Prefab Costumes: The Good, The Bad, the Benefit of an Expanded Audience

Like most of you (I assume) I love Halloween. The fun, the energy, the chance to dust off my corset post-convention and show off my favorite shoes. A few years ago you couldn’t find anything Steampunk in the costume shops (I know, because I work in them every season) besides the occasional bowler hat or mechanical decor. In the last few years though pre-fabricated Steampunk costumes have been growing in availability and now Spirit Halloween has a whole feature wall devoted to themed costumes, make-up, hats, pants, glue-on-mustaches, and more. But for an aesthetic  deeply grounded in DIY principals, how do we reconcile with prefab generics?

My opinion? Embrace it!

The reality is costuming is time consuming and can be very expensive. Normally these are spoken about as positives: applauding those who take the time to create incredible pieces and thinking of ways to pinch pennies. However, for many of us we simply don’t have the time, the cash, or (let’s be honest) the skill to create what we want. While I too would rather find a small business to get my costumes from sometimes that’s not a great option — particularly if I was new to the genre and wasn’t sure where to go.

These feature spaces in Spirit may be the gateway for news fans! Not everyone knows about us and these mainstream shops may be where they build interest. Alternatively, this may be the first time a long-term enthusiast gets a full costume for their first convention or finally gets the replacement shirt for their costume they’ve worn for years. I don’t see anything damaging to opening the doors to our community a little wider and showing off to the more mainstream sci-fi and Halloween fans. Besides, I don’t think we have to worry about damaging our brand when things like Steampunk’d exist (though that seems to have crashed and burned, but is still available on Netflix) and we all made it out okay. So maybe we need to welcome prefab costumes as helping people find us, instead of being judgy that they didn’t put “enough effort” into their outfits.


Now as a reward for reading my ironically judgy post about not judging where people buy their costumes, enjoy this wild-west Lindsey Stirling music video

When a Librarian Gets Married

Hello Internet!

As many of you have noticed and messaged, this site has been inactive for a few months. Major life changes (aka getting a new job, moving across the country, and getting married) just haven’t left me the time to provide the thoughtful reviews and commentary I wanted, so instead of posting half-heartedly, I simply haven’t been posting at all. However, now that I have more stability in life, I am very excited to be returning to this project!

To start us off here is a photo-post highlighting some amazing ideas for a Steampunk wedding.

Wouldn’t we all love to have a wedding like this?

When dressing wedding party members, it’s important to remember not everyone wants to dress-up, particularly if you are having wedding party members who are family, not friends you take with the convention. A great middle ground is to pick key elements that still scream steam, but are more comfortable that a full corset. For the gents: a double breasted jacket or vest like those you can find at ASOS online. For the ladies, boots or jewelry might be the best way to peope-please while maintaining your Victorian flair.

For brides there are several dress options:

You can go for full anachronistic styling with bustles, hats, and mixed colors.

Etsy Seller: OohLaLaBoudoir
Etsy Seller: OohLaLaBoudoir

Or you can go for a modern dress with steam-esque elements

Just because Victoria made white the new normal doesn't mean you have to stick with it
Just because Victoria made white the new normal doesn’t mean you have to follow

For a traditional Victorian gown, DIY might be your best option. I recommend starting your pattern search with Truly Victorian or Butterick.

For grooms there are the double breasted suits and vests like I linked above, but also don’t overlook the impact of accessories like:



Etsy Seller: storiadiversa
Etsy Seller: storiadiversa

Hip Holsters

Etsy Seller: HydeAndSheik
Etsy Seller: HydeAndSheik


Have you had your own Victorian or Steam inspired wedding? We want to see your pictures! Share them @SteamLib on Twitter or send them to!




Steam Themed Halloween pt2

Who can live with just one Halloween post? In honor of the best (if not best, at least most colorful) holiday here are more ideas for brining steam into your Halloween plans and a review of the Gail Carriger short story The Curious Case of the Werewolf That Wasn’t, the Mummy That Was, and the Cat in the Jar (part of the Parasol Protectorate series).

Don’t forget to share your own Halloween costumes and concepts at and via Twitter @SteamLib.

Music playlists are a staple of every party no matter where it’s hosted. While the classics like “Ghostbusters” and “Werewolves of London” will always hold a place in our hearts it never hurts to add some new pieces into the mix. I put together a small list highlighting some of my favorites from steampunk bands and pop-musicians:

Other suggestions include Abney Park, The Clockwork Dolls, Professor Elemental, and Jonathan Coulton.

Is your library in an area that hosts a large cosplay community?

Image: the librarian as a steampunk gender-bent Sherlock Holmes
Your Librarian as Sherlock Holmes circa 2012

Invite local groups to come and show off their costumes on Halloween and maybe do a Q&A on costume creation. If you’re lucky enough to live near a convention (you can check the Airship Ambassador Convention Listing ). You also might be able to find local artisans/crafts people who would be interesting in coming with some of their steampunk works (tiny hats, gloves, jewelry) to display and sell last-minute costume pieces.

Who doesn’t love coloring?

