Steampunk on a Budget: A Guide to Successful Steampunk Thrifting

 Steampunk on a Thrift-Store Budget: A Guide to Successful Second Hand Cheap Steampunk Clothing 

We are well aware that making a Steampunk costume is often not easy, specially when we are talking about spending money. And that’s the reason of why this article exists: to show you how to make cheap Steampunk clothing or how to obtain second hand Steampunk clothing. These tricks will definitely save you some money, and also they will not force you to compromise your Steampunk look.

⦁ Where you can get cheap or second hand Steampunk clothing :

I would say charity or thrift shops are your staple place to visit to find cheap Steampunk above everything else. Visit them in a regular routine say weekly this is so you leave time for items to be replenished with more stuff. Get to know the staff ask if they could look out for steampunk looking clothes. Give them a list of stuff to look out for Victorian and Vintage looking stuff or anything directly Steampunk like corsets and double breasted waistcoats with lapels are easy to look out for and are the basis of a whole outfit. That is a important point Victorian clothing is the basis of the Steampunk costume Steampunk is the feather on the cap the amazing flare that sets everything else of and brings it together. The colorful waistcoat or corset, the accessory pointing to a favourite subculture like a pocket watch. Get your Victorian base like the canvas and then really express yourself by adding to it and taking it into unique different directions with more specific accessories, jewelry, charms, colors, materials, fabrics. Print out the list below and give this to them.

Most thrift stores sell very old, second-hand clothes that have been well-taken care of and if they have a little wear and tear or aging  this works for Steampunk to give it that hardworking industrial look. Steampunk is sooty marks around your eyes where your goggles cover and worn industrial machines it is rarely perfectly pristine. So If you find something cheap with small aging that is near to the look of Steampunk, Give it a try! It’s really fun to go through all the clothes until you find something Steampunk-ish enough. Keep those eyes peeled like a resourceful Steampunk gent or lady should in the post apocalyptic world and make it part of your life and diy where you can and show it off.

Remember a trip to the charity shop is never wasted charity shops help people and have a Steampunk heart and give a little. A gent or lady will always jump at the chance to help someone or a cause. Being Steampunk is to look out for others less fortunate themselves so get the look but more importantly get that steampunk heart on the inside in your everyday life. 




. Look at what you already have for a base

Some times the items for creating a basic steampunk outfit can be found in your current clothing. To make the basic Steampunk outfit you will want to base it on Victorian or Edwardian clothing this style of clothing could already be in your wardrobe. Suit coats for men you know the one you wear to work and dresses for the lovely ladies. For both men and women everyday high collared shirts, fitted jackets or waistcoats double breasted with lapels being the most specifically Steampunk but just a nice plain waistcoat is up to interpretation and all well and good. More specifically for women a long skirt, bloomers, or even smart trousers stuff found in many a normal dress. With everything refer to the color pallet as much as possible above but if there is something that you just can not resist that is encouraged the fashion caters for all the colors of the rainbow all being exquisite rather than non conformist.

Accessories can be found and made using items around your house for example goggles made from cardboard toilet roles. If you have a garage have a look around even a old spanner more so with rust is a great relevant Steampunk accessory as seen in our accessory list here and will move your outfit more towards Steampunk. There are many more ideas like this just be resourceful and look high and low for anything you can use it will payoff. This is the mantra for any survivor living in the post apocalyptic world bringing your life closer to that of your Steampunk character. The searching is a life style always be on the look out for something Steampunk wherever you go and what ever you do you will start to see it`s deep roots in the world around you.


Steampunk Criteria – how to choose your Steampunk clothes

As we have mentioned before, using the right criteria to pick your Steampunk clothes is crucial. Even if something ‘looks’ Steampunk, you should really think it through, especially if it’s something expensive.

There are plenty of sites on the Internet that will let you acquire proper Steampunk Clothing. And not all of them are expensive! In fact, a lot of them include a variety of second hand clothing with prices that will help you to stay within a comfortable budget. A lot of them are originated in the UK, but you can easily find your local version of many of these sites. 

