Do-it-yourself steampunk style

By Ellie Rulon-Miller

Remember the scene at the end of “Back To The Future Part III,” where Doc returns to the 1980s on a really cool train? Do you remember how cool he and Carla’s clothes looked, a perfect combination of Victorian, old western, and futuristic styles?

This is a classic, widely-recognized example of the steampunk style. The style has its roots in 1970s literature, and has been gaining momentum and commonality in fashion, movies, and books ever since, while developing into a culture all its own.

The most basic way to describe steampunk is “if the future existed in the past.” Fashion accessories include a lot of clock gears and brass. Clothing is old-fashioned in its most basic form, but spiced up with top hats, jewelry, and the biggest staple in steampunk fashion: goggles. There is a plethora of tutorials online which explain how to make these aviator-style goggles out of the most basic materials.

The king of the steampunk movement has got to be Jake von Slatt, an eastern Massachusetts resident who has completely immersed himself in the culture, converting everyday things such as computers and buses into beautiful steampunk versions of themselves.

Von Slatt has done it all in the world of steampunk. He has converted a bus into an RV in the style; etched the pickguard on his Stratocaster; upgraded an old computer with bronze embellishments; a guitar amplifier; etched designs into jewelry, and even more projects.

One of the simplest ways to give something you own a steampunk look is a simple paint job. One of the coolest steampunk items you can find on the internet are converted water guns and Nerf guns. Unfortunately, this is not a paint job you could give your Nerf guns if you are planning on taking part in Humans vs. Zombies later this month, as the rules of the game say that your weapon must actually resemble a toy; anything too realistic could get you arrested.

For the simplest steampunk paint job, step one is to simply cover your object of choice with a layer of black spray paint. Make sure you let it dry before proceeding to the next step, and you may want to consider a second coat of paint.

Next, use different colored “rub and buff,” available at craft stores, on the edges of the weapon to accent its angles. Use bronze, gold, and silver to stay true to the steampunk style.

This is the most basic way to give an object that “future in the past” appearance. What makes this project all the more fun is that most water guns and Nerf guns look futuristic already; it’s just not noticed because of the way they are colored. The steampunk paint job adds a whole new level of ‘badass’ to the giant barrels on your HVZ guns.

It’s also easy to add subtle steampunk attributes to your daily look. It’s easy (and cheap) to make earrings, rings and necklaces using old watch and clock parts; all you need to do is buy or use an old watch, carefully open it up, take out one of the inner components and fasten it to a fitted ring, string on a necklace, or stick to a pair of earrings.

In my own daily wardrobe, I wear a steampunk locket, a birthday gift purchased from Etsy is loaded with awesome, cheap, DIY steampunk jewelry and clothing, if you don’t feel like you have the creative flair to make your own.

Keep a weather eye on the horizon for steampunk to gain momentum in mainstream culture, as it is getting more and more popular with each passing day. Sometimes going back to the future never gets old.

Ellie Rulon-Miller can be reached at [email protected]