The Steampunk Empire

The Crossroads of the Aether

I am a senior at the Kansas City Art Institute, and for my senior show I am creating a steampunk event. For this event, I am making several costumes in the steamunk style. I have a few costumes that I am having a hard time really making them look 'steampunk' and thought if anyone has good opinions, it will be the people here! My classmates aren't really a help as the subculture is just now starting to make its way into the midwest.

Anyways, the first costume I am looking for advice on is my 'gatekeeper' character. He is the keeper of keys and guardian of gates. His brown leather vest has a gate on it, and will have keys attached to the vest as well. He has an 8-foot sword with a key-shaped blade, and he will be on stilts that I hope to disguise as stone pillars. His costume is based on the American West of the 1800s (but he's not a cowboy). I don't have any photos of what I have finished so far, but if anyone has any ideas to make this character more steamy, or perhaps an add-on or prop to add?

The second costume is a steampunk samurai. He represents bushido in general, not a single warrior. I am making a quilted armor for him, in which the back has a painting (an alteration of a Japanese print) of an owl and the moon, seen through cherry branches. The quilted vest is blue, and will have hexagonal quilting over the whole thing, while the painting will have quilting done to accentuate the details. The helmet is representative of an owl, as well, I have a photo of that piece. I am creating a crossbow for him, as original samurai warriors used long bows on horse back, the cross bow is my steampunk answer for that. Is there anything else that I can do to make him seem more steampunk?

Thank you to all! I will upload as many photos as I can, but also check out my facebook page, Enchanted Designs to see other pictures and other costumes that I am working on. 

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I am creating these characters from scratch, actually. None of them are based on any characters from literature or movies or anything. 

Thanks for pointing me to the other discussion :)

wow, it seems nearly everyone bases their Japanese steampunk on traditional Japanese kimono. That surprises me since there was a huge fashion movement in Japan where they used European silhouette with their textiles. It's really great and lends itself to steampunk so well. 


Your gatekeeper needs a hat. What about a metal bowler-helmet? (Stetsons weren't the most common hats on the frontier.) It could have turkey or eagle feathers standing straight up in front, like a shako, fastened with a big brass buckle or even a clock face.

If your pillar idea doesn't work out on the stilts, you could create tall "telecoping" gaiters from truncated cones of leather or metal. It would give that primitive-robot look.

The Steampunk elements I missed from your descriptions was 1) love & use of mechanical tech and 2) decorative metals, often ornate and patina'ed. It's fine to mix metals, looks good if different metals are similarly aged. Try adding chain to a costume, esp. if you have a reason for it to be there.

Thanks Lorelei! That all sounds great. I wasn't sure if I wanted him to have a hat or not, lol. I'm making my model clean shave his head, but no one went around without a hat in those times... 

Thanks to everyone for the advice so far! The costumes are coming along nicely. I have a bowler for the gatekeeper and am working on designing armour for the samurai.

Perhaps for the gatekeeper, you could incorporate locks or key holes as well. This sound so interesting. I live about 2 hours from KC but I'm there many weekends, will this be a public show or perhaps on display somewhere? Good luck!

I do have keys, keyholes and locks on his costume. My senior show has passed, but I didn't get these two character completely finished, so I am still working on them. If they are not at Art Donovan's steampunk exhibit, I am hoping to have a fashion show with a few other designers at a steampunk event in December in KC. Are you on Facebook? There is a KC Steampunk group that is pretty good about advertising events in the area.

Yes, I'm a member of the KC group on facebook, I'll check there for updates, thanks a lot! Hope your show went well.


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