Following Thursday’s post featuring old-timey literary women, here are ideas for costumes inspired by more recent feminist literature and art—including ideas for group costumes!
From Zora Neale Hurston’s 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God.
You’ll need: Delicate white flowers from the florist or corner deli, preferably on branches (you want them to look as much like pear blossoms as possible, but, uh, it’s October); a plastic bee; plastic toothed headband (clear or matching your skin or hair); choker necklace; comfortable denim overalls; thread or string; glue; optional hair extensions, if your hair is short.
(Note: This costume incorporates elements from the beginning and the ending of the novel, so if you’re a purist you might want to pick just one scene and recreate it.)
Prep Intensity: Medium. It will be pretty tricky to get the flowers in the right position, but once you’ve done that, the rest of the costume is pretty easy.
Step 1: Put on your overalls, maybe with a tank top underneath (or something warmer if you’re going trick or treating.)
Step 2: Braid your hair in a long braid down your back.
Step 3: Tie the flowers to the top of the headband and the front of the choker with thread, like this:
Then reinforce with glue.
Step 4: Glue the plastic bee to one of the flowers on the choker. Alternatively, you could cut both bee and flowers out of construction paper, in which case you could make the flowers look exactly like pear blossoms.
Step 5: Put on the choker and headband. You’ll want to put the headband across your forehead just above your eyes, kind of like how you’d put on a pair of sunglasses. It should look like there are branches of flowers floating in front of you, at chin and forehead level.
Step 6: Make sure to tell everyone what your costume is, and remind them of that scene where Janie watches the bee in the pear blossom and that scene at the end where Janie comes back husbandless and in overalls. Order people you find attractive to “lacerate” you “with a kiss.”
XXX THE MERMAID
XXX is the protagonist of poet Lara Glenum’s 2013 adaptation of “The Little Mermaid,” Pop Corpse!; in search of the pleasure denied to genital-free mermaids, XXX carves a vagina out of her mermaid tail (and films it with a webcam.)
You’ll need: Mermaid tail (you can buy one, or you can try making one out of a tight skirt and a large sheet of cardboard); long mermaidy wig; construction paper for making shell bra cups; sexy but cheap demicup bra (ideally it should match your skin tone OR the color of your shell bra cups); tight leotard that matches your skin tone, if it’s cold or if you’re modest; Sharpie; metallic fabric paint; glitter; glue; scissors; red acrylic paint; copy of Glenum’s Pop Corpse! (available from SPD or, if you’re in a hurry and have Amazon Prime, on Amazon.)
Prep Intensity: High. Even if you make the world’s sloppiest mermaid tail, it’s super hard to make a mermaid tail.
Step 1: If you’re making your mermaid tail: draw scales on a long, tight skirt with a Sharpie or a gold pen; use lots of glitter glue and shimmery fabric paint to mermaid it up.
Step 2: Draw a big tailfin on a piece of cardboard, cut it out, and cover it with glitter too; staple or Duct tape it to the hem of your skirt; cover up the tape or staples with more glitter.
Step 3: Cut out two shell shapes out of construction paper and glue them to your bra cups. Decorate with more glitter.
Step 4: Make a slit in the front of the skirt at crotch level; paint the edges of slit liberally with red acrylic paint. If you don’t want to ruin your mermaid tail, draw or paint or stitch a prosthetic vagina and pin it to the front of the mermaid tail.
Step 5: Put on your leotard (if you’re using it), the shell bra, the mermaid tail, the wig.
Step 6: Make your chorus of girlfriends/frenemies act out scenes from Pop Corpse! with you. It’s fun!
Going trick-or-treating with your best friend or ghoulfriend? Try these feminist couples costumes on for size:
GOBLIN MARKET SISTERS
From Christina Rossetti’s 1859 poem, a weird cautionary fairytale that highlights the loyal friendship/potentially queer relationship between two sisters. Heedless voluptuary Laura exchanges a lock of her hair for the opportunity to gorge herself on goblin fruit and then pines away when the goblins take away her fix, until her brave sister Lizzie buys more fruit with a golden penny but refuses to eat any. The goblins pelt Lizzie with fruit; she runs home and lets Laura lick it off her, and Laura is cured!)
Lizzie Needs: a variety of dried fruit and/or fruit peels (orange peel, banana peel, prunes, dried apricots, dried apple rings, dried pineapple, apple slices or peel, assorted berries), a golden penny, a purse, and optional facepaint or jam.
Laura Needs: pale face powder, blue eyeshadow, and winey lipstick or jam (for Laura).
Both Girls Need: White nightgowns; optional long blonde wigs; goblin or Gremlin dolls; glue or tape; needle and thread or bobby pins.
Prep Intensity: Medium, depending on how elaborate you get with the fruit smearing. It might be hard to find a good goblin doll, but a weird-looking Beanie Baby will do in a pinch.
For Lizzie: Put on white nightgown and blonde wig. Tape or glue fruit peels and dried fruit all over nightgown; if you can, sew a few peels into the wig netting or try pinning them to your hair. If you don’t care about the nightgown, smash berries and smear jam all over it; if you don’t mind having food on your face all night, smash berries and smear jam all over your face, neck, and arms. Carry your purse and a goblin doll around.
