History Halloween how-tos

Still looking for a creative costume for your upcoming Halloween celebration? We have some quick ideas pulled straight from our collections, guaranteed to make you stand out in a sea of ninjas and sexy nurses.

George Washington    

  Have a particularly admirable physique? Consider modeling yourself after our own George Washington statue.

What you need:

  • Sheet
  • White body paint
  • White wig
  • Plastic sword

Don’t forget:
Hold the blade of the sword with the handle out, because you’re handing your power to the people.

Phyllis Diller    

  A quick trip to a thrift store should provide you with everything you need to transform yourself into this American comedy legend.

What you need:

  • Crazy wig
  • Bright shift dress
  • Ankle booties
  • Lots of black eyeliner
  • Fake cigarette holder (hers was fake, too!)
Don’t forget:
Practice the laugh
John Brown    

  Whether you consider him to be a traitor or a warrior for justice, you’re guaranteed to get attention dressed as John Brown. Just be careful people don’t mistake you for Mose Schrute.


What you need:

  • Neutral-colored button down shirt and vest
  • Toy gun
  • Crazy eyes
Don’t forget:
Plenty of product in your hair to create that wild man volume.
Rosie the Riveter    

  You can do it!

What you need:

  • Chambray or denim button-down shirt
  • Red bandana
  • Toy drill
Don’t forget:
Practice your flexing pose and look confident.
Muhammad Ali    
  Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee all Halloween night.

What you need:

  • Bathrobe, with electrical tape for lettering on the back
  • Boxing gloves
Don’t forget:
You’re the Greatest of all time!

Oh, we could go on…how about Indiana JonesJulia Child?

Have other ideas? We want to see your historic halloween costume! Post your photos to our Flickr group or tweet us @amhistorymuseum with the hashtag #historyhalloween.

Megan Smith is an education specialist at the National Museum of American History, who aspires to have the time to finally put together a Marge Simpson costume one of these years.