Friday, October 30, 2009

Literary Halloween Costumes

I've never been a big fan of Halloween. As someone who doesn't like scary movies, haunted houses, or bothering strangers for candy, it has never been a holiday I could really enjoy. Added to that the fact that, as a student and a high school teacher, I usually ended up spending Halloween working on last-minute details for the fall musical and/ or spending quality time with the theatre's resident ghost, Halloween has always seemed more of a headache than anything else.

However, like the upcoming Christmas season, it has become impossible to escape. Just in case the omnipresent costume company and candy ads I have been assaulted with for the past month didn't jog my memory, this week I received an email from with poet-inspired costume ideas. These included Emily Dickinson (wear all white, pull your hair back, carry plastic flies to give to people), Edgar Allen Poe, and Walt Whitman. The website cheerily suggests that you might use these costumes to impress an English teacher or if going to a party with a literary theme (do they have costume parties with literary themes?).

While the entire thing struck me as kind of ludicrous, it also got me to think about what other poets and authors would lend themselves to good Halloween costumes. Unfortunately, outside a few select authors, such as William Shakespeare, Poe, and Dickinson, I couldn't think of a lot of authors who would be easily recognizable to the average person. When you stop and think about it, how many authors would you be able to recognize if given just a picture and no context?

Luckily, if you have your heart set on a literary Halloween costume, characters prove to be easier (and much more recognizable). Furthermore, even if you don't have a large costume budget or you waited until the last minute and the only things available at the local costume place are those awful Kate Gosselin wigs, here are a few more literary-themed ideas that would be easy to pull together if you have the right things in your closet:
  • Nancy Drew - I've always been a Nancy Drew fan girl, and since that she's been around since the 1930s, almost anything will work for her as long as its neat, preppy, and comes with red hair and a magnifying glass. If you have a lot of 1930s-style clothes (think pencil skirts, smart blouses, gloves, and hats), you could channel original recipe Nancy. On the other hand, if your clothes are more modern, there's always the latest film version of Nancy. Whatever you do, be certain to badger everyone with questions and be annoyingly perfect at everything you try. Bonus points if you can find a handsome guy with dark hair to be Nancy's "special friend" (that's what he is called in the original books) Ned Nickerson or a curvy blond and a tomboyish brunette to be Bess and George, Nancy's loyal sidekicks.
  • Daisy Buchanan - Okay, this one might be a little harder than Nancy Drew, since Daisy is a character set in the 1920s. However, if you can procure a 1920s-style white dress and you have a "voice full of money," then go for it.
  • Hester Prynne - While The Scarlet Letter is set in the 17th century, all you really need is a long black dress (or a dark blouse and a long skirt) with a lavishly decorated red "A" on the bodice. If you can get a black cape, a doll to represent Pearl, or a man to dress up as Dimmesdale, then so much the better. However, I do know that an accurate Hester Prynne costume isn't as sexy as you might like, so you could go with the Demi Moore version. It is pretty much the same, except you need a heaving bosom and some really bad acting to go along with the basic costume.
  • Mary Lennox - Although Alice from Alice in Wonderland is more recognizable, getting to be Mary Lennox from The Secret Garden would probably be more fun. Wear a drab neutral-colored dress (tans, browns, and greens are good) with a white pinafore and a sneer. Throw tantrums whenever things don't get your way and utter spells to amaze/ disturb those around you. Expect to be tamed by the love of your adopted family by the end of the night.
  • Carrie - If you have an old prom dress that you hate, this is the costume for you. Put on the prom dress and dowse yourself (hair, dress, everything) with fake blood (you can buy this at a costume store. You can also can make your own with corn syrup and food coloring, but know that this will be sticky and you might be stained for a few days). Try to keep your murderous, telekinetic powers under control until the night is over.
Men, never fear, here are some costume ideas for you:
  • The Monster from Frankenstein (Frankenstein is the name of the doctor, not the monster) - Put on ragged clothes and give yourself some fake bruises, scars, and stitches. If possible, try to give your skin a sickly-looking tinge.
  • Oedipus - Fashion a toga out of a white sheet. Use some artfully applied makeup to make it look like you gouged your eyes out. Prepare for a lot of unpleasant questions about your mom/ wife and your sisters/ daughters.
  • Edward Cullen (I never said that I liked these characters) - put on a lot of powder (face, baby, it doesn't really matter) or foundation to make yourself really pale. Then throw on some strategically placed body glitter, spike up your hair, put on some red lipstick, and forget how to smile. Be warned that most sane people will find this entire getup repellent.