what to wear for day of the dead costume

Celebrating in Style: A Guide to Day of the Dead Costumes

The Day of the Dead, or Día de Muertos in Spanish, is a vibrant Mexican holiday brimming with color, tradition, and a unique perspective on death. Celebrated on November 1st and 2nd, it’s a time to joyfully remember and honor deceased loved ones. Costumes play a big role in the festivities, so if you’ve been invited to a Day of the Dead-themed event, you might be wondering what to wear. Worry not! This guide will delve into the spirit of the holiday and provide a plethora of costume ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

Understanding the Day of the Dead

Before diving into costume inspiration, it’s important to understand the heart of the Day of the Dead. It’s not a somber mourning occasion, but rather a lively celebration of life and the afterlife. Families create colorful altars, “ofrendas,” adorned with marigolds, sugar skulls, photos of the departed, and their favorite foods and drinks. This creates a bridge between the realms of the living and the dead, allowing families to welcome back the spirits of their loved ones for a joyous reunion.

Sugar Skulls and Bold Makeup: Classic Day of the Dead Attire

Sugar skulls, or “calaveras de azúcar,” are iconic symbols of the Day of the Dead. These brightly decorated candy skulls represent death in a sweet and lighthearted way. They often feature intricate designs, flowers, and playful smiles. A classic Day of the Dead costume incorporates sugar skull makeup. Here’s a quick guide:

  1. Apply a base of white face paint.
  2. Paint large black circles around the eyes and elongate the design towards the temples.
  3. Decorate the forehead and cheeks with colorful swirls, flowers, or sugar skull designs using face paint.
  4. Add a dramatic black or glittery lipstick.

Dressing Up: Beyond the Face Paint

While face paint is a popular starting point, your outfit can truly elevate your Day of the Dead costume. Here are some traditional and creative outfit ideas:

  • The Catrina: Take inspiration from La Catrina, a well-dressed skeleton figure who embodies the holiday. Dress in a long, flowing floral dress, and don’t forget a feathered hat – a signature element of La Catrina’s look.
  • Folklore Figures: Dress as a character from Mexican folklore, like a graceful “Manolo” skeleton or a playful “Xochitl” flower maiden.
  • Dia de Muertos Bride: Channel the romantic side of the holiday with a Day of the Dead bride costume. Think a flowing white dress with black accents, a veil adorned with marigolds, and of course, skeleton makeup.

what to wear for day of the dead costume

Beyond Costumes: Accessories and Details

Accessories can truly elevate your Day of the Dead look. Here are some ideas:

  • Floral Crowns: Marigolds, the flower of the dead, are a popular choice.
  • Jewelry: Colorful beaded necklaces and earrings add a touch of whimsy.
  • Shawls and Mantillas: A black shawl or mantilla adds a touch of elegance, especially for women’s costumes.


  • Respectful Representation: While the Day of the Dead is a lively celebration, it’s important to be respectful of the traditions. Avoid stereotypical or overly revealing costumes.
  • Handmade Touches: Adding personal touches, like sugar skull decorations to your clothes or creating your own flower crown, makes your costume unique.
  • Embrace the Colors: Don’t be afraid of bold colors and intricate designs. The Day of the Dead is all about vibrancy.

Modern and Creative Costume Ideas for Day of the Day

The Day of the Dead is a celebration bursting with color and creativity. While traditional sugar skull makeup and floral dresses are fantastic, why not push the boundaries a bit? Here are some modern and inventive costume ideas to set you apart:

Pop Culture Meets Day of the Dead:

  • Calavera Frida Kahlo: Pay homage to the iconic Mexican artist by incorporating her signature unibrow and floral crown into your sugar skull makeup. Dress in a brightly colored traditional dress and don a flower-decorated prosthetic spine.
  • Day of the Dead Superhero: Imagine your favorite superhero reimagined as a skeleton! Think Captain America’s shield adorned with sugar skull designs or a skeletal Black Panther with marigold accents.

Day of the Dead Meets Careers:

  • Rock n’ Roll Catrina: Transform La Catrina into a rockstar. Pair her signature floral dress with a leather jacket, ripped jeans, and a rock n’ roll hairstyle. Don’t forget skeleton makeup with dramatic dark eye shadow.
  • Day of the Dead Doctor: Put a festive spin on a doctor’s uniform. Wear a lab coat decorated with sugar skull imagery and marigolds. Carry a toy stethoscope adorned with colorful ribbons.

Glow-in-the-Dark Skeletons:

  • Glow-in-the-Dark Calavera: Take your sugar skull makeup to the next level with glow-in-the-dark paints. Create dazzling geometric patterns or swirling floral designs that illuminate in the dark. Pair it with a black outfit for maximum impact.
  • Neon Skeleton Ballet: Form a group of skeletal ballerinas. Wear black tutus decorated with neon lights or fluorescent paint. Add glow-in-the-dark skeleton makeup for an extra pop.


Respectful Representation: A Guide to Day of the Dead Group Costumes

The Day of the Dead is a joyous celebration of life and remembrance in Mexican culture. Costumes play a big role in the festivities, offering a chance to participate in the vibrant traditions. However, when customizing traditional attire, it’s crucial to prioritize respect and cultural sensitivity. Here’s how to approach group costumes for the Day of the Dead with both creativity and respect:

Understanding the Significance:

The Day of the Dead is not a Halloween-style celebration of spooky monsters. It’s a heartfelt homage to deceased loved ones. Understanding this core value helps guide your costume choices.

Respectful Inspiration:

Instead of appropriating cultural elements, draw inspiration from the rich symbolism of the holiday.

  • Shared Themes: Focus on shared themes like life cycles, vibrant colors, and marigolds (the flower of the dead).
  • Folklore Figures: Consider dressing as a group of playful “Xochitl” flower maidens or graceful “Manolo” skeletons from Mexican folklore.

Group Costume Ideas:

Here are some creative and respectful group costume ideas:

  • Calavera Catrina Group: One person can be the iconic La Catrina, while others wear colorful floral dresses and skeleton makeup, creating a vibrant entourage.
  • Day of the Dead Musicians: Form a mariachi band with skeleton makeup and colorful traditional clothing. Add instruments as props!
  • Sugar Skull Parade: Everyone can wear skeleton makeup and decorate their outfits with unique sugar skull designs, creating a visually stunning group.

Additional Tips:

  • Handmade Touches: Encourage your group to add personal touches to their costumes, like creating sugar skull decorations together. This fosters creativity and strengthens the collective effort.
  • Accessories: Coordinate accessories like marigold crowns, colorful beaded jewelry, or shawls for a cohesive group look.
  • Research and Avoid Stereotypes: Research traditional attire to avoid stereotypical or disrespectful portrayals.

what to wear for day of the dead costume

A Day of the Dead costume is more than just an outfit; it’s a way to participate in a vibrant cultural celebration. So, with a little creativity and these helpful ideas, you can craft a costume that embodies the spirit of the Day of the Dead – a celebration of life, remembrance, and the enduring love between the living and the departed. ¡Feliz Día de Muertos! (Happy Day of the Dead!)


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