For Laura: Put on white nightgown and blonde wig. Hack off a lock of your wig or hair and glue it to your goblin doll’s hand. Powder your face and apply blue and gray eyeshadow around your eyes to make yourself look sleepless and haunted. Smear jam or lipstick around your mouth in a huge circle. Carry your goblin doll around, making sure to always ask it for more fruit.
Go around hugging each other and making your goblins yell “Come buy! Come buy!” Laura should be constantly licking fruit off Lizzie’s body.
LAS DOS FRIDAS
From Frida Kahlo’s 1939 painting.
European Frida Needs: high-necked frilly white dress (or lacy blouse and long white skirt); red paint or food coloring; nail scissors.
Tehuana Frida Needs: cap-sleeved silky blue top; olive-green skirt with ruffle at bottom; medallion.
Both Fridas Need: red lipstick; black eyeliner; red construction paper; red thread or yarn; needle; black Sharpie; scissors; tape.
Step 1: Draw two anatomically-correct hearts on red construction paper (each one should be about the size of your hand.) Draw some veins branching off the top. European Frida’s heart should be a cross-section, while Tehuana Frida’s should just be a red shape. Cut out the hearts.
Step 2: Do your hair in glorious elaborate updos.
Step 3: Do your makeup. Apply eyeliner to create Frida’s swallow-shaped eyebrows; put on red lipstick.
Step 4: Put on your respective costumes.
Step 5: Attach the hearts to the chests (you can use tape or glue, or you could loosely baste the paper hearts to the fabric using needle and thread.) Make sure the veins travel up towards your neck.
Step 6: Knot a long piece of red thread or yarn and run it through the two hearts, knotting it again after you’ve run it through the second heart. Knot another piece of thread so that it descends from European Frida’s heart. (There should be one thread connecting the two hearts, then another thread coming out of European Frida’s heart.)
Step 7: Stain European Frida’s dress with drops of red paint or marker so that it looks like blood came out of the second thread and dripped all over her dress.
Step 8: Go around holding hands and never letting each other go to the bathroom.
THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB
from Ann M. Martin’s 1980s – 1990s YA series.
You’ll Need: Scrunchies, “push-down socks” (whatever those are), enormous T-shirts or jersey tunics, tapered jeans or oversized overalls, Keds, shoe boxes, markers, stickers, glitter.
Far be it from me to tell you exactly what to wear for your amazing group BSC costume. If you like the books enough to want to recreate the Baby-Sitters Club, you know what to do. The shoe boxes and other supplies are clearly for making Kid-Kits. Below, an at-a-glance cheat sheet for each baby-sitter’s personal style:
Kristy: turtleneck, sweater, jeans, socks, Keds, ponytail.
Claudia: any completely insane outfit you can come up with. Wild, homemade earrings are very important: maybe a hamburger in one ear, a feather in the other? And like a ladybug and a diamond or something in the upper holes. Then you can basically plan the rest of the outfit along a hamburger/feather/ladybug scheme: t-shirt handpainted with a ladybug eating a hamburger, wild knee-length vest made of feathers, black biker shorts with red polka dots, lace-up red ballet flats with diamonds on the soles. Except something way, way better than that.
Mary-Anne: Let’s keep it simple and stick with Classic Mary-Anne, whose dad didn’t let her wear anything cool. Two braids, little-girl Laura Ashley dress, patent-leather shoes.
Stacey: Like a sophisticated 80s outfit. Probably something black, like a black sweater dress with black leggings and black ballet flats, and a silver squiggle pin. I think that’s a specific outfit I remember, actually. See if you can get a perm.
Dawn: California casual. That seems to mean a giant white shirt and jeggings.
Mallory: Glasses and a shirt with a horse on it.
Jessi: Like a casual ballet outfit, like not a tutu but maybe a big T-shirt with kind of a classier horse on it than Mallory’s, and like leggings and toe shoes.
If you have more people they can be Logan or Shannon or terrible last-minute Abby, whoever that is.
THE DINNER PARTY
From artist Judy Chicago’s 1974-79 installation representing a dinner party with place settings (including aggressively yonic-looking plates) for 39 women from history.
You’ll Need: Paper plates; markers; cheap white T-shirts; fabric paint or Sharpies; glue gun or fabric glue.
Prep Intensity: As much or as little as you want; it could be as simple as drawing a pattern with markers on a paper plate. The most difficult thing might be to coordinate with your friends.
Step 1: Check out all the place settings at the Brooklyn Museum’s Web site and claim your favorite (or if you live in the NYC area, go on a feminist field trip to the museum, where The Dinner Party is part of the permanent collection, to do your research!) Communicate with your friends to make sure there aren’t any duplicates.
Step 2: Decorate your paper plate to look like the one you chose. It’s up to you how detailed you want the plate to be. As the dates get closer to the present, the plates get more sculptural and elaborate; if you picked Emily Dickinson, for example, you could draw a picture of the plate, or you could try to create your own 3D version with paper doilies and folded tissue paper.
Step 3: Decorate your T-shirt to resemble the tablecloth and place setting. Again, you can do this in 2D with Sharpies or fabric paint, or you can actually sew or embroider on your shirt–whatever you have time and inclination for!
Step 4: Put on the shirt and glue the plate to your chest.
Step 5: Meet up with all your friends and stand in a line and awe everyone with your matriarchal power.
Stay tuned for Part 3: Last-minute feminist costumes you can put together with household items!