Creating Steampunk and Burlesque Costume Corsets
Burlesque and steampunk are modern fashion’s way of keeping vintage clothing alive. With the popularity of burlesque as an art form and with it increasingly prominent in film and TV, more and more people are looking for ways to mimic the style – especially those on a budget. Steampunk is a recent – if you can call it that – addition to popular culture, gaining notoriety in the novels and comic books of the past few decades, it is now well established in the film and music scene. Here are some ways in which you can perfect the look of the genres.
It doesn’t have to be difficult to design yourself an authentic burlesque costume. The first thing to do is to see what you have at home. Rifle through your drawers, wardrobes and piles of shoes to see if there is anything you can use. If you can find any lacy clothing or anything with frills, bows or feathers, then you’re well on your way to getting the basics sorted.
Better still, if you can find any lacy bras or fishnet stockings that you’d forgotten you had then you’ve already saved yourself time and trouble. The important thing to remember here is to keep the colours as co-ordinated as possible – nobody wants the whole party to see a hot pink bra underneath a figure hugging lacy black top!
Once you’ve exhausted your own clothing, then shopping at discount stores is the next step. You may be able to find a cheap bodice (but probably not a real corset) and feather boas are much more common than you’d expect. A good corset makes a good burlesque costume even it if it’s combined with a very basic blouse and skirt.
A quick thrift store scan also be a treasure trove for wigs and gloves and cheap jewellery. Don’t be afraid to buy items that look like your grandmother might have worn them. If your grandmother was alive and dancing in the 1930s she might have been a lot racier than you assume!
To top your DIY outfit off, look for a hat that suits the rest of your costume. You might want to scour the vintage shops for a cool fascinator (you can make these yourself, from feathers, buttons, coins, and costume jewellery), or maybe you think a bowler would suit just like Liza in Cabaret.
What is Steampunk?
In a nutshell, it is a ‘movement’ of novels, music and film which take the fashions and contraptions of Victorian Era Britain and bring them into the modern age. The scene has been growing quickly across the US, but it is spreading over the Atlantic to the UK and Europe, and there are many sites, blogs and message boards specifically there to discuss the fashions as well as the many other facets of steampunk.
What do I wear?
In Victorian Britain the steam age was full of gentlemen in top hats and tails, and ladies in corsets and gowns. Obviously, there might be some kind of modern day or even futuristic clothing and accessories in the ensemble; otherwise you’ll just end up looking like someone from a Jane Austen novel and having a lot less fun. Think steam trains and paddle boats, but also science fiction. Think Jules Verne, but sexy.
There are no hard and fast rules about what is and isn’t steampunk and you can be as creative as you like when designing your own look. Any kind of vintage store or thrift shop will have a lot of the things that you need in order to achieve the look. From flowing gowns, bodices and corsets to military style coats, suits and top hats- you might have to hunt them down but they are available. Even the vintage accessories can be found in such places and at a fraction of the cost of some specialist retailers – pocket watches, monocles and old belts are rare in thrift stores but well worth the effort that goes into finding them.
by Ben Gallivan
Ben Gallivan is a blogger with a passion for vintage clothing. He wears it well and writes about it for Corsets UK, a leading online vintage clothing and accessories store.