May 22, 2024


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How to Make French Guillotine Costumes

Eras of human experience to choose from, but revolutionary periods tend to be particularly well fitted for Halloween costumes. Perhaps it’s the idea of turning over a vast page of history, or the especially high number of deaths of these periods, but whatever the reason, there is much to choose from when selecting a Halloween costume.

One of the most popular periods of history to choose costumes from is the French Revolution. Not only was there great upheaval, but there have been many books and works of art about this turbulent time in world history. There are many extreme character types to choose from, as well as specifically recognizable fictional or real people. From the poverty stricken dying masses, to the opulent lifestyle of the royals at Versailles, to Jean Valjean from Les Miserables, and Marie Antoinette. Another delightfully fitting reason to choose from this era for a halloween costume is the popularity of the guillotine as a method of execution.

The guillotine is a device used for execution by decapitation. Is consists of a stocks-like holding place for the head of the victim, and a tall track at the top of which is a very sharp weighted blade. When the order is given, the blade is released and falls, quickly severing the head of the victim. While it was originally created to be a more humane method of execution, it’s bloody reality gave it tremendous notoriety in the history books, as well as a particular association with the French Revolution, as it was highly favored then. Since the French executed so many during their revolutionary period, the options for French Guillotine costumes are numerous.

You could easily build an old fashioned suit and be Sydney Carton from Dicken’s “A Tale of Two Cities”. This important fictional character makes the ultimate sacrifice for love, and is beheaded by guillotine. With a simple peasant blouse, knickers and stockings, the clothing of this costume is set, and the only other necessities are an authentic hairstyle and a thin line of blood on the neck to signify decapitation. If your hair isn’t long enough to pull back into a period hairdo, there are many places to find wigs online.

Another good option is Marie Antoinette. This notoriously selfish and spoiled Queen was also guillotined, but her costume dress would be much more ornate. Not only was she a royal with seemingly unlimited resources for clothing and accessories, but she was known for advancing fashion in the court during her time there. For this costume, you’ll need a full skirted (preferable cage hooped) dress with a corseted top. For the best effect it should be in a pale colored fabric and decorated with beads or jewels. The makeup should be pale and the features simply defined. A small dark red mouth and brightly flushed cheeks are complimented by a large fake birthmark somewhere on the face. The crowning touch for this costume is a large powdered beehive wig which can be adorned with beading, jewels and veils for authenticity.

Have fun dressing up for Halloween and don’t lose you head!