Last-minute Vestal Virgin

In the final run-up to Halloween, we’re offering tips on how to do last-minute, stripped-down versions of some of our popular costumes.

vestalvirgin2015_costumeOur Vestal Virgin outfit is the bedsheet costume to end all bedsheet costumes. It’s almost nothing but sheets. Plain white sheets. The only other thing you need is a scrap of something red to tie around your head: red yarn, a red scarf, a strip of red fabric.

Our full-blown Vestal Virgin costume is shown at right. Here’s the last-minute version:

  • If you have two white flat sheets, you can pin them together as an Ionic chiton (tunic). If you have only one flat sheet, you can fold it around you as a Doric chiton. The instructions for both kinds of chiton are on our Hypatia page (which, by the way, is another bedsheet costume suitable for last-minute styling). If you can’t manage the chiton thing, just wear a long white dress—like a maxi dress, a lounger, even a plain nightgown.
  • Take another white sheet and drape it around your shoulders as a big shawl.
  • Tie a piece of red something around your head. A red scarf, some red yarn, anything red.
  • Drape another piece of white material over your head as a veil. A white pashmina, a white curtain panel, even a white pillow case with the seams opened up.

And that’s it. You’re now a Vestal Virgin, one of the highest-ranking women in all of Rome. You can sit at the right hand of the emperor, travel in a litter accompanied by bodyguards, and even do something no other woman could ever dream of doing: vote.

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Last-minute Glamour Grrl

In the final run-up to Halloween, we’re offering tips on how to do last-minute, stripped-down versions of some of our popular costumes.

ritahayworth

If you have an evening gown—a prom dress, a bridesmaids dress, any kind of formal—you can go as one of our Glamour Grrls. The trick is just to match the gown you already have with a movie star from the right era. And you’re not limited to the celebrities in our Glamour Grrl category; you can pick any movie star or entertainer.

For example:

  • If you have a dress that looks like it could be from the 60s (maybe a narrow sheath), go as Audrey Hepburn or Diana Ross.
  • If you have a gown that looks like it could be from the 50s (full skirt, tight waist), go as Grace Kelly or Dorothy Dandridge. (You can also do Dorothy Dandridge’s Carmen Jones look with just a red skirt and a black top.)
  • If you have a black strapless gown, go as Rita Hayworth in Gilda.
  • If you have something slinky and cut on the bias, go as 30s stars Jean Harlow or Josephine Baker.
  • If you’re a curvy woman and you have a form-fitting gown, go as Mae West.

Pick your star based on the dress you have, and then pile on the makeup and jewelry to bump up your look to red-carpet level.

Accessories are good too. You can get a feather boa at any craft store or party store; you can also probably get a cigarette holder. Opera gloves are always glamorous. And if you have a piece of faux fur you can use as a stole, go for it.

jeanharlow_costumeillustration

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Last-minute Mary Read (or Anne Bonny)

In the final run-up to Halloween, we’re offering tips on how to do last-minute, stripped-down versions of some of our popular costumes.

MaryRead2015_costumeHere’s the thing about pirates: most of ‘em wore rags. Their clothes were a wild mishmash of stolen loot, cast-offs, stuff they’d sewn themselves, and old clothes they’d been wearing since junior high (if pirates had junior high).

So putting together a last minute pirate costume is just a matter of embracing your inner hobo and raiding your closet. Or possibly the closet of a convenient male relative or friend.

Our full-blown Mary Read costume is at right. Here’s what we suggest for a last-minute version:

  • Skip the tricorner hat. You don’t need it. You know what pirates wore a lot of the time, maybe even most of the time? A knit hat. Yep. It’s true: pirates were the first hipsters. And if you don’t have a knit hat, just tie a bandana around your head and go full Depp.
  • Wear a man’s shirt. Stripes, checks, and solids are all good. If it’s an old shirt and you can get away with it, cut the collar off for a more 18th century look.
  • Optional: if you have an old jacket or blazer that you can destroy, cut the sleeves off. Instant waistcoat. Any other kind of old raggedy vest could also work. If you have a pea coat or a short jacket, you could also wear that. But it’s okay if you don’t have any of those things. Just a shirt is fine.
  • Wrap some material around your waist as a sash. Any kind of material: a cut-up sheet, some rags, a scarf, anything.
  • Sling a wide leather belt across your torso as a baldric. Fasten another wide leather belt around your waist. Neither one needs to actually have a hilt or holster for weapons; just the look of the leather belts is enough.
  • Wear cropped pants or cut off an old pair of pants at the knee.
  • Wear white knee socks with flat shoes. This is what most pirates wore all the time, not boots.
  • Optional: stop by the drugstore or pharmacy aisle and get a plain black eyepatch. For some reason an eyepatch is the International Symbol for pirates, so this will help cement your identity.

And there you go. You’re a pirate.

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Last-minute Tin Hinan

In the final run-up to Halloween, we’re offering tips on how to do last-minute, stripped-down versions of some of our popular costumes.

TinHinan2012_illustration

Do you have any blue sheets? How about some blue curtain sheers, or maybe a blue shawl or scarf? If so, you can be Tin Hinan.

Tin Hinan was the semi-legendary matriarch and queen of the Tuareg people. She’s believed to have lived in the fourth century in Roman North Africa. Here’s what you need:

  • Take a blue bedsheet (any shade of blue) and wrap it around you as a chiton (tunic). The chiton instructions are on the Tin Hinan page. It’s just a bedsheet and safety pins.
  • Drape a blue curtain sheer (any shade of blue) over your head or just around your body in a dramatic fashion.
  • Pile on all the metallic jewelry you can find. Bangles, bracelets, necklaces, everything.
  • Rim your eyes in black eyeliner and wear blue-black lipstick.

