Before we get to the ‘rules’, a DISCLAIMER: Steampunk cosplay is not to be taken seriously, and is just a bit of fun. These guidelines are to assist newbies to Steampunk cosplay, or to give old hands a chuckle, and – as such – are not cast in steel.
Rule One: Steampunk is not the same thing as historical recreation. If you want, you can get as accurate as you like with the Victorian aspects of your outfit … but it isn’t Steampunk until you add the gadgets, ray-guns and goggles.
Rule Two: No one item is Steampunk by itself. A lovely pair of boots aren’t Steampunk until they are matched up with the rest of the outfit; the trousers, the vest with the watch-chain, the hat and the goggles, the ray-gun and the quizzing glass, none of these items can create the Steampunk Aesthetic in isolation.
Rule Three: The palette of Steampunk clothes isn’t limited to brown and black and white. The Victorian and Edwardian clothing was colourful, and it is only the sombre tones of the tintypes and black-and-white photography that gives the impression that everyone wore black and grey, or brown and sepia.
Rule Four: Be a Secondhand Rose, particularly if you are clever with a needle and can make-over clothing to adhere to the Steampunk Aesthetic. Two of my girlfriends, Nadine and Catrin, have the creativity to see the potential in an item of secondhand clothing as Steampunk couture.
Rule Five: The Victorian and Edwardian eras saw an enormous range of styles and fashions worldwide, so there is a style suited to simply everyone. You can be ultra-feminine in a bustle and corset, or dressed for adventure in jodhpurs and a pith helmet. You can Steampunk just about anything with imagination and creativity.
And that is it! That is really all the rules you need. You can put as much or as little effort as you want into creating your Steampunk cosplay. Have fun!