I have always been quite intrigued by the case of the Black Dahlia. I even finished one of the many books I have read on the case while recovering in the hospital doped this past year. I have always sympathized with Elizabeth and all that she went through but I must say using her corpse photos and trying to replicate her wounds on my face made me feel for her even more. The gorier you have to make the makeup the more you realize what caused the wounds you are trying to replicate and the pain they must have endured.
Attire: To create my look I wanted to go authentic. I hit up the thrifts stores for a vintage 1940’s black dress and had no success. Then I turned to eBay. To much surprise I was able to find a dress very similar to what Elizabeth has been photographed wearing for only $19. Lucky me when it arrived in the mail it fit me. Had it been a tad bit smaller I would have been on the hunt once again. For my jewelry I wore a pearl necklace that I had already owned and purchased some cheap costume jewelry clip on large pearl earrings from Buy Costumes. I wore black tights and black vintage Mary Jane style shows to complete the look I was trying to achieve.
Hair: My hair is already dyed black and the length of it is quite similar to that of Elizabeth Shorts photos so a wig was not needed. Despite the fact that I have naturally curly/wavy hair I still curled my entire head of hair into ringlets using my curling iron to achieve Elizabeth’s hair style. Since Elizabeth was known to wear large white flowers in her hair. I purchased 2 fake white Dahlia flowers off of Etsy. I took them apart and glued them back together as one whole flower to achieve a much larger look. I then glued a hair clip to the back of the flower and pinned it up into my hair. I splattered a little bit of fake cinema makeup blood to the floor for added gore.
Makeup: I wanted to really achieve the crime scene look but stay a little on the beauty side as well so that people would recognize who I was suppose to be. I figured a recently murdered look would be the best route to go. I used my many Black Dahlia case books as reference for the makeup I wanted to achieve. I first applied my every day makeup to my face. Being pale has it’s advantages when you are dressing up for Halloween, ha ha. I put on my normal makeup foundation and powder all over my face including my eyelids. I applied my usual black eye liner and mascara. I wanted to start off with what Elizabeth would have started out with before she left for the evening. A pinup starlet look.
Then I wanted to stage the makeup as if the crime happened. I took 99% rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball and wiped any makeup and oil off my face where I planned to make any wounds. This gave me a nice base for the special fx makeup to stick to. I used Third Degree Special FX Makeup to achieve the Chelsea grin smile and wounds on the nose and forehead. I molded the Third Degree to my face with a small metal spatula as it worked really well to get the Third Degree to stick to my face and not the utensil. You have approximately anywhere between 5 and 10 minutes before the makeup sets to mold it to your liking. For the wounds on my face I made sure to leave hole like crevices to achieve a deep look. For the mouth I made sure to leave the middle of the molding with less Third Degree to achieve that deep wound look.
I started the makeup at the top of my upper lip and then dragged it across my cheek I then did the same thing from the corner of my lower lip connecting it at the end. I did this on both sides of my mouth. Once that had all dried it was time to make it all look realistic. I figured that Elizabeth would have been crying during this incident and that her eye makeup would be running and smeared. I used all Ben Nye Theatrical Makeup for the rest of the makeup process. I darkened my eyelids, corners of my eyes and my under eyes with black. I blended it with a brush and wet finger tips to achieve the crying look. I also knew she was wounded on her head so I darkened my face in various spots with black and blue to achieve bruising. For the wounds I took the makeup shade closest to my skin tone and put it all over the Third Degree Moldings. I blended it to my face makeup to make it look blended and a part of my skin. To get the wounds to look real I started with a a dark burgundy red shade and filled in the crevices and holes. I then darkened that with black to really get a deep cut look.
This process is a lot of blending and getting it to look real at your own artistic discretion. You have to just have an eye for it. I also figured that the skin around the wounds would be irritated. So I used a little bit of red and blended it around all the wounds into my skin tone color. I then also added a little bit of purple and blue to give it a bruised painful look. I also had to use the flesh color to blend it all together again and look like it was a part of my skin. To really get the dramatics of it I used Ben Nye Fake Blood (its actually flavored) that was applied to all the wounds with a q-tip. I wanted the Chelsea grin to really look gory so I put a lot on the wound, my lips and teeth and let it drip down my face. I did not touch it as it did this so that it dried this way. I added it to the center of all the facial wounds, my neck and neckline etc. I also added a little black and blue to my neck and neckline as well to achieve a forceful death look.
Needless to say I knew I did a good job when my cat would not come anywhere near me, ha ha. I went to pet her and she backed away from me and ran into my room to hide. My husband’s band Axe Man’s Bridge was playing at a Halloween show that was also a costume event. Everyone at the show kept coming up to me and complimenting me on the makeup job and telling me how real it all looked. I ran into a friend in the bathroom who didn’t even know I was there at the show because she did not recognize it was me. She looked at me and was like Oh my god Nicole is that you!??!! Yep! Mission accomplished!