Image of my personal copy of Brian Kessinger's Coloring With Your Octopus
The best birthday present from The Boyfriend (aka The Project’s IT guy)

Artist Brian Kesinger (author of Walking Your Octopus) has a matching coloring book out now! You can find Coloring With Your Octopus at Amazon and Barnes&Noble. Pages can be distributed throughout October in the Children’s (and Teen, and Adult) sections to bring some steampunk whimsy to your tables. There’s also the Steampunk Coloring and Activity Book, the Creative Haven Steampunk Designs Coloring Book, and the option to make your own coloring pages off of Google or with the help of a crafty coworker. These are great for having out the whole month and at the kid’s table at events.

Last but not least a review of a Gail Carriger Parasol Protectorate story, my recommendation for a quick read for book groups or to curl up with while you binge on candy.

Title: The Curious Case of the Werewolf That Wasn’t, the Mummy That Was, and the Cat in the Jar: An Alessandro Tarabotti Story
Author: Gail Carriger
Series: Parasol Protectorate side story

Age/Audience: Teen/Adult

Genre/Style: Adventure, Short Story

Read If You Like: The Parasol Protectorate series, mysteries,


Ever wonder where Alexia got her sass? Search no further: in this short story originally published in the “Book of the Dead” anthology edited by Jared Smith we get our first full glimpse of Alexia’s father, the adventuring Alessandro Tarabotti.

When the Templars need a job done then expect it to be done quickly, discretely, and completely. When Mr. Tarabotti arrives in Egypt he knows these expectations and with the assistance of his trusted valet (and to the only level Mr. Tarabotti seems about to attempt, his friend) Mr. Floote he hopes to carry out his mission regarding a man and a mummy. However when an embalmed cat, an old ‘yoo-hoo’-ing acquaintance from England, and a blushing young Leticia Phinkerlington appear, things get unexpectedly complicated.

Bottom Line:

Great for a little read while waiting for trick-or-treaters.

Find It:

The Curious Case on Amazon

The Curious Case on Goodreads

Convention Season

As a community resource for librarians and steampunk fans in all walks of life, we here at The Steampunk Library project want to connect and share with as many members of the community as possible. To that end The Steampunk Library project is active on Tumblr (follow at, sharing posts and steampunk art.

Recently Steampunk Library has also joined Twitter (@SteamLib), where we can share links from other steam-inspired people, like the Boston Metaphysical Society (@HMollyRosing), the Airship Ambassador (@airshipEmbassy), authors like Gail Carriger (@gailcarriger), and more. Follow the #steampunk hashtag and @SteamLib to get connected to the community.

Looking for some face-to-face cosplay filled interactions? August may be fast approaching but convention season is far from over!

I will be hosting a Steampunk Library panel in September at the first Steamposium Convention in Seattle Washington, September 26-28. For more info and badge prices visit their website, or their Facebook. Get your badges early to ensure you can see Steam Powered Giraffe LIVE in concert at the convention on Saturday night. Don’t know about Steam Powered Giraffe? Check out the review of them here.

Not in the Seattle area? Not to worry! Both TOR publishing and the Airship Ambassador keep up to date on the conventions happening around the US and Canada.

Been to a convention recently and want to share your experience with the community? You can share your con pics with us via Twitter, or send in your write up and pictures of your experience to and host it on the site.

Truly Victorian

Authentic Costume Patterns


Truly Victorian is an incredible resource for any Steampunk costumer. A reliable web catalog of Victorian pattern pieces is hard to come by, let alone one that can match their selection and pricing. They have pieces ranging from pre-Civil War through to the turn of the century – and not just dresses! While dresses may be the most fun, a good catalog needs to have something to offer to all costumers. Truly Victorian has hats, shirts, undergarments, men’s wear, and a few coats. These patterns, though, do not look like conventional sewing patterns. From their “about us” section “Our patterns are full scale and hand drafted to fit the modern body, using historical principles and techniques. They are not redrawn copies of original patterns, nor are they modern ideas of what a historical garment looked like. All the seam lines and styles are historically accurate to each period. These pattern are for historical clothing (not costumes) and are perfect for reenactments and special events were authenticity is desired so give yourself time to adjust measurements/layouts and other minor oddities.

Corset Story

Online Superstore for Costume Pieces


Corset Story is a UK based corset and costume piece retailer.

Specializing in full-steel boned waist-cinching corsets, Corset Story is a high quality place to start (and finish) your costume piece shopping. They offer a wide range of pieces and are my go to for Waist Training and Full Steel Corsets – these pieces offer the tightest binding and fullest shaping. They come in solid colors to wear in a traditional style (that is, under your clothes) or highly decorated to display openly. For this corset type be sure to follow the sites sizing recommendations to make sure you can be as comfortable as possible. I also suggest only purchasing pieces that include a “modesty panel” which is a piece of the corset fabric that lays against your back under the lacing. This is important for two reasons. First, it adds a lot of comfort to the piece since the laces can’t rub againt skin. Second, if you are fully laced your skin on your back may crease, which is not only uncomfortable but unattractive, a modesty panel covers this and gives you a single, solid print/fabric pieces to show off your tight-lacing.

Corset Story also sells burlesque-style pieces, skirts, fascinators (hair accessories), and “fashion” corsets. Fashion corsets are usually made with acrylic boning, which is flexible and offers no waist reduction but still gives a corseted look.