Murasaki Shikibu (ca. 973-1014) was one of the world’s great literary geniuses. She wrote the first novel in history—The Tale of Genji—and with it created not only a timeless masterpiece of Japanese literature, but an entirely new art form. The photos above show performers garbed as Murasaki: the style is elaborate Heian period court dress. To really pull this off you’d need about 12 kimonos layered on top of each other, which we’re thinking might be a bit much. We’re proposing a simpler approach.

The pieces we suggest, from left to right:

1. Miko cosplay costume. The miko costume consists of red hakama (divided trousers) and white haori (kimono jacket). This is similar to what Heian ladies wore under all their kimonos: you can see the red hakama on the performer in the photo up top. You can also get hakamas from martial arts stores; just search on Google for “red hakama.”
2. Brocade kimono. Wear this beautiful kimono over the miko costume. Don’t use the obi: let the kimono hang open in the front.
3. Tabi socks.
4. Zori shoes.
5. “Geisha” makeup kit. Not really geisha; just classic Japanese makeup, which is what you need to recreate the look of an aristocratic Heian lady. (The “geisha” tag on everything drives us nuts.) The easiest thing to do makeup-wise in North America is just go with theatrical makeup, and this kit is an inexpensive choice.
6. Long black wig. Really long: 60 inches. Why do you need a five foot long wig? Because this is what Heian ladies were doing with their hair:


Other costumes in this category: Notable Women