Starting a new hobby usually involves opening your wallet. You can’t play tennis without a racquet, new shoes, and lessons with a cute pro. You can’t take up music without an expensive instrument. In short, you have to pay to play. The sad truth is that most of us love investing in a new hobby but can’t always afford it.
Not so with steampunk.
Steampunk is a reimagining of Victorian science fiction and fashion centered on technology, rebellion, and adventure. When you get into the steampunk scene, handmade and hand-modified is king. At a steampunk event, people love nothing so much as seeing an interesting device, a unique piece of jewelry, or a modified Nerf Gun with an interesting color scheme. “How’d you make that?” is one of the most uttered phrases. People will ask to take your picture or sit down next to you to find out how you made your bustle. While there are some lovely (and expensive!) costume pieces available, handmade is valued just as highly as professionally made. And for a frugal crafter like myself, that’s thrilling.
Take my Queen of Hearts hat, for example. I saw a corset made of stapled playing cards on Pinterest and thought, “I can do that.” So I found an old deck of cards and some feathers, grabbed my stapler, and got to work. The finished hat took less than an hour to make and was a big hit at STEAMFest, a yearly steampunk festival by The Artifice Club in Atlanta.
And thrift stores are a great place to find inspiration. You might be surprised at what you can put together for practically nothing. With the exception of a few corsets bought on sale from Damsel in this Dress (on Etsy/on Artfire), the majority of my steampunk wardrobe is thrifted. Broomstick skirts can be layered and hiked. Lacy tank tops and blouses go great with vests and corsets. Consider button down shirts with bow ties, jackets, vests, or suspenders for guys. Costume jewelry can be glued together or onto pin backs. And it doesn’t have to be professionally sewn, either—glue guns and safety pins are your friends.
That’s one of the things I love so much about steampunk. For a minimal monetary investment and some imagination, you buy your ticket into an alternative world where you can be a character of your own invention. Whether you want to be a sky captain, a dandy, an exiled princess, an adventurer, a mad scientist, or just an everyday enthusiast, you get to tell your own story through your costume and accessories. It’s the next closest thing to writing a novel, but without all that pesky editing.
And if you need inspiration of the literary sort, check out the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger, the Iron Seas series by Meljean Brook, the Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld, and the Infernal Devices YA series by Cassandra Clare. Or my own Wicked as They Come, but you’re going to need a lot of protective clothing, if you plan on venturing near the bludbunnies.
Delilah S. Dawson is the author of WICKED AS THEY COME, the first in a steampunk paranormal romance series from Pocket/Simon & Schuster. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or on her blog, where she often showcases her adventures in thrifting