Here we will show you some good and bad examples of Steampunk clothes from Preloved, Ebay, Gumtree, and Oxfam. All of these items are used or pre-owned and like what you would find in any high street charity shop and they are the best choice when it comes to create a Steampunk attire with a low budget!
What are examples of what you should choose, and where would you find it?

⦁ Preloved

⦁ Pink Victorian Saddle Costume

Even if saddle costumes inspired by the Victorian era look pretty good for a Steampunk outfit, you should always consider that colour is important, too. Cosplayers would always go for dark, auburn colour palettes, essentially anything that can be matched with metals (bronze, silver, gold), and you should as well. The pattern of the fabric, the shape and the hat would be a very good choice, but you should aim for something more austere, serious and elegant for a aristocratic costume.

⦁ Dark Brown Brocade Jacket with Fleur de Lis buttons

Here’s a good example of Goth fashion helping your Steampunk look. This brocade style jacket keeps the colour palette that we were talking about before. The Fleur de Lis (the white, stylised French lily) buttons are an absolute plus: remember that Steampunk fashion has been heavily influenced by the Belle Epoque. The satin-style fabric and the flared cuffs do help to give this very charming 19th century look as well. You should unquestionably accompany it with matching jewellery, specially if you have a fancy necklace.

⦁ Laced shoes with kitten heel

These laced shoes with kitten heel with a gorgeous ‘leather-like’ pattern and faux screws add up a lot to the robotic and mechanic aesthetic of the Steampunk fashion. The colours are also what they are supposed to be, which makes it a really good choice. The also give this idea of old and rusty, and that can be considered a huge plus when you are trying to create your own Steampunk wardrobe.
⦁ eBay

⦁ Gothic/Punk Black Denim Studded Skinny Jeans

Here’s an example that shows that even if Goth/Punk fashion and Steampunk usually go side by side, there are moments in which they shouldn’t cross paths. These denim jeans, for instance, have small metallic studs that can’t be mixed with the historical look of the usual Steampunk clothes. Even if black is a great colour for the look, the studs really take it away from the gear-inspired fantasy.

⦁ Kuhl Women Stretch Dark Brown Velvet Pants

Here’s a great case of velvet pants that can work with the Steampunk appearance. You can make them work if you add the correct ornaments. These look specially well if you like the mechanical aspect of the Steampunk community. You can absolutely add more chains, ornaments and belts to it for that machine-like vibe. What’s more, if you have actual tools, they would truly make you a favour as accessories.

⦁ Ladies Coat, Skirt Dress Jacket with Military Goth Look

This coat and skirt dress work perfectly as a Steampunk piece. Black, serious and formal, the merge between the skirt and the coat make a truly beautiful combination. The long sleeves make it look like it is a modified long dress, too. The fantasy military inspiration is also one of the most popular choices in the community. Essentially, it is a really good pick.

⦁ Gumtree

⦁ Red and Black Corset

Not every corset can be worn with your Victorian-esque look! Remember the colours that usually prevail in the aesthetic, which is something that we have addressed several times. This corset features a red colour that’s way too bright and saturated to be part of the look. The lace and the pattern would certainly work, but the colour is not correct at all, at least if you are trying to achieve the typical Steampunk expression.

⦁ Clockwork party hat with spectacles

Another characteristic pick that will always work: hat and spectacles. If you can find this item, you will be able to mix two ornaments in one very noticeable accessory. Note that the colours are grim and match the worn-out, bronze frame of the spectacles. The feathers on the back are of a bright yellow indeed, but they work as an accentuated point that’s well-balanced with the rest of the design. It’s the best option if you want to personify a character that’s a scientist, a doctor or an inventor.

⦁ Suede High Heel Boots

These swede heels have a magnificent Bordeaux colour with a note of gold that would work for any variation of your Steampunk clothes. It can be matched with a dress, with trousers or even with an overall. You can use them if your character is an elegant aristocrat or a wild and rusty expert in mechanics. However, be sure to get some training before wearing heels of this height!

