(The picture bellow is from a costume on-line shopping[ https://www.buycostumes.com/products/mens-steampunk-gentleman-costume ]. I don't want the exactly same thing, but it's close enough.)

I don't know what fabric to use for this steampunk outfit (suit, trousers and spat). I want this to be from a nice quality fabric. First I thought about wool, but it is expensive.

I don't want it to be a costume, I really would like to have the "feeling" that it is legit.

Any advice?

enter image description here

  • 3
    Hi Lucas, can you add the source to your picture, please?
    – Joachim
    Nov 12, 2019 at 7:42
  • 1
    Hopefully helpful sidenote: Since this costume is based on historical fashion, you should have a look at some historical tailoring books instead of buying a costume pattern. First try narrowing down the time period the costume is based on, then look through some books published at or before that time. That, and the proper material selection, is the key to making things look authentic instead of costumy.
    – Elmy
    Nov 15, 2019 at 17:58

2 Answers 2


I'm not really going to address your question, but the underlying problem.

The fact that costumes usually look like costumes and not like "legit" outfits, is because they are produced for temporary use: their cheap materials (and often cheap manufacture) keep prices at a minimum.

You can indeed improve on the fabric, but, combined with the working hours you'll have to put in it, you will have to see if this option is preferable to buying a higher quality costume.

My advice, depending on where you live, would be to visit a couple of thrift stores. Find pants, a waistcoat, a hat, a long coat, and any additional accessoires (since you're assembling your own outfit, you might even be able to wear parts of that outfit in daily life, making the investments even more worthwhile).
Whatever you still need you can now make from higher quality fabric, since you'll need less. You might even be able to find proper types of textile in those very same stores.

As a last tip: I believe you can get convincingly good-looking steampunk glasses and pocket watches for relatively low prices online.

  • 1
    I agree with @Joachim. You can do so much better quality-wise by collecting the basic layers from thrift stores, then spending your efforts and money on cool details. You surely have trousers like those under the chaps, which could so easily be made from a thrift-store pair of black jeans, maybe 1-2 sizes larger. The jacket would be a bit more difficult, but envision taking a long wool coat with lapels, trimming the lower edges to create tails, and folding the right lapel over to the left side creating the asymmetrical jacket front. Reshape the collar, finish the edges and add trim, et voila!
    – Laurent R.
    Nov 18, 2019 at 8:38

A "costume" looks like a cheap costume because it is made with cheap, unsuitable materials using quick assembly techniques with minimal finishing; if you want it to look "legit," you have to approach it as actual apparel, not as a "costume," and you'll have to spend some money on the materials, as well as time on the construction. "Cheap" fabrics will not get you the look you want.

Similarly, many "costume" patterns are geared toward this "cheap" approach; you'll likely need to make modifications or enhancements to whatever pattern you may choose, or to find a higher-end pattern (which will be more expensive).

There's a reason "cosplay" is considered an expensive hobby; even a simple garment can take many hours and a great deal of expense. (As a personal example, the belt for one of my own costumes cost $80 in raw materials.)

For a steampunk-style costume, consideration should be made toward the time period being evoked by the style; avoid lightweight and synthetic fabrics. You'll want 100% cottons (denims and other bottomweights for outer garments), wools, linens (good for shirts), and leather/suede. Note that synthetic suedes are fine if you like that look and want to avoid the cost or morality of real suede; synthetic leather is not a good substitute for real leather in belts and similar garments. A decent quality cotton twill can start at around $10/yd, linen often runs $12-20/yd, leather is generally priced by the size of the piece (or hide) and takes considerable extra effort to work with.

Some stores will offer sales or coupons; this will be your best bet to save money on your materials (and be sure to get a feel for the average sale vs the average coupon; at my local shop, linen never goes on sale for a better price than I can get with a coupon, but flannel almost always goes cheaper than the coupon price). Sign up for any emails, mailers, or apps your local stores have and comparison shop so you can save some money and use the savings to help yourself get higher quality materials.

Ultimately, what you get out of the project will be determined by what you put into it. If you use cheap materials and cheap construction techniques, your end result will look cheap. The only way to get the "feeling that it is legit" is to make it legit.


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