If you've ever dreamed of taking your Halloween costume to the next level, we have two words for you: wigs and makeup.

There's only so much a mask or witch's hat will do. The real transformation comes from being transformed. And if you've seen celebrities-without-makeup photos, you know what some well-applied concealer and eyeliner will do.

"It's really all about the focal point," explained our makeup expert Jessica Dana of jessicadana.com. "People focus on the face. It can be as important as the whole outfit."

Dana, a body paint artist, said she buys her supplies from a clown named Bebe, and he preaches the same notion of creating a complete character. Hair and makeup are as crucial as floppy shoes and a light-hearted attitude. If you're going to sell a costume, you can't go cheap on character. And that doesn't mean the costume has to be expensive.

Start with inspiration and then spend a little time thinking of reasonable ways to achieve your look.

"The Hunger Games" eccentric glam upper-crust set will be ripe for costume inspiration. Now's your chance to bathe your lips in orange or purple lipstick and highlight your eyes with bright pinks and greens. Even rocker Lenny Kravitz, who played Cinna, a Capitol city stylist and adviser with an affinity for gold eyeliner, noted that his look helped with character.

The trick to this look is to be meticulous. If you can't finagle some time with a pro, invest some time in perfecting your look. This is not a five-minute makeup job. You want to look as though you've come from an era in which you've got nothing but time to waste. How you look is part of your status.

If you can manage the Effie press-on nails, go for it. But be warned: Actress Elizabeth Banks offered some TMI to People magazine when she said that once her nails -- which were ridiculously adorned -- were in place, she couldn't even go to the bathroom alone.

OK, so maybe just go with a garish polish color instead.

Haven't seen "Hunger Games"? Fear not; zombies have returned with a vengeance, and the makeup tricks to get the undead glow can be achieved by the lay person with some practice. It might help to buddy up.

Jessica Dana said the best thing to remember is you can't be too pale. She usually takes the lightest shade of makeup she can find and mixes it with white face makeup.

Because she's a professional, she creates depth so none of the looks fall flat. The zombie still has some redness around the eyes, and the dark beard of sinister "Hunger Games" character Crane is flecked with gold.

Wigs don't have to be expensive to be effective, but make sure it's stretched to fit so that you can tolerate it for the night. Google Images is a great resource for detecting trends and hunting for closeups of makeup application and styling options.


Black lips are key, but Dana started with hints of pink color around the eyes. She worked styling a wig so that the hair stood straight up with backcombing and hairspray. The bonus of a wig with such a labor-intensive style is that you can work on it in shifts and when the evening's over, you can take it off to revert easily to yourself.

For zombie bride characters, many people buy inexpensive dresses at Goodwill and trash them, but Dana started with a short strapless bridal look ($50 at Goodwill) and added fishnet, hair net and gray tulle tucked into the sides to give it a weathered, ragged look. She used the same tulle and cut it ragged for the headpiece. We added a spider necklace we bought at Target last year, but thrift stores will have other options.


Jessica Dana slicked back a dark brown wig and started by outlining the beard. It helped that he had a little natural beard to draw around. She filled it in with short black strokes to mimic hair. She layered in gold to add depth.

Instead of re-creating the minimal futuristic garb of Crane, we put our model in a blood-red shirt similar to the character's and added a black blazer. Shirt ($45) and blazer ($200) from Kohl's.

Effie Trinket, the escort of District 12 tributes in "The Hunger Games"

Dana styled a blond wig into the glam period style and embellished it with big purple roses and two big feathers because exaggerated flowers were a signature of Effie. Instead of false eyelashes, Dana painted swirls on the outside of our model's eye to re-create the spirit of Effie's bizarre eyelash styles. To create a really pale face she used her lightest foundation color and mixed it with white face paint, but depending on skin tone, the foundation could have been enough. "Dramatically paler is the key," Jessica explained. The deep purple on the lips and pink on the eyes helped to make her look more washed out by lending the contrast of color. Costume rented.

1980s guy

The FauxRealshirt.com T-shirt ($32) creates an elaborate neon '80s party guy facade with a single T-shirt. We styled Tom's hair (he has it shaved into a mohawk for an acting role). She kept the rest minimal. Just covered some blemishes and added a little powder.

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