⦁ Oxfam Online Shop

⦁ Vintage/Retro Blue Blouse

Even if a lot of vintage clothes can work perfectly with a Steampunk look, definitely not all of them should be considered! Here, the blue colour is way too saturated. The polyester fabric doesn’t help with the look, either. The whole design would be very difficult to balance, even with the correct accessories, at least if you want to go with the most emblematic look. You can certainly get creative with the look if that’s what you are aiming too, but just remember that some items are more difficult to ‘adapt’ than others.

⦁ Vintage Antartex Lambskin Coat

This brown shearling winter coat made of leather can be a perfect addition to your Steampunk look, too! Winter clothes are not really common in Steampunk attires, but they certainly work. It’s overall very vintage and reserved. It can also help you out if you can’t afford extremely complex garments or undergarments, and it can be worn with a dress or with trousers. If you are a fan of the cold, you should definitely try to pull off this coat worthy of a member of Steampunk royalty.

⦁ Grey and Red Waistcoat by Marc Darcy

This grey and red polyester waistcoat by Marc Darcy will work wonders with your Steampunk look. It is an especially interesting choice if you want to go for that aristocratic, typically Victorian aesthetic of a gentleman. You can also easily accompany it with a pocket watch or a pocket watch chain, making you look truly slick. Maybe sure that you choose matching trousers for this vest!

Sometimes, your best choices can be found as pre-owned or previously used articles, which helps other people and good causes. We also want to let you know that these are the most budget-friendly options, and that you don’t need to spend a lot to get a dapper look.

This selection is just a mere glimpse at the total of what second hand cheap Steampunk items are out there. We hope this humble guide helped you out in your first picks! Remember to check more articles that dwell into the Steampunk fashion if you want to see other ideas as well, and good luck in your fashion journey!

 Other places you can find Steampunk cheap and second hand clothing and accessories for your outfit:

. Friends and family 

Keep your ears open and eyes peeled  if friends and family are having a clear out see if you can be there for a cup of tea and chat and a gander at was is available this can be clothing or garage. The aesthetic includes lots of brass, iron, copper so stuff from say a garden shed  or garage clear out could be a gold mine. Add stuff to your costume that looks good in what ever way there is no rule book throw it out the window. Brass trophy finds are often shown off in a costume maybe hung from a belt or held in hand these can take something seemingly insignificant and worthless and make them into the main stay of the outfit.


⦁ Antique stores

Even if we covered this topic in previous articles, we can’t just get enough of it. You would be surprised about the items you can find in Antique Stores. Don’t worry about them having a reputation of being ridiculously pricey – most of them don’t sell extremely old and fancy furniture! You will just generally find different sorts of clothes, jewellery, accessories, and so on.

⦁ Garage sales

Garage sales are typically known as an American custom, but they are not restricted to the States! This is another great way of getting Steampunk clothes that’s also really enjoyable. You should simply get out on a sunny day, check what your neighbors are selling and that’s it spread the Steampunk word to grow the movement! Also, as these clothes are usually used, but in a good condition, you will definitely get a good deal out of this.

⦁ Local flea market

These are essentially everywhere. Every country has its own form of ‘flea market’ that lets artisans and craftspeople sell whatever they like the most. And many of these sellers are fashion enthusiasts, too! You will definitely be able to find something that’s Victorian or Steampunk enough for your cosplay or costume. Flea market sellers feature here 

.Seller stools at Steampunk events 

You will find cheaper items at events as it is a specialized event alot of the people are selling not just for money but for the fun of it and to meet like minded others. The prices are alot more relaxed and items are often handmade and completely unique and maybe you will pick up the bug seeing it`s beauty. I guarantee you will find something because everything will have the steampunk touch and the sellers have a large knowledge also so get chatting they will help. Common items at events are niche corsets, jewelry, pocket watches etc.

