Books and costumes: what could be a more fun combination?
It’s officially October, so that means it’s time to start thinking about Halloween costumes if you haven’t already. If you’re looking for a costume that reflects your love of books, I’ve come up with a few ideas to consider. From classic fairy tales to children’s literature, and even authors, book-related costumes are fun, and can be simple and inexpensive to put together!
- Little Red Riding Hood
The most important element of this costume is, of course, the red cape. You can get one fairly inexpensively, or spend a little more on a higher quality piece. I got one at a party supply store for about $10 a few years ago and it’s worked wonderfully, although I did cut a few inches off the bottom to keep it from dragging on the ground.
As for the clothes you wear under the cape, it could be anything you want, really, since the cape itself is iconic enough for the character to be recognizable to everyone. You can really have some fun with this if you want to. For example, a couple of years ago I went for a “Warrior Red Riding Hood” look, with dark pants and pirate-y boots, and a “wolf skin” (faux fur) collar, and I carried a toy sword. Last year I was “Hipster Red Riding Hood,” complete with fake glasses, flannel shirt, Converse sneakers, and a box of gluten free cookies for Grandma.
This year, since I’m trying to stick with the more literary source material, I chose to go a more traditional German/Bavarian/fairy tale route, with a full skirt, peasant blouse, black vest, and simple flats. I’ll add a small basket and a ribbon or some braids in my hair and I’m good to go.
- Harriet the Spy
I watched the movie of Harriet the Spy on VHS about 20,000 times as a kid, and when I found out it was a book first, I checked it out of my school library at least once a month. I felt like I really identified with Harriet, the aspiring writer with a big imagination, so I can’t think of any children’s book character I would rather be!
This is a fun costume, and really easy, because it consists almost entirely of items most people probably already own. For clothes, all you need are jeans, a hooded sweatshirt, and sneakers (preferably Converse, but any will do). You could add a yellow raincoat if you wanted, as well.
What really makes Harriet’s signature look is her belt of spy supplies: binoculars, a flashlight, a magnifying glass, and a composition book and pencil. Just hang these from a belt with string or shoelaces. If I’m going for the book version of Harriet, I’ll need some fake glasses, which I have from last year’s Hipster Red Riding Hood look. She doesn’t wear glasses in the movie, though, so if you’re putting together a Harriet costume, I’d say the glasses are up to you!
Animal costumes are always fun, so I chose one of my favorite animal book characters, Faline from Bambi. Like most people, I’m more familiar with the Disney film than the novel, though I did read it when I was in fourth grade. As a result, I’m drawing more from the movie’s depiction of Faline for inspiration.
Of course, all we really have to do for this one is dress like a deer. You could get really fancy and buy or make a deer costume, but I’m just going with tan pants and a brown shirt with black shoes. The real “deer-ness” of my look is going to be in my makeup and this deer ear headband I found on Etsy.
For makeup, I looked up several tutorials on YouTube, but ultimately I decided to just do some dramatic eyes and a little bit of black on my nose. In looking at some images of Faline from the movie, I noticed that she has a lot of earth tones and long black eyelashes. I luckily have a lot of eyeshadow shades in the neutral brown/gold family, so used those colors to create a dramatic eyeshadow look, then lined my eyes in dark brown, doing just a little “flick” at the corners to create doe eyes. When I actually wear the costume, I’ll add some false lashes, too, because who doesn’t love those!
- Beverly Cleary
I wanted to put together a costume based on an author, and since I work with kids, I immediately thought of my favorite children’s writer. Most of the photos of Cleary I found were taken in the 1970s at the earliest, but I wanted to dress the way she might have looked when she was my age, which would have been in the mid-1940s or so. This is a really fun era for fashion, and a lot of popular looks now have a sort of ‘40s-inspired vibe, so I thought it would be relatively easy to put together.
The first piece I chose was a dress I already own. It’s a fit-and-flare, A-line silhouette with slightly puffed sleeves, and the fabric is a dark print. Very WWII-esque. I also wanted to get some horn-rimmed glasses like the ones Cleary wears in her earliest author photos, and I found some that had approximately the right look at a thrift store. I’ll add my high-heeled mary jane style shoes and a string of pearls and the outfit is done.
For hair and makeup I went to YouTube, which has loads of great tutorial videos for pretty much any look you could ever want. To top it all off, I can carry a copy of Ramona the Pest (which I know is a little anachronistic, since it wasn’t published until 1968, but oh, well)
- Library Fairy
This was a costume I put together last year on the fly, and I ended up loving it. I was inspired by a couple of DIY “book fairy” costumes I’d seen that other people posted on the internet, and also by my love for libraries and fairies. After all, libraries are magic, so this makes perfect sense!
I thought that a fairy who lives in a library would probably dress like a librarian, so I went with the traditional image of a librarian and wore a plaid skirt and a cardigan with black tights and oxford shoes. I wore my hair in a tight bun and then added the glasses from my Hipster Red Riding Hood costume (those fake glasses really come in handy!) and a stack of books to carry. Of course, no fairy is complete without wings and sparkly eye shadow.
I work for a children’s museum, and we’re having Spirit Week in the days leading up to Halloween, so I’ll get the opportunity to wear up to five different costumes. Two of the days, Storybook Day and Animal Day, I’ll be able to use my bookish costumes. The others I may not use this year, but I have the ideas and some supplies saved up for future costumes!
(In case you’re curious, the other Spirit Week themes are Outer Space, for which I’ll go as Princess Leia in Star Wars: A New Hope; Pirates, another fun and easy costume; and Superheroes, for which I’ll go as Batgirl.)
- Rhonda Watts
- Rhonda Watts
- “Harriet the Spy (book) cover” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Harriet_the_Spy_(book)_cover.jpg#/media/File:Harriet_the_Spy_(book)_cover.jpg
- “Beverly Cleary 1971” by Unknown – Photo of Beverly Cleary, State Library Photograph Collection, 1851-1990, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives, http://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Beverly_Cleary_1971.jpg#/media/File:Beverly_Cleary_1971.jpg