Mathilda from Léon: The Professional Halloween Costume

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Leon and Mathilda from Leon: The Professional Halloween couples' costume

Two Halloweens ago, my longtime #goals to dress as Mathilda from Luc Besson’s 1994 film Léon: The Professional finally came to fruition, after much daydreaming and last-minute scrambling. I had trouble finding good resources online for how to put together a Mathilda costume, so I decided to write a blog post about how I did it, so that you, too, can dress like a little girl assassin.

Two notes in advance:

  1. Instead of faithfully reproducing specific outfits à la cosplaying, I decided to pull together iconic elements of the character’s looks, for maximum recognizability.
  2. All screencaps are from movie-screencaps.com.

Without further ado…

Here’s what you’ll need to dress as Mathilda, as played by Natalie Portman in Léon: The Professional:

Leon: The Professional - Natalie Portman - Mathilda - Halloween costume cheat sheet how-to DIY - anothertoast.com

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Halloween Costume Cheat Sheet:

MATHILDA

FROM LÉON: THE PROFESSIONAL

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CLOTHING:

  • a black lace-up top OR a striped crop top OR a black scoop neck top
  • a black or light blue denim miniskirt or short shorts
  • an oversized army green bomber jacket
  • off-white socks you can scrunch down
  • black or brown flat booties

PROPS & ACCESSORIES:

  • a red beanie
  • round-frame sunglasses
  • a black velvet choker with a silver sun charm
  • a potted plant
  • a brown paper bag

HAIR & MAKEUP:

  • a super short dark brown bob with stringy bangs
  • contouring/highlighting eyeshadow (and/or other skin makeup)

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Basically we’re going for a mix of these two iconic outfits:

Leon: The Professional (1994) dir. Luc Besson - Natalie Portman - Mathilda - Halloween costume - striped top, choker

Leon: The Professional (1994) dir. Luc Besson - Natalie Portman - Mathilda - Halloween costume - green bomber jacket, red beanie

We’re gonna be taking the top outfit and layering on the appropriate accessories and outerwear from the bottom outfit for an iconic Mathilda Looque™.

Now for a detailed breakdown!

Let’s start with Mathilda’s clothing.

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CLOTHING

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TOP

Leon: The Professional - Natalie Portman - Mathilda - Halloween costume - black lace-up scoop V-neck shirt, choker

Leon: The Professional - Natalie Portman - Mathilda - Halloween costume - black lace-up scoop V-neck shirt, choker

Mathilda’s most recognizable top is probably her black lace-up top, the likes of which are really hard to find in adult sizes without veering into lingerie territory. Showing cleavage kills the Mildly Inappropriate Prepubescent vibe we’re going for, so unless you have a small bust, I’d say you’re better off going with a scoop-neck t-shirt in solid black or narrow stripes, and make it a crop top if you can, like so:

Leon: The Professional - Natalie Portman - Mathilda - Halloween costume - striped scoop neck shirt, choker

Leon: The Professional - Natalie Portman - Mathilda - Halloween costume - striped scoop neck shirt, choker

I actually hate wearing scoop necks (because I have a keloid scar on my chest that I prefer to keep covered), so I went with a striped crew-neck crop top (one of the “Soft & Sexy” shirts from Aerie), but really almost any top will work for this.

You should be fine if your shirt fits most of the following criteria:

Fit: fitted but not tight (or slightly oversized, if you’re thin)
Sleeve length: short
Neckline: scoop-neck*
Length: slightly cropped**
Color: solid black, or narrow stripes in subdued colors (e.g. gray/black, or brown/cream)

*A crewneck also works passably well, but if you do go with a crewneck (like I did), I suggest also going for a crop top that shows a couple inches of midriff, to preserve Mathilda’s air of coquettishness.

**You can turn a regular shirt into a crop top with a quick basting stitch, or if you’re short on time, use some iron-on/fusible hemming tape.

(Protip: If you can get away with wearing a bralette or possibly a sports bra that deemphasizes your breasts, do.)

Here are some tops that should work (all under $25 because ain’t nobody got time for expensive Halloween costumes):

(Caveat: I do not personally own any of these items and cannot vouch for their quality or Mathilda-ness when worn by someone other than a Size 0 model. These sure look like they’d do the job, but I’ll update this post as I find better options.)

MINISKIRT OR SHORTS

Leon: The Professional - Natalie Portman - Mathilda - Halloween costume - open knit crochet cardigan, stripe crop top, belted miniskirt

I can’t tell for sure but this miniskirt might actually be velvet, which would be the most deliciously 90s thing ever.

