What is steampunk? How to make a steampunk costume inspired by your favorite character. In other words, how to steampunk something.

How to Take a Character and Steampunk Them

This year for Halloween my family decided to dress up as the emotions from Disney Pixar’s Inside Out. There are 5 different emotions that fit the makeup of my family (3 girls and 2 boys). Since so many people have done these costumes before,  we decided to take a new spin on the theme. We Steampunked Inside Out. Inside Out family costume with steampunk style emotions Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust

What is Steampunk

So now that I’ve used “steampunk” as both an action and a description, what is steampunk? Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction that uses technology and designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery and the Victorian era. I like this description of steampunk: “What the past would look like if the future had happened sooner.” Gaskets on a steampunk flamethrower backpack

The clothing of steampunk is usually the style of Victorian Era ladies and gentlemen. With things like bustles, corsets, gowns, and petticoats for women and suits with waistcoats, coats, top hats and bowler hats, tailcoats, and spats for men. Or you can go with military-inspired outfits. Steampunk outfits usually have several technological and Victorian accessories, like timepieces, parasols, flying/driving goggles, and ray guns. Modern accessories like cell phones or music players can be used in steampunk outfits if they are made to look like Victorian-era objects. Gear buttons make a steampunk jacket

To put it simply, making a steampunk costume is fun. You dress up in old-fashion clothes and add some fun accessories, preferably made of brass. You can check out our lady’s steampunk costume and gentleman’s steampunk costume in these posts. But if you want to take your steampunk costume to the next level, then steampunk a specific character.

Steps to Steampunk a Character

Base It On the Character

Look at image references for your character and watch the movie. Break apart the character into colors and patterns used in their outfits. For example, in Inside Out Joy has blue hair and a gold/yellow simple dress. The dress has some turquoise starburst shapes.

Concept Some Ideas

Brainstorm ideas that the character embodies. Joy is very positive and literally glows in the movie. She loves to be happy and bright.

Think of Technology Accessories

Think of costume ideas and accessories that reflect your character and concept ideas. With the ideas we brainstormed, we thought of things that bring people Joy. The idea of a happy song made us think of creating headphones for the costume. Blowing bubbles is something that spreads joy as the bubbles float away, so we needed some kind of bubble gun.A plastic bubble gun painted to look like aged copper in steampunk style

To make the costume glow like the character Joy, we could add LED copper wire battery lights under the ruffles of the costume. (We also really like to add lights to our kids’ Halloween costumes because it helps them to stand out while trick or treating at night.)

Create a Mood Board

Gather some images from Pinterest or Google Images to create a mood board of what you want your costume to look like.Disney bounding Joy from Inside Out in steampunk style mood board

Once we had this mood board it became the road map for us to follow as we made the costume and its accessories. 

You can see how my daughter’s Steampunk costume turned out. Some things changed, but overall it helped us have a vision of where we wanted her costume to end up. I’m going to post tutorials about how we created the different parts of her costume soon. Joy from Disney Pixar's Inside Out inspires a steampunk costume for cosplay

I applied the same ideas to create mood boards for the other characters of Inside Out. Here they are.

Each person ended up with something a little different because each family member has their own style. Steampunk-style really lets you personalize your costume and fit it to suit you and your personality. Plus, taking your favorite character and turning it into a Victorian ensemble with some cool accessories is a lot of fun.