It’s that spooktacular time of the year again, which means once more the desperate scramble to find a perfect Halloween costume.
If you’re looking for literary halloween costume ideas for adults, you’ve come to the right place.
Lucky for us book loving people, we have an array colorful characters to choose from. And because book-ish costumes are obviously the best costumes, here’s some literary-themed Halloween get-ups for your consideration:
A Handmaid Costume from The Handmaid’s Tale
You probably won’t be the only handmaid out there, but this is a good one if you’re looking for something uncomplicated and comfortable, but don’t want to seem like you made no effort. You’ll just need a white bonnet and then a red cloak. This is also a good group costume.
Hamlet Costume from Shakespeare’s Hamlet
For this costume, you’ll need a nice foamy skull so people know you’re Hamlet. From there, you can wear dark colors, a dark hooded robe or a Shakespearean costume to complete the outfit.
Belle Costume from Beauty and the Beast
Belle is truly the book advocate among the Disney princesses. Just get a Belle costume (preferably the blue dress) and don’t forget to carry a book (optionally, you can put it in a basket).
The Little Prince Costume
This one is actually good for women, too. You just need a green jumpsuit (here’s a nice and inexpensive one from Forever 21), a yellow scarf and a red rose. Voila!
Don Quixote Costume
This one could get a bit complicated, but would be fun. To dress up as Don Quixote, you’ll need a knight plate-metal costume, a toy stick horse, plus a musketeer or lance-type toy sword (try not to poke anyone’s eye out).
If it looks ridiculous, that’s okay, cause Don Quixote was kinda nuts anyway.
Picture of Dorian Gray Costume
This one requires a little bit of effort. A victorian-era costume will probably help, but honestly you can probably wear whatever. The main thing is you’ll need to get a photo of yourself in the same outfit and photoshop it so you look worse. Pop it into a wooden picture frame and there you go.
Arthur Dent Costume
As far as comfy Halloween costumes go, dressing up as Arthur Dent from Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is about as good as it gets. You’ll need: a terry green or brown bathrobe, a mug (preferably white), a towel (also white) and some type of patterned pajama pants.
If you want to be more sure you’ll be recognized, you could carry or wear a sign or something that says “DON’T PANIC”.
Charlotte’s Web Costume
This one’s easy. Grab yourself some overalls and a pink stuffed pig to turn yourself into Fern (the little girl) from Charlotte’s Web. If you want to be extra sure people know who you are, carry the book with you.
Sherlock Holmes Costume
This one is not the most original but it’s a good one because it’s so easily recognizable. Plus if you’re Halloweening in colder climates, you can stay warm. A pipe, some type of herringbone hat, plus a magnifying glass will do the trick.
For more warmth, grab a structured wool coat or blazer like a peacoat or trench and wear a scar.
This is a good one if you want to look cute, but not like slutty-cute. Get yourself a hat with bear ears or a red hat and also a blue raincoat or navy blue wool duffle/toggle coat.
Then, tack on some red wellies, and bring a leather suitcase if you have one.
By the way, the Padding costume works well for pups too.
Santiago from Old Man and the Sea Costume (Literal and Literary Versions)
If you want to go for something a little more hardcore literary, how about Santiago from Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea? You’ll need a big stuffed shark (it’s actually a marlin, which is a fish, but let’s not get caught up in technicalities), a fishing rod and fishing gear (or just get a fisherman’s costume).
Alternatively, you could do this as a couples’ costume. With one person as a fisherman and another as a shark. Or if you want to take a very literal (as opposed to literary) approach, you can do one person dressed as an old man and someone else as the sea (this is a great one for those of you who like using Halloween as an opportunity to do cool makeup or wear an awesome headpiece. Google “water nymph makeup” or “sea queen costume” for more ideas on how to pull off this look.)
Lennie from Of Mice and Men
For a Steinbeck-inspired costume, just get a pair of overalls and bring along a baby chick. This works better if you’re a big dude.
Hester Prynne from The Scarlet Letter
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Hester Prynne makes for a memorable character. Wear a puritan or pilgrim costume and slap on a red A, and it should be immediately recognizable. I’d recommend embroidery or just a cardboard cutout to wear hanging from your neck for the A.
Princess Bride Costumes
Dressing up as these two lovebirds is great for a couples costume. With a black mask/clothes and a set of red robes, you’ll be instantly recognizable as Wesley and Princess Buttercup!
