For Halloween 2011, zombies are battling vampires for hearts and minds. The peacock is the new black swan. And Monster High's Frankie Stein is challenging Hannah Montana in the 'tween popularity contest.
Along with the classics, a new generation of pop-culture heroes and villains inspire Halloween costumes each year. This time around, influences range from AMC's grisly hit TV show "The Walking Dead" to the elegant bird who fled the Central Park Zoo in August to strut his stuff in Manhattan.
For younger girls, Mattel's doll-faced Monster High clique fills in the generation gap left by dusty Dracula and fogey Frankenstein. Comic book heroes who leapt to the big screen are big for the boys.
Many of the trendiest characters require special attention to the face to achieve the desired effect. The good news is, once you've got that down, the rest of the costume is likely already in the closet.
"Zombies are the biggest costume category for 2011," said Ressa Tomkiewicz, spokeswoman for Party City. "That's partly because vampires are falling out of fashion a little bit. Consumers are looking for the newest dark creature to personify."
Part of the appeal of zombie looks, which are proving popular among adults and boys, is that any character can be zombified -- nurses, rockers, day traders, teachers.
"This is where makeup comes into play," Tomkiewicz said.
Costume stores have expanded makeup kits for Halloween. But the face is such a focal point this year that some adults are calling in professionals.
"We've already started booking up," M.A.C. Cosmetics senior artist Jane McKay said in September. "The Saturday night parties will be crazy."
ADULTS: GASHES AND LASHES
"Halloween is becoming more and more popular for adults," Tomkiewicz said. According to a National Retail Federation report released in September, Americans will spend $1 billion on children's costumes in 2011, up from $840 million last year, and $1.21 billion on adult costumes, up from $990 million last year. About 68.6 percent of Americans plan to celebrate Halloween, up from 63.8 percent last year and the most in the federation's nine-year survey history.
Adults like to buy a la carte items to create costumes that are both economical and can be customized, Tomkiewicz said. So Party City added more mini-kits this year containing, say, peacock wings and a mask, or peacock clips for shoes, to which some adults might add a tutu, leggings, blue and green makeup and false lashes, which abound in a rainbow of colors and embellishments at beauty stores such as ULTA as well as M.A.C.
"Lashes can be used for creating a lot of characters," McKay said. "Many times you want your features larger than life. Lashes help achieve that."
Everyday toiletries can add up to some of the most dramatic looks. The pale skin of a zombie can start with sunscreen containing zinc, McKay said. "Then you have to create the gore."
TEENS: CUE THE SCARY MOVIE
The remake of "Fright Night" pumped fresh blood into the vampire genre.
To get the look, celebrity makeup artist Kela Wong, who has done the faces of "Twilight" star Robert Pattinson and "American Idol" runner-up Adam Lambert, applies foundation in the lightest shade (he likes Cover FX shade E0), then follows with the lightest powder. (And remember, no real vampire would forget the neck!)
Then he adds brownish foundation (Cover FX B65) under the cheekbones and around the rims of the eyes. "The lower you go, the more of a sunken, sleepless look you'll get," he said. Finish with a wine-stained, matte color tapped onto lips and around eyes.
Another past favorite, Lady Gaga, hasn't gone away either. This year Gaga's "Judas" video is sure to bring a few blackened brows, elaborately lined eyes and jeweled fingernails.
TWEENS AND YOUNGER: KEEP IT LIGHTHEARTED
Boys are gravitating to comic book heroes such as Captain America and Green Lantern this year. Many of those costumes come with masks, but makeup can be safer and more comfortable and not much more challenging, McKay points out. (Use a nude lip pencil to outline the area of the mask on the face, then fill in with a makeup pencil in the relevant color.)
Also sure to pop off the big screen and onto the streets are Smurfettes (blue makeup can be found at costume stores) and Kung Fu Pandas (just draw oblong shapes in black kohl pencil around the eyes; on the rest of the face, pat whatever white cream you can get your paws on).
At partycity.com, Monster High costumes are among the most-clicked costumes, Tomkiewicz said. To complement the costume with a gloomy complexion, add a dot of black or green liquid eyeliner or eye shadow to a dollop of light foundation on your hand, stir and apply.
GETTING THE EFFECT
There's more than one way to create a walker, but here's one that's fairly kid-friendly, says M.A.C. senior trainer Crista Chan:
1. Start with a white or very light foundation, dust with white powder. Include neck and hands if they will be visible. Using a fluffy but compact brush (such as M.A.C. No. 109), start blending inward around eyes and contours of cheeks and neck with a taupe shadow.
2. Choose a reddish eye shadow and buff around outer edges of eye in a circle, in an oblong panda-bear eye shape.
3. Finish with a black shadow over the eyelid and under the eye. Use soft brushes to blend the colors together. For a finishing touch, pucker lips and brush a little black eye shadow across lips for a cracked effect.
M.A.C. senior artist Louise Zizzo says the key to makeup like this is to pretend you're painting on a piece of paper.
1. Brush a pink blush in middle of cheeks, then use a soft fluffy brush to apply a haze of blue and green eye shadow on temples and down to cheekbones.
2. Sketch a feather design lightly on the face with a nude lip pencil.
3. Paint in design over the nude pencil with brown, turquoise, blue, green and gold cream eye shadows or M.A.C. Pro Chromacakes. For feather details, use a fine-tip brush dipped in the creams or use liquid eyeliners.
4. Add gold or blue glitter to accent the eye of peacock feathers.
5. Line tops of lashes with black liquid eyeliner. Apply mascara.
6. Apply eyelash glue to a set of false lashes. Let glue dry slightly so it's tacky before you place false lash on real lash line. For ideal placement, look down but do not close eyes as you place the false lash on lash line.
7. For more drama, glue a second set of lashes above the first, into the crease of each eye as a visual trick to make the eyes pop. (Zizzo used one set of M.A.C. lash No. 44 on each eye for our model.)
8. Apply pink gloss on lips.
"Pan Am" wannabes can create the look like this, said Kimberly Keys, a prestige manager for ULTA Beauty (ulta.com):
1. Apply eye shadow primer to both eyelids "so that your eye color doesn't crease or fall to the lash line." Use a neutral eye shadow color (white, pale blue, pale green) on eyelids.
2. Line the top rim of the eyelids with a black eyeliner pencil. "Start with a thin line from the inside corner of the eye to the outside and wing out at the outside corner of the eye at an upward angle." Then trace over that line with a liquid eyeliner for a more dramatic look.
3. Apply lip primer, then line the lips with ULTA's Contouring Lip Liner in Beet. For lipstick, she likes ULTA Lip Color Shade No. 203.
4. Add a pair of faux eyelashes, and blend them into your natural lashes with a couple of coats of mascara. "Faux lashes will make any Halloween costume pop," she said, "but I think they really stand out for the Playboy Bunny look, Nicki Minaj, Snooki and any witch's costume."