I Come To Trade My Flesh for Stone: The Face of Medusa

Medusa’s story is one of a legendary beauty, a mortal punished with transformation for 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.  While some myths depicted Medusa as a wholly terrifying creature, monstrous and cruel, earlier incarnations were known to reference a “fair cheeked” Medusa, crowned with snakes but smooth of cheek and brow, yet still capable of turning all who viewed her to stone with a single look.

Those of you who’ve been reading The Year of Halloween for some time may remember the Thinking Costume post from last year that reflected on this concept of terrible beauty, and some ideas about putting together a Medusa costume that captured the feel of elegance and strength, coolly compelling, a creature “fair cheeked” but assured of her power.  Read on for my experience in actually constructing this costume, as well as a photos and links to help create your own Medusa look.


The original inspiration for this look came from Martha Stewart’s elegantly upswept Medusa (pictured top right). As described in the article, this hairstyle is easily achieved by attaching toy snakes to hair extensions that have been braided and attached to a wig or hair.  I found the hardest part of this was finding inexpensive extensions to braid in and, surprisingly, finding tiny toy snakes.   My hair is too short to reasonably braid, so I reused a long wig, loosely braiding it in layers from left to right, bangs to crown, and pinning up with bobby pins (pictured bottom left).  I wanted to add some additional braids for volume but, since I had a difficult time finding inexpensive pieces to braid in, I wound braided wool doll hair in to the Medusa braids (pictured bottom right).

Because I could only find larger snakes, I cut them into pieces to peek out of the braids and pierced them with safety pins.  The pins were secured through the snakes with a bit of hot glue, and, once set, the pins attached to the underside of the braids, letting the snakes appear to wind, sinuously, through the braids.

For costume, I originally recommended taking advantage of last year’s trends for one-shouldered dresses and the little white dress, which had the advantage of giving you a fashion-forward outfit for the summer that could double later as a sassy Halloween costume. Antique-looking complementary jewelry in gold tones was also on-trend and an inexpensive way to complete a Medusa costume, as shown in the first two rows below.

I was able to find this spot-on asymmetrical Max and Cleo dress (pictured bottom center) on sale at the end of the season for 75% off.  The touch of gold at the waist complimented a pair of dangling gold and blue earrings (pictured bottom right) and a simple opera-length gold chain.  I completed my look with a pair of old wedge sandals spray-painted with metallic gold, and a teal scarf that I clipped to the shoulder of my dress with a old hoop earring (pictured bottom left).  For more fashion inspiration for this look, you can see my complete Medusa set on Polyvore.

For makeup, I went with a modified take on this Elizabeth Taylor-inspired Cleopatra look to pull the whole thing together.

My interpretation of this makeup and how the hair works together is below.  Although the video uses a plain lid with heavy outline, I added a fill of bright teal (pictured below) to tie together the azure of the shawl and the jewelry, with a bronze base and highlight to compliment (Makeup Forever Aqua Cream and Star Powder in Bronze Brown).  To keep the focus on the exaggerated eye, stick with a lightly tinted lip gloss for a clean, polished look.

So, with bright wreath of serpent tresses crown’d,
Severe in beauty, young Medusa frown’d;
Erstwhile subdued, round Wisdom’s ægis roll’d
Hiss’d the dread snakes, and flamed in burnish’d gold

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

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

12 replies

  1. One year I was a ghost. But not the sheet kind. I just wore my regular clothes but insisted I was dead.

    Your tutorial is more detailed than mine would be…

  2. Eva,
    It’s when I see such craft that I know I have much to learn with mine.
    Great post.
    The Clown

  3. Great post Eva,
    Medusa is probably my favorite from Greek mythology, I guess I’m a sucker for a good looking girl, no matter how deadly she is ha-ha.
    What I don’t understand, and never have, is how Perseus never got bit by the snakes when he held Medusa’s severed head up and turned King Polydectes to stone.

  4. Just learned about the frog battery maybe some how Medusa was same


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