When it comes to the wild world of cosplay, pretty much anything goes. And we mean anything. Walk into any Comic Con or nerd convention and you’re bound to see a plethora of women clad in Harley Quinn, Catwoman, and Princes Leia outfits, to name just a few out of near infinite possibilities. Cosplay is literally a melding of the two words “costume” and “play,” and participants are encouraged to fully embrace the fantasy character they are portraying, so the sky’s the limit when it comes to elaborate costumes. While comic book and science fiction movie characters are among the most popular choices for cosplay, there are a multitude of character sub-genres that can also generate some fantastic costume possibilities. One such cosplay style that’s a little off the beaten path is steampunk.
What is steampunk? That’s a damn good question, because there’s no definitive definition. But in a nutshell, the steampunk aesthetic is a literary, visual, and philosophical style, and it combines aspects of the 19th century Victorian age with more high tech, futuristic and industrial elements, with an emphasis on steam powered machinery. Think corsets paired with prop pistols, parasols mixed with metal framed goggles, and long, full skirts combined with large, elaborate pocket watches. Steampunk cosplay leaves a lot of room for interpretation, which is part of what makes it so much fun. With no real hard and fast rules to play by, your can design and create your own uniquely sexy costume with a specific theme that’s all your own.
Read on for some potential steampunk cosplay theme ideas – and remember, this is just a starting point. Feel free to get crazy and indulge your wildest fantasies with your costume. That’s what steampunk is all about!
15. Post-Apocalyptic Renegade
Steampunk doesn’t necessarily mean you have to deck yourself out in a tight corset and long, flowing skirt. If you prefer a more streamlined look, consider a simple, ripped dress combined with boots for a post apocalyptic, “Mad Max” feel. If you stick to skintight basic black and combine different fabrics, like leather and fur, you can keep it sexy while still looking like a futuristic desert warrior queen. And who doesn’t want that? An extreme hairstyle looks best with this badass steampunk look, so feel free to dye your hair a bright color, or even shave your head if you’re really committed to the theme. Accessories are an important element of steampunk, so your jewelry should be bold, like chunky gauge earrings and heavy bronze bangles stacked all the way up to your elbow. Or just pin a giant metal spider that looks like it can shoot death rays to your dress and call it a day. That’s quite steampunk.
14. Futuristic Soldier
This look embraces the industrial elements of the steampunk genre in the most gloriously seductive way possible. You’ll want to start off with calf length leather lace up boots for a hint of Victorian style. But then, you go metal. Lots of metal. Combine metallic or chain mail lingerie with heavy spiked armor, and create a prop prosthetic arm or leg that looks like it was fashioned out of scraps from a tetanus infested junkyard. (No, it won’t be comfortable. This is cosplay. You’re not supposed to be comfortable. Stay home, put on your sweatpants, and catch up on your Netflix if you can’t hang.) Add an eyepatch or some heavy leather or metal goggles to up the freak factor. And don’t forget your prop mallet or sledgehammer to make it look like you’re ready to crush the skulls of your enemies. This look is best when combined with long flowing hair and a bright lip. You are still a lady, of course, even if you’re also a soul sucking warrior from the depths of steampunk hell.
13. Victorian Explorer
The Victorian explorer look combines some of the more classic elements of steampunk – leather, gadgets, and oversized goggles. A tight leather vest over a frilly white shirt paired with patterned leggings is a kind of “alternative” Victorian look that gives you elements of 19th century style without having to fully commit to a corset and full length skirt. It’s a snug, sexy way to show off your shape while still remaining relatively covered up. Of course, you’re still going to want to rock your leather lace up boots to be a true steampunk seductress. You can really have fun with accessories when you rock this theme – consider an oversized top hat accented with the gigantic goggles that are a steampunk staple. Go crazy with gadgets, like a gorgeous set of steel or bronze binoculars, an intricate pocket watch, or an oversized prop pistol that looks like it was made out of scrap metal. You are an explorer, after all, and this theme embraces the “brave new world” aspect of steampunk that takes a whimsical attitude towards technology.
12. Fallen Angel
Sometimes in steampunk cosplay, you just want to be pretty and ethereal – but with a little edge. A fallen angel costume complete with delicate white wings gives you elements of soft fantasy, but by adding a sheer black bodysuit, a pair of fingerless gloves, and the requisite goggles, you keep the look sexy and grounded in the steampunk genre. A fallen angel costume is a relatively simple and more cost effective choice then some of the more elaborate steampunk ensembles. Just grab a black leotard, strap on some angel wings, and load up on accessories. Add a top hat for your goggles to perch on, or sew some sheer fabric onto your leotard for an extra dose of celestial steampunk seduction. You don’t want to look too pristine, though, so a smoldering smoky eye will remind everyone that you’ve been kicked out of heaven for a very good reason.
