Arts & Culture

Southern Literary Halloween Costumes

Dress up as one of the region’s greatest authors

Stumped as to what your Halloween costume should be this year? Look no further than some of the South’s top writers—the region’s most distinctive voices also happen to have distinctive styles. Here is some inspiration as to how you might put together your ensemble (some looks are even easy enough that you may be able to find the necessary items in your own closet).

Flannery O’Connor

A good costume is hard to find? Not when you’re going as Southern Gothic short story queen Flannery O’Connor—all you need are a pair of cat-eye glasses, a vintage-inspired dress, your pearl necklace, and some kitten heels. Complete the look with one of the former Milledgeville, Georgia, resident’s Andalusia peafowl, and a copy of The Complete Stories.


AP Photo/Atlanta Journal Constitution


Tom Wolfe

It takes a certain confidence to pull off a three-piece white suit, and Tom Wolfe had it in spades. The Virginia-born novelist and New Journalism pioneer died earlier this year, but you can carry on his go-to look with a few key pieces, including a spiffy tie and pocket square set, white bucks, a matching fedora, his Atlanta-set novel A Man in Full, and, if you’re feeling extra committed, a carved-wolf-topped cane like the one he took to using in his later years.


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Zelda Fitzgerald

Sadly, the Montgomery, Alabama, native Zelda Fitzgerald’s writing talent became overshadowed by her mental illness and volatile relationship with her husband, the writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, who called her “the first American flapper”—a look you can pull off with a snazzy fringed dress, some draped pearls, Mary Janes, and a finger-wave wig. Yes, she knew how to have fun, champagne coupe in hand, but she also could turn a phrase. Her collected writings, released in 1991, include her novel, Save Me the Last Waltz, which the New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani praised.



Ernest J. Gaines

If you read Garden & Gun’s recent story by Wiley Cash about his friendship with the lauded writer and MacArthur “genius” grant recipient Ernest J. Gaines, you may have noticed Gaines’s signature beret. The author of the National Book Critic Circle Award–winning A Lesson Before Dying’s sartorial savoir faire may be understated, but it’s also undeniable, so once you settle on your chapeau, slip on a cool tweed coat and your favorite khakis, and you’re ready to roll.


AP Photo/Alex Brandon


Truman Capote

His one-time best friend Harper Lee might have shunned the spotlight, but Truman Capote, who grew up for a few years with Lee in Monroeville, Alabama, was not one to hide his light under a bushel. Emulate the writer of the iconic In Cold Blood easily with a jaunty fedora, a sophisticated scarf, and a pair of eye-catching glasses—Capote changed the look and shape of his often.


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Zora Neale Hurston

Essence magazine once called Zora Neale Hurston one of most stylish black women in history, and it’s easy to see why. The Harlem Renaissance writer and anthropologist, who grew up in Eatonville, Florida, accessorized just as well as she wrote, making even the most simple outfits sing. Grab a pullover sweater and a swingy skirt, then add on a bead necklace, a chunky belt, a cloche hat, some 1930s-esque oxford heels, and Hurston’s seminal novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God.


Library of Congress


Edgar Allan Poe

Quoth the raven, is it really Halloween if you don’t go full Goth? Mystery-writing king and longtime Virginia resident Edgar Allan Poe probably wouldn’t think so. Add a detachable Victorian stand-up collar to a dress shirt, tie on a silky cravat, and any long black coat will do. Brush up on the mustachioed Poe’s Complete Tales & Poems so you can wield a few macabre bon mots, too.


Library of Congress