Creating a steampunk ensemble requires imagination, ingenuity and creativity. The New Victorian movement is rarely portrayed accurately in movies in the true style of genre. To say that it “damns the factory but celebrates the machine” is one of the most accurate quotes stemming from the budding subculture. Aristocrats are not fine lords and ladies but rather ship captains, yard bosses, and storekeeps. This is the working class Victorian. Creators, inventors, metal smiths, dressmakers, musicians, and explorers are the celebrities of the time and with that comes a more practical ensemble.
Figure out who you identify or can lose yourself in. After that, you must create the wardrobe to support it. Thrift stores can be a great source to find sacrificial items to be altered. Many a prom dress was reinvented into a Victorian steampunk gown. Do a little research before going in so you can keep an eye out for what makes sense.
If you want to do a period recreation, consignment shops, and eBay can be a great source for authentic late 1800s clothing that is still very wearable. Beware that storage and sun are factors in how well a garment can withstand a soiree. Showcase it knowing that it may be a one-shot deal and have a backup (or at least great underclothes) should it fall away during the night’s revelry.
You can also either commission or buy off the rack at one of the online steampunk clothing stores opening up. A helpful salesperson can even guide you to get pieces that support your ideal self.
For ladies, you can never go wrong with a swag-front bustled skirt, ruffle-front blouse, granny boots and great chappeau. Do remember your foundation when dressing, utilizing a corset to get the hourglass silhouette of the time. An underbust corset helps create that look while giving you more “breathing room.” Literally.
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