30 days of La Muerte – A short story of an amazing Costume

Since I saw the movie the Book of Life and saw La Muerte’s character  for the first time I just felt in love with her! My first comment to my boyfriend was: “do you think I could make that hat?” and he said: “Off course!”. So that was it! CHALLENGE ACCEPTED! Here is a recap of How I made this costume, you can get a closer look at the work and LOVE I put into making it.=)

La Muerte vs. La Catrina

La Muerte vs. La Catrina

I started to look for some elements to buy like the candles and flowers to save some time but everything was too expensive or it was not going to make it on time. I had only 1 month before the Montreal Comic Con to make it all!

I always build my costumes with my measurements to make sure it fits perfect. This pattern took me a while since I had to try and see if I was happy with the length of the dress and the shape of it.. I think I spent about 7h cutting paper, taping it, drawing on it, cutting, taping, redrawing again. My awesome mom was visiting it at the time and she was so helpful! (She always made my clothes as a child!)

Once I was happy with the dress, I cut the pieces and sew the front and the back separately. I have found a high resolution picture of her dress so I drew by hand all the different designs she has on her dress, then I passed them on Illustrator and printed them to the real size. I trace them and hand painted very design. It took me about 50h+ to finish both sides.

The Dress

The Dress

The Flowers: This was a very time consuming part of the costume. I made about 500 flowers all by hand. You can check the TUTORIAL if you are interested in making some flowers for your next project. The work was about 80 HOURS between cutting, burning, ruching fabric, closing them and many movies watched! (Thank you Nathy and Jenny for helping me too!)

La Muerte Flowers

CAMEO: For her Cameo necklace I took an oval stone I had and glue it to a cardboard, painted the back gold and put a gold trim around to sew it to the black ribbon and voila! Cameo is ready!

THE SKULLS: the skulls for the costume are made out of craft foam, carved and sanded. Then they were all hand painted. (Thank you my friend Tanya for helping me a whole afternoon to paint them!!!) The ones of the Hat are double and the ones for the dress are single (one side only)

The making of the Skulls

The making of the Skulls

THE WIG: To create the hairstyle of La Muerte, I bought two Wigs. I used this one as a base and used this longer wig to add a bit more volume and lenght. It was about 10 HOURS between detangling, separating wefts of hair & sewing it to the other wig . Once that was done it was time to stylize it to give it pretty curls. For this I bout a spaghetti foam at the dollar store and cut it to make rolls. I added a lot of hairspray too…


THE HAT: The Hat it’s actually not difficult to make. What was the BIGGEST CHALLENGE were the CANDLES! I had decided from the beginning that I wanted the candles to Light Up, but I had no clue how to make that possible. Thanks to my Amazing, GENIUS Boyfriend, the Hat and the dress Lights Up and the candles hover on the dress and the flames look real, just like in the movie!!!!

We spent about two weeks testing and evaluating different materials for the entire Hat. My advise is to go on Hardware Stores and Dollar Stores and decide what better fits your budget, time and how detailed you want the hat to be. He built all the electric part first and  once that was installed on the hat, we covered it with the same fabric of the dress. I built an oversized crown for the hat and then I covered it with lots of flowers. The base for this hat is a Dollar Store Hat….=) there are 25 candles in the hat and 30 in the dress.

It took us 3 days to built the hat and three more days to build the candles and the connections. The ostrich feathers  were SO EXPENSIVE!!!!! but worth it!!!

The other detail the Hat has is the trim all around, which you can see in this LINK. I made a simple stamp so it took me only 10 minutes to paint the whole thing on both sides!

The Making of La Muerte's Hat

The Making of La Muerte’s Hat!

Did I mentioned that Ron Perlman signed my hat at the ComicCon? for those who don’t know, He plays the voice of Xibalba, La Muerte’s Husband!

One of the coolest moments at the ComicCon, meeting Ron Perlman!

One of the coolest moments at the ComicCon, meeting Ron Perlman!

THE MAKE UP: It took me 3 HOURS everyday to make this look! I did a test on previously to make sure I had at least an idea of the final look. I looked online for some ideas regarding brushes and process and I decided to use:

  1. water-based WHITE body paint for the base applied with a sponge
  2. Oil based paints for all the details (Red, Yellow & Black)
  3. Regular eyeshadows in 5 different blue shades
  4. Liquid black eyeliner for the nose and the lines on the lips
  5. Gold pencil eyeliner for the details all over the body
  6. Liquid Red Lipstick
  7. Faux eyelashes
  8. Contact Lenses 

La Muerte Make Up

Advise: use baby oil first or buy Make Up remover for COSTUME MAKE UP when you want to remove it! Regular make up remover will not do! first time I removed the make up I spent 1 hour trying to remove the black that kept spreading all over my face hahahaha!

