Día de Los Muertos Costumes

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Whenever I'm in Phoenix over the Halloween holidays I've always found myself drawn to all the the Día de Los Muertos ornaments, decorations and masks seen in the front windows of shops along 7th Avenue. The Phoenix Botanical Gardens even hosts Día de Los Muertos celebrations, open to everyone, where they have a parade, songs and dances as well as traditional storytelling. It's a great place to go if you're looking for a taste of a traditional Día de los Muertos experience.

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Día de los Muertos (or Day of the Dead) is a festival celebrated throughout the American Southwest, Latin America and Mexico to honor our dearly departed. This celebrations has been observed for 2,500 years and it's ancient symbology is seen throughout all aspects of the festival. In the early years of this festival, human skulls would be kept as trophies and displayed during the festival to symbolize death and rebirth. The celebrations is dedicated to the goddess "Lady of the Dead", a beautiful skeleton goddess. These days, keeping a human skull hanging around your house isn't quiet the norm so people started making themselves up to be skeletons or even dressing up as the "Lady of the Dead" herself to keep this tradition alive in the modern era.

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"On October 31, All Hallows Eve, the children make a children's altar to invite the angelitos (spirits of dead children) to come back for a visit. November 1 is All Saints Day, and the adult spirits will come to visit. November 2 is All Souls Day, when families go to the cemetery to decorate the graves and tombs of their relatives. The three-day fiesta filled with marigolds, the flowers of the dead; muertos (the bread of the dead); sugar skulls; cardboard skeletons; tissue paper decorations; fruit and nuts; incense, and other traditional foods and decorations"

In the Aztec culture, they believed that life on earth was an illusion and death was a positive step towards higher consciousness. The skull wasn't a negative symbol like we might see it today, but a positive force for eternal life and even rebirth. The floral elements which are traditional to the makeup are also a huge part of the symbology. The flowers painted on the face or around the eyes are meant to be marigold flowers. Although we might not think of these everyday flowers as very beautiful or symbolic, to the Aztecs they were the scared possession of their God of the Dead. On the Day of the Dead, the dead have the chance to return to earth for one day and the smell of the marigolds flowers was known to help guide them back to their loved ones on earth. So the transference of the flower into the makeup is to reference the person's honor to the God of the Dead and to help their loved one find them on this holy day.

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We had so many compliments on the makeups but there were a few kids who were very apprehensive approaching us to get their candy. Candy won out in the end and once they got up close they seemed to like it a lot too. At first glance they might be a little scary to some but Day of the Dead makeups are truly just a celebration of those we love whom we may have lost but also a day to celebrate the life we have on earth! Plus - we look pretty amazing don't we?

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I used this tutorial to do the makeup and adapted it a bit for the male and female versions. I was thrilled with the wig I got for the costume. I really wanted something that looked long dead so the grey & black strands were perfect. I made the headpiece myself just from flowers from a craft store which I layered in an upwards pyramid shape and topped it off with a skull at the crest of the pyramid. It looks beautiful and I think the handmade aspect of the crown really added to the uniqueness of the costume.

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The rest of the costume pieces were cobbled together from Halloween stores and thrift shops. I searched online for clothing reference images and most of the female looks were very grandiose Spanish dancer dresses. That wasn't quite on budget but I stuck with the lacey theme they all had and wore one of my existing dresses I had that felt very Spanish. I found an amazing silver and turquoise cross necklace to wear and also found those great bone leggings for really cheap online. For Dan (the guy skeleton) - he loved the bullet belt and blazer combo. Again, a look we saw online and wanted to replicate. We found him an authentic southwestern bolo that really added an extra touch to the outfit and his Spanish sombrero was his crowning glory.

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I LOVED these costumes and think I may be bringing them out again next year for Halloween 2014. Maybe adding in a few more changes here and there. Thoughts? Any suggestions to make them ever better?