Last year’s last minute costume ideas went over pretty well, so I thought I’d revisit it: soooo, whatcha gonna wear for Halloween, tonight? Here is my top 5 list of last minute history-inspired costumes for 2012:
1. Templar knight
What you need: An old white top sheet; grey sweats (top–with hood!–and bottoms); belt; boots; sword or lance; additional white sheet (optional).
What to do: Take your white sheet and cut a hole in the middle large enough to fit over your head, and again on either side to create a narrow scapular–shoulder-width, touching your boots in the front and back, and belt this over top your grey sweat suit (make sure the hood is out). You should paint a red cross on the chest and back of the white sheet. If you have the additional sheet, it is your cloak. Wear it around you and paint additional red crosses on it where it meets in the chest.
What to say when someone asks who you are: “Beau Seant!” It is hypothesized by one scholar that this may have been the Templar battle cry, meaning in the medieval French something akin to “Be noble!” or “Be Glorious!” (The author in question, John J. Robinson, is loosely a scholar, and should be regarded warily, but this is for Halloween not your dissertation, so we’ll go along with it for now.)
Historical accuracies: 1) While a knight would have worn chain mail and not sweats, the basic design of the “uniform” is the same. 2) Medieval French–it’s what many Templars would have spoken, and their banner was certainly called a Beauseant.
2. American soldier, War of 1812
What you need: Blue shirt or jacket; white or khaki pants; black boots; with gaiters (can be made with black duct tape or construction paper); gold construction paper for trim (optional); musket (could be improvised with a broom stick spray-painted silver and a wooden or cardboard stock); leather shoulder bag for cartridges.
What to do: If you want to be an authentic soldier at the outset of the war, your going to need the gold frippery, but it wasn’t long before the U.S. government couldn’t afford to provide all the extras on the uniforms and began issuing them without the extras. So, you could basically pull it off with navy blue shirt and blue or grey pants, if you can’t scare up a pair of khaki cargo pants (after all, it isn’t the ’90s anymore). If you like the frippery–which is nifty, certainly–then cut up some gold construction paper in the pattern you see above. If you smudge some “dirt” on your face you can claim you lost your hat in battle and forgo that step–though, the government will take the cost of the hat out of your already-months-late pay. Sling the cartridge bag over your shoulder and keep your musket close at hand!
What to say when someone asks who you are: “Remember the Raisin!”
Historical accuracies: 1) I already explained the historic changes in the uniform. 2) Yep, that’s right, the Raisin: A river in Michigan, and the sight of the bloody defeat of American forces. If you live in the Chesapeake Bay area, you may just want to holler, “Remember the capital!” I just don’t know if that is as fun as remembering the Raisin. 3) While we had a rifle contingent at this time, the bulk of the army went to war with muskets.
3. Phillis Wheatley
What you need: A dress–long-sleeved and floor length, a bonnet, a shawl (optional), an apron, a Bible or book of classical Greek or Roman literature–i.e. Homer, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, or Horace (optional).
What to do: Get dressed, apron goes on the outside. Carry the book with you wherever you go.
What to say when someone asks who you are: “Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain,/May be refin’d and join th’ angelic train.” (“On Being brought from Africa to America,” by Phillis Wheatley)
Historical accuracies: 1) Phillis Wheatley was a colonial era slave and poet, extensively educated by the family who owned her and wrote complicated poetry about America’s slavery institution, full of literary allusions from the Bible and classical Rome and Greece. 2) She was well-read particularly of the Bible and Greek and Roman classics. 3) She was a successful poet, though many doubted a slave capable of her poetic production.
What you need: A grey sweat suit; a long, large grey t-shirt–hanging to mid-thigh or knees; a belt; a grey ball cap or skull cap; axe, sword, or spear; large round disc–either card board spray-painted grey/silver, or similar; a large sack full of books, gold, jewels, or any other stuffing to make it look full of loot (optional)
What to do: Put on the sweat suit, then the over-sized t-shirt, after you’ve removed the sleeves, and belt it. If you have a grey ball-cap cut the bill off of it or simply wear the skull cap. Make your shield and carry it along with your weapon.
What to say when someone asks who you are: “Valhalla!”
Historical accuracies: 1) Vikings wore chain-mail–if you have a kilt or animal skin that you can wear like a kilt, this would probably be more accurate, but maybe it’s cold outside, tonight. 2) Vikings would not have worn horns on their helms. So, unless you are going as an opera viking or a Minnesotan viking, forgo the horns. 3) Vikings carried a simple round wooden shield–if they carried one at all. You may forgo the shield to carry the sack–remember, the vikings were robbers and marauders from the sea (or, from Scandinavia by way of the most convenient waterway). 4) Valhalla was the sacred mead hall of heaven reserved for warriors who died gloriously.
5. Rosie the Riveter
What you need: Blue button-down, collared, long-sleeve shirt; blue work pants; red hankerchief.
What to do: Put your clothes on. Roll your sleeves up and tie the red bandanna on your head, with the bow on the top.
What to say when someone asks who you are: “We can do it!” (And, show your guns off while you say it!)
Historical accuracies: 1) This is obviously the image from the famous WWII propaganda poster highlighting the blue-collar work of women on the homefront during the war. 2) Blue collar variations could include tools or welding helmets, etc. as women worked in various “manly” positions so “our boys could go off and fight the war.”