Looking for a Halloween costume that really means something? Something original and easy to put together and irrefutably awesome? Something that says, “Yeah, I have a women’s studies degree,” or “Yeah, I read queer feminist blogs because I know what’s up.” Well, we’ve got you covered. These costumes will make you look real smart and cool, even though you may have to keep describing who you are all night, but that’s OK. You are spreading the queer feminist good word and you’re happy to give a little history lesson. Plus, you won’t have to resort to being a mustard bottle because that’s all that’s left at the Halloween store that isn’t racist or sexist or awful.
1. Audre Lorde
The Audre Lorde costume is versatile. You can probably piece it together from whatever is in your closet right now. Lorde leans center-of-center in many of her fashion choices. You can go with a printed caftan, a simple white shirt, or a black sweater with a scarf. Audre Lorde has that poet look — simple solid-colored clothes that sit somewhere between bohemian and preppy. Carry a copy of Sister Outsider or Zami. Here’s some style inspiration for her iconic sweater with a striped scarf look.
2. Margaret Cho
Margaret Cho has a million iconic looks, but mainly you should think about revealing a lot of skin, showcasing your many tattoos (if you have’em), and making extremely expressive facial expressions. Cho leans towards flashy pin-up style or…well…whatever the hell she feels like wearing. A red lip and a long black wig, either straight or wavy, will finish the look. This costume inspiration is based on her outfits from her stand-up shows, “Notorious C.H.O.” and “Revolution” as well as her sexy pin-up look.
3. Pussy Riot (the queer one)
According to Pussy Riot, at least one of their members is queer. So, uh, you’re dressing up as that one. Regardless of sexual orientation, Pussy Riot has been outspoken about LGBT rights in the face of extreme adversity. So don a brightly colored dress and contrasting neon tights. Add a balaclava and put your fists in the air. This would make an awesome group costume. Bonus points for knitting your own colorful balaclavas.
4. Miss Major Griffin-Gracy
If you’re a profesh queer with femme fashion sensibilities, you can probably pull this costume together from your current wardrobe. The look is one part nonprofit CEO and two parts badass activist who will get down in the streets. Hold a sign about fighting the prison industrial complex or linking the Stonewall and Attica prison riots (Miss Major was there for both).
5. Edie Windsor
If marriage equality is your issue de jour, try on an Edie Windsor costume. Edie became a celebrity after the Supreme Court ruled favorably in Windsor v. U.S., opening the door to federal recognition of marriage across the U.S. She rocks a pink lip and pantsuit with sophistication and grace. A ring-shaped diamond brooch, the jewelry Edie wore to symbolize her commitment to her late partner, Thea, before they were able to be legally married, is a must-have costume accessory.
6. Leslie Feinberg
Dust off that old copy of Stone Butch Blues and don a black t-shirt and a buzzcut to become Leslie Feinberg. Carry a copy of Trans Liberation or Drag King Dreams. Fight for the liberation of all people. Can be a couples costume if your partner dresses as the adorable and powerful Minnie Bruce Pratt.
7. Gloria Anzaldúa
Be an expert Chicana cultural theorist for Halloween and wow all your friends with your knowledge of queer theory and feminist theory. Carry a copy of This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color or Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza so you can school anyone who says they don’t get your costume.
8. Laverne Cox
Laverne Cox is using her platform for social good and she looks awesome doing it. Channel Cox for Halloween in sleek sheath dresses and gorgeous pumps. If your best friend dresses as bell hooks, you can have a livestreamed debate about gender expression and feminism.
9. Laura Jane Grace
Be punk rock icon, Laura Jane Grace! Watch MTV’s House of Style interview and Grace’s True Trans web series for costume inspiration. Dark, dark black eyeliner and dark, dark black everything. Make it a couples costume by having your partner dress as Grace’s wife, visual artist Heather Hannoura. If you have a little kiddie, they could be Grace and Hannoura’s daughter, Evelyn, completing the family picture.
10. Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein
Get your couples costume on by paying tribute to Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein. Hit up a thrift store or raid your grandma and grandpa’s closets for 1930’s style dresses and long coats. Go with a plain skirt and shirt for Stein. Alice might rock a patterned frock with a pretty brooch. Also, hats!
What other queer feminist activists would you like to look like for Halloween? Have you dressed up as a queer or feminist icon before (pictures or it didn’t happen)? Damn the man and happy Halloween costume planning!
Okay yes. I’ve been waiting for something like this. Perfect. Thank you.
But who will you be for Halloween? So many obscure choices…
I was a member of Pussy Riot last year:
This year I want to be Red but have no party to go to. :(
I was a Maman Brigitte inspired Lavender Menace last year and just partied at home, but I’m an introvert that just wants to nom on her discounted holiday candy rather than socialise.
Seriously tho discounted chocolate is the best chocolate and you could consider it dress rehearsal for next year.
This is good chocolate life advice, Lex.
I love the Lavender Menace inspiration! Do you have pics?
Nope, but I’m going to try to get some this year cause I’ll be among humans who will gladly take pictures for me.
Who needs a party?! You are your own party! Or throw your own party!
Also, that costume is great, esp. with the handcuffs! Where’d you get the balaclava?!
It’s just a really big beanie that I pulled down and cut holes into. There are random stalls that sell things like this in Australian shopping centres (malls).
I am so loving this series. I’m still gonna stick with the Gillian Anderson Miss Havisham, but I love all of these suggestions.
I tend to dress like LJG already but, I love me some Anzaldúa. <3
Ha. But on Halloween, you can just dress like you usually do and that’s your LJG costume! Tada!
What does it say about my life that I can easily do Laverne Cox, Laura Jane Grace or Gertrude Stein with stuff that’s just lying around rarely worn?
Clark’s Indigo use to have a lot of Alice B. Toklas or Gertrude Stein type shoes. Not anymore according to my google search.
Uh, it says that you have a really interesting wardrobe situation. I’m especially impressed that you have Gertrude Stein realness in your current closet.
I think I should call it the Gemini Dilemma Wardrobe, but that’s not even the half of it >o>
20th century lady lezzie Socrates matches up pretty well to the professor-y library worker look that I started to accrue while trying to move away from a sort of corporate goth look in an attempt to seem less offputting to normal people in work situations. Did not work though cause like Gertie I’ve got quite the bitchy resting face.
Plus earthtones and corduroy make me feel like I’m a fancy teddy bear who time-traveled from a 70’s department store.
Me and an ex went to a party once as Alice Paul and Lucy Burns- no one got it, but it was still awesome.
OMG DO YOU HAVE PICS? That sounds awesome.
No, sadly, but we tried to look like the costumes in that movie Iron Jawed Angels. It was 90 percent more effort/money than I usually put into a costume and the results were glorious
I’m slowly assembling my Little Edie costume. Have found that a long-sleeve turtleneck leotard is surprisingly comfy & gives me an excuse to ask cuties to unzip me.
Have you been practicing your flag dance?
friends and I may have a group alice b toklas/gertrude stein/all the queer ladies in paris in the 20s costume-themed party. (tho party= there will be four of us and we will play hocus pocus themed drinking games and give children candy, because FUN.)
That sounds utterly delightful. Will you eat french foods at this salon?
Haha I just checked Stone Butch Blues out of the library today. If I decide to rock a buzzcut before it gets too cold, maybe this will be my costume. But I was also thinking Peter Pan.
I support you, whatever you choose.
In light of recent events, I might have to go with Carmilla. Mainly because I get to wear leather pants, and not feel bad about brooding at a Halloween party.