I've become a big Girl Genius fan, since I met the Foglios at their stand for Sasquan and attended a few of their talks. This couple is hilarious. They are also downright awesome writers/artists. If you've yet to discover the amazing Girl Genius, visit this link, and get started. However new you are to Girl Genius, I doubt you're new to Steampunk. Well, it's close to Halloween and many people want to go Steampunk but don't want to flimsy, expensive outfits they have in the Halloween stores and don't want to pay big bucks online. Well, here's an Agatha Hetrodyne (Girl Genius and Mad Scientist, or Spark, to be polite) costume I made for under $50. I wanted it to be nice, since I'm going to wear it to cosplay in at Norwescon this year (I'll be a panelist), but I also don't want to break the bank, so I'll give you budget cosplayers or Halloween DIYs some tips.
First Tip: Go to Thrift Stores for Clothing
The above outfit is perfect for Agatha and for Steampunk generally. While Agatha tends to be modest when she dresses, one could also just buy some bloomers and a corset. I tend to be like fully dressed Agatha: Victorian steam modest. This outfit is suitably Victorian: brass buttons on both the skirt and button vest and a flowing white undershirt. All covered, all long. I also got some red and white long striped socks (which Agatha is known for) and a blonde wig. Most people won't need the wig, if they are going for a certain character, but Agatha is blonde, so I needed one. Steampunk is about the feel of Victorian with flashes of metal and patterns. Not all things that look Steampunk will work, however, and I found this tutorial helpful for distinguishing which is which. This outfit cost: wig $10, shirt $4, vest $5, skirt $5, socks $5. So, $29.00 for the outfit, which is the most costly part. Without the wig and socks (you won't need these if you're not doing Agatha), it would have cost 14.00. Really affordable.
Second Tip: Use Household Items
A lot of the Steam/Mad scientist embellishments I made from my already full craft area. Some of these things you might have to buy, but I don't purchase anything overly expensive, so you could feasibly get much of this for under $10. I used two used coffee cups for the tubes below the lens on my goggles. I used metallic acrylic paint to paint the goggle and death-ray parts. I used cogs for decoration (I used to make Steampunk hats, so I had some in my craft area, but these can be pricey, if you don't salvage them). I used a colored report holder (I'm a teacher, so I used an old one a student gave me) for the lens. And I used mason jar tops for the tops of the goggles, to fit around the lid. My mom cans stuff, so I had them in my utensil drawer. I also got a pair of movable lens glasses from a garage sale for really cheap a long time ago, which I used on my goggles. Lastly, I used some food dye in the plastic ornament on my death-ray to give it a Hetrodyne-power supply feel. All these things were stuff I just salvaged around my house.
Third Tip: Go to the Dollar Store
Almost everything else I used to complete the goggles, belt, embellishments and death-ray I picked up from the Dollar Store. I bought the goggles at Wal-Mart for $3 and men's extra long belt $10, but that's the only exception. I couldn't find the right belt at the thrift store, otherwise, that would have been cheaper, I imagine. I bought a pair of work gloves, two fake leather cell-phone holders, some birthday tiaras (to use for texture on ray gun, you can also use the band for texture on goggles. See this site for more on how-to), some wooden ovals (so I could paint Agatha's trilobite embellishments), a fake over-sized key, a noise-making plastic gun, an a plastic ornament. All of that for $8. So, my grand total for the costume came to $50.
Tip Four: Other supplies I had that you might need to buy
I used the following things to assemble the parts: hot glue gun, hot glue, paint, paint brushes, super glue, scissors and a box cutter. I do a lot of crafting, so I had those already, but you will need them if you don't. You can get many of these things from the Dollar Store, too.
End Result: A Passable Agatha Hetrodyne
Up close, my work might not look as awesome as the professional shops on Etsy who work leather and metal, but it is a passable outfit for someone on a budget who has a little crafter instinct. If you're even a little handy, give this stuff a try. Below, is the final outfit, complete with death ray and goggles. I also posted a picture of a steampunk hat I made with 50% off materials from Michaels and Wal-Mart. They often run Halloween clearance the week after, and I suggest buying a lot of your Steampunk items then, especially hats, which are expensive, otherwise (Goodwill sells them for cheap after Halloween, too). I bought all of the stuff for the hat on Clearance for about $20.00 at Michaels. I sold that hat for $50, so it paid off. If you have any questions about Steampunk or cosplay ideas, please comment below. I love to help those willing to learn.
H.M Jones is the author of B.R.A.G Medallion Honor and NIEA finalist book Monochrome, its prequel Fade to Blue, the Adela Darken Graphic Novellas, Al Ravien's Night, The Immortals series, and several short stories.