How To Transform Yourself With Special Effects Makeup


Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. Maybe it was growing up in a country where it wasn’t celebrated that has led me to go a little overboard now that I live in the states, but putting together a creative costume is an annual ritual. I tend not to go for your standard “scary” looks — I think I had the most fun the year I went as Magritte’s “Reverse Mermaid” come to life — but this year I had our brother site io9’s zombie party to contend with. And so Zombie Daphne Guinness was born. Zombie Daphne Guinness will eat (brains) when she’s dead.

Because it’s easier to get the hang of a makeup technique when you can see it in motion, this week’s DIY is in video form. The whole process is broken down step by step. Please excuse my crappy video-editing skills and the low light in my apartment; I was getting ready for an evening party, after all. Also, some long and repetitive stretches are done in fast-forward. If you see my lips moving during any of those bits, I was probably just muttering to myself. Also I say ‘Um’ a lot. I’m trying to work on that.

this is the kit I’m working from, in case you’re curious. I picked it up at a pop-up Halloween store, and it contains a makeup palette in appropriately hideous colors, three kinds of fake blood, some crayon-looking things that function a little like eye pencil, tooth wax, liquid latex, a smooth sponge, and a stippling sponge. Not bad for $12.99, eh? You don’t necessarily need all of that stuff, though — the base makeup palette and the liquid latex is going to get the most use by far.

The first step is to apply liquid latex to your face. A thin layer of liquid latex, followed by toilet paper, followed by more liquid latex, forms the basis for either nasty, leprotic-looking skin or for full-on gaping wounds. If you have a latex allergy, use liquid silicone instead.

Next, layer on the toilet paper. The good thing about toilet paper is that as the latex dries, it sort of shrinks, but the toilet paper resists this action ever so slightly — resulting in a crusty, ridged, creased “skin” texture.

To create the appearance of wounds, tear the latex-covered toilet paper, to reveal your actual skin underneath. This works for zombie bites, vampire bites, mummy rot, and any other sort of superficial injury you’d like to scare people with on the big day.

Next, apply a base of makeup to your face. For a more subtle start, mix the stage makeup you’re using with either your facial moisturizer or your existing foundation. The makeup adheres differently to the latex than it does to your actual face, and for areas where the toilet paper is still pretty white, you may need to camouflage that by mixing and applying a second base color, one much closer in tone to your actual skin.

Once you have a good, even-toned base, start applying more stage makeup to the wounded areas of your face. Sponge on sallow yellows, greens, and reds for that blood-engorged, disease-riddled look. This part is fun because you can kinda just throw any combination of unnatural colors up there and have it look pretty good. Also, nobody is ever going to tell you, a person who has put significant effort into her Halloween costume, that your zombie stage makeup just isn’t quite correct. There are definitely assholes like that out there, don’t get me wrong — they tend to be the type that goes to costume parties in their regular clothes — it’s just they are rarely invited to Halloween parties. Because nobody likes them.

You probably have a dark lipstick or two that you almost never use — now’s the time to dig them out, or even better, that Useless Department Store Gift of a lipstick palette that’s probably at the bottom of your makeup drawer. Use it to further redden the torn flesh on your face.

Now that your wounds are complete, it’s time to fill in the bit of skin that ripping the latex-and-toilet-paper left exposed. For this, I used the dark purplish-black that came in my cheapo Halloween makeup kit, but you could use a dark eyeliner or any dark cream makeup.

No zombie — and certainly not a Daphne Guinness Zombie — is complete without her eye makeup. Grab the darkest shadow you’ve got, and go to town. You want big, dark, hollow-looking undead circles, dark brows, and heavy liner. Zombie Daphne has a nude mouth, I decided, but if you have access to edible fake blood, have at it. A dark lip, on the other hand, would take this look in the direction of a vampire or a Bride of Frankenstein-type thing.

It’s gel blood time! Gel blood time is my favorite time. I’ve decided, now that I’ve used gel blood.

To get Daphne Guinness’ signature two-toned hairdo, I streaked white stage makeup through sections of my hair and shook some flour onto it. It washed out surprisingly easily later that night.

Now, the other key component of the Zombie Daphne Guinness get-up is the shoes. Guinness, a couture collector, is known for her longtime friendship with Alexander McQueen. And after McQueen showed his infamous “lobster claw” shoes for his spring/summer 2010 “Plato’s Atlantis” collection in 2010, Guinness was the first person to wear a pair in real life. (I actually happened to be at the party where she debuted them, a shindig for François Nars, and the crowd reacted palpably to her entrance — everyone knew she was wearing those shoes.) We previously established these shoes, also nicknamed the “Armadillo” shoes, were probably inspired by the wine jugs Moloch wears on his feet in Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. Back when this mind-bending approach to footwear was first shown on the runway, a lot of people were like, But where do the feet go? Now, I haven’t looked at a McQueen shoe up close, but I am pretty sure that if you had X-ray vision, you’d see that inside the bulbous shoe exoskeleton, there lies a foot-shaped void, surrounded by padding. (See the fig. 1, at left.) Therefore, to approximate this feat of feet at home, I decided to take my tallest, clunkiest black platform pumps, and add a kind of false front — a spat, if you want to get technical — to them. Stuff the spat, and we’re good.

Here you can see one assembled and stuffed costume pump, one regular shoe, and one spat. I made the spats out of the leftover fabric from when I hemmed a thrift store dress a few months ago; it was kind of nasty rayon velvet. Perfect for a Halloween costume. A few strands of elastic to hold the things on, and it all comes together.

The finished shoes. I was pretty happy with these. The shape is fine. The only thing that’s obviously wrong is the height. The real McQueens are about 12″ tall from top to sole. Mine are like 8″, tops. But oh well.

The rest of the costume consisted of donning a tight grey jacket, a tight grey pencil skirt, and every piece of sparkly jewelry I own. As soon as I finished this DIY, I went out and spent a good, healthy night trying to scare my coworkers/geeking out over their costumes. Happy Halloween, everyone.

If there’s something you’d like to see as a DIY project, you know what to do. In the meantime, to check out past DIYs — including how to alter a dress, how to make a fascinator, and how to do a 1930s-style “moon” manicure — click here.

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