The Clown Prince of Crime ranks as one of the greatest comic book villains of all time, a reputation which was only enhanced by the late Heath Ledger's Oscar-winning portrayal of the Joker in "The Dark Knight." The character makes natural fodder for a costume, since he's both fun and scary in equal measures. Subtle variations colour the precise look of the character, which you should be familiar with before you start designing your own costume.
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Regardless of whether you're pulling inspiration from the comics, the movies or various animated series, the basics for a Joker costume are uniform: a purple jacket with tails, purple trousers, purple gloves, a green vest and a shirt with a matching tie. His hair is green and his face is covered in white make-up with red lips. You can use pancake make-up and lipstick to complete the look on your face along with a green wig or green dye for your hair. The suit works best if it's slightly large as the Joker is traditionally somewhat skinny, and you can add accessories such as a squirting flower boutonnière or a pistol with a "bang" flag. The basics are sufficient to evoke the character, regardless of your particular incarnation.
Jack Nicholson's Joker
Nicholson made a memorable appearance as the Joker in Tim Burton's 1989 "Batman" movie. Evoking his look requires a few deviations from the basic formula. His shirt was orange instead of green, and he wore a blue-green vest with a blue scarf tied under the collar like a bow tie. His trousers were blue-and-purple plaid, and he wore a wide-brimmed purple fedora with a black band. Nicholson's accessories included a lavender lily in his jacket button and a black walking cane. For the face, apply a lot of white foundation make-up and brush your hair back from your forehead. Light highlights around the eyebrows and eyes can help accentuate the look, but take it easy: his face was primarily white. Nicholson's Joker had a smile pulled in a permanent grin, which you can emphasise with make-up if you wish (though it's not necessary). Remember to act flamboyant while in character. Nicholson's Joker thrilled at being the centre of attention.
Heath Ledger's Joker
Ledger's Joker adopted a grittier and more "lived-in" look than Nicholson's four-color villain. His clothes were of subtler hues, his light purple shirt decorated in a quiet hexagon pattern, and he wore a purple neck tie instead of a scarf. He also carried knives instead of any outlandish accoutrements (always use safe rubber knives for Halloween), and his hair and make-up were grunge-inspired. Unlike Nicholson's Joker, whose face was stuck the way it was, Ledger's Joker applied his make-up rather haphazardly. For the costume, keep your hair stringy and hanging around your face, and mark the white face with wear or crease marks in the forehead and around the mouth. Ledger also had dark circles around his eyes (back cream make-up works well), and the red of his lips extended up across his cheeks to cover his infamous "Glasgow smile" (his cheek scars). You can add the scars before adding the make-up by applying latex or by building up toilet paper and non-toxic glue. Ledger's body language was subtler than Nicholson's. He often hunched slightly and carried his head tilted to one side. Emulate his actions when you're in character.
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