DIY to Done: Steampunk Bustle


I admit it: for most of my life I’ve been afraid of sewing.

As a child, I made dresses for my dolls, cut and hand-stitched from my seamstress grandmother’s leftover cloth. But throw a machine into that equation? For most of my life, the very thought would have made me shudder.

Until, that is, I got into steampunk. Then I wished mightily that I had learned as much from Grandma’s old Singer as I had from watcher her deft hands.

Thanks to a second-hand sewing machine, this year I’ve begun to make my own costume pieces, using tutorials from the internet and cheap pre-made garments from Goodwill. Today I present my crowning achievement (so far, at least): a DIY bustle!

If I can manage to do this, you can, too. And here’s how:

Skirt ruffles for steampunk costume - 2014

Skirt ruffles for steampunk costume – 2014

As you may recall, I started with a taffeta evening skit from Goodwill, to which I added a contrasting pink ruffle, using this DIY ruffle-making tutorial.


From there, I used C.N. Beyer’s super-easy-to-follow DIY bustle overskirt tutorial to pin up and tack down the front “billows” of the bustle.


I covered each tacking point with custom-covered fabric buttons with the leftover ruffle fabric. (Button-covering kits are available at Jo-Ann and most craft stores.)

As a bonus, I did the same for the buttons of a vest, also from Goodwill, that I knew would become the bustle’s most probable fashion pairing.


Finally, I pulled layers of “puffs” up the backside of the bustle, grabbing them from underneath and tacking them at varying lengths to the extra-strong interior waistband of the bustle.


Wait: is that a photo bomb by Shrek? (Photo by Troy Freund)

I finished the project this past Saturday . . . and not a moment too soon! An hour later I donned it for the premier of Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars at First Stage Theater, where my friend Troy Freund was snapping photographs of any attendees in steampunk garb.

Not bad for a girl her who was afraid of sewing machines. If I do say sew myself.

*  *  *

What about you? Share your first foray into sewing—
or perhaps your favorite cosplay project—below!

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