Brain Waves
Brain Waves
Dawn of the Costuming Dead


Guest author:

As light breaks on the zombie apocalypse, the undead saunter in from every direction. To the sound of moans and screams, you awake in your yard with a throbbing headache.

“How’d I get here?” you cough, rising from a pile of rubble. “I must be experiencing a concussion.”

As you crawl to your feet, a zombie policeman and nurse draw near. You break free of their clutches and run headlong into a one-armed zombie cheerleader. Turning the corner, the gnashing teeth of a zombie butcher snarl your way until at last, you find a tire iron to swing wildly at a zombie doctor, prom king and zombie marine.

A figure appears in a door yelling, “In here!” You escape with your life. But for how long? “The sun sets on humanity, and dawn rises on the zombie-horde.” you say rather dramatically. Then you remember it’s only Halloween… (And today is the zombie pub crawl with your house on the route… And you should probably lay off the sauce, while we’re on the subject… And you should probably call a lawyer after that whole tire iron thing.)

Now that, my friends, is how realistic zombie costumes can look! But you’ve got to do it right.

The Rotting-Melting Pot

Good thing I’m your figure in the door here to give you the lay of the land on dressing like a zombie (and possibly some legal advice if you ask nicely).

In all seriousness, zombie costumes represent one of the most versatile and broad costume categories of the Halloween season. Like in the zombie horde, there are as many costume options as there are occupations and people in the world. So when you set out on your zombie pub crawl or hobble into the night this Halloween, be original at the very least.

If you’re not and fall among the “lazy ones” who merely smear fake blood on a shirt and call it a day, you are sure to regret it. Trust me. Others with more commitment, like the bunch below, will snatch your spotlight away (and possibly bite you for being so lackluster).

(To see any of the products pictured in this post, click here.)

Walk the Walk

Getting the zombie walk down is one thing. Have your moment — feel proud of the foot-drag you’ve perfected — and then it’s on to the finer details.

You see, the trick to a great zombie costume (beside the walk) is knowing your backstory and selling it. That’s the ultimate fine detail in this task.

Ask yourself, were you a housewife on your way to pick up the kids when the plague hit? Perhaps you were a commando in a secret task force, brought down by a dozen zombies in a final hail of machine gun fire. Or maybe you were an ambulance driver bit by a man in a stretcher at ground zero before anyone knew the zombie apocalypse hit?

Once you know your backstory and “death,” it’s time to bring it to life with makeup and a costume.

Talk the Talk

Time to put your money where your mouth is — but don’t get too close, remember, you bite./p>

My personal favorite means for achieving a truly one-of-a-kind zombie look is the Zombie Makeup Kit. They are cheap and available online at stores like, and they open Pandora’s Box for originality.

Now, unless you are looking for the “hamburger meat” zombie look, don’t just start slapping on the latex willy-nilly. Make sure to think through your injuries.

Generally, the most convincing zombies wouldn’t die from a million little paper cuts (except for maybe office-nerd zombie guy, hmm). So consider where and how the fatal blow was delivered.

Usually bloodying up a major artery, like the carotid artery in the neck, will paint a convincing picture. If you can add a bite mark with a latex add-on piece, that’s all the better. In fact, you don’t have to stick solely to the arts of your own trade if you lack experience with raw latex. Feel free to lean on as many add-ons for theatrical effects as needed.

Take these torn mouths, split jaws, or zombie hands for instance and you get the picture of what a few bonus items can do to your overall zombie persona.

Dress for the Part

It’s no secret that zombies dress terribly. I guess with the loss of function in the prefrontal cortex and everything north of the brainstem, so too goes fashion sense.

Or maybe it has something to do with all the blood and death. I suppose I wouldn’t wear my three-piece suit to a zombie feeding frenzy either. Whatever the reason, when you do choose your clothing, make sure you are okay with permanently staining any and all items in the getup.

Usually there are two great places to start. Choosing a base costume like the ones pictured below (blood stains included!) is usually the easiest option.

Or you can visit your local Good Will, Salvation Army or Rag Stock for cheap clothes you won’t mind destroying. (I usually prefer the costume route to reduce wastefulness, but the choice is obviously yours.)

Remember: Always keep your backstory in mind! What would your character wear? How would it walk as a result of its injuries? How rotten would its skin be at this point in the game? Easily said and easily done — just don’t drop the ball on these key questions and you will be fine.

Now get down with your zombie-self and have an amazing Halloween!

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