get an idea of what a fair price is on any items you're currently looking for, some thrift stores are trying to cash in on steampunk and are charging outrageous prices on items they wouldn't have asked more than a few dollars for a few years ago.
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:iconskinz-n-hydez:
Skinz-N-Hydez : Anywhere I can! Garage sales, pawn shops, Canadian Tire, things lying around the house, Ebay is a big one... I shop there way too much.

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:iconsteampunk-creator:
SteamPunk-Creator : At second-hand stores, antique shops, flea markets and that kind of places.

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SteamPunk EFF 2010 2 by SteamPunk-Creator Time Keepers Cuff FINISHED by Skinz-N-Hydez Western steampunk skirt 2 by FrockTarts
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Do you have any tips for beginners?
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:iconsteampunk-creator:
SteamPunk-Creator : Do not think too much about things, just visit flea markets, buy stuff that looks old, take them apart and start screwing, gleuing and taping things. It will become something, I'm sure of it. Do not hesitate to ask any Steamer any questions, they will usually answer it without hesitation. You wanna become a Steamer? Email or call me, and I will help you along the way. The most used colors are brown and blacks, or kai. Materials are easy enough to find. You just need to throw away any blockings you might have, and just start. And remember, every Steamer had a starting point.

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:iconfrocktarts:
FrockTarts : Really there are no hard and fast rules. I would try and familiarize yourself with the designs that are form the time period Steampunk draws inspiration from. That is a good jumping off point. But you don't have to stick to corsets and top hats. There are other parts of the world to draw inspiration form. What about Russia? Or the Orient? Keep an open mind. Right now I'm fascinated with an American west Steampunk look.
And please... don't limit your colors to green, brown, black and white. Please. It's one thing that is getting overdone. Look at the colors the Victorians used! They loved color! So why can't steampunk? And I'd love to see some diversification in the types of Steampunk we have. There are lots of mad scientist, femme fatales, bounty hunters, pickpockets, and sky captains around. Why not pick something different and really stand out in the crowd? (And I DO NOT mean to offend all the mad scientists, femme fatales, bounty hunters, pickpockets, and sky captains out there already! Goodness knows I don't want them on my tail.)
You can get an entertaining introduction into steampunk with the popular online comic Girl Genius . There are whole lists of movies and books that are considered Steampunk, so I won't go through the trouble of re-posting all of them, just google "recommended Steampunk movies" or "recommended Steampunk books" for a full list (or go here), but there are a few books or movies I have found inspiring or helpful. Not all of these are steampunk related, some are general sewing info.
Books:
Victorian Fashion & costumes from Harper's Bazar, 1867- 1898. Very nice drawing for the popular fashion for ladies of that time. Great for those that want more historical looking outfits.
The Costume Designer's Handbook: A Complete Guide for Amateur and Professional Costume Designers Just what it say in the title.
Fabric Savvy: The Essential Guide for Every Sewer a great dictionary of most types of fabrics you'll find, and how best to sew with them.
Reader's Digest Complete Guide to sewing even if the photos are dated to the 60's, there is some timeless info on general sewing in it.
Movies:
City of Lost Children (La cité des enfants perdus) this might be the most pleasant nightmare I ever watched.
Other movies with varying degrees of Steampunk influence are, in no real oder are Young Frankenstein, Time Bandits, Baron Münchhausen, Bram Stokers Dracula, Sleepy Hollow, The Prestige, Dark City, Wild Wild West, Metropolis....
I'm not saying these are all good movies, but that they have steampunk elements if you're looking for inspiration.
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:iconskinz-n-hydez:
Skinz-N-Hydez : I guess the biggest tip I can give is: Experiment! Experiment with different materials, dyes, glues, anything... even different techniques!

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Watchman steampunk cuff2 by Skinz-N-Hydez SteamPunk Pathfinder by SteamPunk-Creator Black and red striped jabot by FrockTarts
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Which of your own works are you most proud of and why?
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:iconskinz-n-hydez:
Skinz-N-Hydez : I cant really say I'm really Proud of any finished piece of mine... I take pride in the detailing and the work that goes into the piece.
That's something that is often overlooked in handmade art. :P
But if I had to choose one, I would have to choose...
wow, that was hard to choose...
But I guess I would choose the full SP arm I made:
Steampunk Arm Finished by Skinz-N-Hydez
It was a custom order, my first big custom order, my first big project! It was so exciting! It took around 50 hours to make and weighed over 8 pounds... a lot of good pieces where used in that one....

Spending that much time on a piece definitely teaches a guy a thing or two!

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:iconfrocktarts:
FrockTarts :
King Arther and Patsy by FrockTarts
Of my non Steampunk work, my favorite piece might be King Arthur and Patsy. They are just too funny and spot on, and I hadn't seen them done before. It was great that mom and dad were game to costume them, and how can you go wrong with Monty Python?
I'm most proud of my Queen of Hearts.
Watch what you say by FrockTarts Queen of Hearts Side profile by FrockTarts
It's the costume that came out the closest to what I had envisioned when I started.

Of my Steampunk work, The Grand Doctor (based on a drawing by hibbary) is the one I think that works the best.
The two you don't want to see by FrockTarts
InKibus has wanted to costume back from when it was first posted. Most of the credit goes to InKibus for the mask, but I'm glad I was able to get the rest of the outfit on par with it!
The nurse was a later addition, so the Doctor would have a partner, so I ended breaking all of the suggestions I listed above (lack of color, not distressed and weathered looking, and another nurse), but it is a good example of working with what you have to make a steampunk outfit in a pinch. Really, my biggest gripe is it's too clean looking.. I really wish I had had time to distress everything! The skirt was a left over mock-up I tea dyed to give it a dirty look, and I built up from there. The leather apron was some leather I just draped into an apron on my dummy, and then sewed what I got. InKibus made a hat from the scarps, and the blouse was an "elegant evening" blouse pattern I modified. I like how it turned out, so I think a rightly colored it! The bag and gloves were a thrift store find for only a few dollars. I think I'll end using these pieces in other outfits, but it was fun to do.
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:iconsteampunk-creator:
SteamPunk-Creator : I am proud of everything I made, plain and simple. I like everything I made, because it did it with passion and loads of fun!

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Pink in a hat by FrockTarts SteamPunk EFF 2010 by SteamPunk-Creator Steampunk Leg Finished1 by Skinz-N-Hydez
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Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this special feature! I hope you go on creating amazing costumes for all of us to enjoy. :)

Cheers,
MyntKat
Published:
© 2010 - 2021 MyntKat
Comments10
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Xerces's avatar
DrIgnacious's avatar
They forgot Steamboy!
DrIgnacious's avatar
Okay, =FrockTarts did in her list of movies.
FrockTarts's avatar
Glad to be a part of this creative week! :D
drop-asd's avatar
Gorgeous article! There should be more of this type, it's really informative.
MyntKat's avatar
There will be more during this week. :D
drop-asd's avatar
annajordanart's avatar
I would like to live in a steampunk world. Especially if these lot were the creators!
Skinz-N-Hydez's avatar
Thanks again!
Great Feature :)
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