I am in the process of re-vamping my entire wardrobe in the steampunk and neo-Victorian style. During this process I’ve learned a few things and I thought I would impart what little wisdom I may have gained in the hopes that you might benefit.
The first thing you have to understand about my situation is that I am deployed at the moment, and so have no access to thrift shops or craft shops, nor do I have my studio to make any of my own accessories or clothing. I am doing this completely online until I am in the position to utilize thrift shops as I normally would and craft my own repurposed clothing, jewelry and accessories.
Now, in crafting my wardrobe I have come to realize that while I would like to have all sorts of badass stuff, I need to start with the basics and make my way into the details. I don’t know what details I want until I have the bigger picture to begin with. I made the mistake of buying a few pieces I loved, but in practice had nothing to pair them with and as a result, they went largely unworn until I got the staples.
Let me explain further. One of my first purchases was this bustle:
While it is a beautiful bustle, the problem is that it’s a little difficult to wear a bustle when you have nothing to wear it over.
Thankfully, I quickly realized this and started to get more of the main pieces. Skirts, blouses, pants, corsets and a good pair of boots. It is a lot easier to build an outfit around a few good pieces than it is to build an outfit from an accessory.
My next piece of wisdom to impart is to shop around. While much of my wardrobe ended up coming from Etsy, there are a multitude of sites for reproduction Victorian clothing, Old West clothing, steampunk clothing and countless pictures for inspiration. Here’s a short list of websites that I have found:
http://www.frenzyuniverse.com/store.cfm A lot of the accessories are fun and reasonably priced.
http://www.milanoo.com/wholesale-Lolita-Clothing-c634 Very reasonably priced and a lot of the skirts, dresses and blouses can be used for neo-Victorian and steampunk looks.
http://recollections.biz/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=SFNT&Store_Code=R&Affiliate=FashionEra Expensive, but quality. I use this site mostly for Victorian inspiration.
http://www.steampunkthreads.com/ A division of Recollections aimed specifically at the steampunk set. Also a little pricey, but good for inspiration.
http://www.hamiltondrygoods.com/ An excellent source for Old West accoutrements and clothing.
http://www.westernersoutfitter.com/ Another great source for Victorian and Old West accessories.
http://www.gentlemansemporium.com/ A great site for all sorts of clothing, accessories and “brassy bits,” as they say. They have a ladies section and a steampunk section as well.
There are a plethora of other sites and if you hunt around, you are bound to find the best deals. Check back for sales and new goodies! It also helps to do searches unrelated to “Victoriana” or “steampunk” as those tags tend to add to the pricetag. Try doing searches for tribal, 80’s blouses (which are often Victorian revival), and western wear.
My last piece of wisdom for now is that most Etsy sellers are willing to negotiate prices. Every single time I have asked for a discount, I have gotten it. I try to keep my requested discount within reason. For example:
These fabulous pants were selling for $180. I asked the seller if I could get them for $120 and she was fine with it.
These brassy beauties are going for $125. I asked the seller if I could get them for $100 and all the seller asked in return is I answer some questions about his product and he was all for it!
The trick, I have found, is to say that their product is beautiful/amazing/irresistable and I just have to have it! Unfortunately, I can’t afford the price, could I possibly get it for X amount? If they agree, follow through and if they turn you down (which has yet to happen to me) be gracious and don’t reply rudely.
That is all I have for now, but if you found this helpful at all, let me know and I can have additional tips and tricks for online shopping!