Everything You Need For A Steampunk Halloween Costume This Fall

Goggles, corsets, and hats — oh my! If you're obsessed with the gadgetry know-how of the Baudelaire children in "A Series of Unfortunate Events" or dream of adventuring "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," then constructing a bespoke steampunk outfit for Halloween will be your shining accomplishment of the season.

Steampunk embraces the fashion ideals of Victorian London — think high collars, wide petticoats, and long dusters — with the grit and grime of the locomotive era. Sully your freshly laundered blouse with a bit of grease, add a spare metal gear as a brooch, and you're well on your way to Steampunk chic. The dinge aesthetic makes steampunk a great choice for a DIY/thrift store costume. If you're super ambitious, you can even make your own turn-of-the-century meets sci-fi goodies using tutorials that teach you how to make each costume piece from scratch — truly steampunk ethos in action. Whatever original creation you put together, make sure it includes these core steampunk qualities.

Fall into autumn colors

Welcome to steampunk's sepia-toned world. In this aesthetic, rust is not only acceptable — it's encouraged. Lean into coppers, golds, and browns of all hues (via Steampunk Movement). Compliment those earth tones with maroon, yellow ochre, red, burnt orange, olive green, plum, and navy for additional depth. As always, neutrals like black and gray (especially metallic) provide that "coal-coated London on a wintery evening" look. Stay with this muted palette for a traditional color scheme, or add in brighter colors like fuchsia, violet, blue, and green for a modern twist.

Pro tip for thrift store costume shopping: a specific goal when stepping into a secondhand store can save you both time and money (via Points in Case). If your local second hand store organizes by color, use this to your advantage by knowing which colors you can eliminate right off the bat. A specific goal can also help you avoid impulse purchases that are not a part of your thrifty Steampunk outfit. 

Mix your materials

One key component of the steampunk aesthetic is a combination of natural materials that were popular during the late 19th and early 20th centuries (via Steampunk Movement). Three materials reign supreme: leather, lace, and metal. Lucky for the eco-conscious and the budget shopper alike, all three are in ample supply secondhand.

You can find the softer fabrics in the clothing section of the thrift store. Add some frill to your neckline or gloves for a bit of Victorian flare. A ruffle on a blouse sleeve or veil can also enhance the steampunk look. Rescue some old, sturdy leather boots, a form-fitting corset, a satchel, or an early aviator jacket for the full Stevie Nicks' leather-and-lace effect.

For your other decorations, step away from the clothes and into the hardware section. Gears, cogs, wheels, and plates all symbolize steampunk's Industrial Revolution roots. Explore the endless ways you could attach these items to your person as part of your costume. Another, nearly free way to add some bling: Turn your used canned goods into vambraces — metal arm guards. Simply remove the top and bottom of the cans (making sure there are no sharp edges) and slide them up your forearms toward the elbow. You're instantly prepared for whatever battle might await you.

Whichever materials you choose, steampunk calls for both over-the-top elements and more geometric ones (via Aesthetics of Design). All these details come together to create a multifaceted, almost threatening look.

Mind your hat

Today, unless you're Pharrell, you probably don't go gaga over headwear. But back in the Victorian era, both men and women wore hats on the daily as an indication of class (via Steampunk Movement). For steampunk aficionados of all genders, a top hat — the hat you imagine a stereotypical Victorian man wearing — is the perfect choice. And while a plain hat is perfectly acceptable, steampunk encourages its followers to turn their hats into statement pieces. The more elaborate, the better. Again, a combination of natural materials including leather and feathers as well as mechanical pieces repurposed as jewelry add to the look.

You can even channel your inner steampunk Flavor Flav and wear a timepiece on your hat. A timepiece has both the beauty of its engineering and the visual design of its gears themselves — both hallmarks in steampunk style. Just consider the weight of your haberdashery creation. Get that industrial look without the heft with this cardboard and foam mat top hat DIY tutorial. Alternative steampunk hat shapes include the fascinator (fancy, often elaborate tiny women's headpieces) or even a beret (via Brides and Steampunk Movement).

Choose between a skirt or pants

Is your "steamsona" a lady with big engineering ideas but who never leaves the drawing room, or is she covered in dust exploring the pharaoh's tomb? Whatever proto-modern woman you are, you'll get to decide whether you'll choose a traditional bustle skirt or the more sporting slacks (via Steampunk Movement). 

Designed to be worn with a corset, long bustle skirts accentuate a woman's bum and draw attention to her waist. Unfortunately, these full length skirts made it difficult for women at the end of the 19th century to ride the newest invention: the bicycle (via Bustle). By the 1890s, some women began wearing bicycling bloomers — poofy ankle-length pants that, despite their volume, made cycling easier and much more safe. 

Today's steampunk lady has her choice of riding-style pants or frilly, Victorian underwear known as pantaloons or knickers (via Vintage Dancer). Make a more rough and tumble choice with leather moto pants, weapon-loaded cargo pants, or cropped pants. As always, leggings layered with a skirt also make a great steampunk look.

Don't forget accessories

No steampunk costume is complete without a host of accessories (via Steampunk Movement), but you don't have to spend an arm and a leg to add that industrial edge to your costume. Think of items you might already have. Consider, for example, a tool belt. Fill it with what you'd carry on an adventure: wrenches, screwdrivers, flashlights, hammers, and maps.

Go beyond hats for other headgear including a monocle or even some Amelia Earhart-esque DIY flying goggles for pennies on the dollar. Moving down the outfit, necklaces, especially chokers, make fabulous accessories for Victorian clothing. Consider layered chains mixed with lace or a pendant that includes steampunk elements like a lock and key. Leather strap bracelets also add to the steampunk vibe. If you'd rather don gloves, you can opt for a leather worker's glove for that hard-worn vibe or a lacy option that says "for looks only."

In this style of "neo-Victorian futurism," more is definitely more, so feel free to add all kinds of gadgets and gizmos as accoutrement to your costume. Steampunk is all about mixing the world that was with the world that could be. What alternate history will you create this Halloween?