For families short of time, money or both, here are some ways to come up with quick Halloween costumes that be a cheap or expensive as one cares to make them.
First, here are some sources of costume materials that some readers may not have previously considered.
- secondhand or thrift stores
- fabric stores
- craft stores
- yard sales
- drug stores
- home stores
- education supply stores
- paper or office supply stores
- your own home
A word of caution first. Most of these ideas are not flameproof, so keep the children away from all sources of heat such as candles, heaters, fireplaces or bonfires. Also, obviously, some of these costumes are not appropriate for preschool children or younger.
Secondhand stores often have cheap ready-made Halloween costumes on sale, some of them still in the packaging. However, even partial costumes can be helpful. One might find a witch’s hat or a cape or some other prop available.
Better yet, secondhand stores can serve as a source of materials for original costumes. Purchase an oversized red hooded sweatshirt with a drawstring, cut off the sleeves, add a secondhand basket covered with a napkin or plaid dishtowel and you have Red Riding Hood.
Purchase two old shirts in contrasting patterns. Cut one into patches. Use fabric glue to paste the patches to the other shirt. Add drawn stitches with marking pen. With a handkerchief tied to an old broom handle, you have a hobo. With a hat and some straw or yellow yarn glued to stick out of the collar and sleeves, you have a scarecrow.
Dye a secondhand flat bed sheet an appropriate color and you can twist it into a mummy costume or sari.
Turn a secondhand black long-sleeved knit shirt and pants into a bee costume with yellow Duck Tape. Add a black knit cap with two black chenille sticks topped with small black pompoms. This can be done with a hot glue gun or some craft glues. Cut wings from clear laminate (such as Contact Paper) folded in layers to be the right thickness and attach with the Duck Tape.
A sheer curtain can be a bridal veil or a fairy’s skirt. Just thread a ribbon or yarn through the space where the curtain rod would go and use it to gather the fabric. Cut is short and you can make it look like a tutu.
Poster board, which you can get from school supply, craft supply or office supply stores, is also inexpensive and a great material for a number of costumes.
Make a playing card costume using two pieces of poster board. Draw the playing card on one piece and make decorate the other as the back of the card.
Attach them to one another at the top with the widest braided ribbon you can find. The wider the better for the comfort of the child. Adjust the length so that the costume fits the child. Make it long enough that the ribbon can be attached several inches below the top of the poster board. Staple the ribbon in several places up the poster board for strength.
Cover the staples by gluing more ribbon over the top of them. Also attach ribbons two both boards on both the right and left side so the boards can be tied in a way that lets the child walk, but keeps the board from flapping.
Poster board can also be used to make pointed hats. Cut a large circle from the board then make one cut from the edge to the center of the circle. Form a cone that will fit the child’s head and tape the edges down. You can cut a piece from the circle to make it smaller if you need to.
With some stickers and glitter, this makes a good wizard’s hat or, with a piece of sheer fabric glued to the tip, a princess hat. Add a brim by cutting a second circle with the center cut out and you have a witch’s hat. Depending on how stiff your poster board is, you may need two or three layers for the brim.
Want a cat or bunny costume? Try this. One pair of fuzzy pajamas with poster board ears attached to a cheap plastic hairband with a glue gun. Add a large white pompom for a rabbit’s tail or marabou or an old stocking for a cat’s tail.
Both plastic and paper bags can be used to make parts of Halloween costumes. Cut the bottom off a drawstring black trash bag and open one side. Remove the drawstring and replace it with ribbon or thick yarn. The result is an instant cape for a vampire or possibly Batman.
Some home stores and other places sell orange yard trash bags this time of year. Sometimes they are even available with Jack-o-lantern faces. Leaving the sides in tact, cut the bottom off the bag. Use Duck Tape to make a finished edge and adjust the bottom circumference to allow the child walking room. Cut armholes at the right level for the child and use the drawstring to fit the bag loosely around the child’s neck. Add a long-sleeved green shirt and a green knit hat to make the pumpkin stem.
Paper grocery bags can be the chest of a robot or cut to look like Native American buckskins. However, you can also open up the bag, cut off the bottom and twist it corner to corner diagonally then bring the ends together to make a wreath for emperors or a headpiece for fairies or brides. Just spray paint it the appropriate color and add plastic jewels or artificial flowers.
Above all, use imagination, both your and your children’s. You can have great fun turning simple, cheap things into memorable costumes. Do not forget to take pictures, not just of the children in their costumes, but of the creation process as well. It is an experience you will want to remember.
License for photograph of drawing