Introduction: Greek Vase Painting Red Figure Costume

About: I am a landscape designer and advocate for native plant-focused and sustainable landscaping, but in the past I have worked in costume production and clothing alteration. I taught myself to hand-tailor, draft p…

This was one of my best ever Halloween costumes. It attracted a lot of attention, stood out from the crowd, and was even pretty comfortable. We love these antique Greek vase paintings, and finally got to star in our own kalyx.

This costume requires a lot of fabric, but only minimal sewing expertise.

Materials required:

For the chiton, himation, and peplos:

A lot of fabric. Between the two of us, we used about 15 yards of this rayon-linen blend that we special ordered (two bolts) from Joann Fabric. We went to see it in person, with photos of vase paintings on hand, to make sure the color was right.

Black grosgrain trim (mine is 1/4" and his is 5/8" -- if I were to do this again, I would go all 5/8" and buy about twice as much of it, so two 6-yard spools per costume)

Thread to match your trim and your fabric

For the makeup and hair:

Mehron body/face paint in "foxy" was almost a perfect match for the fabric. Black if you want a beard. Use a sealer to keep it from rubbing off on everything.

Black makeup pencil

Makeup sponge

Black wig (mine is this amazing, super cheap one from Party City) or temporary black hair dye

Step 1: Sewing and Makeup

The lady's costume is a peplos. The distinguishing characteristic of the peplos is the foldover at the top. Mine is long enough that the foldover part reaches my thighs, and I have draped the back part of it over my shoulder. Instructions for making peplos are all over the internet, such as here. See also wikipedia's useful photos of statues. The only sewing you need to do is a few straight seams and some edge finishing, and there is no fancy cutting or shaping at all, so this part of the instructions is minimal.

I have a few practical suggestions, however, based on my experience making this peplos:

- Instructions generally recommend orienting the fabric so that its length is parallel to the ground when you wear it. I advise against this, because fabric hangs better with its length perpendicular to the ground, and you will get softer-looking folds this way.

- Instructions also say that one side of the peplos was generally left open. Unless you live somewhere tropical, I recommend sewing the sides closed.

- Many instructions say that the width of the peplos should be your armspan, but I found that this was way too much fabric for me to tie at my waist and still retain my human shape. My peplos ended up being about the width between my elbows, arms outstretched. If you have some amazing expensive superfine linen, go for the full width.

My peplos has black trim along the edges of the foldover.

The man's costume is a chiton with himation. The chiton is full length (although it doesn't need to be, if you don't need the warmth, but you will have to paint your legs if you make it shorter). Historically, the chiton was bloused over the belt, but we didn't like that way that looked with our fabric and so I recut the chiton to be the length we wanted with no blousing at all.

The himation in this costume is about four yards of fabric, with the edges finished and black trim applied.

For the makeup, use a sponge to apply the foxy all over your exposed body parts. It matters little if you get some makeup on the costume, since the colors match. We used the pencil to line our eyes and lips, and also to put nostril lines on our noses. The beard is painted on with black Mehron paint and a brush. Seal your makeup and put wigs on last.

Get some photos. People will want to take them. Don't worry if, as in this photo, the lighting washes out the color a little bit.

Step 2: Photos & Editing

Once you have some photos you like, adjust the color until you get something you like. This photo is more like how we really looked under good light.

I ran this photo through clipping magic to ditch the background, which was time-consuming because in this particular photo, the background is busy and there are areas where the color of the background is close the color of our costumes.

Step 3: Appear on Your Own Kalyx!

Then I combed the internet for a vase that had space for us on it. I found this kalyx with a big chip missing, and that woman on the left whose feet were perfect for me. I edited the kalyx photo to match the color of the costume photo, and then I used EazyDraw, which costs $1, to do the job of resizing and rotating us into the kalyx.

Step 4: Tag Yourselves

The resulting photo is actually pretty subtle -- you may have to point out to people that those figures on the vase are you.

I hoped to do some more with this costume that I didn't end up having time for, like a portable black felt backdrop shaped like a vase, with orange key design and Greek words on it (KALOS is a common word on vases) that we could hold up behind us for photos. Maybe next year.

Halloween Costume Contest

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Halloween Costume Contest