(UPDATED) Thinking Costume: Medusa

One of the most popular costumes here on The Year of Halloween comes from this summer’s Thinking Costume: Medusa post.  The Medusa of myth 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.  I love the idea of a Medusa costume putting the deadly, terrifying power Medusa into a coolly elegant package – chic dress, hair swept into a graceful but squirmy updo, as in this lovely look from Martha Stewart.


Recently, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about how to make this look a little more snake-y. Read on for an update at the bottom of the post on a make-up enhancement that will give your Medusa just a hint of reptilian menace, and a link to see how my own version of this costume came out.

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.

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 

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 or silver 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?

—- —- —-

UPDATE 1: I’ve gotten a lot of questions about how to make this look a little more snake-y. This year’s edition of Martha Stewart’s Halloween magazine features a “Lagoon Lady” with an easy scale-y look that would add a reptilian touch to your Medusa look.

Martha Stewart Lagoon LadyYou can find the complete details in the magazine, but the look is basically achieved by lightly applying green makeup, powdering, then tightly stretching a piece of fishnet stocking over the desired area.

Once the fishnet is in place, lightly blot a darker green over the top to achieve a scaly look. Carefully remove the fishnet and powder again to set.  For Medusa, you can turn this into an elegantly reptilian look by limiting the makeup to just your cheek and brow area – thin semi-circles starting at your cheekbones and continuing up and halfway around your eyebrows, highlighting the eye area.  Still lovely, with just a bit more menace.  Happy haunting!

UPDATE 2: I loved this fierce look so much that it was my premier costume of 2011.  For details and photos of how I did my styling, click through to my follow-on post, I Come To Trade My Flesh for Stone: The Face of Medusa.

Related Links:

Collection – Medusa: Terrible Beauty

Collection – Glaukopis, The Owl

Thinking Costume: The Spider Queen

Categories: Costume DIY Tutorials, Costumes & Makeup, Makeup Tutorials, Projects, Thinking Costume

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

15 replies

  1. This is awesome because I was thinking of being Medusa for Halloween. I love the hair with the snakes in it.

  2. I like the statue look. If one wanted to go really crazy, they could walk around with the one statue eye closed all night.

    I am hoping when all is said and done (but is it ever? there’s always next year to start planning for), that you will post pictures from your gathering. I’m imagining quite an event.

    Paul D. Dail
    http://www.pauldail.com- A horror writer’s not necessarily horrific blog

    • Yes, that’s a level of commitment to the costume that I never seem to manage, although I respect it in others (assuming, that is, that their lack of depth perception doesn’t mean they’re bumping in to me all night and spilling drinks).

      Of course I’ll be posting pictures. All the ones that can’t conceivably lead to arrest, disbarment or excommunication.

  3. I looove the snakes in the hair – looks so awesome!

  4. I’m sorry to find this too late for those dresses, but it’s a fantastic idea. I love costumes with versatile elements. Better use of money, and so much easier to pack for a weekend of costume parties!

  5. That is such a clever way to get that scaley look!


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