Frequently Asked Questions
Steampunks are aggressively friendly and helpful folks, but sometimes people feel weird going to a stranger with questions. Hopefully we can address some of your questions here.
How can I start assembling some kind of steampunk outfit?
We hear this question often. There are two main to approaches to consider in putting together a steampunk look. Do you want to wear a general style, or do you want to evoke a specific character archetype? The first person might think, "I like that wild west feel," and so they will find a great hat, or a cool vest, or a holster they can modify, and build from there. The second person might think, "I want to work on an airship and my name will be Rufus McBoiler!" Then you can decide what Rufus would look like and wear. Mustache? Dirty uniform or natty dress? Monocle or cracked goggles? Another option to putting together steampunk attire is a prop or accessory. If you have a tremendous gadget that you have purchased or created, that could be what you build your outfit around. What kind of person would carry this gadget. "My tea-powered derringer derives its power from the loose leaves left over from my fancy tea parties!" And then you might wear huge poofy skirts and tea-themed accessories, a holster, a wee tea-cozy looking hat, etc. If neither of those two approaches helps you, a good tip to remember is "start with a late-19th century style and add bits and bobs from there."
Well, shoot, that sounds hard! How can I find all that stuff?
Despite our love for the belle epoque, we live in the digital age. It's amazing what you can find online and in thrift shops, Etsy, Amazon, and eBay. Many steampunks even sew their own outfits, but many more steampunks buy what they need at conventions like Gaslight Expo and specialty stores, as well as digging through unexpected sources like grandparents garages, theatre costume sales, and even - gasp - the mall stores! Once you know the look you want to go for, you can focus your search. Want something rough and tumble? Ladies Emporium won't be your best source, but one of the more gothic stores might suit your needs better. We have a page for Merchants and Shops to which we are always adding. Feel free to check it out. Also, please know that you can always come to any steampunk event and ask the people there where they found what they are wearing. You will be amazed at the answer and delighted by the helpfulness of steampunks.
Do I have to create a whole character and name and backstory???
Oh heavens no! Many people do because it's fun, but it is merely the cherry on the sundae. Part of the fun of the cosplay arts in general is getting to be someone else, so a few folks like to run with that. One of the best things about steampunk is that you can completely make up your persona. Unlike at a Star Trek convention, where the costumers are expected to dress like one of the TV show characters, or a Renaissance Fair, where one thread out of place will earn you dirty looks. Steampunks are not at all "judgy" or exclusivist. Steampunk celebrates creativity and diversity. We've seen a lot of airship captains but none of them are exactly the same. Also, steampunk names tend to be fun to think about and say! Rear Admiral Aloysius Shaughnesssy III, at your service, madame. But you can show up in a corset and feathery hat with a stripey skirt and you're just as welcome as the person who has a whole story about their chatelaine.
I've done it! I've got a persona, I've got an outfit, I am going to that even this weekend. How do I meet steampunks there?
Another one of the best things about steampunk (and most cosplay in general) is that everyone is walking around covered in icebreakers. If you see someone whose hat is cool, or who has a cool prop, go up to them and say so. They will likely tell you how they made it or where found it, and suddenly, you're talking and making new friends! There are lots of steampunk groups in town and many of us overlap memberships and/or know each other, so if you approach someone who is more into making gadgets and you're more into costuming, they can introduce you to a gadget person and you can introduce them to a costume person. Check out our Groups page (or take a class!) and attend the various meetings and events offered by these groups. Also, try to come to our San Diego Steampunk Meetup or join our email list to be notified about upcoming opportunities to get together with local steampunks. Then, once you are there, just walk up to someone and ask about their outfit or gadget or how they discovered steampunk.