Put Halloween as far from your mind as possible—Day of the Dead is totally different, especially when it comes to attire. Day of the Dead wear is colorful, modest and personal. While faces painted like skulls aren’t exactly rainbows and sunshine, Day of Dead is not a time to dress up as the creepiest creature you can dream up and leave others scared to death. Except maybe for makeup or face paint, you won’t even need to hit the costume store for a Day of the Dead outfit. Plus, exploring Day of the Dead celebrations means a lot of walking, so dressing for comfort is essential.
While you can find places to get your face painted as a Catrina or Catrin throughout towns in Mexico, following a tutorial from YouTube or Pinterest or designing your very own is even more fun and lets your creativity shine. Unlike the ghostly blacks, blues and greys popular on Halloween, Day of the Dead is an especially colorful and festive holiday—the more flowers and bright colors, the better! Some people actually dress up like the deceased person they are remembering, so this is always an option as well if you have a loved one you’d like to celebrate.
And at the end of the day, it’s totally acceptable to not dress up at all (we just happen to think dressing up is more fun), but if you do decide to play dead, use our simple tips for creating the perfect Day of the Dead look.
How to Dress on Day of the Dead for Women
Most women center their Day of the Dead outfits around La Calavera Catrina. Think traditional Mexican dresses, big feathered hats, flower crowns, sugar skull face paint and the most important detail: color!
Dress: Get creative! You can keep it simple with a traditional Mexican dress like an embroidered Puebla dress, or wear a long, flowy or fancy lace dress. Just remember, heavy on the flowers and colors.
Flower crown: Purchased or handmade. *You can’t overdo flowers when dressing for Day of the Dead.
Hat: Think flowers, lace, action! You can use everything from a fancy hat with lace to a floppy hat you decorate with flowers and lace yourself.
Makeup or face paint: Your calavera design can be as creative as you want. Some women go with the more traditional skull design of La Calavera Catrina, while others add in flowers, cobwebs or any design that speaks to them.
Accessories: Elaborate necklaces, big earrings and all the floral hairpins you can muster have a place in Day of the Dead.
How to Dress on Day of the Dead for Men
Swag is the understatement of the century when it comes to El Catrin. Think of him as the male version of La Calavera Catrina, just with less flowers.
Outfit: Day of the Dead is one of the few occasions your gorilla suit is appropriate. But if a tuxedo isn’t collecting dust in your wardrobe, a dress shirt with a tie and pants will do just fine—you can even dress it up with suspenders and a cane.
Hat: A hat is essential for your Day of the Dead ensemble. A top hat, trilby hat or any other basic hat will complete your look—especially if it matches your Catrina.
Makeup or face paint: Most Catrin faces are done in just white and black paint, especially highlighting the cheekbones to get that “I’m totally dead” look.
“We are all skeletons.” – José Guadalupe Posada