Preppy clothes and glitter for your skin? That’s a vampire Halloween costume? It is if you’re getting your ideas from the popular Twilight series of books. Sadly, if you go to a costume party as a vampire from one of the Twilight novels, you will spend the entire evening explaining what you are: “See? My skin glitters in the light! That’s how you can tell I’m a vampire!” No plastic fangs as a clue that you are, in fact, a vampire.
And that is one of the issues with getting ideas out of books in which fantasy creatures live, undetected, among the rest of us. The point is that they are mostly indistinguishable from your everyday, run of the mill, “folks.” These characters can make for a trendy bit of pop literature, but they don’t offer much in the realm of creative and distinct costuming.
If you’re interested in getting good costume ideas out of books, though, there are plenty to be had. Here are 15 books that offer great costume ideas:
1. Dracula: Now here’s a vampire you can identify. The widow’s peak. The long cloak. The fangs. Bram Stoker’s “mystery story” remains one of his most famous works, and a true classic, even today.
2. Frankenstein: This is another classic monster tale that provides ample opportunity for you to create a distinctive and recognizable costume. Dressing up as Mary Shelley’s hideous Frankenstein’s monster, or Dr. Frankenstein himself, are very real options. And everyone knows who these characters are. No need to explain why your skin is green and you have bolts sticking out of your neck…
3. Harry Potter: This series of books for pre-teens and teens is a no-brainer. There are a ton of great costume ideas throughout the series. From individual wizards, like Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Bellatrix Lestrange, Lord Voldemort and Professor Dumbledore (all of which are described with specific and distinguishable features), to creatures such as house elves, goblins and giants, there are a number of great costume ideas.
You can wear school robes or don Quidditch gear. For those who enjoy props, wands and broomsticks can be used to enhance the costumes. The ideas are endless when it comes to Harry Potter. Of course, you do have to deal with the fact that there are likely to be plenty of others with Harry Potter costumes running around. You will be far from unique.
4. Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit: These beloved fantasy novels provide the fodder for a host of recognizable creatures. J.R.R. Tolkien offers descriptions of elves and dwarves (he even offers his own spellings), and of hobbits and men. Characters such as Sauron and Gollum, as well as Frodo, Legolas and Gimli are possible to recreate, and do so in a way that is distinguishable. The popularity of the Lord of the Rings movies creates a visual that you can use as a touchstone. And if you’re feeling really spendy, you can get accessories (jewelry, weaponry, armor) that looks like what was used in the movies.
5. The Chronicles of Narnia: Most fantasy sagas are a veritable gold mine of costume ideas, and The Chronicles of Narnia is no exception. You can dress in armor and fancy clothes, and carry identifying accessories as one of the main characters, or you can dress up as one of the fantastical creatures C.S. Lewis uses in the series. And I don’t mean Aslan, the talking lion, either. There are mermaids, fauns, satyrs and centaurs galore in Chronicles. (You can learn how to construct a centaur costume on deviantART.)
6. The Egypt Game: If you are into something a little last fantastical, you can consider The Egypt Game. This Newbery Honor winner provides costume ideas out of ancient Egypt. From Nefertiti to the cat goddess Bastet to bird-headed Thoth, you can get some pretty far-out costume ideas rooted in mythology. Author Zipha Keatley Snyder also wrote The Gypsy Game andThe Headless Cupid, in case you were looking for more costume ideas.
7. The Wizard of Oz: This is another classic full of costume ideas. Many people have enjoyed portraying Glinda (the good witch), the Wicked Witch of the West, the Tin Man and other characters from L. Frank Baum’s well-known classic. The characters are often easy to dress up as, yet still distinctive and recognizable (ruby slippers, anyone?). You can even put on a little hat and find some wings and be one of the flying monkeys.
8. Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass: Charles Dodgson wrote his books about Alice and her strange adventures under the pen-name Lewis Carroll. These books offer interesting costume possibilities, from the Queen of Hearts, to the White Rabbit, to the Mad Hatter, to the Cheshire Cat to Alice herself. Twins can be Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum. Like many other fairy stories, the characters in the Alice adventures have their own distinguishing props.
9. The Indian in the Cupboard: If you’re more into Western themes, this book offers some interesting possibilities. A Native American and a cowboy are each represented, and there is a World War I medic as well. Lynne Reid Banks’ book is a classic tale with sequels that offer other ideas from nurses to soldiers to colonists.
10. Johnny Tremain: Esther Forbes offers an interesting historical novel that follows the life of one boy in the years immediately leading up to the Revolutionary War. Historical figures like Paul Revere populate this tale, walking amongst fictional characters.
11. The Three Musketeers: This swash-buckling classic from Alexandre Dumas provides a number of period costume ideas. Dress as a musketeer with the distinctive costume. You can be Cardinal Richelieu if you like. Or, if you like, dress up as the king and queen of France. Dumas also wrote other related books, Twenty Years Later and The Man in the Iron Mask, which have other interesting opportunities for costumes.
12. Complete Works of William Shakespeare: Clearly, the plays offered by William Shakespeare provide a wealth of costume possibilities. Simple costumes, from Hamlet’s unrelieved black, to the more complex costume ideas available in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, all give one a classicism that is undeniable. There are couple costumes for those who like to match each other (”Romeo and Juliet”, Rosalind and Orlando from “As You Like It” — which offers interesting possibilities since Rosalind cross-dresses as a man).
13. Winnie the Pooh: A.A. Milne’s beloved characters offer great costume ideas. Winnie the Pooh is a fun costume idea for very young children, and adults can enjoy dressing up in these costumers as well. A number of characters are recognizable, although it might be difficult in some cases to create costumes that look like animals.
14. The Cat in the Hat: Dr. Seuss is always an interesting subject for crazy costumes. Another book for children, The Cat in the Hat offers whimsical costumes for all ages. Other Dr. Seuss books provide equally recognized characters.
15. The Bible: This is one of the most recognized pieces of literature. If you are looking for character costume ideas, The Bible is a great place to go — especially if you want to add a little Christian sensibility to Halloween. Clearly, for the devout, dressing up as Jesus may not be the best option. But there are a number of characters — Eve, Moses, Joseph, Jezebel, and more besides — that can be portrayed through costume and with props. If The Bible isn’t your thing, there are plenty of characters in religious texts from other world religions.