Zombies are too busy pursuing their next meal to worry much about fashion. They usually just shamble around in whatever clothes they were wearing when they were infected, no matter how tattered, moldy or bloodstained they become. Let’s face it, zombies are slobs.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy to dress like a zombie, though. Making clothes that look authentically nasty takes some thought.
There are lots of video tutorials online showing you how to make zombies clothes. However, many of them are specific to a particular flavor of zombie, so the exact techniques may not apply to you. Also, the amount of effort involved – not to mention the supplies – varies a lot.
This guide will lay out the general steps to create the perfect zombie outfit for your needs and level of expertise and/or interest. Along the way, we’ll provide plenty of specific ideas and pointers to help put your DIY zombie costume over the top.
Picking the Perfect Outfit
Zombie costumes never get old for one simple reason: A zombie can be anything. Sure, lots of people choose to dress like a regular, vanilla zombie. But for those who want something different, there are plenty of zombie variations to choose from:
- Zombie Doctor
- Zombie Nurse
- Zombie Bride
- Zombie Redneck
- Zombie Hipster
- Zombie Cheerleader
- Zombie Prom Queen
- 80s Zombie
- Sexy Zombie
- Geeky Zombie
Like a zombie wearing a bulletproof helmet, the list goes on and on. You can even be the zombie version of a specific character or real-life person (zombie Snow White, zombie Elvis, etc). Of course, if you go that route, you’ll need to track down clothing and props that match your subject, then use the methods described below to zombify them.
It’s much easier to dress like an “ordinary” zombie. You can probably find some old, unwanted clothes lying around the house that you can use. Just make sure you don’t settle for ratty sweatpants, shirts you use for painting, ill-fitting clothes, or anything else that screams “I’m investing the bare minimum in this costume!” For a few bucks, you can find some interesting starter clothes online or at your local thrift store.
What if you screw up your zombie outfit and have to start over? If this worries you, pick up a few different pairs of starter clothing. Or, if that’s not feasible, get some clothes or fabric you can practice on before making the final adjustments to your actual outfit.
Making the Clothes Look Realistically Tattered
Once you’ve picked out the clothes you’re going to use, it’s time to rip ’em up! The are a few different techniques you can use, but there are two points that always apply:
- Make your cuts and tears look realistic by avoiding uniformity. Cut in random spots and make the holes different sizes with different amounts of fraying.
- Make the holes and edges of the clothing look tattered with a seam-ripper, serrated knife, or similar tool. If you don’t have any tools like that, just use a scissors to make fine cuts and pull at the clothing to achieve the frayed look.
Depending on the elasticity of the clothes, you may also want to work them over with your bare hands. This works especially well with t-shirts. Just be careful not to get carried away – you still need the clothes to stay on your body!
Remember that you have to add makeup to any part of your skin that’s exposed (that is, if you want to look like a real zombie). Something to keep in mind when deciding where, and how much, to cut and rip your clothing.
Adding a Touch of Gore
Now you have a tattered, but oddly clean, zombie outfit. No self-respecting zombie would be caught dead wearing such a thing. It’s time to add some dirt, blood, mold, and any other stains you can think of to make your homemade zombie costume look revolting.
As with the tattering process, there are lots of different ways to add authentic-looking stains to your clothing. Here are some ideas.
Your zombie outfit should appear grimy like you’ve been wandering around the woods waiting for Daryl Dixon to show up. Sure, you can always bury your zombie clothes in the backyard for a week to make them look dirty. But if you’re attending, say, a Halloween party, people might ask you to leave. Better to use an artificial method.
One way to make lighter colored clothes look dingy is to soak them in a sink filled with black tea. To make spots, grab a spray bottle with a mixture of water and brown clothing dye in it and go to work. Go slowly, and experiment with different colors and dilutions.
Fake blood should look dark and thick, so you’ll want to use paint, a special homemade concoction, or something from a costume shop. Use a brush to throw it on the clothes until you have something resembling a Jackson Pollock painting. Again, avoid any patterns because real bloodstains don’t happen that way.
You may also want to apply some fake blood around some of the tears in your clothing, to represent wounds the zombie has received.
Mold stains should be a combination of green, brown, and yellow dye diluted with water. Apply in multiple layers via a spray bottle, and pay special attention to the rips and tears that are exposed to your zombie’s rotting flesh. This tutorial has detailed instructions:
Regardless of what type of stain it is, be sure to stop and evaluate your zombie clothes after each application. You don’t want to add so much color and so many blotches that it all blends together.
It Takes a Lot of Work to Look This HorribleAs you can see, there are lots of different ways to zombify clothing. If you’re just making zombie clothes for yourself (or your kids), it can be as easy or as complicated as you want. So have some fun with it!
For those who won’t settle for anything less than perfection, the right starter clothing and techniques depend on the details. Think about the clothes along with the makeup, special effects, and any props you’re using. It should all work together to achieve the overall effect you’re going for.
Now go get your zombie on! But first, if you liked this article, be sure to leave a comment and/or share with friends.