Day of the Dead, or Dia de Muertos, is a Mexican holiday that celebrates the lives of the departed.

day of the dead skull halloween face paint
This elaborate design looks great with just a simple turtleneck. Insta-costume! Get instructions: Day of the Dead SkullPlus: Watch a bonus video to see how to create this look! 
| Credit: Kate Sears

Festivities include food, dancing, and music aimed at luring loved ones' spirits back to the land of the living. Because the festival coincides with Halloween -- it begins at midnight on October 31 and ends November 2 -- you can rock Dia de Muertos costumes all weekend long. Here are some tips for making a memorable one.

1. Paint your face to look like a sugar skull.

The most iconic Day of the Dead image is the sugar skull. Sugar skulls, which represent death and rebirth, are decorated with colorful paint and placed on altars as offerings to the deceased. To recreate this using makeup, start by painting your entire face white. Trace the bone around your eyes and fill the entire space (including your eyelids) with black paint. The tip of your nose should also be black. Paint white over your lips and use a black eyeliner or paint crayon to paint line stitches over them to look like teeth. Women should paint flower petals around the perimeter of the eye line. Add colorful and feminine accents, such as swirls on your cheeks and adhesive jewels down your nose.

Check out this video.

If you don't feel like painting, most costume stores carry handheld, paper calavera masks for around $5.

2. Wear black with bold accents.

After the face paint, Day of the Dead costumes primarily consist of black clothing or a skeleton t-shirt or suit with a bold sash and flowers pinned to your clothing or hair. The typical accent colors are yellow, orange, red, green, and blue.

Many women's costumes are inspired by La Calavera Catrina -- a female skeleton wearing a hat that resembles the clothing of upper-class Europeans during her time. The iconic character is based on a satirical portrait of Mexican natives who adopted European aristocratic traditions, pre-revolution. Adopt this look by adding more avant garde items, like a floral ruffled gown, or a full skirt and lace corset, and a black, wide-brimmed hat. If you want to keep it simple, opt for a simple black dress and look for a gauzy black material to drape around your shoulders, lace gloves, and a collapsing fan. Wear a flower crown or roses behind your ears.

Men's costumes are a bit simpler. Start with either a skeleton suit and a black suit jacket or a full black suit. A thrift store is a good place to look if you don't own one or dislike the idea of wearing your good one. Add a bright red shirt or tie, or add a red cummerbund or sash to a white shirt and tie a rose through your buttonhole. Like the La Catrina costume, you can snag a black top hat or a sombrero to finish off the look.