It seems that every fall, we say we'll plan out a fabulous Halloween costume—but thanks to busy schedules, we never actually do. By the time October 31st rolls around, we've inevitably fallen back on our Old Faithfuls: a nerd, a witch, a sports fan, etc. But this year, we have a couple of tricks up our sleeves...
If you're a bibliophile in desperate need of a costume, take a gander at the 24 book character costume ideas below. Some are funny and some are adorable, but they're all lit-inspired getups worthy of an Instagram post. Whether you're dressing as Harry Potter's Professor Trelawney or Oscar Wilde's Dorian Gray, you're sure to be the talk of every Halloween party.
Nancy Drew from the Nancy Drew Series
Walk into a party dressed as the world’s #1 Girl Sleuth, and you’re bound to find at least one other longtime Nancy Drew enthusiast. All this outfit requires is some vintage-inspired clothes (preferably accompanied by a magnifying glass and a touch of plaid). You can have your partner dress as a Hardy Boy—and presto! You have a costume for two.
Greasers and Socs from The Outsiders
Pretty much everybody who's ever gone to middle school has read The Outsiders, making this book character costume an instant hit. It's also incredibly easy to pull off—just pop the collar on a denim jacket and boom, you're a Greaser; or grab some pastels to make yourself a Soc. Bonus points if you channel Ralph Macchio when styling your hair.
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A Handmaid from The Handmaid's Tale
Margaret Atwood’s feminist dystopian novel sees the titular “handmaids” wear red as a symbol of powerlessness and childbearing, their main duty. Find a cloak of your own and pair it with a white bonnet for a costume that’s creepy, relevant, and will keep away the bastards that grind you down. If you're up to it, take things to the next level by recreating .
Related: 20 Books Like The Handmaid's Tale
Frankenstein's Monster from Frankenstein
Though the monster has become famous as a big screen villain, Frankenstein's monster was first created by Mary Shelley as a book character in her horror classic. Pay homage to her creation by adding some protrusions to your neck, making people refer to you as "creature," "daemon," or "wretch," and occasionally having someone point at you and yell "It's alive!"
Miss Clavel, Madeline, and Co. from the Madeline Series
Madeline's Miss Clavel and her brood of boarding school students make an adorable group costume—whether you’re an adult going out with friends or taking the kids trick-or-treating. Note: “Something is not right” unless your getup includes a nun’s habit, straw boater hats, and bright primary colors.
The Pigeon from Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!
The wheedling and whiny pigeon from Mo Willems' hit children's book series is sure to be popular with both kids and any adults who have read the hilarious picture books. A baby blue shirt or dress is easy enough to find for this book character costume, though the pigeon headband is key. Thankfully, the character's features are simple enough that we think most of us could make a passable version to attach to a headband, as shown here.
Ms. Frizzle and the Magic School Bus from The Magic School Bus Series
An eccentric 4th grade teacher and the queen of wild field trips, Ms. Frizzle is arguably the coolest person at Walkerville Elementary School. It only makes sense that when you dress like her (a patterned dress and a frizzy red wig will do), you’ll be the coolest person at your Halloween get-together. An A+ goes to whoever makes a magic school bus out of their friend or significant other.
Lisbeth Salander from the Millennium Series
You’ll definitely turn heads as the heroine of the Millennium series, Lisbeth Salander, who kicks criminal butt with her hacking skills and photographic memory. Summon your inner punk badass, find some fake piercings, throw on a couple temporary tattoos, and you’ll be ready to take down all the men who’ve wronged you.
Waldo from Where's Waldo?
A red and white cap, large, round black glasses and a red and white striped shirt are the staples to this classic book character costume. We warn you now, though: If you choose to wear this outfit, people will spend the entire party congratulating themselves on "finding" you.
Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara from Gone with the Wind
Show that, frankly, you and your partner do give a damn (about Halloween, that is) by going all-out with a Gone with the Wind costume. Be as period-correct as you want—but know that, in the end, your Rhett-like suaveness and Scarlett sass are just as important as the outfits.
Robin Hood from The Adventures of Robin Hood
If you're a bit of a socialist, this costume is for you. Complete the look by adding a feather hair clip and nicking things from rich people all night before redistributing them to the less fortunate—when someone complains, you can just tell them, "We never rob. We just borrow a bit from those who can afford it."
