Alice in Wonderland Costume Ideas
A costume theme in its own right but could be used for the following fancy dress themes:
- Storybook Characters – ideal for World Book Day or School Book Week
- Mad Hatter’s Tea Party
- Famous People – using actors such as Johnny Depp (who played the Mad Hatter in Tim Burton’s film)
Aside from being an obvious choice for Storybook characters, the Alice in Wonderland Mad Hatter’s Tea-Party scenario seems to have become a potential theme for Easter events, possibly because of the involvement of a March Hare (and a White Rabbit elsewhere in the story).
Main Alice in Wonderland Characters
Alice is an enduring costume character and there have been frequent television and film remakes of the story, although the recent Alice film directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen and with an impressive array of other acting talent is more of a sequel, than a remake. Costumes will differ depending on which film you are basing your costume on.
Alice as a blonde girl in a light blue dress with a white pinafore apron. This outfit is influenced by the original illustrations for the novel provided by Tenniel. The precise shade of blue can vary, as can whether the socks are matching blue, are white or, as often favoured, blue/white striped. Sometimes tights may be worn in place of socks!
Malice In Wonderland
An added development in recent years has been the ‘(M)Alice’ model in which Alice is more of a girl with attitude, a very sharp knife and a somewhat distressed outfit! This derives from a recent computer game in which Alice returns to find the Queen of Hearts has become a cruel despot and conditions in Wonderland have taken a turn for the worse. It is rumoured that this game may eventually spawn a film, but this angle of Alice revisiting Wonderland is also the basis taken by the recent Tim Burton film, If you already have an Alice costume, why not distress it to create this more unique look, and it is an ideal costume for Halloween!
Tim Burton’s Alice
This costume comprises of a light blue Victorian style dress with organza small sleeves. Mia Wasikowska plays Alice and has light brown long hair and white boots.
Here the costume choice is somewhat open to interpretation,as per Alice (depending on whether you are looking at the novel’s illustrations, Disney’s or Tim Burton’s interpretations). The major feature is obviously the hat – a little too large for its wearer and with the price-tag ‘In this style 10/6’ (the professional ‘half a guinea) in the hat-band. In practice, you can probably get away with any large and colourful hat – we’ve even seen one version where the wearer concealed smaller hats in the large one as ‘spares’. As always, in these modern times, although one assumes a male Hatter, there are several female outfits on the market based on the character and, as most are a little short and skimpy, could easily prove an alternative distraction or talking-point at your Mad Hatter’s Tea-Party.
The essentials for a Mad Hatter costume are:
- Top Hat
- Large Bow Tie or Cravat
This outfit is achieved by use of a tailcoat and rabbit-suit plus overhead mask, or balaclava and face-paint. The original book illustrations depict a tweed style jacket, but in subsequent outings, the white Rabbit will wear red or blue. Some show a more Georgian style frock coat as well, so you can use your own discretion. You could always wear a tabard based on the hearts playing cards. A key prop is a timepiece. Either use a large clock, or a fob style watch depending on your own style.
Other participants at the Tea-Party are the March Hare (grey or brown fur suit and wearing a checked or tweed jacket)
Dormouse, also a fur-suit character but not as popular, as he/she ends up in the teapot!
Queen of Hearts
The Queen of Hearts is the nearest thing the Wonderland story has to a villain (or villainess), being renowned for seeking to have any trouble-makers executed – “Off with his/her head!” being her principal catch-phrase.
Queen of Hearts costumes are plentiful, the principal choice being whether you want to go traditionally ‘long’ or fashionably ‘short’ with your outfit, although some of these latter costumes are so short as make a separate handbag to carry the royal essentials a must! You could always cover a dress with hearts and wear a crown to give you a budget Queen of Hearts costume.
King of Hearts
The choice for the Queen’s counterpart, the King of Hearts is a little easier, with most outfits being based on the tradition playing-card design. Again, you could wear a cloak with a crown with hearts on your clothing underneath as another option. The King does not have too much of a role at the Garden Party but does appear later as the judge in the climactic court-room scene in which everyone turns into playing cards and Alice returns to reality.
Tim Burton’s Film Queen of Hearts / Red Queen
For the recent film version, the roles of the Queen of Hearts of ‘Wonderland’ and the Red Queen of ‘Looking Glass’ have been combined as The Red Queen, although her costume and accessories predominantly feature the heart motif. As with the traditional Queen of Hearts, various outfits in both long and short styles have become available.
When Alice first encounters the White Rabbit and follows him down the fateful rabbit-hole, he is hurrying to the Queen’s Garden Party. In the course of her adventures Alice also arrives at the same party, playing a croquet game which has flamingos as the mallets and hedgehogs as the balls. The party is disrupted when the Cheshire Cat’s face appears over the ensemble and defies the Queen’s attempts to have it executed, as there is no body to separate the head from! Flamingo costumes are available, but are not too practical as croquet equipment. On the other hand, one can find some excellent ‘Air-Walker’ helium character balloons from appropriate stockists which will work well as decorations at an ‘Alice’ party.
Tweedle Dum & Tweedle Dee
Rotund twin characters that are normally portrayed as comical. Just dress exactly identically with added padding, if necessary.
Other Costume Options
The playing card motif is strong throughout the Wonderland story (as is Chess in the sequel ‘Alice Through The Looking Glass’) and several ‘cards’ have bit-parts, notably the Queen’s gardeners who are trying to turn white roses red with paint! As luck would have it, there are playing card costumes available and although they tend to be Aces from the various card-suits, a little ingenuity can get around this problem as card costumes can be essentially tabard-based.
Aside from playing cards, there are also a number of other animals encountered by Alice in Wonderland – notably the Dodo, Bill the Lizard (a ‘handyman’ to the White Rabbit) and, of course, the Blue Caterpillar. Costumes for all these entities are not that easy to find, although the caterpillar, being found on a mushroom with a hookah pipe, has proved a popular choice for the centre-piece of many a carnival float based on Alice. It is notable that the new Burton film has built the parts of some minor characters in the original stories: The Dormouse, for example, has become very much more active and militant – a sort of mini-mousetakeeer, and the Jabberwocky, merely part of a poem previously, becomes key to the final battle between Good and Evil in Wonderland!
Finally getting back to the original book, one might mention the Duchess and her household; This comprises a Frog Footman (wear our frog overhead mask and a Georgian costume), a pepper-mad cook with a penchant for throwing crockery and utensils, the Duchess herself, and her baby, which, once entrusted to Alice, gradually turns into a pig.
As with every other aspect of the Alice stories, there are surreal elements to the characters, which themselves are open to a wide range of interpretations and improvisations. Whatever your take on Alice and her adventures, at Props n Frocks we’ll enjoy helping you rise to the challenge.