It’s Thursday afternoon leading into Halloween weekend and you literally have nothing to wear. In this economy with Halloween candy coming in at a 13% price markup, you simply are not here for buying a whole new costume to wear to the weekend bar crawl. You’d much rather spend money on the next scary read in your TBR stack. You either need to come up with an idea like yesterday or you’re going to spend the weekend curled up re-reading your grade school Goosebumps collection (admittedly not a bad plan B). If you’re reading this and thinking, “yes, I am that spookish bookish bitch,” then keep scrolling for our top picks for best literary Halloween costumes.
CLASSICS: You can’t go wrong with referencing a well-known, well-loved, timeless book. The characters are easily recognized and sure to be a conversation-starter.
Staff Pick: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. This literary classic is a well-known cultural reference and super easy to pull off. You can be literal and don a Victorian-esque suit ensemble and keep one side of your face and hair looking like your gorgeous, stunning self, and on the other half of your face, draw on some wrinkle lines and sunken cheekbones or even full-on skull makeup and voila you’re everyone’s favorite vain, literary lush. For a modernized twist that’s even easier, carry around an old photograph of how amazing you looked on last year’s vacation at the beach and call it a day.
The Raven or Black Cat from Edgar Allen Poe’s famous short stories.
All the Little Women from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.
Rosemary from Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin.
POP-CULTURE: Capture the zeitgeist of the 2020s by channeling the trending characters from popular television & movies based on–you guessed it–books.
Staff Pick: Any of the depraved weirdos from Fire & Blood (the basis for HBO’s House of the Dragon) by George R.R.Martin. To be fair, this modern-day classic has everything for everyone. You can go solo as your favorite physically gnarled character like Visarys with his flesh-eating bacteria, or Aemond and his signature eye-patch or sapphire prosthetic if you fancy.
If you’re part of a couple, you can repurpose your GOT silver-blonde wigs and dress as the gruesome twosome Daemon and Rhaenyra Targaryen. If you’ve got team spirit (yes you do!) you can even get your whole book club to dress up together as Alicent Hightower and the Green team. Whoever draws the short straw has to go as the freaky-deeky Ser Larys Strong.
Offred and the handmaid gang from The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood.
Evelyn Hugo from The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid.
Kya from Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.
SEXY: It wouldn’t be Halloween without the inexplicable sexy pirate, witch, or mouse running wild. While it’s true you can make pretty much any costume sexy (I’m looking at you Freddy Krueger) here are a few timely no-brainers.
Staff Pick: Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus. Honestly, there is nothing sexier than an intelligent, quirky, self-confident, independent woman. Mz. Fizzle is a role model for being your true self and letting your freak flag fly. Dress up in your loudest, busiest, novelty print, throw an iguana on your shoulder, and strut.
Marilyn Monroe (obviously) from the book, Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates.
Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote because duh.
Circe from Circe by Madeline Miller.
SCARY: For those of you who want to stay true to the spirit of Halloween and give “Mean Girls” fans the opportunity to ask you why you’re dressed so scary.
Staff Pick: The girl with the ribbon around her neck from “The Green Ribbon,” in In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz. Let’s face it–the girl is an ICON. You can wear any old-fashioned outfit: Edwardian school clothes, wedding dress, or nightgown, and cinch a ribbon or scarf around your neck. To go the extra mile, pack a spare head in your bag and ask someone to pull your finger…I mean… pull your ribbon and ‘think fast’ toss that noggin right into their chest.
Georgie from It by Stephen King
Jack/Wendy or those freaky twins from The Shining by Stephen King
Noemí Taboada from Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Shori from Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler
If you’re like us and wish you could celebrate Halloween all year long, then consider joining a spooky genre-focused public book club here. If you’re already in the middle of a hair-raising read with your current book club then check out our online discussion guides to help steer your conversation.
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