-Costume shops local

Costume shops will have a range of clothing that represents all the different most popular fashions that are commonly worn I guarantee they have `Victorian` and `Steampunk`. If you want to be guaranteed you find something you are looking for specifically like say a top hat or cane this is your option. Take something from another fashion and add it to your outfit for a crossover, mix and match where you like. The items will be cheap as they buy the items wholesale bringing everything together. Adding just one piece of costume attire that is dramatic to your outfit can turn the whole costume into the ashettic you are looking. 


-Handy man or DIY shops  

 There are not specific Steampunk shop `s so going to a handy mans shop to look for metal accessories is a great idea. They pride themselves on offering wholesale sturdy and cheap as chips items – that is so Steampunk. You will not find clothing but add on items or accessories are common place. Find anything from a functioning compass, spanner, goggles, keys, tool belts see our accessory list for ideas here. You may not have thought it but they are a gold mine for cheap accessories. You can freestyle which is so much fun and if you have any ideas when you are in there like you see something that when glued to something else would look like a `jet pack` just go for it the sky is the limit in all the sense`s of the word. 

.Crafts shops

Steampunk is all about little details and familiar motifs. Something very small like a relevant subculture charm for example the octupus, hot air ship or pocket watch when added to a outfit can take it from plain or Victorian to a Steampunk aesthetic. Go in and learn basic crafting it will be incredibly handy as a hobby with this fashion and means you can enter the world of cheap DIY Steampunk. With crafting tools you can create Steampunk accessories from everyday items. The tools in the craft shop are cheap because they are bought wholesale which is very good for you.

Talk with the craft shop owner I guarantee they know about Steampunk and how to make it with tools they sell. They will have a assortment of charms to look through that can be added to your clothing and accessories. They will show you very quickly how to attach a charm to a necklace or bracelet chain using a jump ring that is a important lesson in the DIY world. The right glue will be to hand and I am sure you know how to use it. If not ask or use Youtube online for beginner tutorials on anything. You will have a deeper connection to your costume if you make it yourself by hand it will be a one of a kind, unique and once again that is Steampunk!

Everything is cheaper when you have basic crafting skills and inspiration so get into Steampunk for the long run and learn the basic skills. There is so much that can be done in this niche with your own two hands and knowing that you can be very resourceful. See our jewelry making blog post here.  


.Pawn shops 

 If you really want to start delving into Steampunk but do not have the cash try taking a previous hobbies items to the pawn shop and have a look around.This is a great place to find anything and everything from cheap exotic jewelry, ( easily turned into Steampunk with your charms from the craft shop, see how it all comes together!) home decor and tools. With your new found Steampunk searching skills you should be more than capable of looking out for something that could improve your outfit. Maybe a huge onyx ring or pocket watch look out for cheap films so you can research the looks and characters of the Steampunk world. So many cheap items and like a true trading Steampunk adventurer look out for a bargain you are destined to find.  

⦁ Our tips:

Sometimes you are looking for advice and you need the direct source. From the Steampunk Movement blog, we are going to be sharing some tricks that can help you out in your journey, without having to make you waste money unnecessarily. Here are our ideas:

⦁ If you can’t afford a pocket watch at the moment, just get the chain!

We know that, despite our best efforts, it’s not possible to acquire a pocket watch. And that’s okay! Don’t feel pressured to do so. Your costume can dwell into the Steampunk aesthetic anyway. Just get a little chain, hang it between the pocket of your suit and your buttons, and go to town!

However, if you decide that you still want to buy a new pocket watch, you can check our Steampunk collections here

.how to steampunk anything DIY your own stuff get vintage victorian and turn it steampunk, you can steampunk anything on the cheap using charms and age it.

⦁ Even if a pocket watch does not work, it can be used as part of your attire:

You don’t really need to have a functional  Steampunk pocket watch. Sure, it can be nice to have one that works, but if you think about it, you don’t really need it! A broken pocket watch to start with would add a lot to your Steampunk look, specially if you prefer the mechanical side of it. Use it to your advantage!

