Nobody panic, but we are now one week away from Halloween! Only one week remains to check off the tasks on your Halloween To Do list, including but not limited to the following: purchase or make a costume for yourself, significant other, child and/or pet; bake at least one spooky sweet treat like “bloody finger” cookies or ghost meringues; and decide if this year you will be a pretzels and pennies or Twix and Twizzlers giver (this last one is a very significant life decision, and on behalf of children everywhere, I beg of you: choose the candy).
For those who celebrate, Halloween offers a fun opportunity to be creative. We can show our spirit and innovation through unique costumes, themed foods, and home decor. In fact, it is easy to understand why people who are super into reading might also be super into Halloween. Think about it: Halloween gives us the chance to be someone or something completely different, perhaps even otherworldly, and reading offers the same promise. Both allow us to use our imaginations and see the world through a different lens.
Given this, why not indulge your inner bookworm this Halloween and look to your bookshelf for costume inspiration! Literary costumes can work for men, women, children, and even pets.
Using literary characters as costume inspiration is not a new concept. You may even be surprised when you realize how many of the most popular Halloween costumes originate from books found on library shelves: comic book superheroes, Dorothy and her friends from Oz, and even Waldo (of Where’s Waldo fame, of course). I did my best to search Pinterest* and the Internet at large for costumes that are not seen as often at Halloween parties or under an autumn moon. Here are a few of my favorite underrated bookish costumes, with all credit for originality going to the brilliant authors who created the characters and/or the ingenious men and women who so cleverly show their enthusiasm for the literary:
Willy Wonka has his chocolate and top hats, and James has a giant peach, but Roald Dahl’s Matilda has books. You can choose to be Matilda á la the Broadway musical and wear a gray school uniform, or you could follow the motion picture version of Matilda and wear a blue dress with a red hair bow.
Don’t worry; this is a completely G-Rated costume. It could also be the cheapest costume to put together: free paint chips from the local hardware store in the requisite color palette and an old t-shirt. Simple and clever, this one is great for an adult who needs a last-minute outfit.
3. I Spy Book
This is another creative costume that is also easy to assemble. First, wear simple clothing—tights, leggings, sweatpants, t-shirts—that you don’t mind destroying. Next, use fabric paint to draw shapes, animals, and objects all over. You could even take this a step further and use hot glue to attach actual doodads on your clothes; clean out your junk drawer and make use of partially broken cookie cutters, stray socks, and little green Army men. Don’t forget to carry around a magnifying glass to complete the look.
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If you agree, consider dressing as your favorite author this Halloween (or at least an author with a distinct and easily recognizable look). Think William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Ernest Hemingway, Walt Whitman, Jane Austen, or Sylvia Plath.
If you are like me, you cannot walk into a book store without buying a new bookmark, despite the large collection you already have at home. To dress as your favorite bookish accessory, you can construct a sandwich board using cardboard and attach it using yarn or twine. Paint and decorate the cardboard to match the look of your ideal bookmark; puppies, geometric patterns, a Doctor Who tribute. Complete the look with a tasseled knit cap.
6. Fancy Nancy
For those of you unacquainted with the one and only Fancy Nancy, she is the star of a children’s book series, and she is quite fabulous. Grab your classiest tiara and boa, and wear more ruffles than you thought possible. This is an especially easy-to-replicate costume if you already have Nancy’s signature curly red hair.
One of the most popular children’s books to be published last year, this picture book by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers could serve as the inspiration for a fun group costume. Wear traditional crayon costumes, bought or homemade, and carry signs featuring some of the crayon character’s protests, like this gem: “If you don’t start coloring inside the lines soon…I’m going to lose it.”
Before The Princess Bride was a beloved 80’s film, it was a fantasy novel by William Goldman. This year, instead of dressing as Zorro for the third straight year, consider spending this Halloween as the swashbuckling Westley, complete with an all black ensemble and mask.
This is a selfish suggestion on my part, because Amelia Bedelia was one of my favorite characters as a child. This is an easy DIY costume, requiring a simple black dress, shirt/skirt, or maid’s uniform and white apron. Of course, what makes Amelia Bedelia really stand out is her flowered hat. You can opt to make a no-sew headpiece, or buy a basic wide-brimmed straw hat and decorate it with fake flowers.
10. Book Cover
What could be more perfect for a bibliophile than to be the book you love? You might not be able to sit down comfortably, but it will be a small price to pay in exchange for paying homage to your favorite literary work.
Consider this a sampling of the many fun ways you can show your bookish spirit this Halloween. Even if none of these suggestions are quite what you are looking for, I hope this inspires you to seek out a costume that shows your love of books. And don’t forget to get your tickets for the annual costume parade hosted by the Children’s Department. For those of us who have to work on Halloween, watching all of the little firemen, princesses, and ladybugs pass through the building is the highlight of our day. Maybe this year’s parade will include a Red Crayon or Matilda Wormwood?