11. Space Traveler
Imagine landing on a strange, cold planet billions of light years away from Earth in the distant future, and encountering a sizzling steampunk goddess clad in skin-tight silver spandex. Suddenly the perils of space travel wouldn’t seem so bad. A futuristic space traveler costume theme is another example of just how versatile the steampunk cosplay genre can be. By keeping the look sleek, with just a metallic catsuit and some goggles and fingerless gloves, you can combine Victorian fashion with futuristic elements to embody the very essence of steampunk. Of course, some sky high lace up boots will really elevate this look, and highlight how absurdly sexy your curves look in your body-hugging spandex. Pull your hair back and swipe on some silver lipstick so it looks like you’re ready to blast off and make the vast wonder of space your little bitch.
10. Gothic Maiden
While the whimsical gadgets of steampunk can be fun, sometimes you just want to embrace the Victorian element of the genre and dress up like a sexy jilted bride casting spells on her former lover with a dead crow. The gothic maiden look is a great way to take advantage of the corset, which is a staple in the steampunk world. Lace it up tight to maximize your cleavage and add a long, full skirt in a rich color like crimson or violet. Long, flowy sleeves and elbow length satin gloves will add to your mournful temptress look, and a feathered hat with netted veil will add a touch of the sexy, playful whimsy that the steampunk genre is known for. Black lipstick and some leather lace up Victorian boots will complete your gothic maiden theme and make you look like you’ve been wandering the halls of a dusty old mansion, waiting for another man to cast your seductive spell on.
9. Street Urchin
This theme combines leather, gadgets, and a touch of grunge to make you look like you crawled out of radioactive dumpster in the midst of a post apocalyptic hellscape. In the sexiest way possible, of course. Skintight leather that hugs every curve is key here, and make sure it’s spiked or studded for a little futuristic flair. Add a leather corset to amp up your cleavage, and then go nuts with the gadgets. An oversized monocle and elbow length leather gloves are a good start, but really think outside the box and use a gigantic pocket watch as a belt, or create a leather breastplate that further enhances the ample assets you’ve created with your corset. Your hair should be extreme, so consider a bright color or chunky braids. But don’t try to look too perfect. Your gadgets should be a little rusty, and your leather can even be torn or ripped. This is the apocalypse after all, and the streets of the city belong to you.
8. Bounty Hunter
Steampunk cosplay can use elements of the old west, but by combining 19th century western style with leather and futuristic details, a completely unique and utterly sexy look can be created. The bounty hunter theme is for the woman who really wants to create a buzz at the next convention she goes to. A tattered and studded leather corset top and matching skintight mini skirt create a tantalizing saloon girl look, but to really take this costume to the next level of steampunk, you have to break out the gadgets. A leather top hat and goggles are practically required, but what’s even better is an entire belt full of contraptions that look like they’ve been hammered out of scrap metal, including a canteen and pocket watch. And since you’re an undercover bounty hunter, a prop bronze gun and studded handcuffs are a necessity. Add some bold red lips to make it look like you’re a dirt kicking badass ready to punish any outlaw who crosses you
7. Mysterious Librarian
There’s something to be said for a more reserved, understated sex appeal, and of course steampunk cosplay has a theme for that. The mysterious librarian look fully embraces the Victorian fashion that’s such an important part of the steampunk genre, and while this look is a little more covered up than some other costume options, it’s still devastatingly seductive. A white, high necked blouse is the key to this look – don’t try to break out the cleavage on this one. You can, however, add a snug leather vest that subtly draws attention to your curves. Wear it on top of a full length skirt that rustles a little when you walk by. Since this is steampunk, leather and futuristic gadgets are key. A high necked leather collar adds a touch of delicious depravity, and fingerless gloves that are covered in metal gauges and gears are playful and whimsical. Since you are a librarian, albeit a sexy one, put on a pair of thin round wire rimmed glasses, or carry an oversized monocle. You’ll look like a buttoned up intellectual, but with a fanciful steampunk twist.
