There is an amazing Day of the Dead celebration in Los Angeles every year at the Hollywood Forever cemetery. This holiday is not part of my family’s heritage, but I love the idea behind it – gathering with friends and family to remember your loved ones who have passed away. Death is a part of life, not something to be hidden away.
This particular event is quite big – live music all day and into the night, dozens of ceremonial altars, and many thousands of attendees. Most of the people at the festival dress up in appropriate makeup and costumes, and I never pass up the opportunity to wear a costume.
For 2014 the theme was quinceañera. Obviously I am WAY too old for this theme… but how could I resist an excuse to buy a ridiculously sparkly dress and make yet another giant head piece?
I started with a foam wreath ring as the base, lightly carved out on the inside to fit snugly on my head. Fortunately, the craft store had a bunch of fake flowers on sale, so I chose a color scheme to compliment my dress and started sticking in reeds, leaves and flowers.
The trick with big head pieces is keeping them perfectly balanced. This “hat” just sits on top of my head, and while I’m perfectly happy to watch my posture and avoid bending over it isn’t possible to keep something like this on your head all day while walking around unless you have the weight evenly distributed.
Most of the plants in the hat were chosen simply for their color, but the brim is filled with marigolds, which symbolize grief and are widely associated with Day of the Dead.
As the hat grew, I decided to also add some butterflies and bees to complement the skulls hidden in the “garden.” After all, we are remembering the dead but also celebrating life with our family and friends who are still with us.
The little tiara is a nod to the quinceañera theme. The entire head piece is assembled with hot glue. The main weight of the hat is kept close to my head. The hanging beads helped to keep the weight distributed well.
Of course I also had to wear some necklaces I made (one was not enough!) to make the whole thing even more sparkly. I kept my skull makeup simple because I did some other people’s makeup before the celebration and ran out of time to draw something more elaborate. I don’t think anybody noticed.
I found the dessert people among all the other altars – Desserts to Die For. I spent the whole day taking pictures with people and giving little kids skull candies. I know it’s not Halloween, but kids still like candy don’t they?
As night fell, there was still one more hidden surprise in my hat – lights! I hid strands of battery powered purple LED lights throughout the flowers for a little extra fun.
The costume was a success! But about halfway through our 6 or 7 hour day my forehead started to hurt a bit. I definitely should have padded the inside of the styrofoam ring a little better, because I had a giant knot on my forehead that made me look like I was growing a unicorn horn. Ooops!
But totally worth it.