And that’s it! You’re Tin Hinan.

More inspiration, courtesy of YouTube:

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Last-minute Demeter

In the final run-up to Halloween, we’re offering tips on how to do last-minute, stripped-down versions of some of our popular costumes.

Demeter2015_costumeDo you have a sheet? Do you have food? Can you get some leaves (the kind that grow on trees)? If at least two of those things are true, then you can be Demeter, the goddess of the earth and the bountiful harvest.

Our full-blown Demeter costume is shown at right. Here’s the last-minute version:

  • Take a bedsheet of any color and wrap it around you as a chiton. It doesn’t have to be green. (The chiton instructions are on the Demeter page. It’s just a bedsheet and safety pins.)
  • Get some leaves (fake or real) and stick them on your head.
  • Look in your refrigerator or stop by the grocery store and get some pretty produce—maybe a bunch of grapes, an eggplant, some leafy stuff, a pomegranate, an apple. Maybe get a nice looking baguette, too, for the wheat angle. Arrange this stuff in a basket (of any shape) and carry it with you.

    Alternatively, you could pile up some Halloween candy in your basket and carry that.

Ta da! You’re Demeter.

You can add flowers to your outfit if you want (in your hair, in your basket, on your clothes), and pin additional leaves on yourself. It’s easy. Just think of yourself as an ancient Greek Mother Nature. And except for the bedsheet, you can get everything you need at the grocery store.


The produce aisle:  your source for fine Halloween costumes.  Seriously.

The produce aisle: your source for fine Halloween costumes. Seriously.

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Bedsheet costumes

We were thinking about doing this closer to Halloween, but the awesome shout-out today from The Mary Sue (thank you!) prompted us to go ahead and post it now: bedsheet costumes. That’s right, costumes you can make with a bedsheet.

The reason you can get away with using a bedsheet for ancient costumes is because an awful lot of ancient clothing wasn’t sewn. The Greeks, for example, wore a chiton, which was just a length of cloth wrapped around the body and pinned at the shoulders. The Greek chiton became the jeans-and-T-shirt of the classical world, with even “barbarians” in the north (like the Celts) wearing a version of it. And before that (way before that) there were the Sumerians and Akkadians, who wore a big rectangle of cloth wrapped in a spiral around the body and draped over the left arm.

All these outfits do call for some extra accessories, but the basic garment is a bedsheet:

Athena, above, Greek goddess of wisdom and civilization.

Demeter, above left, Greek goddess of agriculture and the bountiful earth, mother of Persephone.
Persephone, above right, Greek goddess of the Underworld and of spring rebirth, daughter of Demeter.

Sappho (ca. 620-570 BCE), above left, the world’s first great love poet.
Themistoclea (6th century BCE), above right, philosopher and priestess at Delphi who taught Pythagoras.

Boudicca (died around 61 CE), above left, kick-ass British queen who fought a war of resistance against the Romans.
Zenobia (240–274?), above right, kick-ass Syrian queen of Palmyra who conquered Egypt and also fought the Romans.

Enheduanna (ca. 2300 BCE), above left, Sumerian-Akkadian poet and the first known author in the history of human civilization.
Puabi (ca. 2600 BCE), above right, queen in ancient Sumer around the time of the First Dynasty of Ur—before the pyramids in Egypt had even been built.

P.S. If you’re on Pinterest, check out our Bedsheet Costumes board.

UPDATE: And one more!

TinHinan2012_illustrationTin Hinan (4th century), above, legendary queen and founding matriarch of the Tuareg people.

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Last-minute costume suggestions

Tomorrow is Halloween, and if you don’t already have your costume together, you’re probably freaking. Relax! We’re here with some de-freaking advice on how you can pull together a last-minute outfit:

If you have a sheet:

Come on, everybody has a sheet. As long as you have a sheet that doesn’t have Hello Kitty or something on it, you can go as Sappho, or pretty much any other woman from the Classical Greek or Hellenistic era.

A really great last-minute costume is Themistoclea. The only thing you need in addition to a sheet is a bowl. You don’t have to do a wreath on your head, but if you want to, just cut some leaves off a branch of something in your yard. If you want to drape something over your head while you’re staring into your bowl of water, a shawl or a sheer curtain panel will do.

Demeter is another possibility. Do you have some silk flowers or fake fruit in your house? Or how about real fruit? Or Halloween candy? Put it in a basket and carry it with you. You’re Demeter.

If you have a sheet plus a few costume accessories:

You can go as Athena. Athena is just a sheet plus fake armor: helmet, shield, spear.

Boudicca is just a couple of sheets plus a crown and armor. The sheets don’t have to be plaid.

Or Zenobia: all you need to add to your sheet is a crown and some fake chains.

You could also go as Persephone. A black sheet is ideal, but you could also do red or white. Skip the veil, or use a sheer curtain panel. Use some props from the costume store to enhance the death factor: a skull bouquet, that sort of thing.

If you have a long black skirt, plus a costume accessory or two:

Pick up a pair of pince-nez spectacles and go as Emma Goldman.

Grab a Gibson Girl hat and go as Lise Meitner.

Braid your hair, put flowers on your head, wrap a shawl around your shoulders, and voilà: you’re Frida Kahlo.

Or channel Lizzie Borden: just carry an axe with you (preferably a bloody one) and tell everybody you didn’t do it.

If you have a churidar kameez plus a few costume accessories:

Razia Sultan is just a churidar kameez plus a helmet and a “sultan” turban.

For Tomyris, you just need a forward-facing pointed cap and maybe a sword. A plastic skull is a bonus.

If you have a formal gown:

Check out our Glamour Grrls category. If you have a black strapless, go as Rita Hayworth; a white gown, Jean Harlow; etc.

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