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halloween costumes for women

Steampunk Costume Ideas for Ladies & Lil' Ladies

InspirationSamantha Extance

The best part about making your own costume is that you have total aesthetic control. The greatest benefit to a handmade Halloween is that you are not inhibited by a limited selection (and do not have to weigh those unappealing options--like deciding between a slutty nurse  costume or a ladybug for you or your child). It seems like most costumes these days for women fall into 2 categories: hyper-sexual or infantile. This is precisely the kind of social issue that drives the Take Back Halloween project. Take Back Halloween is a blog & website that offers up ideas on how to create costumes for women & girls that are not only imaginative, fun, and yes even macabre but empowering and inspiring. Their costumes are based on real women (a smattering of scientists, queens, explorers, and entrepreneurs) and also strong female figures from world mythologies. I've been a fan of their blog for some time, I find its dedication to positivity and multiculturalism refreshing and I wanted to share it with those of you who are figuring out what you'd like to be this Halloween.

Here are some Victorian women--who you could either emulate or steampunk (I offer a couple of steampunking suggestions for each lady)!

1) Ada Lovelace: Aristocrat Scientist & Daughter of Lord Byron

Steampunk Suggestions: "Nowadays she’s recognized as 'the world’s first computer programmer,'" drawing from this fact you create a cool accessory (a fan, necklace, or pair of earrings perhaps) out of an old computer circuit board or if you feel daring--a masquerade style mask made out of computer parts!

2) Carlota of Mexico: Renowned Beauty & Empress of Mexico

Steampunk Suggestions: Carlota was famous for her jewels and in fact Take Back Halloween points out that "(They’re still famous—one of her diamonds sold at auction in 2010 for 1.7 million dollars.)." Steampunking Carlota would be simple & elegant--painting gears over crystal glass beads (which you would then use to make a pair of dangly earrings) or a pearl necklace with a cog/gear pendant & pearl dangling from the bottom. If you feel particualrly adventurous, you might even create a cog & gear crown for yourself.

3) Emma Goldman: American Anarchist & Activist, nicknamed “Red Emma”

Steampunk Suggestions: Accessorizing to look like Emma Goldman is steampunk enough! It's be easy. Pince-Nez glasses, button up boots, & her fantastic Victorian style hats.

4) Jane Austen: Needs No Introduction! Technically she's not Victorian, but regency costumes are fun too!

Steampunk Suggestions: Why not be Jane Austen, Vampire Hunter or Zombie Killer?! Accessorize with not only a deadly pen but a broadsword or stake!

5) Lise Meitner: Nuclear Physicist who discovered Nuclear Fission

Steampunk Suggestions: To accompany your outfit, grab tubes & bottles and fill them up with various liquids & stick a glow stick inside to give them a radioactive luminescence and goggles are a must (laboratory safety after all!).

6) Lizzie Borden: Murderess (hey, it’s Halloween!)

Steampunk Suggestions: Leg-o-mutton sleeves are a must, blood spattered spats, and an axe!

7) Madam C.J. Walker: Self-Made Millionaire & One of America’s first Female (and Female African American) Entrepeneurs

Steampunk Suggestions: My favorite picture of Madame C.J. is of her driving--such an empowering image of a mobile woman--a force to be reckoned with! I suggest some driving goggles, gloves, and a large opulent hat!

8) Susan B. Anthony: Suffragist Extraordinaire!

Steampunk Suggestions: Keep it simple--wear a Votes for Women sash or bring a sign or soap box to stand on throughout the night!

9) Queen Victoria: I'd recommend that you watch the movie The Young Victoria starring Emily Blunt for good ideas

Steampunk Suggestions: This is another costume that is easy to steampunk--you hardly have to do anything or you could re-interpret Queen Victoria into your own steampunk narrative--how about a robot Queen Victoria? You could draw gears on your skin (particularly at your joints) with henna or face paint and make a huge wind up key out of cardboard and run 2 lengths of ribbon on each side of the cardboard pieces so that you could fasten to your back like a belt!

10) Annie Oakley:Nicknamed "Little Sure Shot," Annie Oakley was a force to be reckoned with. She could hit any target no matter how small and was a part of Buffalo Bill's traveling Wild West Show. Annie designed and sewed all of her own clothes for the show too!


Steampunk Suggestions: A steampunk version of Annie Oakley would be fun and rather simple. You could keep the costume relatively the same, and just create a steampunk blunderbuss or rifle. Other ideas are using steampunk gear buttons, like the kind you can purchase at JoAnn Fabrics, in lieu of traditional wood or brass buttons in her costume.

11) Marie Curie: Who wouldn't want to dress up as the first woman to win a Nobel Prize?! Marie Curie is a famous scientist, best known for discovering radiation/radium. A costume of Curie would also be simple, but there are certainly ways to steampunk it!


Steampunk Suggestions: You could 'punk it up with accessories like a steampunk eyeglass or monocle. Props are key--a couple of old beakers filled with glow in the dark liquids would be really cool. You could also paint your costume with glow in the dark paint for a radioactive Marie Curie. It would make the costume a bit more spooky and macabre since Curie died of radiation poisoning.

12) Queen Liliuokalani:  Liliuokalani was the last reigning monarch of Hawaii. According to Take Back Halloween, "She came to the throne in 1891 as a pro-native, pro-woman advocate for her people, and quickly found herself at odds with the American businessmen (sugar barons, pineapple planters) who wanted to annex the islands to the United States."


Steampunk Suggestions: Steampunk through accessories--a steampunk rhinestone necklace and sash!

Good luck brainstorming & creating your Halloween costumes! Check out Take Back Halloween for more ideas!