Montreal ComicCon 2015

Montreal ComicCon 2015


La Muerte, view from the Back. Montreal ComicCon 2015


La Muerte Cosplay, Montreal ComicCon 2015

I hope you enjoy the post! Thank you so much for checking it out!

‘Till Next time!!

Update: Don’t forget to check out my 2016 cosplay of the Red Queen from Alice Through the Looking Glass!


45 thoughts on “30 days of La Muerte – A short story of an amazing Costume

  1. Kea says:

    Hi, what kind of candles did you use? I was going to use flameless taper candles with battery but afraid they might be too heavy.Thanks.

    • Erika Parra says:

      Hi Kea, I built from scratch the candles with the help of my boyfriend because I have no idea about electric stuff… The candles you are think of might work depending on how many you want to put.. I have seen other people using them but mine were built from scratch…

  2. Gen says:

    I can’t believe you painted all the designs yourself on your dress! When I saw photos of your costume before I thought the fabric was already like that. I had to paint a floral pattern on a turtleneck for a cosplay once and it took so much time. I can’t even imagine how long it must have been for you. Kudos for your patience and dedication to accuracy xD

  3. Aly says:

    And I want to start by saying that you are amazing your work is just wow wow wow !!!!!!!
    I just had a question for you I have A 7 year old daughter and she wants to be la muerte for this coming Halloween and she loves ur dress. my question to you is on the hat what did you use to make it so round and big and did you cover it up with some kind of red cloth thank you for ur time Aly

    • Erika Parra says:

      Hi Aly! Thank you some much for your compliment!
      As for your question, I think the material I used would be too heavy for your child (It’s a bit heavy on me) , so I would suggest you to look at a craft / art store for some cardboard like the one used for watercolour that is about 2-3mm thick. It’s really stiff and it comes in different sizes. Once you get the shape, yes, I covered the hat with the same fabric of my dress… Hope to see the costume when it’s ready!!!! 😊😊😊

  4. Yesenia says:

    Hello! My name is Yesenia and I am making this costume as my first! I was wondering if you could help me with the patterns for the dress, specially the train, as I have never made a dress with a train. Thanks!!

    • Erika Parra says:

      Hi Yesenia, I’m so sorry for replying so late! As I was reviewing my blog today I found your message. I’m so sorry! =(. If you still need the help, basically the dress is a mermaid dress. It’s made with three panels on the front (2 Sides and Centre Front) and 4 panels on the Back. Each piece has a flare of about 50 -60 cm extra on each side. Once I had a decent shape I just put it on my mannequin and start correcting and adding paper and modifying the curve and the length of the train taking into account that She is NOT really in the centre of the dress, more like shifted to the front. I apologize again for my delay. I do hope your costume turned out amazing!

  5. Greg Jones says:

    Simply amazing! I am building a La Muerte costume for my daughter. She is a Halloween baby so we always go all out. Your costume is quite the inspiration! I was hoping you could give me a hint on how you kept the candles upright at the bottom of your dress?

    My initial thoughts, after pouring over Google, was maybe to attach a hula hoop around the bottom hem and then use stiff wires to connect the candle to the hula hoop. It looks like you used wire in some way for your candles, but I can’t tell exactly what you did.

    The effort, time, and care you put into your costume really shows. You have inspired me to spend a little more time to hand make more of my daughter’s costume. Hopefully she will help… and I won’t run out of time!


    • Erika Parra says:

      Hi Greg! Thank you so much for your comment!! I actually did exactly as you described. In my case I used a type of hose that I found at Home Depot because the Hula Hoop was too small for me but it’s the same principle.. If your daughter is younger a Hula hoop should be fine. I sew the hemline first in a way I could make a pocket big enough to insert the hose first and then I made holes in the places I put a metal wire that holds the candles. Hope that helps! I would love to see the costume when is done!

  6. Aubrey says:

    Hi Erika, i’ve been surfing in the internet on how i can achieve the La muerte costume, we will be having a Halloween party this coming 28 of October, you blog a really big help for me, i’m fond of doing crafts by myself and i’m really amazed to see all of your works , its just do fantastic and so creative, i wish i can also do the dress but it will take me a lot of time, hehe. I really admire your works! keep doing this kinds of fashion. its really GOOD!

    • Aubrey says:

      WOW! thank you for replying to my comment, i’m more inspired now to do it better! but i cannot promise a really good outcome hehe cause i’m planning to use alternative things to the materials that i cannot produce, like the ostrich feathers. Though i’ll try my best and i will use your blog as my guide. Thank you for sharing it. I’m really a fan of your skills. hehe

  7. Liv says:

    WOOOWW!! I’m soo impressed! All the dedication and patience to make this costume so detailed to look just like La Catrina! and the make up as well. You’re amazing and you looked great!!

  8. Morgan Rose Todd says:

    Hi! I absolutely LOVE your costume!!

