How to Do Halloween Makeup Like Literary Characters, Because Who Doesn't Want to Look Like Elizabeth Bennet?

I love Halloween for its infamously permissive attitude. Unless you’re a career cosplayer, you probably don’t get too many opportunities to relinquish your own identity in favor of a more awesome-looking one. If you're a lit-lover looking to forgo the usual slutty lobster costume for something more cultured... or at least more literary, I'm on your team. (It's not your fault when your friend who shows up looking like a sexy Luigi gets jealous of your costume.)

This Halloween, try taking a cue from these book-bound beauties and bring your literary girl crush to life with literary Halloween makeup. Here, I’ve interpreted looks based on three of my personal heroes, both books-wise and looks-wise: Elizabeth Bennet, from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice; gorgeous gumshoe Nancy Drew; and gutsy Goth girl Death, from cult hero/feminist Neil Gaiman’s Sandman graphic novel series.

The best thing about these looks is that, with some slight tweaks, they’re wearable year-round. True, I wouldn’t sport Death’s Nosferatu-worthy pallor to the office. But toning down the brows and base, and skipping her signature Eye of Horus symbol, makes for a pretty badass nighttime look. Whether you’re going for a Regency, retro, or fantasy look, use this holiday (or your life) to flaunt your bookish pride.

Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice

Oh, Lizzy. What a maddeningly willful girl! Elizabeth Bennet may not exactly lean in, but she’s a foremother to all us headstrong women who lead with our brains before our hearts. This look is inspired by Lizzy’s impulsive, solo trek from Longbourn to Netherfield to look after her ailing sister, Jane. Much to the outrage of Lizzy’s basic-ass female peers, our heroine shows up looking like a hot mess. To get this look, think just-walked-three-miles-in-the-English-wind-and-rain flushed cheeks, a dewy no-makeup (but actually made-up) complexion, and messy, windswept hair.

  1. Base: Smooth on a luminizing primer and BB Cream (if you are blessed with naturally flawless skin, you can skip this step), then apply concealer where it’s needed. Brush through your brows so they’re not a total mess (we’re only pretending to look like we just walked three miles), then fill them in with a pencil. You can skip this step, too, but I like a full brow with this look.
  2. Eyes: Sweep a neutral shadow over lids, curl lashes, and apply a light coat of mascara. I also applied a flesh-toned pencil to my lower water line.
  3. Lips and cheeks: Liberally apply a cream or gel blush on cheeks, and use the same color on lips. Apply a liquid highlighter to your cheekbones and Cupid’s bow, and blend blend blend!
  4. Hair: Spritz your hair with a salt- or texturizing spray, then pin it back into a messy half-ponytail.

Suggested costume: Throw on a rumpled white button-down (no starched collars, please). If you don’t have access to a brown muslin pinafore, try a long white nightgown. Borrow your grandma’s shawl and you’re all set!

Nancy Drew, The Nancy Drew Series

The ghostwritten Nancy Drew novels were created in 1930, but the sleuth reached her heyday in the stylish ’60s, when book production company Stratemeyer Syndicate revised the original stories. I was an extremely nerdy child, and I spent much of my elementary school years joining Nancy on her thrilling adventures. I adored Nancy’s spunk and verve; but, real talk, I also aspired to one day recreate her glamour-puss retro beauty, as evidenced on those classic, watercolor covers.

  1. Base: Start with primer and a matte foundation, and apply concealer under eyes and on any blemishes. Powder your T-zone and undereyes, to make that concealer stay put. Fill in eyebrows with a powder, and set them with a brow gel or clear mascara to tame flyaways.
  2. Eyes: Apply a neutral-toned shadow to lids, then define the creases with a matte shadow in a slightly darker shade. Then create a slight cat-eye with black gel liner, making sure to get the line as close to the lashes as possible. I also like to line my water line with a skin-toned pencil, then lightly smudge my outer lash line with black pencil or powder for more definition. Curl lashes and apply lots of black mascara to top and bottom lashes.
  3. Lips: I really wanted to do a classic red lip with this look, but Nancy usually rocks a nude-pink lip, because she’s a detective and ain’t got time for that. I lined my lips with a dusty-rose pencil and filled them in with a similar shade of lipstick.
  4. Hair: For authentically retro hair (unlike mine), curl with rollers and set with hairspray.

Suggested costume: Break out your most ladylike, least sleuthing-appropriate duds. Nancy favors fuzzy fitted sweaters or silky blouses, with pencil skirts and flats. Don’t forget the nude hose and a magnifying glass!

Death, from the Sandman Series

This is also a look I’ve been dying (pun intended) to tackle. Death, from Neil Gaiman’s beloved Sandman graphic novels series, is a figure of much cultish loyalty and cosplay inspiration. She’s spunky, adorable, sarcastic, and she’s nailed the hot Goth girl look. This is definitely the most labor-intensive of the looks, but it’s also the most Halloween-appropriate.

  1. Base: Cake on the whitest, matte-est foundation you can find. Fill in your brows with black powder, making sure to exaggerate the arch.
  2. Eyes: This is not easy, but if you get it, the sense of accomplishment will carry you through the year. Create an exaggerated, Cleopatra-style cat eye with liquid liner (this takes time and patience), then line your water line with black kohl pencil. Curl lashes and apply a couple of coats of black mascara. Using your liquid liner, draw Death’s signature Eye of Horus curlicue beneath your right eye.
  3. Lips: Break out the black lipstick you’ve been hoarding since your pop-punk years. If you don’t have black lipstick, you can also use a chubby black liner pencil instead. I actually lined and filled in my lips with a black eye pencil first, then applied the black lipstick.
  4. Hair: Death’s hair is outta-control messy. Just spray your hair with texturizing spray, then tease and back-comb it like crazy.

Suggested costume: Her costume is super easy, too: Throw on a fitted black tank, the tightest black jeans you own (bonus points for leather pants), a studded belt, and motorcycle boots. Accessorize with black gloves, studded cuff bracelets, and an Ankh pendant.

Go forth into the spooky night, you gorgeous geek!

Images: Caroline Goldstein; Keira Knightley/IMDB; DC Comics; Danielle Goldstein