From DIY to last-minute-buy, it’s not too late to inject some science into your Halloween costume this year. Full disclosure: I love science-themed costumes! My personal experience in the biological sciences has convinced me that scientists and costume parties go together like caddisflies and precious gems – that is, some Scientista fashionistas excel at turning their day jobs into wearable works of art. Without further ado, here are this year’s top picks:
Put your insides on your outside and arm yourself with scary facts to gross out all your friends. Did you know that foreign microbes outnumber your own cells? Or that microbes in your gut might control your mind? If you’re looking to snag a costume prize for cleverness, wear all black and attach printout images of gut microbiota - you can decide if you would like to be the picture of perfect health or cover yourself in E. coli. Fans of Giant Microbe plushies can also attach these guys for a dash of cuteness. As the saying goes – no guts, no glory.
Why settle for pizza rat when you can dress as a lab rat? If you’re familiar with different lab rat strains, customize your costume with your favorite mutation phenotype and you’re guaranteed to be a knock-out.
The internet abounds with 90’s nostalgia and there’s a plethora of Ms. Frizzle costume guides online. You can even purchase universe-patterned dresses on Amazon or make your own by attaching cut-out printed planets and stars. If your specialty isn’t astronomy, you can reconstruct one of Ms. Frizzle’s other wardrobe creations with cut-outs of vegetables, sea creatures, or weather-related items (her outfit reflected the theme of each episode). No matter your theme choice, don’t forget “Liz,” Ms. Frizzle’s trusty lizard sidekick.
For a stellar take on the space theme outfit (or a way to recycle last year’s Ms. Frizzle costume), dress up as Ms. Universe, science style.
The Night before Committee Meetings aka The Grad Student
It’s a wonder that Edgar Allen Poe wasn’t studying for his comprehensive exams when he wrote “I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.” Strike terror into the hearts of your friends and family by wearing all black and attaching post-it notes taken from a grad student’s impossible to-do list: “Analyze qualitative data from 1000 interviews by next week”, “Redo powerpoint slides by tomorrow’s meeting,” and “Learn how to code in R by yesterday.” To make the costume interactive and cathartic for your fellow grad students, bring a pen, some extra post-its, and a heightened level of anxiety.
Put a twist on the black cat costume to become Schroedinger’s cat – what’s scarier than having an existential crisis? Take a large cardboard box and hold it up around your middle using suspenders or rope. Then write “Maybe?” on the sides of the box.
Considered today to be the “world’s first computer programmer,” Ada Lovelace’s classic portrait is replicated with a few items you may already have in your wardrobe (although Ren Faire go-ers may find it easier than most). If you don’t have a cape, you might be inspired by “Take Back Halloween’s” guide to costumes emulating other “Notable Women.”
Don your most recent graduation cap and wrap yourself with numbered paper to transform into a graduated cylinder. This costume can also be modified without the hat if you want to be a regular test tube.
Everyone has their own preferred internet browser, but Firefox makes the strongest claim for cutest costume. All you need to hit the world wide web is a fox costume, orange clothes, or even a pair of ears combined with an inflatable globe or painted ball.
A glowing “radioactive” test tube makes for a fun accessory to this Halloween costume while paying homage to the first female Nobel prize winner. To mix up your own radioactive elements, check out our previous guide.
Grab your field clothes and a plush chimpanzee and you’ll be easily recognized as primatologist Jane Goodall.
Move over Tony Stark, lady scientists are the newest superheroes. Well, we already knew that, but now Marvel Comics knows it too! Marvel recently debuted Riri Williams, a 15-year-old female engineering student at MIT who continues Iron Man’s legacy as Ironheart. Copy Riri’s superheroine look and learn more about her inventions here.
The bat has long been associated with Halloween, but you can elevate your costume above the cliché with a more science friendly version. Do you want to be a vampire bat? You can keep the fangs, bring red wine or cranberry juice to share, and impress everyone with the fact that female bats share blood with friends out of the kindness of their hearts. Do you want to be a flying fox and attend a party outdoors? Wrap yourself in a blanket like a baby bat burrito while promoting animal welfare. Do you want to be a leaf-nosed bat? Reshape a paper towel roll to emulate one of the many diverse nose forms that help bats with echolocation. Lastly, you can mimic the aptly named frog-eating bats with both a leaf nose and a plush frog. These instructions teach you how to make realistic wings out of an umbrella, but a long black cloth, fabric scissors, and some string will also do in a pinch.
Road Kill/The Hunted
Perfect for field biologists, this costume will give you a chance to air out any skeletons in the closet. What’s spookier than roadkill come to life? As depicted here, all costumed components were naturally deceased prey species, thoroughly cleaned, and made great conversation starters about the role of large predators and the importance of conservation.
Cation & Anion
They say that opposites attract, so grab a partner for this super easy duo costume. The anion simply needs to attach a negative sign on an item of clothing, while the cation can attach a positive sign to a cat costume. The cation also functions as a great solo costume.
Black Widow Spider
Set yourself apart from the other spiders by dressing as a black widow. Attach an hourglass shape of red felt fabric or paper to the front of your costume to depict the most iconic feature of North America’s most venomous spider. You can use a poofy skirt to accentuate your thorax. To make spider eyes, I cut out black ovals from a magazine and glued on smaller sparkly ovals for a more realistic eye shine (I figured the glasses count as two more eyes, so I only added four papers for a total of eight). Human arms and legs also only count as four appendages, so I stuffed two pairs of black stockings with paper towels and tied them around my waist to make four more legs. I then strung the ends together and knotted them around my wrists so that they would be animated whenever I moved my hands. Finally, I brought a cockroach in case I got hungry later that night.
Your study species
You’ve spent months, if not years, watching, recording, and studying this species – embrace the fact that you’ve basically turned into an encyclopedia on plankton/zebra fish/zebra finches/lions/etc.
Salmon Swimming Upstream
Contrarian ecologists will be sure to enjoy going against the current as an intransigent fish. Make your point by heading in the opposite direction as everyone else, but maybe just wait until after you’ve all arrived at the party so as not to get lost. Instructions here and inspirational video here.
There’s a reason that the Little Shop of Horrors is centered around a man-eating plant. You can be the perfect party host dressed as a pitcher plant by wearing all green (or adding some weeds from your garden) while holding a pitcher of refreshing nectar. Crafty botanists can go all out with a Venus fly trap costume, as seen here.
For even more costume ideas, check out one of our past reviews and our take on the best DIY Halloween experiments.
Don’t forget to let us know what costume you chose this year by sharing on facebook, @scientista_talk, and instagram
Lauren Koenig (who is also the Editor-in-Chief for The Scientista Foundation) is a PhD student at Michigan State University studying the behavior and physiology of electric fish. Since obtaining her B.A. in biology from Vanderbilt University, she worked on several wildlife research projects throughout North and South America. She is excited to work with Scientista to increase accessibility to research and expand outreach efforts geared for women in STEM. Her experience in science writing includes an internship with publisher John Wiley & Sons Inc., working as science editor for the Vanderbilt McLaughlin neurology lab, and serving on the staff of her university’s newspaper. In her free time, Lauren enjoys wildlife photography, kayaking, dance, and concerts.