6. Burlesque Vixen
This cosplay theme is definitely more on the playful side, with elements of dark Victorian flair that also make for a very seductive steampunk look. Imagine a smoky burlesque house on the edge of town where the drinks are strong and the girls are gothic vamps. Any lady working here is a burlesque vixen, and this costume is relatively simple to design. A short, flared black dress and sheer stockings create a look of spooky seduction, while fingerless lace gloves, elaborate metal choker and an oversized top hot add a touch of sexy steampunk whimsy. A little black lace parasol or bronze cane would be a nice flirty touch as well. And don’t forget your knee high lace up Victorian boots, preferably in matching black letter to round out your role as a naughty little steampunk vixen. Now go out there and make them beg for it.
5. Lady of the Manor
While steampunk cosplay is meant to fulfill a fun fantasy role, that doesn’t mean your costume can’t be elegant, sophisticated, and seductively stunning. A lady of the manor theme combines rich fabrics like leather and lace with gothic Victorian fashion for a high class, luxurious look that is still decidedly steampunk. If you create this look successfully, you’ll portray a high bred, mysterious lady of means roaming the halls of her mansion, one who has plenty of secrets waiting to be unveiled. A snug leather corset top with whimsical little cap sleeves and a lace bodice, combined with a matching full leather skirt, is opulent while also alluring. Adding a metal choker, lace gloves and a pouty dark lip will create an air of gothic sophistication. Practice a look of faraway yearning in the mirror before you break out this look at your next convention.
4. Fairy Princess
Not all steampunk cosplay themes need to be dark and gothic. Some of the best steampunk costumes embrace the more playful and ethereal elements of the genre. If you want to lighten up your look and still look like a sexy goddess, consider a fairy princess theme. This look can have a touch of Victorian goth, with a little bit of black lace at the sleeves or around the bodice of your corset, but you mostly want to keep it soft and pretty. A white or light pink bodice combined with a matching full length skirt will make you look like a flirty woodland nymph prancing through the forest, and a white lace parasol, matching gloves, and metallic chain crown combine 19th century elegance with dreamy fantasy. You’ll look like a radiant, slightly naughty sprite who is about to be made queen of the forest.
3. Sultry Pirate
Usually pirate costumes conjure up images of fake peg legs and criminally puffy shirts. Not so when you’re dabbling in steampunk cosplay. A sultry pirate theme looks best when you’re showing a lot of skin, so this look isn’t for the faint of heart. Forget about peg legs, or even wearing pants for that matter – simply create some strappy leather lingerie that’s just this side of being X-rated, add some steampunk approved lace up leather boots, and throw on an eyepatch if you’re still feeling a little naked. Hey, it’s better than nothing. The sultry pirate look is a more minimal take on the steampunk genre, which makes it all the more dramatic. If you want to amp it up with some accessories, you can create a gadget belt with a prop pistol, canteen, and pocket watch, or fashion a parrot made out of scrap metal that sits on your shoulder in epic steampunk fashion. Yarrrr indeed.
Yes, this look is completely balls to the wall and borderline terrifying. Is that supposed to be a bad thing? Cyber punk is on the extreme end of steampunk cosplay, because the goal is to look like you’ve actually melded into a part human, part machine, and part nightmare inducing yet strangely sexy monstrosity. And it really doesn’t get any more steampunk than that. You’re going to want to invest some time and money into this look for it to be effective. Concentrate on the futuristic industrial aspects, like grotesque robotic prosthetic hands that look like they came from the mind of a glue sniffing madman and a studded gas mask that will haunt the dreams of anyone who comes within five feet of you. Then balance it out with some sexy Victorian elements, like a sheer black lace top, flared skirt, and lace up boots. You’ll be eerily mesmerizing, even though you’ll look like a flesh eating cyborg.
1. Biker Chick
Motorcycle culture lends itself very nicely to steampunk cosplay – they both embrace leather, machinery, and lawless, post apocalyptic landscapes. So it’s fairly easy to do a sexy steampunk take on the biker chick look and create a unique new theme. You can throw on some leather chaps and a corset for a more 19th century western feel, or shimmy into a full on catsuit if you want a more futuristic effect. Then it’s just a matter of some well placed steampunk gadgetry to complete your biker theme. Oversized metal goggles are a no brainer here, as are long, fingerless leather gloves. And while the standard steam punk lace up Victorian boots would work quite well, you can also throw on a pair of black clunky motorcycle boots if you want to feel a little more like a badass. Either way, you’ll look like you’re about to ride through the desert all night in search of survivors.