Dia De Los Muertos: The Do's and Dont's

Dia De Los Muertos: The Do's and Dont's

Dio De Los Muertos is a time of remembrance for many Latin American countries. Many people assume it's just a Mexican thing but a lot of Latin America celebrate it (although its origins lay in Mexico). On a global scale many countries also have similar holidays celebrating life and death all year long, but since it's October we thought it would be great to dive into the history of this time of the year and explain the rich culture behind the sugar skull memes and slutty costumes mostly seen in the US. From October 31 to November 2 communities of people visit the deceased and together to the cycle of life. The holiday is non synonymous with Halloween. 

Day of the dead is not meant to be scary or meant to be frightening and many, although not all Mexicans, celebrate it. The Dia De Los Muertos that we celebrate today originated from traditions of the native people, primarily Aztecs that were colonized and forced to assimilated to catholic practices (much like our beloved thanksgiving, but that's for another blog #BOLO) when the spanish arrived in Latin America. In order to preserve their culture, many natives had to guise their traditions with that of the colonizers. The holiday used to be a month-long event at the end of summer that eventually merged with lesser celebrated catholic holidays. All Saints eve. 

So while many Mexicans today celebrate Dia de Los Muertos, there are just as many who do not participate due to their beliefs. It's just a blending of two histories at this point. It's also important to note that the holiday has grown over-the-top since the release of Coco and the rising trend of dressing as a sugar skull for Halloween. Wearing party costumes depicting La Catrina or Sugar Skulls for Halloween can actually detract from the actual significance and importance of the holiday. But that does not mean the holiday is off limits to those choosing to partake in the festivities (and by partake, we mean stay your ass home this year so next year we can go out with Rona coming for us). Read on for an insider's approach to celebrating responsibly.  

Each day holds significance for the souls choosing to visit the land of the living. The Aztecs believed that mourning for the dead would be like throwing salt on a bad wound. Celebrate, they said! Oct. 31 is the day for children and teens to travel back to earth to be with families, while November 1st is come back. As for the attire, it's a whole thing, so let's break it down. Now for the average wanton partaker, we are guessing you're not totally hip to the meaning behind the outfit. Well you can casually dress as La Catrina or Catrin to represent the overall event or you can personalize your attire to represent a deceased loved one in your life. So there is that. We mainly will be looking at the basic garments for Dia De Los Muertos. If you choose to dress up as your dear aunt Sally, that’s gucci. 

The Face


Dia De Los Muertos is practically synonymous with cavaleras, or skulls. Because death is a part of life, or so many believe, the skull makeup is just a reminder that we are born and die similar. It's an undisputed fact that the face is the main point of the whole ensemble. Images of La Catrina are inundated in pop culture around the world. The Lady of Death, as she is known, is said to originate from the Aztec queen of the underworld, Mictecacihuatl. So she has been around for a while. The current imagery of the lady rose from a drawing created by Jose Guadulpe Posada in the early 1900s. The artist’s intention was a social commentary on cultures at play.  “La Calavera Catrina” was a satirical image created to mock indigenous Mexicans imitating european styles of the time. Oo the tea he spilled. The makeup itself is pretty self explanatory and up for your own personal embellishments. We have a color guide below for assistance. Just remember it's not about being scary or sexy. Jewels are often worn and face designs are endless. 

The Flowers: Flowers are a must. Cempasuchitl, or the Mexican marigold is said to be loved by the Aztec queen of the underworld herself. The petals of the Mexican marigold are said to light the way to the ofrendas for your loved ones which is why the cemeteries are filled with them. Although this iconic flower holds a lot of power, other flowers are also welcome. Each flower has different meanings so be creative and genuine. Some of the floral headgear we’ve seen is amazing. In fact this post was inspired by a beautiful Calavera done by the makeup artist Karen, better known as Iluvsarahii. 

The Dress: Do not, we repeat do not, support major chains such as Party City or Halloween Spirit by buying their knockoff inauthentic garble costumes that promote sexualizing women and undermining their labor workers. Search for your outfits elsewhere. Try supporting your local floral, dress and (in the digital age) etsy makers, that’s where it's at. Now that we got that clear, there are a few options you can go with that are not insensitive and are traditional. When going for a more La Catrina look, opt for a long dress with lace. Colors are welcome - keep reading for a guide - with any dress floral embellishments are a must. Which is a perfect segway into outfit style number 2. A Campesina or Puebla dress is a simple and genuine outfit for the occasion. Most of these dresses already have flowers sewn into them. Usually your outfit is not meant to be black so keep that in mind. If you do a quick google search you’ll find that dress styles are all usually similar. It's all about how you style them. 

We have barely covered the surface of menswear at The Club, so we wanted to shake it up. This is not a women’s only holiday so gents here is your short clip inserted. For all those who are familiar with Mariachi music then you know the banda attire. A Charro suit is going a little over the top for Dia De Los Muertos but if you're feeling bold go for it. A beautifully weaved charro suit is hella expensive so maybe just wear something nicer than usual. Plenty of men roam the festivities in their everyday attire. Which in their case still isn't jeans and a t. The alternative is an ornate camisa de Yucatan or also known as guayabera. It's just a plain billowy collared white shirt that keeps you cool and in style. If you were celebrating in Mexico you would definitely be wearing some comfy shoes. No heels or sexy thigh-highs welcome. 

The Accessories 

Like we mentioned above jewels are a common element to the face makeup but so are necklaces and earrings. When it gets cold outside you can dress up your outfit with scarfs and basically anything. Just make sure it has flowers. 


The Colors: 

  • Gold, Yellow & Orange: 
        • Think of the Aztecas, they ate these colors up in all aspects of their imagery. These vibrant colors represent life, prosperity and equality. We are all one under the sun. 
  • Purple & Red: 
        • These colors showcase the bleaker aspects of death and recognize suffering, loss, death, sacrifice and pain among other things. 
  • White & Black: 
      • These two polar opposites represent what you think. White stands for purity, innocence and hope in the afterlife. Black obvi means death but it also means land of the dead. 

    The Setting: 

  • Ofrendas: We mentioned these above but ofrendas are essentially altars built near the graves or in one's home as a welcome back table full of goodies and food. You can literally make whatever you want but some honorable mentions are tamales and Atole. Yumm! 
    • Most locations for these events take place in cemeteries but they can also be celebrated at altars for family members. Altars are not shrines. They are simply places to gather with those you’ve lost. They are not memorials kept up all year. The decor is pretty similar to your outfit, styled with bouquets of flowers and calaveras of all colors. Another traditional element is these paper ornaments, papel picado. They represent the frail balance of life and death. 

    So now that you have a better understanding of what Dia De Los Muertos is, go celebrate and have fun. If you get stopped by the culture police let them know what you know about this important day in Mexican culture. Let us know if our guide helped you, leave us a comment below and send us some images of your dia de los muertos.


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