I’ve never been a steampunk enthusiast (or cosplayer for that matter), but when I was asked to join a steampunk X-Men group a few months back for San Diego Comic Con, I swallowed my nervousness and said yes. As I began to research different X-Men, I narrowed my choices to two: Jubilation Lee or Nightcrawler. I mulled over the idea of gender bending Nightcrawler for about two weeks before coming to the realization that I’d need to be in blue makeup and/or fur in summer weather. Yikes. I took a second look at Jubilee and after making peace with the fact that I’m not Asian and considerably tanner than the character, I threw caution to the wind and began. While I had the luck of one Dina Kampmeyer (a veritable steampunk pro) on hand to help me out with any questions I might have, it still took a while to construct a basis on which to work from. For anyone you’d like to cosplay as, you’ll need a full body picture to see the costume in full. For instance, I used the art below as a starting point:
Jubilee is particularly recognizable due to the two dominant colors in her costume, so I needed to make steampunk counterparts of the following:
- Yellow trench coat
- Jean shorts
- Magenta top
- Magenta sunglasses
A choice also needed to be made in regard to if I was going to approach her outfit in a European, dressy, or wild west kind of way. This was important so I knew what kind of outfit pieces to search for (i.e. a bustle for dressy, hat for wild west, etc). I ended up deciding that since Jubilee was sort of a tomboy, I’d put a male Victorian spin on on her.
I started my costume with the jacket. Taking into account the earth toned hues of steampunk, I searched all ends of the internet for a mustard yellow trench coat in various types of fabric. Each time I came up empty-handed. I toyed with the idea of dying a white jacket, but if I messed up repeatedly the costs would begin to stack. I tried altering my tactics and searched for camel and gold trench coats and still nothing. Frustrated, I finally found a $10 listing on eBay for a bright yellow trench coat. I purchased it and set about looking for the best and easiest techniques to age it/distress it/what have you, in order for it to have that old time-y feel. I settled on using sandpaper and purchased some squares from a hardware store, rubbing it repeatedly on the neck, collar, arms and waist line. After washing it so it frayed a little, I disregarded the washing directions and blasted it with hot water. I dried it outside in the sun as well, in order to help the color fade a little faster so it wouldn’t be as bright. Still dissatisfied with the results, I wandered about the house, struggling to find the missing touch to the jacket. I happened to rub against a tire as I left the house to grab the mail and the black marks looked perfect for the steampunk version of Jubilee i was envisioning. With this touch, my Jubilee could be the mechanic tomboy kind of girl! I carefully rubbed bits of tire on myself as i wore the jacket and it definitely gave it a nice feel.
Next was the corset. Having never worn one, I was definitely apprehensive and this is where Dina proved invaluable to me. We found a site that was doing a special (3 corsets for $150) and we chose an iridescent fuchsia toned one that was trimmed in black that was PERFECT. When it arrived, I was absolutely pleased with the color and fit of it and moved on to the next piece: the boots.
Brown lace-up boots are apparently a high-priced item when they’re in fashion and I was loath to drop $50+ on a pair of boots I would have to break in AND would probably wear once or twice so off to the thrift stores I went. After six in a row and as I was feeling dejected, I strode into the last for the day and there they were like a proverbial holy grail, sitting in a by ray of light from the heavens. I ran to them hoping they’d fit my feet and they were a size 8 in mens (translates to a size 10 in ladies). I laced them up, walked around and took them home for the grand amount of $3. Even if they were a little big, they’d do the job! Ecstatic, I placed them aside as they would need no distressing, probably due to the fact they were heavily used and scuffed to perfection. I wore them for a few days straight to get used to them (and oddly received the most compliments of my life on my choice in footwear AND had to thwart my sister’s thieving hands) and thought hard for what I could do for my bottoms!
A jean bustle was suggested by Dina and I searched the interwebs again to no avail. Dejected, I went back to the drawing board to see if I could possible make one. Yeah, fuck no, that all seemed hard as hell so I decided to pursue other options after convincing myself that a tomboy mechanic influenced Jubilee wouldn’t wear a jean bustle and settled on the idea of jodhpur pants. In case you’re not familiar with those, they’re basically riding pants. Again, the cheap bastard in me won out and I instead bought a pair of soft, grey skinny pants from Old Navy in a size too large and pinned them from the knee down. This worked especially well when I had to stuff my pants into the boots, but buying them too large ultimately backfired as I lost weight and they virtually fell off me. Somehow I think exhibitionism is not a trait of Jubilee’s.
To the right is about the halfway point of constructing the outfit, because this is when I realized I needed more accessories! I needed the equivalent of sunglasses, several belts with pouches on them, leather arm bands, jewelry, and gloves. I did the easy parts first and searched Etsy for steampunk inspired earrings and settled on a custom ear cuff from Jynx’s Box.
I finally found a pair of brown fingerless gloves on Amazon and set about figuring out how to make my fingertips light up to mimic Jubilee’s superpowers. Thank the Seven I happened to notice a con-goer walking around Akon23 with his fingertips alight with color as he went to the rave and I began searching for LED fingertips and stumbled upon these gloves. They ended up not being too visible in the sunlight but inside the convention hall, they came to life and did the job splendidly. I picked up a gold fabric paint pen and drew gears on the velcro wrist to mimic the X-Men gear symbol we were all going to receive at the convention to tie our group together. Gloves done, I set upon the hardest parts of my costume: the sunglasses, belts, and armbands.
I was actually goofing off on Tumblr one day, when I came across a girl who mentioned a steampunk tutorial that she did her belts with. I messaged her privately and was astounded at how easy the tutorial made the belts sound! I rushed off to the thrift stores later that day and procured four belts to use and several small leather wallets and a large, heavily pocketed purse per the tutorial instructions (which you can view here) and followed them to completion. I looped both finished belts together and successfully wore them low on my hips so they sat like gun holsters would.
Again, the Seven blessed me with wisdom and I noticed another tutorial detailing on how to make my own goggles. I was utterly flabbergasted at how the idea of goggles escaped me completely while I pondered bronze sunglasses in my head and equally ecstatic at how easy they would be to make! I hurriedly ordered a pair of Amazon (panicking as SDCC was now a month away) and purchased the darkest pink and gold spray paint I could find. Once I held the goggles in my hands, I took them outside and after several mess ups, sprayed the lenses pink and the rest of the goggles with gold. They dried within 20 minutes and I set those aside as well.
As I sat at the table, glowing with pride, I noticed the destroyed bits of discarded belt lying there and realized I had enough length to loop around my nonexistent biceps for arm bands!!
After roughly three months of planning and buying and creating, I left to San Diego Comic Con where I met up with the rest of the Steampunk X-Men on Saturday. I think we came out pretty well!!