Popular tastes in Halloween costumes may change from year to year, but a good vampire costume is timeless. Originally, most vampire costumes were based on the look created by Bela Lugosi in the classic film ‘Dracula’. The traditional Dracula character had to reflect his status as a Count. This led to the use of a stylized cape, formal clothing, and a sleek but elegant hairstyle. However, this elegant exterior must disguise a sinister interior.
Traditional vampires must feed on human blood in order to maintain their appearance, so the character must also have fangs for bloodletting and an otherworldly appearance to imply sickly immortality. Some vampires have always been immortal, but others were converted after their human deaths. Therefore, most vampire costumes feature pale skin and dark, sunken eyes.
All of these effects can be achieved through the use of elaborate costumes and make-up, but there are less expensive options. Here’s how to create a traditional or modern vampire costume without a large budget or extensive sewing or make-up skills:
- Hair. There are wigs available, which will create an exaggerated pompadour hairline, but they can be expensive. Instead, try working with the child or adult’s natural hair. Vampires are extremely vain, so their hair is always kept in perfect condition. If the hair is short enough, you may be able to sweep it back completely from the face and use a generous amount of ‘wet’ styling gel to keep it in place.
- Some styling mousses will hold the hair in place but give it a more natural dry appearance. What you want is a Hollywood leading man slickness, which means using products like Dep. These can be found at discount supply stores for a few dollars, or you might just borrow a dollop from a willing relative. Dying the hair jet-black is not always necessary to achieve a convincing vampire style. Modern vampires are often portrayed as punk rockers or urban sophisticates.
If the child or adult’s hair is thicker and fuller, then the stylist may have to go for a widow’s peak or pompadour. Sweep the hair away from the face as before, but allow the top section to fall slightly forward. The sides should be held back with generous amounts of a stiff hair gel, not necessarily a wet one. In extreme cases, some inexpensive hairpins or combs can be used to hold the hair back. To accentuate the point of the hair (widow’s peak), a lip liner pencil or a dark greasepaint stick can be used to create a point on the scalp. Follow a line around the highest point of the hairline and draw in a natural point at the midline.
- Skin. The skin of a vampire is usually pale, with even the slightest suggestion of a green undertone. This effect can be accomplished with some very pale makeup base and some judiciously applied baby powder. Place the liquid base over the entire face and neck area and quickly apply the powder to set the makeup in place.
- A better effect may require the use of a theatrical makeup called clown white, but one tube should last quite a while. Local theater groups may also agree to loan a tube of clown white to those who ask. The idea is to keep the skin pale and sickly, so green or yellow makeup may also be blended as an undertone.
Where the real magic happens for a vampire costume
is the facial make-up and accessories. With a pale skin tone, and dark make-up should really ‘pop’ off the face. Use a standard set of eye products, but use them for dramatic effect. Make the eyebrows very dark, and draw in some very high points. Vampires don’t use make-up as a habit, but they do have very dark and foreboding eyes.
Use dark blue, black, and green eye shadows to create this sunken effect. The lips should be painted with very red lipstick or lip rouge. This shouldn’t be a neat application to emphasize the lips, but a suggestion of bloodstains and the last moments of color just before the next feeding.
Inexpensive fangs can be found at discount stores around Halloween, but they are not always very effective or convincing. It may be better to forego the fangs in favor of some stage blood and attitude. Cheap fake blood may be created from light corn syrup and red food coloring. If the color is not quite right, add a little blue to darken the product. Use this fake blood judiciously to suggest a recent feeding. Fangs are a nice detail, but if they’re not comfortable or convincing they can be left out of the costume.
- Clothing. The most obvious detail of a vampire costume is a good cape. It literally defines the character. Inexpensive capes can be found in the Halloween aisle of most discount stores, but one size does not fit all. If you are going to put money into a costume detail, then the cape would be it. All the other clothing details can be found cheaply, but a good cape is a rarity. Look for remnants of a black, shiny material that drapes. Depending on the size of the child or adult, you may need several yards of this material, plus a generous length of ribbon to hold it all together.
- Capes aren’t complicated, but they do need some tapering in order to fit properly. The top of a cape should be narrower than the bottom in order to form a natural flow around the neck and chest. Instead of a ribbon, a closure could also be formed with a large button and a loop. A cape doesn’t have to be made from expensive material to be effective, but it should appear to be an elegant accessory.
The shirt should also reflect the vampire’s attention to appearance. A ruffled tuxedo shirt would be ideal- check the local thrift stores for bargains- but a standard dress shirt can also be altered. Simply tack on a ruffled white material across the front to simulate a formal dress shirt. The pants should be very formal and neatly pressed, with stripes up the side or a pinstripe design. As long as the pants are dark and appear formal, however, the costume should be convincing.
Black dress shoes and socks would be the proper footwear for a traditional vampire costume, but a more modern vampire might wear hipper fashions and stylish sneakers. For a modern look, the child or adult could take older clothes and distress them for an artistic effect. Instead of a slick pompadour, modern vampires could spike their hair or used temporary tattoos.Black dress