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Literary-themed costumes to inspire you this Halloween

We love to provide you with inspiration—anything to get the creative juices flowing. Halloween is around the corner and it’s one of our favourite events of the year. Who better than a writer to climb into someone’s shoes and channel that person for an evening (or at least until that short story is done)! 
CBC Books has put together a list of the Top 10 scariest books of all time. Vote for the one you think is the most bone-chilling. 
Will your Halloween look be inspired by a literary character? How about a writing tool (typewriter, anyone?) Send us your writerly Halloween costume photos and we'll feature you in our gallery!

Here are our top suggestions for costumes to wear to your Halloween gathering. Think of them as conversation starters... 

Classic Literary Characters

Take a page from English Lit Class and step into the role of the most memorable of classic characters. 

Ahab was the insane captain who led his crew to doom in his quest to kill Moby Dick. It might be a tall order to replace your leg with a peg, but you can definitely dress in a black knee-length coat with a black cap and chin beard. You can also carry a stuffed whale, hiding it around the party and asking people if they've seen it.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes is a classic choice. All it takes is a deerstalker hat, an Inverness cape, a pipe, and magnifying glass to put together the world’s most beloved crime solver. 

You can go as Jay Gatsby, the mysterious millionaire in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s portrait of the Jazz Age. It was the Roaring Twenties and the men dressed in buttoned-up neatly-tailored suits with waistcoats and watch fobs. Slick your hair back, walk with a cane, and sip champagne from a vintage coupe glass.

Photo credit: Meredith Dellandrea

Beloved Children’s Heroes 

No other literary characters are more recognizable than those we find in children’s literature.

Anne Shirley of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables is one of our favourites. It’s a simple look: Two red hair braids under a straw hat (some shops sell both together). Put your costume over the top with a carpet bag filled with a mini-bar (Anne accidently did get Diana drunk on what she thought was raspberry cordial).

Another heroine in Canadian children’s literature is Princess Elizabeth from Robert Munsch’s The Paper Bag Princess. This is a great DIY costume that you can create with a bunch of plain paper bags. Get creative with the design, and top it off with a tinfoil crown and a miniature dragon.

Another type of children’s royalty you could be is Max from Maurice Sednak’s Where the Wild Things Are. Max is supposed look like a wolf in his imagination, but his costume is a very simple one-piece pyjama that buttons up in front. Add claws, whiskers, and a golden crown, and claim your place as King of the Party.

Photo credit: Leigh Tynan of Modern Baby Photography

Famous Writers

Famous writers do not always stand out in a crowd, but some have definitely become associated with their themes and eras.

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No other writer screams Halloween as much as Edgar Allen Poe. Wear a black suit (velvet is a plus), a crisp white shirt, a black cravat or bow tie, and mess up your hair. Be sure to pick up some dark eyeliner to make the circles under your eyes. Complete the look with a stuffed raven and quote from his poetry.

There is only one known image of Jane Austen, and it is a small pencil-and-watercolor sketch done by her sister. Still, that does not stop people from going as the famous English novelist. In fact there is a knitting magazine that offers patterns inspired by Jane and the Regency era. Knit yourself a shawl, a bonnet, or a beaded summer Spencer jacket (or if you don’t have the time or skill, find some facsimile in a thrift store). Essential finishing touch: wear your hair up.

Props to anyone who can pull off an Alice Munro costume this Halloween (seriously, how would one do that?).

Photo and idea credit: Selena

Contemporary Characters

We've all imagined what it must be like to be stranded on a boat with a live tiger. Recreate the drama of Life of Pi with a pair of white harem pants and a long-sleeved cotton shirt wrapped around your head. Complete Pi's look with inflatable swimming armbands and a cooperative cat (if your cat is not cooperative, try a stuffed tiger).

Go cyberpunk and channel Lisbeth Salander, the spunky heroine from Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It’s an extreme look, but powerful: all in black, short dark wig, nose and ear piercings, boots, and a hoodie. It’s not really complete, however, without a visible tattoo on your back.  

Photo and idea credit: KBthreads from Instructables 

Interpretive Titles

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Get creative with book titles! Dress up in a mauve wrap and go as The Colour Purple. Visit the paint store and swipe a bunch of swatches and go as Fifty Shades of Grey. Put together a group costume and Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. Or dress all in black with a black hat topped with colourful red roses and be Flowers in the Attic.

Photo and idea credit: Starship Minivan from Instructables

Literal Interpretations

Even the tools on your writing desk can inspire a costume... We’ve seen a pen, a typewriter, a book. But our favourite by far has to be this one sent to us by YA author Suzanne Sutherland. To celebrate her first year working as an editorial assistant she went as the indispensable reference for all who work with words: The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition.

Photo credit: Suzanne Sutherland

What literary-inspired costume will you be wearing this Halloween? Send a picture of yourself in costume to canadawrites@cbc.ca and we will include it in our gallery.


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set count down final date: 11/01/2014
set count up final date: 11/01/2014
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