    I was wondering where you found the hi res image fore the patterns on her dress. I’m trying to draw her currently and I don’t have any good references to go off of

    • Erika Parra says:

      Thank you Morgan! I googled la muerte and then on the setting of google you can adjust to find very large pictures. I think I used one where she is at the cemetery with Xibalba . Then I drew the patterns on illustrator and made my stencil. Hope it helps! 😁 let me know if you found it!

  9. Ronnie says:

    Wow, wow, wow! Absolutely fantastic work, you so very talented. Have got a different job? You could make these outfits and sell them, I know people would buy them.

      • Ivette says:

        Hi Erika! First at all, I love you dress!!! I see the comment above and I would like to know if you can make one for my daughter, her birthday is coming on April 21 and she wants a book of life birthday party and she loves a La muerte dress, she’s turning 5, I know this is a short time but she decided this a few days ago, please let me know if you can do it, thank you!

      • Erika Parra says:

        Hello Ivette, Thank you so much for your comment and for thinking of me for your daughter’s special day. Unfortunately I cannot make the dress in such a short period of time. I need at least 4 weeks in advance to start on a project and since I’m in school at the moment, I do ask for extra time in order to juggle with my school responsibilities. I hope in the future we can work something out and make a special costume for you or your daughter. Best regards!

  10. Sylvia says:

    HI! I am 95% done making a la muerte dress for my 5 year old and it has come out beautiful! Your dress is so awesome!! I am trying to get ideas on how to get her candles of the bottom of the dress stand straight. They are battery operated LED candles. I am thinking of gluing foam board to the bottom (moon shape) and placing the candles on that but would have to tear a small hole in the dress. Not sure if I want to go that route. Any ideas would be appreciated!

    • Erika Parra says:

      Hi Sylvia. It really depends on the weight of the candles. Mine were custom made to make them as light as I could because the candles with batteries were too heavy. My costume actually has small holes but I used a wood burner to avoid the frilling of the fabric. There is a wire around the ring that holds the candles in place. Hope this works! Would love to see the final costume!!!

  11. Greg Jones says:

    As promised, here are the pictures of my daughter’s La Muerte dress. I don’t know if I could have finished it in time without some tips from your post. Thank you so much! Bonus picture of me as Manolo included too.


    I found the plain dress on Etsy. All the flowers and candles are from Dollar Tree. I wired them all up so each group of candles only ran off two AA batteries. The hat still came in at almost 3 pounds! It was luckily balanced well and never fell off. I used hula hoops for the bottom of the dress. Was my first time to do face makeup too so I was really happy with the results.

    • Erika Parra says:

      Oh my God! You have definitely won the prize for Coolest, Best Dad ever! She looks AMAZING! And so do you as Manolo! She is beautiful and her make up is gorgeous!! Great job! I am so happy and blessed to be able to be of help when finishing the costume! Thank you so much for sharing these pictures with me!!!! ❤️

  12. KO MARII says:

    I made my costume 1 year ago. But my problem is the candles in the train, you use wire or another material for that part?

    • Erika Parra says:

      Hi Abby! Thank you for your comment. I used LED lights from the dollar store and some plastic tube I found at a Home Depot. The candles are made one by one with two different sizes and the whole LED light connected together. =)

  13. Megan Christine Suttles says:

    Hi! I was just wondering how you transported everything. I was thinking about trying ti make this for dragoncon next year, but im worried something would get messed up on the drive.

    • Erika Parra says:

      Hi! I used this in the Montreal Comic Con which is where I lived. I asked my sister to lend me her RAV and we used the trunk and pushed down the back seats to fit the costume 😜😱 I haven’t really take this costume beyond Montreal for the same reason it is too bulky 🤔

  14. Yanie says:

    Hi erika, you did very great on this project and my daughter chose to be la muerte this halloween.. i would like to know more about the book of life bag/handbag that you used.. theres no tutorial for it….. thank you.mm

    • Erika Parra says:

      Hi Yanie! Thank you foe your comment. There is no tutorial because there are no pictures 😱. I basically found a high resolution image from the logo of the movie, then I had it printed on a hard cardboard twice (both sides of the purse. After than I used craft foam that I covered with fabric to create the sides and glued it following the shape of the logo frame. Hope that helps. Cheers!

      • Yanie says:

        Hi erika… thank you for the quick response… i was thinking of printing it in a sticker paper right away hehehehe might work… you’re amazing with all these tutorials…. cheers… will keep u posted with the result.. biggest challenge is the candles lighting up….

  15. Lin Matulac says:

    Hello! This is amazing! I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Book of Life and I’m planning on making this for a National Cosplay Event this September. I actually have some questions for this costume… Can I ask on how you covered the hat with cloth? And is your dress a zip-up?

    • Erika Parra says:

      Hi Lin! I used spray glue on the surface and carefully put the fabric. You defined need some help here so one person holds the fabric while the other carefully place it on the hat. As for the dress, it has a center back zipper like a regular dress will do. 😉 Hope that helps!

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