The zombie is not a modern invention. They’ve walked the pages of horror fiction for centuries. The undead have plagued generations of Devil’s night revelers. Looking to recreate some of those vintage creeps of yore? Here’s a DIY guide to make Gothic Pre-Raphaelite dead girl zombie or Victorian ghost Halloween costume.
First a word about “Gothic”–it doesn’t mean the same thing as “Goth” styles (black hair, dark vampiric clothing). Gothic referred to a medieval architectural style. Modern Goths are a throwback to the Gothic Revival (mid 1700s to early 1900s). Gothic revivalists, like Edgar Allen Poe reflected the Victorian grim outlook, obsession with rigid morality, morbidity and sexual frustration. The pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was a group of writers and artists who reacted to Victorian repression. Ironically, thought, they had an erotic–some would say pedophiliac–fixation on virginal girls with red hair. All this sexual energy and no outlet but a quill or brush–no wonder Sigmund Freud found such a field for psycho-sexual study. “Dark Shadows” is a good example of Gothic Revival and it’s the perfect medium for Halloween.
So for the Pre-Raphaelite dead girl zombie ghost Halloween costume, think Gothic Victorian virgins like Shakespeare’s nymphomaniac Ophelia (from Hamlet), Juliet (Rome and Juliet) or Tenneyson’s suicidal Lady of Shallot. This Halloween costume is eerie and will work well in a vintage haunted house. Make your dead girl zombie a hanging or drowning victim to complete the Poe-ish theme. This Gothic zombie Victorian ghost is not supposed to be “sexy,” except in that innocent, creepy-sensual Pre-Raphaelite way
Your Victorian ghost Halloween costume needs:
–a white shift, chemise or nightgown. For a drowned dead girl ghost, wet the garment in muddy water, wring it out and let it dry wrinkled. You can also draw dirt smudges on with marker. It should be holey and torn with ragged edges coming unsewn. You can paint lacerations that show through cuts in the garments.
–a flowing flame-red wig (or color your hair auburn red. Need ideas on shade? Look at Titian’s redheaded babes). Your Victorian ghost hair should be messy.
–artificial flowers. Weave flowers into a halo or plait them into your wig or hair. They are meant to represent a funeral bower or flowers that entangled in the hair of the drowned dead girl (the Pre-Raphaelite had a very romantic notion of death).
–a rope (for a Victorian ghost hanging victim)
–delicate sandals or ballerina flats (barefoot is best but it may be too cold)
–white, brown, purple, red, blue and black makeup
–black or blue nail polish
To create the Gothic zombie makeup, cover all visible skin with basic white or very pale foundation (or creme base if you have theater makeup). Apply blue and purple to the lips, eye sockets and sides of the nose. Blend to look like shadows. Outline the eyes with black eyeliner. Draw a thick band (about three inches wide of blue and purple “bruises” with lines of black. This will simulate rope marks. Tie the rope around your neck (gently like a scarf, not tightly; you don’t want to injure yourself) and let it dangle. Make brown “dirt” smudges and paint fingernails blue or black.
If you are using this Halloween costume in a haunted house, give your Victorian ghost a background story. She hung herself to avoid having to marry a despised suitor. She was forbidden to marry someone she loved. She was jilted by a lover (Miss Haversham, Great Expectations). She should wander about aimlessly crying. She isn’t a true zombie because she doesn’t feast on flesh, but she is always trying to get unwary victims to join her beyond the grave. You can also make your Gothic dead girl a lonely specter doomed to walk the earth, looking for friends, but scaring everyone away in the attempt.