Thursday, October 27, 2011

20 Clever Halloween Costumes for Literary Nerds

One can tell quite a bit about a person based on his and/or her Halloween costume choice — ironic or otherwise. So it’s rather obvious that English majors and other proud, avowed bibliophiles will hit the parties and pub crawls donning duds paying homage to their favorite authors and reads. But many want to stand out from the Hunter S. Thompsons and familiar characters from Alice in Wonderland, The Three Musketeers, The Invisible Man, The Phantom of the Opera, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, The Wizard of Oz and others often making an appearance on the Halloween scene. 

The one time a year when it’s socially acceptable for adults to wear costumes in public offers them a giddy opportunity to channel their creativity in celebration of the written word; so they don’t all want to show up as the fifth Sherlock Holmes or Batman. Considering the rich diversity found in the literary canon, there’s plenty of (mostly) unique concepts from which to choose. Here are 20, but the true limits are nearly boundless.

Ignatius Reilly

Everything the potential Ignatius Reilly needs to know about the iconic, hilarious A Confederacy of Dunces misanthrope is found right there in the first paragraph. Literary aficionados wanting to go one step further into obscurity might want to consider his pirate uniform, complete with hot dog accessories.

Murasaki Shikibu

Channel an adoration of both history and the written word by heading out as the world’s very first novelist this Halloween. Others may think it the weeaboo thing to do — at least until you whip some Tale of Genji facts into their faces!

The Binewski children

Quasimodo’s been done to death, but if the overwhelming need to spend Halloween hunchbacked, considerGeek Love‘s bald, albino Olympia instead. Almost any of the Binewski kids could make for eerie, effective costumes, though; a gaggle of geeks wanting to pull off epic buddy costumes this year should look no further. For added nausea, whip up some Jarkin and wheel them around. Good way to use up spoiled lasagna, anyways.

The Jabberwocky

Lewis Carroll’s whimsical creations have inspired many a Halloween outfit, but for the Alice in Wonderlandseries buff, the usual suspects (Alice, Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum, The Cheshire Cat, The Mad Hatter, etc.) might seem too easy, obvious and overdone. The Jabberwocky fromThrough the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found Theremight prove a suitable alternative. Ladies wanting to go this route have it easy — all they need to do is wear a scaly-looking bikini and some wings, since there apparently exists some law saying all women must expose at least 95% of their skin every October 31st.

Molly Millions

Cyberpunk’s salad days may have already passed on to the dessert course, but that doesn’t mean its unique aesthetic should be dismissed! Molly Millions from Neuromancermakes for a thoroughly rockin’ alter-ego, what with her mirror shades and razor blade fingernails and everything.

Mark Twain

One of the few authors with a look so distinctive, most American audiences will probably recognize the white hair, moustache and dapper white suit immediately. Bringing along friends dressed as some of his more famous literary figures might make for a fun group, too!

Any of the Elder Gods or Great Old Ones

Everyone ever, particularly on the Internet, only tends to focus on Cthulhu. But H.P. Lovecraft, August Derleth and other writers associated with his mythos imagined hundreds of horrific deities — most of which would make for truly terrifying costumes! Look outside R’lyeh for a rich bounty of inspiration.

An albatross and an ancient mariner

If anyone at the party or pub crawl recognizes this epic buddy costume, buy him and/or her a beer. Seriously. The best part, however, is if the ancient mariner happens to get sick, ol’ albatross can fly solo and pull double duty as a Monty Python reference.

Zora Neale Hurston

She was as beautiful and stylish as she was talented and insightful — so a Zora Neale Hurston Halloween outfit means both honoring sophistication, excellent writing and rocking some seriously showstopping ’20s togs!

Oscar Wilde

Art enthusiasts have Salvador Dali, literature ones have Oscar Wilde. Fans will love piecing together some of his trademark flamboyant fashions, and if they want to go super meta, they can carry around an altered portrait of the celebrated Irish writer. With all the drinkage what goes on during the holiday, such a nerdy gesture is certainly appropriate!

Frankenstein’s Monster

As Mary Shelley originally envisioned him, not Boris Karloff’s ubiquitous square-head. This sickly yellow patchwork man will not receive nearly as much recognition as his viridian counterpart, but literary geeks don’t really care about that sort of thing anyways.

Hester Prynne

Ladies and gentlemen of literary leanings who enjoy a round or two of fighting the establishment might find a Hester Prynne costume a fabulous way to blend books and social commentary. Just find appropriate period dress and slap a big ol’ A on the front for something relatively quick and easy.

The Mambo Kings

Not everyone is familiar with Oscar Hijuelos’ Pulitzer-winning The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, which is a tragedy of Brobdingnagian proportions. He writes about brothers Nestor and Cesar Castillo’s styles with such loving detail, they shouldn’t be too hard to recreate. Anyone going this route who also happens to be musical might want to think about treating others to a little show. Provided the hosts (and neighbors) approve, of course.

Lord Byron

Thomas Phillips’ lush portrait of Lord Byron stands as probably the most famous image depicting the lauded Romantic poet might be difficult to pull off, but those who can afford it will be ultimately rewarded with a costume both elegant and literary.

A Houyhnhnm

Obviously, stepping out as one of Jonathan Swift’s sophisticated horse people will probably cost more than some of the other costumes suggested here. Anyone who thinks the investment worth it, however, might want to think about paying homage to one of the greatest satires ever published.

The Beast Folk

The Island of Dr. Moreau utterly flopped as a film, but the source material by H.G. Wells remains a visceral science-fiction classic. With so many Beast Folk from which to choose, fans have plenty of options — and room for creativity. The movie might provide some inspiration, but the varied nature of Dr. Moreau’s vivisected creations grants crafty bibliophiles a chance to flex any latent design skills!

Zelda Fitzgerald

Stepping out as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous wife might appeal to literary buffs with a penchant towards retro attire. Any excuse to don a cloche, right?! Do keep in mind that including straightjacket would showcase incredibly poor, ableist taste, not cleverness.

The Green Light

Suitable for gentlemen and ladies alike, a full-body green spandex suit can be pressed into service as one Jay Gatsby’s personal symbol for American dreams unfulfilled. If people don’t get the reference, just claim to be Green Man from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Either way, the costume’s a real winner.

Mr. Bookman

A simple enough costume when compared to some others suggested here, although looking like Philip Baker Hall will undoubtedly help. As will carrying around a copy of Tropic of Cancer. Or at least searching for one.


Simply fail to show up at the party. For the ultra-dedicated, send two friends over as Vladimir and Estragon.

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Story by Emma Taylor

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