Are Literary Halloween Costumes Possible?

Sechin Tower

Ever dress up as a character from a novel? And I don’t mean the movie version of the character.

I can’t think of any non-movie literary costumes. Alice in Wonderland’s iconic blue and white dress comes from the Disney version. Same with nearly all the costumes we see for Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.

In truth, from what I’ve observed, book-inspired costumes are pretty rare. Superheroes are common, but all the visual emphasis of comic books puts them in a different category. I once saw a great Harry Dresden costume based on the Jim Butcher novels (and not the television version), but that’s about the only one I can think of.

Why not?

It might be because costumes are fully visual and books aren’t—except that a lot of people get very clear images in their heads when they read.

Or maybe it’s because when a movie comes out, its images thoroughly usurp those that readers formed in their own imagination. That thought scares me, but it would explain why it’s so tough for movie adaptations to please book readers.

I think the real reason is that each of us creates our own visions when we read. These visions are powerful and precious to each of us, but they’re never identical to anyone else’s visions. But that’s a beautiful thing, because it means each of us has the potential to envision a whole world as we read that exists nowhere else in the universe, not even in the heads of others who read the same thing.

That’s magical.

Have you ever tried to make a costume based on a book character? Have you ever tried to make your vision of something you read visible to others in some other way, perhaps through a drawing? It’s a good thing to play with the possibilities because you’re building bridges between your world and someone else’s.


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About Sechin Tower

Sechin Tower is a teacher, game developer, and author of MAD SCIENCE INSTITUTE, a novel of creatures, calamities, and college matriculation. He lives in Seattle, Washington.
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4 Responses to Are Literary Halloween Costumes Possible?

  1. This past weekend, I attended my church and writing group Halloween parties dressed as a character from a friend’s unpublished novel. He’s described pretty well when he’s first introduced, so it wasn’t that difficult to envision him.

    (However, everybody at first thought I was Bob the Builder, since the character is first depicted in disguise as a representative from the power company. Even if the novel is unpublished, so few people read a particular book compared to those who see a particular movie, so a literary costume would be less recognizable.)

  2. Oops. That should be “even if the novel is published.”

  3. Jim Cook says:

    For me, I would have a hard time with it. I bet the costumers for movies do it in their sleep, since that’s essentially what they do anytime a book makes the big screen.

  4. Jen says:

    Literary costumes are definitely possible — they just need more explanation. The more iconic the character, the more easily recognized.
    That said, for me, as a costume maker, it is ALWAYS easier to go from a picture, sketch, or photograph than from someone’s description. Words are invariably translated into graphics before any physical work begins. Neat post and really made me think!

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