Leon: The Professional - Natalie Portman - Mathilda - Halloween costume - belted denim shorts, cropped colorblock cardigan vest top

I WISH I could find a top this amazing.

Almost any miniskirt or pair of shorts will work for a Mathilda costume, so just pick something that flatters you. My suggestions are

  1. a high-waisted, fitted (not flared or A-line) miniskirt, in black or mid-to-light-blue denim, or
  2. a high-waisted pair of shorts in black or mid-to-light-blue denim,

either of which could be worn with a black or brown leather belt, depending on what color denim you choose. Some cheap options for denim miniskirts and shorts:

(Of course, if you somehow manage to find a pair of shorts that look like Mathilda’s striped green ones…

Leon: The Professional - Natalie Portman - Mathilda - Halloween costume - green contrast zipper striped shorts

…more power to ya. There certainly aren’t any adult-sized shorts I’ve seen that look like this, and I’ve searched for kids’ pajamas to no avail. I don’t think lime-green contrast zippers positioned over the crotch are really in style right now, unfortunately…)

ARMY GREEN BOMBER JACKET

Leon: The Professional - Natalie Portman - Mathilda - Halloween costume - army green MA1 flight bomber jacket orange lining

Leon: The Professional - Natalie Portman - Mathilda - Halloween costume - army green MA1 flight bomber jacket orange lining

Leon: The Professional - Natalie Portman - Mathilda - Halloween costume - army green MA1 flight bomber jacket orange lining

Bomber jackets are still pretty popular right now, so it should be pretty easy to find a passable green one, but if you want one that has the same safety-cone-orange lining as Mathilda’s jacket, I HIGHLY recommend purchasing from littlegijoessurplus on eBay. This one is crazy warm, surprisingly easy to incorporate into your normal wardrobe, and under $40:

Leon: The Professional - Natalie Portman - Mathilda - Halloween costume - army green bomber jacket with orange lining - MA1 flight jacket

Sage Green Reversible Bomber Flight Jacket, $36.99 from littlegijoessurplus on eBay

IMO it’s a good idea to size up, because an oversized jacket will make you look smaller (and more like a 12-year-old).

Here are some other options if you want something less military and more everyday-wear:

And another good Forever21 option. And pricier men’s and women’s options from Uniqlo.

(Side note: If you happen to find a cardigan that looks like Mathilda’s open-knit one (I think it might be crocheted actually, but I can’t tell for sure), it would be a great layering piece for under the bomber jacket. I haven’t found any that look similar enough, but if you’re expecting a cold Halloween, it’s an option to consider.)

SOCKS

Leon: The Professional - Natalie Portman - Mathilda - Halloween costume - brown ankle booties, long scrunched down socks, printed leggings

If you don’t already own a pair of chunky knit knee- or thigh-high socks in white or off-white, I highly recommend Sock Dreams, my absolute favorite sock purveyor. (Sock Dreams charges no tax, always has free shipping in the US, and ships really quickly. They also have a sweet selection of legwear, including the best over-the-knee socks of all time, the O Basics – yours for the low low price of $7.) Here’s the pair I bought for my Mathilda outfit:

Leon: The Professional - Natalie Portman - Mathilda - Halloween costume - slouchy off-white socks - SockDreams - thigh high socks - knee socks

Cotton Slouch Socks in Natural, $7 from SockDreams

These are One Size Fits All, which means the heel area is a little baggy for my size 7.5 (US) feet, but they can be worn scrunched-down (like for this costume) or pulled up, and I’ve never had problems with them slipping down or feeling constrictively tight.

BOOTIES

Leon: The Professional - Natalie Portman - Mathilda - Halloween costume - brown buckle flat ankle booties

Leon: The Professional - Natalie Portman - Mathilda - Halloween costume - brown flat buckle ankle booties, long scrunched down socks

For Mathilda’s boots, you could probably get away with any pair of Chelsea or Chelsea-like booties, as long as they’re dark, flat or very low-heeled, over-the-ankle-but-below-the-calf, and a little chunky. Bonus points if it’s got a buckle on the side.

(For my costume, I wore the Ecco Brown Saunter Chelsea Boot that I bought for my mom in like 2013. I was going to go with my Steve Madden Troopa combat boots, but they were a little more punk-rock than I wanted.)

If you don’t have any booties that fit the bill, I suggest either 1) spending a little more and getting a pair of appropriate booties you’d also wear normally, or 2) scouring DSW and 6pm’s clearance sections as well as the Payless/Forever21/Charlotte Russe triumvirate of cheap shoes. (And possibly Target.)

Moving on to accessories now…

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PROPS & ACCESSORIES

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RED BEANIE

Leon: The Professional - Mathilda - Natalie Portman - Halloween costume - red crochet open knit beanie skullcap kufi

Leon: The Professional - Mathilda - Natalie Portman - Halloween costume - red crochet open knit beanie skullcap kufi

Mathilda’s red beanie isn’t quite like a normal crocheted beanie because it fits like a skull cap and it has that distinctive open knit on the border. After a lot of Googling, I went with this:

Leon: The Professional - Mathilda - Halloween costume - red open knit crochet beanie skullcap kufi - ebay catofleo

100% Cotton Kufi in Red, $3.99 from catofleo on eBay

It’s a kufi. I ordered the red one, which turned out to be way too bright, so I ended up using RIT dye to take it a few shades darker.

(I used black and red powdered RIT dye in a 1:1 ratio, which turned my beanie a weird dull oxblood color, and then I did a couple bleach and water baths until it lightened to the right shade of red. This particular kufi is 100% cotton, so it takes dye really well – I’d suggest a black:red dye ratio of maybe 1:2 so you don’t over-darken it like I did.)

ROUND-FRAME SUNGLASSES

Leon: The Professional - Natalie Portman - Mathilda - Halloween costume - round sunglasses john lennon frames glasses - red crochet open knit beanie skullcap kufi

Leon: The Professional - Natalie Portman - Mathilda - Halloween costume - round sunglasses john lennon frames glasses - red crochet open knit beanie skullcap kufi - black velvet choker silver sun charm - green bomber jacket

For Mathilda’s sunglasses, I got this silver-rimmed pair on eBay, but the seller doesn’t seem to have the silver frames anymore. I actually don’t recommend them anyway, because 1) they’re not quite big enough (notice how oversized Mathilda’s sunglasses are on her face), and 2) the nose pads are slightly misaligned.

Here’s another eBay option I found:

John Lennon style round sunglasses, $5.89 from saloogal on eBay

But according to the measurements, they run narrow in the temples, so buyer beware.

I’m fairly certain both black and silver frames will work equally well for this costume, but black is probably closer to the movie version.

I’ll update this post as I find better options, but your best bet is either eBay or a fast fashion store. (Or, like, a street vendor.)

BLACK VELVET CHOKER WITH SILVER SUN CHARM

And now for my favorite part of this whole costume: Mathilda’s choker.

Leon: The Professional - Natalie Portman - Mathilda - Halloween costume - black velvet choker with silver sun charm, striped knit scoop neck tshirt
The eBay seller I purchased from originally is no longer active, but I found this choker, which looks pretty similar:

Leon: The Professional (1994) dir. Luc Besson - Natalie Portman - Mathilda - Halloween costume - black velvet choker with silver sun charm pendant

Black Velvet Choker with Sun Pendant, $4.79 from absolutemarket1 on eBay

This isn’t an exact replica of Mathilda’s choker (whereas this one and this one have actually got the round stud things in front), but it’s close enough for a Halloween costume.

If you’d prefer not to wear a small anthropomorphic sun around your neck, here’s a faceless option I found:

Leon: The Professional (1994) dir. Luc Besson - Natalie Portman - Mathilda - Halloween costume - black velvet choker with silver sun charm pendant

Black Choker with Silver Sun Pendant, $9.49 on Amazon

If neither of these is up your alley, you should be able to find other good options on eBay and Etsy.

POTTED PLANT

Leon: The Professional (1994) dir. Luc Besson - Halloween costume - props and accessories - potted plant - Chinese Evergreen

According to this article, Leon’s plant is a Chinese evergreen. I actually didn’t buy the one I used for my costume because we already had a couple sitting around (they’re common indoor plants), but my mom informs me that it cost like $20.

I would’ve suggested going with a fake plant, but they’re surprisingly expensive. You can probably just go to your local nursery and pick up a live one for cheaper. Ideally, it should have some height (think 12-18 inches) and come in a brick-red pot (the plastic kind that’s supposed to resemble terra cotta works great here so it’s not as heavy to tote around).

BROWN PAPER BAG

Find a plain brown paper grocery bag without handles (cut ‘em off if you have to), stuff something inside (crumpled up newspaper, perhaps), and roll the top down. Clutch it under your arm like you’re a 12-year-old girl. Embrace the bag.

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HAIR & MAKEUP

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HAIR

Leon: The Professional (1994) dir. Luc Besson - Natalie Portman - Mathilda - Halloween costume - hair & makeup - short bob with bangs

Leon: The Professional (1994) dir. Luc Besson - Natalie Portman - Mathilda - Halloween costume - hair & makeup - short bob with bangs

Leon: The Professional (1994) dir. Luc Besson - Natalie Portman - Mathilda - Halloween costume - hair & makeup - short bob with bangs

Leon: The Professional (1994) dir. Luc Besson - Natalie Portman - Mathilda - Halloween costume - hair & makeup - short bob with bangs

Leon: The Professional (1994) dir. Luc Besson - Natalie Portman - Mathilda - Halloween costume - hair & makeup - short bob with sweaty stringy bangs

I’m not well-versed in wig purveyors, but both of my costume wigs are from Gypsy Rosalie’s. Both times, I bought a wig that was on sale (under $30) but didn’t look quite how I wanted.

For a Mathilda costume, you can do with any very dark brown bob wig that has straight bangs. If you can’t find the right color, I’d suggest going for a shade that’s too light, rather than too dark, and giving it a semi-temporary spray dye treatment. (Spray-on root concealer is ideal for this.)

I ended up having to give my wig a trim to get the right jawline-grazing length, but once you give up on looking as attractive as Natalie Portman in this hairstyle, you’ll be fine. (It’s easiest to enlist the help of a friend if you decide to trim your wig. Note how much volume there is in the back of her bob, and how all her hair sort of swoops in toward her jawline.)

I initially thought I’d need to thin out my wig’s bangs with scissors, because it came with heavy, blunt bangs, but I ended up just pinning most of the bangs up and hiding them under the beanie, leaving some chunks of hair out to look all stringy and slightly sweaty. #nailedit

As for procuring a wig online, what I can tell from skimming cosplay forums is that Epic Cosplay and Arda Wigs are reputable websites with high-quality products.

Note: If you have long hair, it’s very, very useful to get a wig cap, which basically looks like weird pantyhose for your head – it’ll make it way easier to tuck your hair up.

MAKEUP

Leon: The Professional (1994) dir. Luc Besson - Natalie Portman - Mathilda - Halloween costume - perpetually sad makeup

The basic idea is to make your resting face look as heart-wrenchingly sad as Mathilda’s when she first enters Léon’s apartment.

I roughly followed this makeup tutorial to make my face more Natalie Portman-esque because 1) the bobbed wig was not flattering on me, and 2) I’m not white:

The basic look (with my modifications):

  • straight eyebrows, with the side closest to the nose drawn at an angle for maximum sadness
  • a bit of contouring with eyeshadow in the crease
  • nose and nose bridge contouring
  • dark undereye circles
  • soft pink blush
  • puppy liner (basically instead of a cat-eye, angle your wings downwards)

The most important products I used were these:

  • eyebrow razors (from Walgreen’s), to shave the arch out of my eyebrows so they’d look straighter
  • an eyebrow pencil a couple shades too light (to fill in my freshly shaven brows and deemphasize the arch more, and to give myself a perma-sad expression)
  • beige and dark taupe eyeshadow, for contouring my inner eye/top of nose bridge, and for eyebag emphasis (I used Urban Decay eyeshadow in Skimp and Bust; I imagine ColourPop’s Hear Me Out and Take the Lead or Cloud Nine would serve you just as well)
  • drugstore makeup 2 shades too dark and 2 shades too light, plus a sample of Benefit’s Watt’s Up, for contouring my nose to look more like a white person’s
  • a fine-tip liquid liner (I like the Clio eyeliner in Kill Black)
  • any soft pink blush that makes you look ~youthful~
  • any soft pink or nude-ish lip color (tinted lip balm probably works best here – I used Rosebud Perfume Co. Minted Rose Lip Balm)

The video does a better job of explaining how to shade and contour your eye area than I can in writing, so give it a watch, give it a try, and be shocked by how effective shading your nose bridge is.

(Obviously the makeup colors I used won’t work for all skin tones, but the idea is the same. We’re going for the saddest eyes of all time.)

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And on that depressing note, this wraps up my Mathilda costume guide!

I’ll be updating this post as I find better options for each of the costume items, and I miiight get a guide up for Léon’s costume at some point as well.

If you’re a fan of Léon: The Professional and hoping to dress like Mathilda this Halloween, I hope this post has been helpful for you.

I leave you with this most excellent, heartbreaking clip:

(Yeah, I know I said I would post this costume guide almost a whole year ago. I’m sorry. Life happened.)

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