Tips for Day of the Dead Costumes

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The Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, is a Mexican holiday coinciding with All Souls' Day, two days after Halloween. In the U.S., the Day of the Dead often is celebrated with elaborate outdoor altars commemorating deceased loved ones -- and also often memorializing political victims -- and with a public procession. People dress for the procession in costumes that honor their beloved dead.

Face Paint

  • The easiest Day of the Dead costume to assemble is to dress in black and paint your face like a skull, or use skull face paint as one element in a grander costume scheme. Black and white greasepaint is all you need. Paint your nose and the area around your eyes black. Paint a toothy grin in black across your mouth and cheeks, then paint the rest of your face white. If you desire a more elaborate look, you can paint your face like a sugar skull. If you're allergic to face paint or just want a little variety, wear a skull mask. Like face paint, the mask can be incorporated into a more elaborate costume design or it can be worn alone with black clothes.

Vintage and Historical Costumes

  • If you like historical costumery, this is a good time to indulge your interest. Victorian-style gowns, parasols, bustles and gloves all have strong Day of the Dead costume potential. A large-brimmed hat, perhaps trimmed with a veil, is a good accessory. If you find a vintage dress in black lace, go for it. Your costume can be pristine or you can choose to distress it for added dramatic effect; slash the lace and tear the hems, add powder to look like grave dust, and bend the rim of your hat. You also could don a black tuxedo. Evening wear brings a formal atmosphere to Day of the Dead celebrations. Top hats, canes and even short capes enhance the effect. For women, a long wool coat in a dark color is a good choice, especially on chill October nights. A distressed wedding dress is a favored Dia de los Muertos costume choice.

Skeleton

  • If you want to wear more than just plain black clothes but vintage clothing or formal wear seems out of reach, you can create a simple skeleton costume. Reflective tape atop a black T-shirt and leggings creates an illusion of glowing bones. An even easier choice is to buy a T-shirt with a bone ribcage design already on it.

Costume Ideas to Avoid

  • Try to avoid stereotypical costume elements such as sombreros, ponchos and bullfighting costumes. Avoid appropriating someone else's culture when putting together your costume. This means that Mexican folk-costume elements such as multicolor tiered skirts are problematic. It's more respectful to stick to your own cultural background when constructing your costume; after all, you're honoring your own beloved dead by celebrating Dia de los Muertos.

References

  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images
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