Monday, September 24, 2012

Cleopatra Costume

Good morning!

After doing my post on Cleopatra Revlon eye makeup, I've been giving a little more thought to dreaming up a Cleopatra costume for Halloween. "Why, Lisa, WHY?" you ask. "When you spent at least two hours stapling, yes, stapling rows of lace to what looked like an old show choir costume for your previous idea of a Betsy Ross costume? Why Cleopatra, when you have no discernible cleavage upon which to base the temptress's plunging decolletage? Why when you only have a month left to prepare?" Well, readers...because it's there! And because I wantonly ordered a really rather cute black braided wig the other day in a fit of jump-on-the-bandwagon fervor for the whole idea.

Since I now have the hair (crucial! Though I may go to Wig Store in Madison and grab some more gold embellishments for it...), I'm going to need:

  • A headpiece of some kind (snake? scarab? some kind of Egyptian thing?)
  • A dress 
  • Themed jewelry

And am I going to the actual costume store for any of this? I think you know the answer is already "no". So it's costume homework time! Let's look at some historical (Hollywood) inspiration for what the clothing should look like.

1) Theda Bara, 1917

The original vamp, you can rearrange the letters in her theatrical name to spell ARAB DEATH (mysteeeeerrrious!) and she played the Queen of the Nile in Fox's 1917 production of  Cleopatra. It's hard for me to even wrap my head the fact that this movie was made ALMOST 100 YEARS AGO, and yet look how saucy some of the costumes were. I didn't even put the one with practically-just-snake-shaped-pasties on here because it was too scandalous-- no kidding, that link is like 98% NSFW, in the year of our Lord 1917.The film itself is "lost"-- it always amazes me, in our digital age of backing up the backup to the backup, that there are entire movies from the silent era that just haven't survived into the twenty-first century due to misadventure or lack of preservation-- but for a few seconds of Miss Bara swaying in one of her barely-there Egyptian get ups. Luckily, many stills and publicity shots, in high resolution, remain. I particularly like the pearl-encrusted belts and loops on the first you see her snake-anklet? The vampiness of this appeals to me in that it's way more twenties' than ancient Egypt. I am also not wearing this, FYI. Woman! Where be thine modesty!?

You might not initially associate "temptress" with the onscreen career of Claudette Colbert, who could be kind of a goody-goody in her forties' and fifties' film output. However, you have only to queue up the infamous "milk bath" scene from de Mille's Sign of the Cross to get an idea of how decidedly pre-Code the former Lily Chaucoin could be! In the first photo below, she's wearing a barely there bra-top and Bettie-Page bangs I would like to have myself. Look at her tiny, slipper heel'd foot! While I would like to show up to a party and be rolled out of a rug like the real Cleopatra, I don't  know if this skimpy of a costume would be appropriate for October weather. That said, I'm very into her hornet-looking headpiece at lower left, and that enormous scarab collar covering a down-to-there black bodice. She also has some kind of insect-cuff thing going on which could be interesting.

3) Vivien Leigh, 1945

My beloved Vivien Leigh played Cleopatra in a film adaptation of the Shaw play Caesar and Cleopatra, which I always forget is in color because 90% of the stills you ever see from it are in black and white. LOOK. HOW. GORGEOUS. I really like the deep cat's eye but with no additional eye-shadow look that's going on here and could see myself just winging out my normal makeup and adding white pencil eyeliner on the lower, inner lid to get this party started. The turquoise and gold palette is also something I'm into, plus we lo-o-o-o-ove the dress with the bird's wing swooping up to the neckline. I will definitely be re-watching this one to make some sketches. One thing I really want to avoid is the whole "toga" look...I'd want the dress to be a little more fancy/done-up than a white, Grecian column type dress that I've seen a lot of Halloween Cleopatras use.

4) Elizabeth Taylor, 1963

I secretly like Liz's hair the best and will try to add some Bo Derek like gold baubles to my existing wig for maximum oomph. The down-to-there necklines in her costumes are my least favorite (besides not being able to fill one out like this myself, I just think it looks weird?), but her dark brows and corally lipstick are a pretty  great. She wears beautiful jewelry throughout the production, too, which might help with the accessorizing part. What do you guys think about the makeup? After seeing Vivien Leigh's less eye-shadow look, I'm kind of sold on only doing the liner, but I can't decide. Also, doesn't the head-piece plus dress on the upper left hand corner photo make the tiny Taylor look weirdly linebacker-like? Remember to avoid sequined shoulder paddding at all costs.

Last but not least, Marilyn Monroe was photographed by Richard Avendon for a 1957 issue of Life. See how inspired by Theda Bara's brief costumes in the aforementioned 1917 production of Cleopatra the shot was? You can hardly recognize her, but doesn't she look AMAZING.

Which Cleopatra do you like best? Where do you stand on the eyeliner issue? Should I dress Matthew up as Mark Antony or should he be the asp? I can't decide!

Have a great Monday...I'll see you tomorrow!


  1. oh i can't wait to see what you do! i think i like the theda bara the best, though i do like the elizabeth taylor eye makeup. and vivian leigh's bird top!

    1. It's hard to decide which elements to take from which! I think I like Theda Bara and Vivian Leigh's the best though. THE HEADRESSES.

  2. Wow, Marilyn really does look amazing! I'm kind of partial to the eyeliner-only idea, or Bara's charcoal-y eye shadow look (looks like Marilyn might be doing something closer to that too), vs. Liz's really distinctive shadowed look.

    I can't wait to see what you come up with for a headdress! I don't think you could go wrong trying to emulate any of them.

    1. Oh, good! So much of the stuff I've seen online about makeup tutorials for a Cleopatra look are SUPER eyeshadow heavy, and I'm just not a big fan as compared to a clean but very dramatic eyeliner look. I'm so excited to start planning out my headdress!

  3. Wow! I like Vivien Leigh's look the best - especially the eyeliner. Wow, she was just a stunner. I've always had a huge Theda Bara crush so I'm not sure that you could go wrong with her version either. I can't wait to see what you come up with. I know you'll nail it.

  4. Cleopatra Costume is really nice for all and they all style is vintage so at this time they looking very unique so i really like it so much. Thanks for sharing a nice information and very great blog to giving me.



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