⦁ Sewing tricks from the talented people of Pinterest:

People on Pinterest share the coolest tricks. An affordable way to get into Steampunk using second hand clothing is with the needle and thread, find something you do not mind practicing on and challenge yourself to make alterations so it matches the Steampunk aesthetic examples of this are changing the buttons to something steampunk, tea staining. When you are finished and more confident in sewing get something you love and make alterations so it looks Steampunk. As you walk around the charity shop imagine what you can do to the pieces of clothing through your sewing to make them more Steampunk basic changes can change the whole piece. Check the sewing tricks and tips on this site! Many posts that fall into the `Sewing Steampunk Patterns` category. There are also a lot of fashion sketches for dresses, suits, skirts and t-shirts. And, of course, don’t forget the DIY accessories.

Check the tricks and tips here!


⦁ Famous cosplayer tips

A lot of cosplayers and crafters are kind enough to share their experienced advice. They create content that exists as long, detailed videos or short and quick tips covering making cheaper items into your priceless outfit. You have many sorts of cosplayer videos to choose from. We will provide some of the Cosplayers and their videos below  Remember to show them some love and support for the hard work that they made for the Steampunk community!

⦁ Lost Wax, a cosplayer that makes costumes out of foam and teaches you how to make fake Rivets. He also makes awesome guns that can be used as accessories!

⦁ Lucykiins, another cosplayer, focuses on beautiful jewelry and accessories.

⦁ Most common materials in the art of Crafting Steampunk that you can find for accessories:

There’s a long list of raw materials that are available for you to buy and start your DIY Steampunk adventure. We will show you some pictures of different options that you can buy or acquire. Sometimes, it’s better to buy these in a bunch so you don’t have to worry about how many you have left, especially if you need to make several attires the more there are the cheaper also! You can also use these little accessories to decorate your belt, bag, hats, and even wine glasses, plates and tables if you are organizing an event or planning to throw a party they are so useful to have around. Just be imaginative!

⦁ Metals like copper, brass, steel and iron:

⦁ Cogs and gears for mini-hats, hair ornaments, and bags:

Set 85gr. – COGS and GEARS Steampunk 40-50 pieces – sizes 1’5-2’5cm 

⦁ How to craft quick Steampunk items for your costume (To Wear or to Sell Second Hand Clothing Online) – Tutorials and Ideas

Even if we mentioned online tutorials before in the cosplaying section, here we will dwell into the topic way deeper. There are many tutorials on Youtube, Pinterest and Reddit, as well as suggestions of inspirational ideas when it comes to Crafting Steampunk in a cheap way. You will be able to use all the materials that are available at your pace, and also be accompanied by these kind creators that put an incredible amount of effort into making these videos. Below, we will show you some examples that will illustrate our point:

⦁ Steampunk “looking” buttons:

Here you will be crafting the buttons with thread! Following the advice of craftsman William Booth Draper.

⦁ Steampunk bags/purses:


Learn how to alter a bag in the Steampunk way with the advice of Olga H. It’s the perfect object to match with a dress.

⦁ Steampunk home décor (Ideas):

This video of Simple DIY Home Decor Crafts will show you several ideas of Steampunk home décor. Most of it is really easy and cheap to get or make!

⦁ Steampunk pendant:

Follow Carver Mind in this intriguing tutorial video in which he makes a meteorite Steampunk pendant. The blue colors of this magnetic item are simply beautiful.

⦁ Simple Steampunk Hats:

Eddy Hutchons makes a gorgeous Steampunk hat. It perfectly fits an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ cosplay, too.

As you can see, it’s not necessary to spend that much money to get a Steampunk look. We know that it can be overwhelming at times, specially when you don’t know where to start. After all, the only thing that you actually need is to know is where to find what fits your budget. And, of course, you need a lot of patience and creativity. Happy Crafting!

If you can make Steampunk you can sell it, there are so many outlets online you can sell through see what others are doing and let that inspire you. There is always room for more fresh perspectives within the fashion. Start your own journey into selling Steampunk.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *