Halloween costume shopping for women can be a nightmare in a society that managed to make even internet celebrity Ken Bone into a sexy costume. But with a little creativity and a penchant for historical references, Halloween doesn’t have to be bust. Here are 5 ideas for the historically conscious costumed feminist:
1.Olympias of Macedon
Olympias (birth name Myrtle) was a foreign-born queen of Macedon, and the mother of none other than Alexander the Great. To quote Claire Underwood, “behind every great man is a woman with blood on her hands,” and Olympias was no different. She was vicious in her quest to protect her Queenship, and she weathered her husband’s mistresses, son’s exile, and subjects’ scrutiny with a lethal passion. Her son’s death led to her assassination, but not before she invaded her former kingdom in a final effort to secure the throne. Dressing up as Olympias is as easy as folding a sheet into a simple chiton or peplos. Olympias was also a devoted follower of the god Dionysos and her affection for snakes means that you can personalize the look with a simple snake bracelet or necklace.
2. Christine de Pizan
Feminism isn’t just for modern ladies. Christine de Pizan was a French medieval scholar, poet, and author, famous especially for her work The City of Ladies. They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but in The City of Ladies Pizan builds an ideal city for women with the help of her friends, Reason, Rectitude, and Justice. Pizan’s feminism was born of her independence in caring for her family after the deaths of her father and husband, and her last work was one in praise of another feminist icon, Joan of Arc. Pizan’s signature look can be achieved with a creative head scarf, a long blue dress, and a writer’s pen.
3. Isabella of France
If you want to embody revenge and heartbreak for Halloween, then look no further than Isabella of France. She was neglected by her unfaithful husband, King Edward II of England, who preferred his lover, Gaveston, to his wife. Gaveston upstaged Isabella and incurred the wrath of the English citizens for being ostentatious. After skillfully negotiating with foreign allies and gaining crucial diplomatic and military victories for her husband, she was still scorned. So she returned to her home country, wed her son to a noblewoman, and used the army-dowry to invade England alongside her new lover. Isabella’s tale ultimately ends in her defeat as queen, the death of her lover, and her retirement into a religious order, but it remains a complicated and powerful story. To capture Isabella’s aesthetic, all you need is a long dress, a head covering with a crown, and a fiery desire to seek happiness through revenge.
4. Taytu Betul
It’s fairly common knowledge that Italy failed to invade Ethiopia multiple times, but it’s lesser known that Taytu Betul was the Empress largely responsible for keeping Ethiopia free from the European colonial power’s grip. Throughout negotiations with Italy prior to their attempted invasion, she called them out on their intentions and refused to budge. Once they invaded, she was on the front lines of her army. Her military prowess and command of her soldiers kept Europe at bay and ended with Italy’s defeat. Her outfit is a bit more difficult to replicate, and any attempt to do so should be done with respect to her culture. In the interest of simplicity and cost, a cloak or shawl over a tunic and flowy skirt should suffice. Just, for the love of all that is feminist, do not wear culturally appropriative hair or makeup if you are a non-black individual dressing up as Taytu Betul.
Tirgatao was an Amazon who married a foreign king. When he was threatened with invasion by a nearby kingdom, he locked her up. She escaped and returned with her homeland’s army. She not only took back her kingdom, but she successfully defended her kingdom from the nearby would-be invaders. Tirgatao played roles as a queen, a refugee, and a warrior, and so there’s flexibility in costuming her look. You could wear a long dress with a thick belt, a crown, and a veil. Or you could wear a short tunic over leggings. You could also go full blown warrior with a faux sword, arm gauntlets, and a chest piece (which can always be cut from cardboard and painted!)
These ladies were forces to be reckoned with, and although your costume may not be apparent to fellow party goers or trick or treaters, explaining it will be both informative and fun as you delve into the badass ladies of history.