This post was updated in Oct. 2020 to incorporate new costumes.
If you’re like me (or any other classic film fan), the character or actor you want to dress as isn’t at Party City. There are only ill-fitting $80 Marilyn Monroe costumes from “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” No one sells a “Gigi” costume so you can be Leslie Caron or a frumpy, loud costume to be Barbara Stanwyck in “Stella Dallas.” So that’s why we make our own.
Starting in my last year of college, I decided I wanted to dress as my favorite stars so I started making my own costumes for Halloween. Of course, I make these costumes fully knowing that the only people who will understand them are my Twitter followers and readers of Comet Over Hollywood. Here are my Halloween costumes since 2010:
Carmen Miranda: Halloween 2010
As a huge musical fan, Carmen Miranda is always a bright spot. This was a fairly easy costume of gathering together various vibrant pieces to simulate the Carmen Miranda feel, rather than mimic a specific costume from one of her films. The only purchased clothing was the vest and skirt, which were vintage from eBay. While known as “the Lady with the Tutti Frutti Hat,” not all of Miranda’s hats involved fruit — some included umbrellas, butterflies or were simple, bright turbans. However, I decided to go with the fruit design since it was most identifiable. The hat was made of a baseball cap with the bill cut off and fruit from the five and 10 cent store glued and sewed on. No one knew who I was and only called me Chiquita Banana, who was inspired by Miranda.
Cyd Charisse in the Girl Hunt Ballet number in “Band Wagon” (1953): Halloween 2011
Cyd Charisse’s red costume in the “Girl Hunt Ballet” is probably one of her most recognizable looks (though of course, no one knew who I was). My sisters and I took dance for many years and my older sister’s 1998 tap costume looks similar to Cyd Charisse’s bodice. All it was lacking was a skirt. I took the costume, tacked on a similar sequined fabric, added some gloves and was ready to dance with Fred Astaire. The only thing I regret is now is not getting a black wig.
Louise Brooks in “Now We’re in the Air” (1927): Halloween 2013
I’ll confess, this costume was inspired by the fact that I found a short, black wig on sale at Wal-Mart the day after Halloween in 2012. So for a full year, I knew I was going to be Louise Brooks in some capacity. Her publicity photo for “Now We’re in the Air” (1927) is one of her most famous so I decided to mimic this. This was a relatively simple costume to make, but finding the exact items I wanted was the only challenge. Locating a plain black tutu was difficult, so I used an old dance costume. “Now We’re in the Air” is a previously lost film that was found in 2017.
Sigourney Weaver as “There is no Dana, only Zuul” from Ghostbusters (1984): Halloween 2014
After revisiting “Ghostbusters” (1984), I was struck by how beautiful possessed Sigourney Weaver’s costume was. I thought it would be a piece of cake and that I would only need to find a similar orange dress and make some alterations, right? Wrong. Unable to find what I needed, I made my own dress. I bought a 1980s dress pattern off eBay of a similar style. I then bought bright orange slick fabric, see-thru shimmery fabric as a sash and a bit of gold fabric to go along the slit of the dress. Since I can’t sew a dress pattern and don’t have a sewing machine, my friend Katie was wonderful helped me (or did the bulk of the work) by helping me cut and sew the pattern. I used the see-thru fabric as sash tied around the waist. As for hair, I have extremely straight hair that doesn’t curl well. So the easiest solution to mimic Sigourney Weaver’s hair was to wear a very curly brown wig.
Moira Shearer as Victoria Page in “The Red Shoes” (1948): Halloween 2015
This is my second favorite costumes for several reasons: I loved doing the enhanced ballet eye makeup, it was comfortable, and this was probably the easiest costume I have ever done. I was inspired to recreate this look from the Powell and Pressburger film after seeing several people I know attending screenings. Creating this costume mainly involved locating and ordering the various pieces. The most complicated part was finding an appropriate red wig (I found a long wig and cut it). Above is a photo of the costume and a close-up of the makeup. The red makeup around the eyes is lip liner. Of course, no one knew who I was in this costume, but I didn’t get any weird looks. They just assumed I was a ballet dancer. I was happy and comfortable throughout the evening out.
Hedy Lamarr in the “You Stepped Out of a Dream” number in “Ziegfeld Girl” (1941): Halloween 2016
This is my favorite Halloween costume (thus far) as far as outcome and looks go. It wasn’t perfect and an exact match to Adrian’s costume creation, but I was pretty darned pleased. That said, it was also the most difficult and time-intensive costume I have made to date, and I’m tired just thinking about it. This is a recreation of the gown Hedy Lamarr wore as Tony Martin sings “You Stepped Out of a Dream” in the MGM film, “Ziegfeld Girl.” It’s the big reveal of the new Ziegfeld Girls (Judy Garland, Lamarr, and Lana Turner), who all premiere for the first time. Costumes in Florenz Ziegfeld shows were outlandish and Hedy’s wasn’t even the most difficult of the bunch exhibited in this number. I started buying and creating this costume at least a month out before Halloween. It involved cutting out hundreds of fabric and paper star, lots of gluing and some engineering help from my dad for the elaborate star headdress. Again, no one in person knew who I was and I kept stepping on long dress (I left the headdress in the car once it got too crowded), but people were impressed even if they didn’t know who I was.
Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeer (1955–1959): Halloween 2017
Still tired from the “Ziegfeld Girl” costume, I almost skipped Halloween this year. But inspired by my Annette Funicello Fridays on social media, I tried to throw together a simple Mouseketeer costume. This involved only buying a blue skirt and some iron-on letters — I already had Mickey Mouse ears from a 2007 trip to Disney World. While I adore Annette, my straight light hair wouldn’t have worked well. And a short, curly wig would have just looked terrible. So I dubbed myself Mouseketeer Jessica and was ready for roll call! (I guess I could have been Darlene or Karen).
Anita Louise as Titania, queen of the fairies from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (1935): Halloween 2018
Director Cecil B. DeMille: Halloween 2019
Linda Evans as Krystle Carrington and Joan Collins as Alexis Carrington Colby Dexter in “Dynasty”: Halloween 2020
What are some of our classic film costumes? Share below! Happy Halloween
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These are some great costumes! Thanks for sharing!
Love all of these. I so want to do the Mickey Mouse club next year. I have not really done any classic movies, did not think of it. My friend this year went as Baby Jane Hudson and she looked amazing! I did Grease..not really a classic from the 40’s & 50’s but still fun.
These are excellent Jessica. It was fun to revisit your costumes and to hear about how you put them together. Your Hedy Lamarr one is a MASTERPIECE!
I love your dedication!
Wow… what a great effort and excellent final successes, with all these costumes, Comet!
I can see why you might feel a bit daunted after that Hedy Lamarr costume, last year… your comment about almost wanting to skip it… made me laugh, sympathetically, out loud! great article, as usual!
Wow! Would love to go to your next Hollywood Halloween Party!
Great costume work! That Hedy Headress is impressive!
I dressed up once as Barbara Stanwyck”s thief wearing a huge clunky diamond bracelet in “Remember the Night”.
Again, no one knew who I was, but I felt very wonderfully wickedly Stanwyckish!
did you do the Hedy Lamarr headdress alone? This is the most incredible piece of art!
I had some help from my engineer dad on the headdress, but it’s all handmade! 🙂 Thank you!
Hi! Do you think you could tell us a just a tiny bit about how you went about making the headdress? I’m obsessed with this look and have been wanting to make it for ages but just have no idea how to go about it! How was it attached to your back/what wire did you use??
Love the Hedy Lamarr costume – can you tell us a little bit about the back headdress piece? How you attached it? What materials were used?