Hunter S. Thompson
Famous journalist and author Hunter S. Thompson served up some iconic looks—including the one that’s immortalized on the cover of his most famous work, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Inspired by Thompson’s own adventures in Sin City, the semi-autobiographical novel is an exploration of drugs, the American Dream, and 1960s counterculture.
Sherlock Holmes (and Watson) from the Sherlock Holmes Series
Dressing up as the mystery genre's most iconic duo requires a simple costume—just get a peacoat, a pipe, maybe some tweed or plaid, and start deducing where all the extra candy is hidden. Plus, you can play around with a gender-bent Holmes and Watson à la Elementary.
Alanna the Lionness from The Song of the Lionness
This book character costume is a bit of a deep cut, but people who love late 80s young adult fantasy novels are sure to get it. Alanna the Lioness is a fierce, red-headed girl who dressed as boy so she could train as a knight. Though her true identity was discovered, she went on to become the first female knight in 100 years, and eventually the King's Champion—talk about a strong female character!
Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy from Pride and Prejudice
While getting proper Regency-era clothing is difficult (especially if you’re on a budget), there are plenty of contemporary dresses that give off a Keira-Knightley-as-Elizabeth-Bennet vibe. Just make sure your Darcy isn’t too brooding and that he does, in fact, like to dance. Otherwise, you’re in for a long night.
Dorian Gray (and His Portrait) from The Picture of Dorian Gray
There are plenty of fun, creative ways to be the eternally youthful Dorian Gray and/or his aging portrait. Either dress as Oscar Wilde's famous character himself and carry a painting around (bonus points if it’s a hilariously bad original), or get a little Cruella de Vil with your makeup and play both roles (see photo).
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Sam Vimes from the Discworld series
Fan of Terry Pratchett will be impressed when you show up as this old-school British police officer from the popular Discworld novels. We suggest you don't insist on being referred to by the character's full title, however: His Grace, His Excellency, The Duke of Ankh; Commander Sir Samuel Vimes is a bit of a mouthful.
Mary Poppins and Bert from the Mary Poppins Series
Everyone’s favorite flying nanny and Bert, “The Match Man,” are making a highly anticipated return to the big screen in Mary Poppins Returns—so it’s the perfect time to step into their tap-dancing shoes. Whether you’re modeling your look off the animated sequence in the film (see above) or taking your cues from the original series, your costume is sure to be relevant and supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
Hogwarts Faculty from the Harry Potter Series
While everybody else dresses up as the Harry Potter trio or other Hogwarts students, you can stick out from the crowd by impersonating the most memorable members of the faculty. The photo above shows Minerva McGonagall, Sybill Trelawney, and Dolores Umbridge, but there are plenty of other costume-worthy professors—from Mad Eye Moody to and Gilderoy Lockhart.
Miss Marple from the Miss Marple Mystery Series
She may be an old spinster, but Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple is one of the sharpest amateur sleuths around. She's also an equally sharp costume idea, as you can find most of her stuff in somebody's closet. Stick to neutrals, tweeds, and classic styles for your main get-up, and then top things off with a hat and an old-school handbag. But keep in mind: Your best accessory is your knack for deductive reasoning.
Charlotte the Spider from Charlotte's Web
E.B. White’s lovable arachnid is a cute, DIY project for yourself or your little ones. You can experiment with the basics and accessories, but your must-have essential is a homemade poncho that displays one of Charlotte’s confidence-boosting messages.
Related: 11 Books That Make Us Nostalgic
50 Shades of Grey
Are you a jokester looking for a last-minute costume? Prepare your inner god/goddess for some backflips: This punny take on E.L. James’ hit novel only requires a dive into your own closet and a quick trip to the paint section of Home Depot. You’re guaranteed to get some laughs.
Related: Books Like 50 Shades of Grey
Mouse from If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
After all these years, Laura Numeroff’s 1980s children’s series, If You Give…, still puts a smile on our faces. Spread the happiness and nostalgic vibes with an If You Give a Mouse a Cookie-inspired costume—complete with real cookies if you want to make an extra good impression.
Westley, Buttercup, and Co. from The Princess Bride
Who doesn’t love The Princess Bride or its 1987 film adaptation? Nobody, that’s who. Fulfill your lifelong dreams of being Westley or Buttercup, and convince your friends to dress as Goldman’s cast of unforgettable characters. If anything, it’ll give everyone an excuse to shamelessly quote the movie for a couple of hours.
Featured still from "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" (2004), via Warner Bros. Pictures