It’s nearly Halloween time, and I’m sure you’re all thinking about (or working feverishly on) your costumes!
Halloween can be a weird time for historical costumers. We costume all year long, and have closets full of outfits already, so why make something totally new? Here are eight ways to Halloween-ize historical and vintage pieces that you may already have lurking…
The Shade of Marie Antoinette
If you’re an 18th c. costumer, this one’s easy! The last quarter of the 18th century saw plenty of bloodshed in Europe and America. With a bit of makeup, easily use your 1770s, 80s, or 90s gown to become a victim of the guillotine or casualty of the Revolutionary War.
|Dress: Made by me
Hat: Trimmed by me
Shoes: “Kensington” 18th Century Shoes in Oxblood with “Cavendish” 18th c. shoe buckles.
Here I’m wearing my Chemise a la Reine with black accessories, but I’ve done my makeup in green and brown tones, and used a red lip liner pencil to draw the guillotine cut on my neck. Creepy!
The Victorian Witch
If you have a bustle gown in your closet, convert it to witchery with some simple accessories – a spidery scarf, a primitive broom, and of course the classic pointed hat. Some dark makeup and long black gloves take your otherwise perfectly historical gown to Hallow’s Eve spec.
|Dress: Made by me
Broom: Made by Debbie
The great thing about witch costumes is that they can be from any period. Fear of witches goes back thousands of years,so convert any of your Medieval, Renaissance, 17th century, Georgian, Regency, or Victorian outfits with just accessories and makeup.
A Ghost of Titanic
With your 1912 Titanic or Downton Abbey outfit, it’s easy to create an unlucky ghost. Get creative with frosty makeup – white and blue tones, particularly around the eyes and lips.
|Dress: Vintage Dancer
The Mummy Flapper
In the 1920s, Halloween became all the rage, with magazines and pattern companies offering hundreds of costume ideas and options. Popular among them were clowns, cats, harlequins, and mummies.
Interest in Egypt was at an all time high, with the discovery of King Tut’s tomb. Egyptian motifs were worked into art, design, and architecture, so it’s not surprising that the spookier aspects of the ancient culture were appropriated for All Hallow’s Eve.
|Dress: Vintage Dancer
Shoes: “Gatsby” T-Straps in Bronze/Gold from Royal Vintage
To create an easy 1920s mummy, use a flapper dress as the starting point, then wrap your limbs in white gauze strips or scarves.
Art Deco Spider or Bat Woman
Here’s a simple costume with a big impact. With any slinky black evening gown, attach a broad drape of sheer “spidery” fabric on the back. Attach the ends of the sheer to your wrists or fingers.
|Dress: Vintage Dancer|
This costume is based on this image, and the idea can be used for any kind of wing-like effect.
The idea is an old one, as seen on these earlier bat costumes:
The Pinup Black Cat
An easy and adorable classic, create a 1930s/40s pinup black cat costume simply by adding ears or a mask and a tail to a ‘retro playsuit.
The 1940s saw the rise of the themed pinup, and there are tons of examples of pinup witches, pinup scarecrows, pinup bats, and pinup cats.
|Playsuit – Vintage Dancer (lots of options)
Shoes: “Lola” 1940s Ankle Straps from Royal Vintage
For this cute costume, we paired a black playsuit with ’40s style shoes, hair, and makeup, then just added the cat mask, tail, and fuzzy gloves. Simples!
1950s Black Widow
To convert a black ’50s dress to a great Halloween party frock, just break out the sparkle. With rhinestone chain, strung sequins, or even narrow silver tape, create an off-center spiderweb on your skirt.
|Dress: Vintage Dancer (lots of options)
Shoes: “Tyra” retro Oxfords from Royal Vintage
Think of it like the creepy version of the poodle skirt!
1960s Jack-o-Lantern Mini
Our last historical costume is another super-simple idea. Tack a jack-o-lantern face onto an orange mini dress, top with a green scarf for the “stem,” and big hair, and you’re ready for a swingin’ Halloween party.
|Dress: Forever 21
Remember, nearly all of these ideas can be used for lots of other time periods. The bat wings, rhinestone spiderweb, jack-o-lantern face, and black cat accessories are classic themes that can be used to dress up vintage or historical costume pieces.
So be creative! If you don’t fancy making something new for Halloween, a little effort can have a lot of impact with something already in your closet. Most importantly, too – HAVE FUN!
For lots more historical and vintage Halloween ideas, check out my Pinterest board.
AuroraOctober 14, 2015 at 9:39 PM
*squeals with delight* Would be hard to choose between the dead Antoinette, the Victorian witch and the Batgirl costumes… they're just lovely. I wish I could sew, now I'll just have to make do with my old black polonaise and some ghostly makeup for yet another year.:-/
Lauren StowellOctober 14, 2015 at 11:41 PM
I bet your black polonaise + ghostly makeup will make a fantastic Halloween costume. Think of all the different ways you can do it up – a witch, a zombie, a spider 😀
Karin EngelAugust 16, 2016 at 9:51 AM
Awesome ideas, The Victorian Witch i love it