DIY Steampunk Crown & DIY Steampunk Pirate Queen Costume for Halloween

D-I-Y-Samantha Extance

Like me I know a lot of you are making your own costumes not only for the fun of it but also because of your budget. Here is a DIY Steampunk Halloween costume that costs under $100 (and even less if you have some of these items already). Be a Steampunk Pirate Queen this Halloween (or Empress or Imperial Majesty...whichever title you prefer, after all you're the ruler).

(Forgive the phone in the mirror shooting--I did cover the phone up with some spooky overlays--check out PicMonkey's Halloween themes to edit pictures with! It's super fun & festive!)

Here's what you'll need:

  • A fancy dress (Now is the perfect time to dig up that unworn dress sitting lonely in the closet or that bridesmaids dress that you haven't put on since the wedding). If you don't have a dress, try pursing your local thrift stores for dresses. Steampunking it is easy with accessories and a little tulle! Don't worry if your dress is short--punk it up with your favorite pair of Fall/Winter boots! (Already Owned, hopefully)
  • Tulle (approximately 2-3 yards, depending on your size and how long you'd like it to trail after you). I'm a size 14 and so I purchased 2 yards. Tulle is cheap at Joann Fabrics during Halloween (go when you have a coupon)! $2.00
  • Elbow-Length Gloves (you can source these from anywhere, thrift stores or a cheap Halloween shop). I made my gloves fingerless but cutting off the ends. $12.99
  • Eye patch (any Halloween shop or Dollar Store has an eye patch you can purchase pretty cheaply) I bought mine at Party City where I also found my elbow length gloves. $1.99
  • Goggles (This may be harder to find than other items but check your local flea markets, estate sales, & thrift stores--which may have goggles for lower prices). My favorite pair of reproduction goggles is made by Restoration Hardware, click here to purchase or view their "German Goggles" in the RH online catalog. These goggles are simple, elegant, and relatively inexpensive. $24.99
  • Crown (or Large Christmas Tree Crown Ornament) The crown I am wearing is actually a Christmas Tree ornament that I purchased at a local shop, Garden Ridge (in their Gold Ornaments aisle). The DIY to make your own crown from a Christmas Tree ornament is below. Keep reading! $4.99 (Gears & Brads to adorn it with: approximately $14.99)
  • Steampunk Jewelry (or any mismatched metal & chain jewelry that you own already) Some of you I know already own a few of my pieces (thanks!)--mix & match them with other rhinestone or bling-ish jewelry you own to add a little sparkle. (Already owned or you can click here for my Etsy shop and find something to go with your costume!)

Total Cost (excluding a dress & jewelry): $61.95

The most important part of your costume...airship pirate's attitude. A Queen still gives her mateys a mightly Argh!!

DIY Steampunk Crown

Materials & Tools:

  • Crown Ornament (a filigree metal crown is best since it has many holes in it already) ($4.99)
  • Brads ($4.99)
  • 1-2 packages of reproduction metal gears ($5.99 each at Michaels--try their "Found Objects" or "Industrial Chic" brands) or salvaged machine or gear parts (preferable, sourced from local flea markets, estate sales & such)
  • Light bulbs (optional)
  • Rhinestone clip-on earrings (optional)
  • 2 Grandfather clock hands (optional)
  • Small magnifying glass & chain (optional)
  • Wire (as close to the color of your crown) & wire cutters (for attaching light bulbs)
  • Pair of flat nosed pliers


1) If your ornament has any hooks or ribbons for hanging on the Christmas tree, remove them or cut the ribbons. Here's what mine looks like:

2) Next, lay out the items you wish to attach to your crown & begin placing them. Gears can be attached with brads through the holes in the crown's filigree. Secure them by prying apart the two ends of the brad so that they hold the gear in place. You may want to crimp the brad shut with a pair of flat nosed pliers (or any kind of flat pliers).

3) (Optional) To secure a light bulb to your crown, cut a length of wire (proportional to your bulb's size. For  tiny bulbs, approx. 1 inch) & loop the wire around the bulb through the filigree and back through again & around (Like sewing stitches) until the bulb is secure. Another option is to secure the light bulb in place with glue & a glue gun.

4) (Optional) For extra sparkle on your crown, add a rhinestone (or any sparkly gemstone) clip-on earring. The clip should hold, but if your earring is old and the fastener is loose you may want to secure it with a bit of wire (approximately 1/2 inch will suffice).

5) (Optional, but highly suggested) To attach your grandfather clock hands, use brads and secure in place with pliers as instructed in Step 2 above. If your grandfather clock hands are heavier and cannot be kept in place with brads, use a small screw, washer, & nut to hold it in place. A great selection can be found in the Science Projects section at Lowes or Home Depot in the Hardware section.

6) (Optional) To add a monocle, attach a length of chain (measure where you'd like it to fall--keep in mind it will whip you in the face so I'd advise to make it longer than eye-length. A good zone is between the bottom of your nose to your chin). Using a jump ring  attach the chain to a small magnifying glass (available at some dollar stores & grocery stores; available at bead shops, like the Bead Merchant on 15th street & Delaware). Using another jump ring, attach the other end of the chain to your crown with your pliers. You can dress up your magnifying glass chain as I did above by adding crystal beads & a piece of filigree!

7) Once you have attached all of your embellishments to your crown, wear proudly!

Other Ideas for Accessories: Faux-fur, a Sceptor, A Sword (for Knighting your minions), a Queenly cape, & a dance card

Have fun crafting your costumes! If any of you decide to be a Steampunk Pirate Queen please post or email your pictures to I'd love to see them! Check in later this week to find out how to Steampunk your Pumpkins!