Thinking Costume: Medusa

This, our first Thinking Costume post of 2011, is dedicated to the mythical character of Medusa. Medusa brings together my two of my three favorite types of costumes: (1) the use of a complex and interesting character and (2) a costume that can be effectively achieved with easily available clothes and simple makeup. (The third thing, abundant and disquieting gore, will surely make an appearance in later Thinking Costume posts).

According to myth, Medusa was a terrifying creature, crowned with a writhing, hissing mass of snakes and capable of turning all who viewed her to stone with a single look. Read on for a primer on creating a Halloween look to capture the terrible beauty of the Medusa…

I originally started thinking of a Medusa look a few years ago, when Martha Stewart Living’s Halloween Edition did this lovely take on a Medusa hair style, replete with squirming snakes swept into an elegant updo.

While many modern incarnations depict Medusa as monstrous, dusky-skinned, reptilian-bodied, with slavering jaws and a mouthful of fangs, in antiquity Medusa was more commonly depicted as terrifying, yet beautiful. Medusa’s story is one of a legendary beauty, punished with transformation for her transgressions against the gods, her flowing hair becoming twisting snakes, her face imbued with the terrible power to transfix its viewers forever in stone. Even after death, Medusa’s head lived on, full of awesome power, still capable of enstoning any who looked upon it.

For me, this subtle style, easily achieved by attaching toy snakes in braided pinned-in extensions, conveys something of this ancient Medusa: elegant and strong, coolly compelling, “fair cheeked” but assured of her power.

As to what to wear, costume shops do sell plenty of “Greek-inspired” costumes, but I’m personally not a fan of most mass-market costumes. Why pay $40 for a poorly-fitting polyester dress that three other people at your party might also be wearing? Certainly a toga-style dress can be one of the easiest things around to sew, and the internet offers a few easy “no sew” options if the prospect of sewing is daunting.

However, some of the hottest trends in 2011 fashion are one-shouldered dresses and the sassy little white dress (the LBD is dead, long live the LWD). Why not consider taking advantage of this and grabbing a dress you can wear a few times over the summer, then turn into a smokin’ hot costume for Halloween? Here are few finds that could flatter a range of shapes and would be the perfect fit for this costume.

TOP: 1. Rachel Zoe: ‘Grecian’ Stretch Silk Dress 2. JS Boutique: Embellished One Shoulder Chiffon Dress 3. Laundry by Shelli Segal: Studded One Shoulder Jersey Dress 4. Calvin Klein: One Shoulder Chiffon Dress with Rhinestone Trim BOTTOM: 1. Soprano One Shoulder Draped Dress 2. Adrianna Papell: One Shoulder Twist Charmeuse Gown 3. Suzi Chin: Maggy Boutique Cutaway Shoulder Beaded Jersey Dress 4. Aidan Mattox: Draped One Shoulder Stretch Satin Dress

To bring your Medusa to life, accessorize with simple make up, strappy sandals, and a few pieces of dramatic costume jewelry: think antique-looking gold with large stones or coins.
1. Statements by DCK Teardrop Stone Ring ($14) 2. Statements by DCK Disc & Filigree Earrings ($16) 3. Alexia Crawford Stretch Bracelet ($14) 4. Statements by DCK Large Stone Drop Earrings ($10)

Going to an event as a couple or a group? This costume easily pairs with any standard Roman or Greek inspired costume, or step it up and go full out mythos by adding a Perseus, Athena, or Pegasus costume (best geek group costume ever!). Of course, what would be a better companion costume than someone caught midway through transformation into a statue, punished for gazing, enraptured by hissing locks, upon the fearsome and lovely Medusa?

Related Links:

Collection – Medusa: Terrible Beauty

Collection – Glaukopis, The Owl

Thinking Costume: The Spider Queen

Categories: Costume DIY Tutorials, Makeup Tutorials, Thinking Costume

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

6 replies

  1. Terrifying, yet beautiful – it’s what I strive to be. I love Greek myth-inspired costumes, and this post is super inspiring! Good motivation to start planning my costume *now.*

    • Glad you enjoyed it. I ought to put up some last minute tips as well – somehow I plan for Halloween for 360 days yet still am often pulling my costume together an hour before I’m supposed to be some place. That’s why all the recipes I link to can be made in advance – no time for making food when you’re still putting on makeup as guests are arriving!

  2. I love the whole Medusa theme and think it would be great to see you as her, May I suggest that you rent the movie “Clash of the Titans which has an exotic and beautiful Medusa that is quite brilliant,


    • Thanks, jdc. I grew up on the classic Clash of the Titans, with the claymation gorgon-esque Medusa, so I was interested to note that the recent remake seemed to go with a more classically beautiful (albeit snakey) Medusa.

  3. My daughter just got into Greek Mythology, Medusa is her first pick for a Halloween costume, Great Post!

  4. I really enjoyed that article. You should write more about that topic.

Leave a Reply to jdc-witherton Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: