A Lisbeth Salander Halloween Costume that Won't Make Stieg Larsson Cringe

Halloween parties have always been a surprisingly reliable barometer for pop cultural heat. So this year, expect to find a battalion of Lisbeth Salanders fanned out among the Steve Jobs and the Lady Gagas and the Katniss Everdeens. In fact, odds are strong that Lisbeth could give the sexy nurse a run for her money as the costume of choice for women seeking a provocatively alluring getup to wear on All Hallows’ Eve.

Because most secondhand descriptions of the punk protagonist of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy make reference to her Goth chick menace and dark sexuality, odds are equally high that most Halloween Lisbeths will mangle the author’s intent by sexing her up or going too S&M with the accessories. In fact, we’re relatively certain that so many of these getups would have been downright offensive to Lisbeth herself, who was modeled not on "La Femme Nikita" or Daniel Ash of Bauhaus but on Pippi Longstocking, the plucky protagonist of Astrid Lindgren’s series about a young girl whose diminutive size and wacky hairstyle belies her superhuman strength and vicious temper.

So in an effort to defend Lisbeth’s integrity, we’ve assembled the following step-by-step guide to dressing up as the girl with the dragon tattoo – no permanent piercing or inking required.

The first order of business is to decide which Lisbeth look you’ll be using as your template. Lisbeth’s physical appearance varies wildly from the first book to the last, so it’s important to zero in on a particular scene or time period. For the purposes of this how-to, we’re going with the version of the character as we first meet her in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. For purposes of timeliness (and, actually, accuracy), we’ll hew closely to the above image of Rooney Mara in the upcoming David Fincher adaptation of the novel.

In the interest of economy, see if any of your male friends would be willing to sacrifice an old black henley. If not, make a run to an army-navy story and pick up a long-underwear shirt, a pair of men's black straight leg (not skinny!) jeans, and a pair of work boots. If you can grab a black messenger bag at the same store, you’ll have taken care of all the big items.

Now it’s time to hit the Halloween novelty store and/or craft emporium, where your shopping list should include the following:

1. A cheap black wig long enough to shape into Lisbeth’s pixie-from-hell ‘do.
2. Press-on and clip-on earrings and studs for nose, lip, eyebrow, and ears.
3. Henna tattoos and/or high-quality body paint.
4. Painful-looking spike earrings.
5. Black Rit clothing dye
6. Black jeans patch.

When you get home, place your new jeans and long sleeve t-shirt on your driveway under a pile of jagged rocks. Run over the clothes with your car as many times as your gas tank will allow. If you don’t have access to a car, hide catnip or fresh meat inside the clothes and leave them in a closed room with a house pet for an hour or so. Once they have been sufficiently beat up, place the shirt and jeans in the washing machine with the package of Rit dye.

When it comes time to primp, you’ll want to first have your most artistically inclined friend draw or apply your dragon tattoo just to the right of your left shoulder blade. Because you’ll be sporting your costume on a chilly fall night, this is purely for your own edification. But if you’re truly committed to the role, we highly recommend it as it amps up your badass factor significantly.

Now it’s time to Lisbeth-ify your hair and face. Place the wig on your head and cut bangs just below your hairline and chop away at the rest of the wig until you’ve achieved the necessary asymmetry. Before applying any of the piercings, the hard-cores among you might consider either shaving, bleaching, or applying thick pancake makeup over your eyebrows. Once your hardware is in place, you’ll need to time-travel back into your high school wardrobe and dig up an old stub of coal black eyeliner. Apply liberally to your lower eyelid and, voila, the person looking back at you should resemble a Swedish computer hacker who sometimes goes by the alias "Wasp."

Once your jeans and shirt have been died and dried, you’ll have reached the final phase of your transformation. Tuck the jeans into your combat boots and a pair of thick wool socks. Throw an old leather biker jacket on over your tattered shirt. Make sure you’ve got a laptop, a dildo, and a ring of duct tape in your messenger bag and you’ll be so Salander, Lisbeth herself might even give you a begrudging chin nod if she were to pass you on the street.