Little Women Costumes
This one probably needs to be a group costume for it to work best, but if you have a quartet, here’s a fun one to do and an excuse to put on some old-timey clothes and a hat. To dress up as Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy, find a Civil War-era dress and add in a wicker basket (ideally with a prop representing the girls’ personality inside) and see if people can guess who you are!
Great Gatsby Costumes
This is basically an excuse to dress up fancy and wear a headpiece. But this would be a great couples costume if you’re in the mood to look swank.
Edgar Allen Poe Costume
Edgar Allen Poe is a great costume for a dude with short dark hair (or even a female who wants to don a wig and do some fun gender bending!) I think the key to making this costume work is the high collar, dark clothes and mustache. I would strongly recommend carrying a stuffed/toy raven or else people will probably ask you if you are dressed up as Adolf Hitler.
Great Expectations / Miss Havisham Costume
This is such a fun costume to do if you can find an elaborate old wedding dress from a thrift store and a veil. Make sure to curl or frizz your hair and use tons of white powder to make yourself pasty.
Alice in Wonderland Costume
There are a lot of great ways to do an Alice costume but if you have a stuffed or real bunny, that’s one way to do it. Another is to get a cardboard box and fashion it into a tiny house around you, but I’d imagine that version would get tiresome at some point.
Jane Austen Costume
Jane Austen might be a harder one to recognize, so you’ll likely have to carry around a prop like a quill or some of her books for people to guess. I recommend a blue regency style dress and a bonnet for this look.
Nurse Ratched fron One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Costume
I expect we’ll be seeing more of this costume soon since there’s an upcoming show starring Sarah Paulson about Nurse Ratched, but a nurse costume with that hairstyle (they’re called victory rolls and there’s a bunch of tutorials on Youtube for it) will make her fairly recognizable for those familiar with this character.
Claudia Kishi from The Baby-Sitters Club Costume
If you were once a Baby-sitter’s Club fan like me, you might remember the coolest girl in school, Claudia Kishi. It’s a fun costume that’s great now since most baby-sitter’s club fans are now well into their adulthood, so it’s a fun blast from the past. Plus, there’s a new reboot of the show on Netflix so it’s a great time to dress up as this artsy gal. An arty-colorful patterned jacket plus lots of dangle-y jewelry will help to bring this look together. Plus you can always carry around a paintbrush too.
But if you need some more ideas, drop me a message in the comments and maybe I’ll tack on a Part II at some point! And don’t forget about the easy ones like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones (there are always a bunch of these so I didn’t include them here).
Hope this helps with the costume ideas! Are you planning a literary halloween costume? Have you seen a really good one somewhere out in the wild? Subscribe to The Bibliofile to find out when new stuff gets posted and have a spooktacular Halloween!
P.S. For some Halloween-ish reading materials, try We Have Always lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson or Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman.
I loved this post! So many cool costumes I didn’t think of!
Thank you Eloise! And thanks for dropping by!
There are some great ideas here! I’ve seen Handmaid costumes used really effectively at demonstrations this year too. Although the sexy ones that they’ve released for Halloween make me sigh.
Just as a heads up, the little girl in Charlotte’s Web is called Fern – Charlotte is the spider! :)
Thank you Claire and thanks for the correction! I’m embarrassed to have forgotten that, haha.
And I agree, I’m horrified by the “sexy” versions of the handmaid’s costume. It’s almost as bad as the Handmaid’s Tale line of wines (thankfully, cancelled) that described how irresistible each of the women in the show were. Bleh.
Such great ideas! Love this post!
Thank you! :)
I am 62-years-old and I still dress up for Halloween. Thanks for the suggestions.
Hey Martie, that’s awesome! And thank you as always for dropping by! :)
All great ideas! Paddington would be such a cute one for a kid! My nephew is going as Deadpool though. Also to be honest I would wear Belle’s movie costumes day to day not just Halloween :)
Thank you, and good point about Belle! Cute country frock + book in hand? Definitely sounds wearable any day of the week! :)
This looks amazing, great ideas. I think a couples costume as Santiago and the whale is something I can imagine Lily and Marshall from How I Met Your Mother doing. I think if I dressed up, I’d just do basic catwoman or Sansa Stark season 7 plus at least I’d be warm in the latter’s costume.
Steinbeck wrote Of Mice And Men.
ouch that’s embarrassing. I promised I know that it was just a brain fart. thanks for letting me know about the mistake!