Wear the Words: “Ghosts and Fashion”

illustration by John Lawson


Although it no longer has a body

to cover out of a sense of decorum,

the ghost must still consider fashion


must clothe its invisibility in something

if it is to “appear” in public.

Some traditional specters favor

the simple shroud


a toga of ectoplasm

worn Isadora-Duncan-style

swirling around them.


While others opt for lightweight versions

of once familiar tee shirts and jeans.


Perhaps being thought-forms,

they can change their outfits instantly


or if they were loved ones,

it is we who clothe them

like dolls from memory

Elaine Equi

This poem by contemporary poet Elaine Equi, aptly titled “Ghosts and Fashion,” embraces two of my favorite concepts: Halloween and clothing. Her inspiration for the poem stemmed from her curiosity on the clothing choices of supernatural beings and a professed encounter with her grandfather’s ghost. So, with her poem in mind, look out for any ghosts this Halloween (especially those of lost loved ones)—and if you do spot one, don’t forget to jot down what it was wearing.

In terms of fashion inspiration, we can safely copy the options Equi has so kindly handed to us above. Not to stereotype, but the first ghostly outfit that comes to mind is comprised of white, flowy, and slightly eerie elements. Equi’s image of a “toga of ectoplasm” can be met by wearing sheer white clothing, which elicits that hazy, ghost-like mood. Picture the classic sheet ghost costume, but with more style. If that sounds too elegant for you, darken the outfit up with accessories such as intense jewelry, chunky shoes, or smoky makeup for a spookier look. Feel free to float through solid objects and haunt people at will. Equi mentions a second, much more casual look of “familiar tee shirts and jeans.” While that literal description is certainly a viable outfit option, think of it as a suggestion for you to wear something you feel comfortable in. Put on the one outfit or classic “you” combination that you could wear for the rest of eternity. If you could only wear one thing for the rest of your paranormal existence, what would it be?

The next line in the poem hints at the exact opposite of this sentiment; Equi now considers the idea that ghosts, “being thought forms, / they can change their outfits instantly.” The most literal interpretation of this line involves the one outfit factor that allows for quickly changing up the way an outfit looks: layers. The most versatile outfits have multiple layers, with each one contributing to the look as a whole but not falling short of a complete outfit without any of the others. Layers works well with this early fall time weather as well. Accommodate for the chilly mornings, sunny afternoons, and even chillier evenings with a mix of sweaters, jackets, and cardigans. Don’t forget hats and scarves; they have much to offer both for warmth and for style.

The last stanza wonders if we “clothe [ghosts] like dolls from memory,” as if speculating that we, the living, give meaning to the dead. We don’t have to delve that deeply into the poem, though, to draw fashion inspiration from it. Instead, feel free to take it at face value and let a loved one dress you up, if you’re up to it. If you’ve ever wondered how your friends and family see you and your style, just let them pick out your clothes for a day.

While all that inspiration can apply to your day to day outfits, don’t forget to dress up for Halloween! Happy costume-hunting, and watch out for ghosts.

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