By Johanna Goldberg, Information Services Librarian
With Halloween just around the corner, our library is here to help with your costume planning. We’ve leafed through our collections for ideas, inspired by items from the late-15th century through the mid-20th century. If one of our images inspires your costume, please send us a picture!
Click on an image to enlarge and view the gallery:*
Zoolander not giving you the merman costume inspiration you’re looking for? How about the merman from Gesner’s Historiae animalium, vol. 4, 1558 (left). His Tolkein-esque friend (right) might also delight.
A portrait of Reginald Sayre Hall (1859–1929): physician, equestrian, Olympic pistol shooter.
Leonhart Fuchs, one of the great botanists and doctors of the 16th century. Portrait from De historia stirpium commentarii insignes
, 1542. Read more
The onesie and running shoes make this outfit, from The Olympian System of Physical and Mental Development, 1919. A costume for warmer climates.
Popeye’s passé. Instead, dress up as Adrian Peter Schmidt, the author and cover model of Illustrated Hints for Health and Strength for Busy People.
A dapper gentleman learning the leg movements needed in swimming. Plate III from J. Frost, The Art of Swimming
, 1818. Read more
How about an astrological outfit? Taurus from Astronomici veteres, 1499.
When shark meets chainsaw. From Aldrovandi’s De piscibus libri v et de cetis lib. unus
, 1613. More sharks here
According to the Latin caption, this is an Ethiopian dragon with remarkable feathers. From Aldrovandi’s Serpentum et draconum
(1640). Read more
An idea for a couple’s costume: One could be the lobster, the other the sea monster. From Gesner’s Historiae animalium
, vol. 4, 1558. More sea monsters on our Facebook page
One for the kids! An undated Little Gingerbread Man from the Royal Baking Powder Company.
Adorable Peanut Pals from Planters Nut & Chocolate Co, 1927.
Personality-filled hors d’oeuvres from Canapé Parade: 100 Hors d’Oeuvre Recipes
, 1932. Read more
This chimera from Hippocrates’ Morbis popularibus (1531) may be a bit racy, but we trust our readers to turn the inspiration into a costume appropriate for public display.
Anthropomorphic narcissus from Hortus sanitatis des herbes, ca. 1497.
A great group costume: dress as patrons of Leiden’s public library circa 1625. In Maursius, Athenae batavae.
King Kong too boring? Try King Garbage, a visual representation of the sanitation problem in New York City at the time of this Harper’s Weekly issue, published February 7, 1891.
Medieval lady and gent from an incunable (very early printed book) by Heinrich von Louffenberg, 1491.
Another couple’s costume: mandrakes from Prüss’ Ortus sanitatis, circa 1497. We recommend opting for a less naked version.
Bettina in the 1917 novel/household guide A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband is the ultimate housewife, here shown matching her outfit to her baked goods.
Trick-or-treating as a nun-scientist would really make you stand out while honoring these women featured in the October 1938 edition of the New York Tuberculosis and Health Association Journal.
Want an alternative to a Rosie the Riveter costume? We’ve got it. From Oakley, Men at Work, 1946.
We’ve got ghoulish covered. Why be a zombie when you can be a wound man from Ketham’s 1522 Fasciculo de medicina?
Want to wear shining armor without being a knight? This armor from Fabricius’ 1678 L’opere chirugiche is a cuirass, an orthopedic device for correcting orthopedic injuries and deformities.
A friendly ghost spotted in an engraved portrait of physician Christophorus Horch (1667-1757). Now you have a historical reason to throw a sheet around yourself—and you won’t even need to cut eye holes.
*Thanks to Anne Garner, Curator; Arlene Shaner, Historical Collections Librarian; Rebecca Pou, Archivist; and Emily Moyer, Collections Care Assistant, for their input and ideas.