Accessories make the man – or, in this case, woman

Half of the fun of creating a steampunk look comes from choosing the accessories. Guns, fob watches, jewelry…they all combine to define the steampunk personality being presented. If done well, each piece will be uniquely suited to your character – each accessory choice will make sense when viewed against the personal history you have created for your steampunk identity. If done incorrectly, with a slap-dash sort of attitude, you risk having your look fall apart. Trust me, it’ll be kind of obvious that you just went through a pile of random junk and thought “this kind of looks Victorian or steampunk, so I’ve got to use it.” As Tim Gunn would say, make sure to use an editing eye.

At the moment, I don’t have a whole lot of steampunk accessories. What I do have feels right, in the context of my character. I’ve got a wonderful pocketwatch on a chain, courtesy of my friend Maggie. It’s got a train on it – one of those big, beautiful steam engines, with a cloud of smoke above it. I can’t begin to tell you how awesome that is. (Let us put aside, for the time being, the fact that the smoke belching forth from the steam engine is undoubtedly impacting the environment…it still looks neat in the old photographs) I LOVE trains. I have loved steam engines since I was a little girl, growing up in southwestern Colorado. My parents would take my sister and me to nearby Durango – “nearby” being relative…it was several hours away – and we would watch the old steam engine pull out of the station, taking passengers along the Durango-Silverton route. My parents always promised us that they would take us on the train one day, but we never did get around to riding it. It’s still on my list of things to do before I die. If I have to jump on the train like one of the storied hoboes of old, I will ride that train.

My love of steam engines, combined with the fact that the train was the primary mode of transportation for so many years – and still is in a number of places today – makes the inclusion of my pocketwatch in my costume accessories perfect. Of course Tesla Wheelwright would have a watch with a train on it!

Currently, I’m wearing my own pair of glasses with the costume. It is my hope, however, that I will be able to scrounge together enough money to buy some contacts for my costuming days. If that happens, I’ll be able to wear the wonderful sunglasses that Maggie’s grandmother bought me. They are pewter with blue lenses, and are modeled after glasses from the Colonial period. Grandma Cerny brought two pairs back with her when she and her husband went to Williamsburg. They’ve got little hoops on the end of each side, so you can attach a ribbon or what-not to them and hang them around your neck. I like mine so much, I’m thinking of ordering a pair in another color.

Again, this accessory works with the costume and character. I’m pulling from an older period than most steampunk tends to – Colonial America, rather than Victorian England – but the look still works. And since I need to wear sunglasses when wearing contacts anyway, it is practical.

I’m still having trouble reconciling the steampunk gun I’ve made. It’s really more like a rocket-launcher than a standard gun. I’ve actually named it “Peace.” I don’t know why. It just seemed appropriate. The ammo is being painted with the same sense of whimsy and fun that I’m trying to keep with the rest of the costume. One will have a target painted on the tip, while the other will have a smiley face (the gun only came with two missiles, and I have yet to set about making more).

The reason I’m having difficulty explaining the gun’s presence with the rest of the costume is simply that Tesla is not a warrior. Like anyone else, she’s able to fight in order to defend herself, but she is not going to turn to force as the first solution to a problem. Honestly, I think she’s probably going to be a lot more successful at being peaceful than me. So, if that’s the case, how can she carry around a gun that’s bigger than her arm? As far as I can figure, she plans to use it more as a back-up diversionary tactic: “You want to fight? Okay…WOW! Look at that big explosion that just happened over there! ::disappears::”

That’s just one idea. I’m not sure how workable it is.

The other important thing I have to consider is footware. I don’t want to wear tennis shoes or my regular Kaylee boots. They’re a little too modern. I also am not going to be wearing Victorian or Civil War-era boots. The style does not work with what I am doing. I want a heel, but not a stilleto. It needs to be a sturdy heel – something that gives me a little bit of height and makes me feel kick-ass, but is still comfortable to stand and walk around in for hours. Comfort is just as key as look, in this case. Remember – my steampunk concept is about whimsy and practicality.

To that end, I’ve been looking at a bunch of boots made by Mudd. I love their boots. My first pair of high heeled boots were Mudd boots, and I wore them until they literally gave out – I’m even looking at ways that I can alter them to continue to work. Unfortunately, they can be kind of hard to find in this area. Kohl’s is usually the only place that has them, and I’ve been unable to find a pair in my exact size recently. Additionally, Kohl’s tends to not stock Mudd boots past winter, so I’m down to looking for clearance pairs. I really want a pair of the Juli style, but they are impossible to find. They had three pairs on clearance at Kohl’s yesterday – two 6’s and an 8.5. I wear a 7.5. Sometimes I can go half a size down or up, depending on the style, but not a whole size difference.

I’m currently searching online for a new pair of Mudd boots. There are a couple of hits on ebay. One auction ends in 6 hours, and I’m debating whether to get them now or wait. It seems there are a fair number of Mudd boots up for auction at any given time, so I think I can afford to wait. No one’s got a pair of Julis, but there are a couple of other styles I like: Beth, Sorcery and Tribune. You’ll find them below, in the order that I listed them. The Tribune boots look the most like the Juli ones.


4 thoughts on “Accessories make the man – or, in this case, woman

  1. Hello,

    I’ve had a pair of these for years, but I just lost them yesterday :(. Can you tell me where you got that picture. I’m trying to order a new pair but can’t find them anywhere.

    Thanks in advance.

    Nick Vaka

    • Nick – I’m trying to locate a place where you can purchase the glasses online. It used to be pretty easy to find them on the Mt. Vernon and Colonial Williamsburg gift shop sites (I’m pretty sure that’s where I pulled the photo from). Unfortunately, they’re not listed in the online Colonial Williamsburg catalog anymore.

      I’ve found the press release about them, from back in 2003 ( That’s when they first started selling them. I called the gift shop customer service line and was directed to the retail customer service phone number. I’ve gone ahead and left a message with them, so hopefully they’ll call me back and I can give you more complete information about how to get them. As I remember, they run about $10. I’ve since lost my pair, too, so I’ll need to pick up a new pair myself.

      I’ll let you know what I hear back. And, if you’re interested and want to call them yourself, the customer service line for the retail shop is 1-800-770-5938. Hope this helps, and thanks for reading!

      Out of curiosity, what brought you to the site?

    • Bad news, Nick. I got a call back from the guy at the Williamsburg retail store and he said they’re currently looking for a new vendor for the colonial sunglasses. He says the earliest they would have anything is – at best – July or August, but there are no guarantees. At the moment, I’d suggest hitting up ebay regularly, to see if anyone’s selling an old pair of theirs.

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