6 Inspiring Historical Women to Be This Halloween

Maybe give the princess costume a rest this year?

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According to Google’s yearly feature, “Frightgeist,” our nation’s most popular Halloween costume this year is (drum roll please)…..Harley Quinn! Shocker!

Not that I have anything against Harley Quinn – she’s a fun, butt-kicking villainess with a cheerfulness that shines through even when she’s bashing heroes’ heads in. But with the success of last summer’s flick, Suicide Squad, the fact that everyone wants to be the Joker’s main squeeze this year is too predictable for my taste.

Of course, I encourage anyone who has been inspired by the likes of Ms. Quinn, Hermione Granger, or Queen Elsa to honor their fictional strong-woman faves this Halloween. (Do you!) But if you are short on fishnet stockings, Hogwarts robes, or, uh, ice dresses, why not dress up as a real-life heroine instead? You’ll be the only one of your kind in your trick-or-treating group, and bonus: these costumes are a lot easier to put together than you’d think!

Here are six real-life heroine Halloween costume ideas to try:

Ada Lovelace

Photo Credit: Biography.com

It’s easy to be intimidated by that fiercely floral hairstyle with buns that could put any Star Wars cosplayer to shame, but trust me, being Ada Lovelace for Halloween is much simpler than it sounds. 

Most active during the Victorian era, Lovelace was a brilliant mathematician and is credited with programming the world’s first computer – which, okay, wasn’t anything like today’s computers, but that’s still incredible!

Don’t bother getting a historically accurate Victorian gown for rocking the Lovelace look (though if you must, try Etsy). Instead, just put on a fancy top and long skirt, and cover both with a lab coat, with bonus points given for a name badge with Lovelace’s name on it. Put your hair in a neat, practical bun, and get ready to wow your fellow party-goers with your extensive knowledge of engineering! Or just spend all night playing Candy Crush on your phone, because it’s not like apps would exist without you.

Josephine Baker 

If dancer, singer, and actress Josephine Baker was the toast of 1920s Paris, then paying a Halloween homage to her will allow you to be the belle of the costume ball. Though, a word of warning: Baker’s most famous act, her “banana dance,” involved her dancing on stage in nothing but a skirt made of bananas. I’m not telling you not to walk around practically naked the night of October 31st, but I wouldn’t exactly recommend it. (For one thing, brr!)

Instead, my advice is to get yourself a sparkly Flapper-style dress and a faux-fur coat, get your hair as close to Baker’s chic bob as possible (here’s a tutorial for the look), and then to shimmy on down the street like the bright young thing you are. Don’t forget to hit the dance floor for at least a little while, or, as Baker herself would’ve preferred, all night long!

Frida Kahlo

Photo Credit: Frida Kahlo

To be honest, out of all the possible costumes on this list, it’s most likely that you’ll find another Frida Kahlo in the pumpkin patch. How can she not be a popular choice, though? Kahlo’s technicolor fashion sense and bold, provocative self-portraits have thrilled art-lovers and women in general for years. To want to put flowers in your hair and own the most on-fleek mono-brow in history is a most primal feeling. 

The key to a Kahlo costume is color. Wear a colorful, flowy frock, add a colorful shawl, and top yourself with a bright bouquet. Color, color, color. And don’t forget the brow! If you don’t have a unibrow yourself (no judgment if you do), I’d suggest adding one with a handy dandy eyebrow pencil.

Hua Mulan

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Sure, you can go as the Disneyfied Mulan on this All Hallows’ Eve, but if that’s your costume this year, then it probably has been since you were five years old. Am I right, or am I right? There are other ways to celebrate the Hun-slaying heroine, namely by going as the legendary figure who served as her inspiration, Hua Mulan! Yes, Hua, not Fa; no, I don’t know the reason for the change. 

This is a super easy one: just find the comfiest, loosest-fitting pants and shirt in your closet, and call them your training uniform. Add an awesome sword (preferably a safe, fake one!) and you’re ready to get down to business to defeat the Huns! Go get ’em, girl!

Nellie Bly

Photo Credit: Newseum

Your roommate may make your dorm feel like a madhouse, but Nellie Bly had the guts to spend ten days in a real 19th century insane asylum, all in the name of journalism. If that’s not Halloween-level scary, I don’t know what is. Don’t worry, though, Bly survived, meaning that it wasn’t a complete horror story. 

As you can see, Bly’s outfit is the most weather-appropriate one mentioned in this article. Her checkered coat would be considered fashionable even today – talk about classic style! – so it shouldn’t be hard to find one like it. Top it all off with a smart hat, and don’t forget your pen and notepad! This costume gives you the perfect excuse to make all your friends spill the tea. 

Jane Goodall

Photo Credit: Daily Mail

Is it weird to dress as someone who’s still alive today? I don’t think so; after all, how many people do you know who plan on going as one of the presidential candidates? At least a Jane Goodall costume will keep you away from any political arguments, and it’s also an excuse to play with the party host’s dog all night long! You’re Jane Goodall, and animals are your thing

Though khakis may be ugh-worthy 364 days of the year, on Halloween they make the perfect pants for your Goodall get-up, and a matching tan top works perfectly. The best part? You get to carry a chimpanzee around all night! A stuffed one, that is. I don’t know any of you personally, but I’m pretty sure none of you can handle a real chimp.

So what do you say?

As fun as it can be to pretend to be a superhero on the spookiest, sugariest might of the year, remember that not all superheroes are created by Stan Lee. Some are reporters or scientists, dancers or painters, and some are real-life warriors! They are all fantastic and deserve to be honored.

So have I inspired any costume ideas in any of you, dearest readers? Please leave a comment below telling me who or what you plan to be for Halloween, and don’t forget to share this article with the world! 

Bonus: try and guess which fierce historical lady warrior I plan on being! Here’s a hint: her story has much in common with that of Hua Mulan…you might even say that they share the same story arc. 

5 thoughts on “6 Inspiring Historical Women to Be This Halloween”

  1. Not sure, but I’m guessing the change from Hua to Fa Mulan has something to do with the Mandarin vs. Cantonese pronunciation. Possibly also Anglicization to make it easier for Western audiences?


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