Halloween will be here before you know it. Save your money for the candy you’ll be giving out to trick-or-treaters by skipping the high-priced, mass-produced, store-bought costumes this year.
You can make awesome custom Halloween costumes that will outshine anything you can buy in the store, and for less money, says Auriel Elmore, who creates costumes for her own children. She posts her creations on Instagram and on her Facebook page, Day of the Thread Up and she loves to help others find ways to make fun costumes.
“My mom made my costumes my whole life. I think she’d rather throw a sheet on me every year and call me a ghost than buy a premade Halloween costume,” says Elmore.
“Mass-made retail costumes have always been against her creative religion, and of course, they are against mine. I started making my own costumes long before I had my own kids.”
Elmore made her first children’s costume for her daughter when she was just under 2 years old. “We were completely broke, so I almost didn’t participate in Halloween that year. I went in to a fabric store with my mom and saw a big piece of leopard faux fur in a clearance bin for a few bucks.
“I thought to myself, my daughter has this crazy hair and boots that would match this fabric. This is the moment the idea came to me. I’d make her a caveman. I went home with this piece of fabric (the day before Halloween). I used her diaper to make a pattern for the bottoms.”
Elmore made a papier-mâché “club” for her little caveman and painted a beard and heavy eyebrows on her daughter’s face. “People loved it! I couldn’t believe the response I had,” Elmore says. “That was the year that it really launched, and I knew I’d forever be obsessed with creating costumes.”
In 2017, she entered the Shutterfly Hocus Focus Costume Contest with a family Halloween costume. “My daughter really wanted to be the tooth fairy so I had to build around that. I made my daughter’s tooth fairy costume, my husband was the dentist, I was cotton candy, and my son was…drum roll…tooth decay!” Elmore won the grand prize with her innovative idea.
Elmore offers this advice for creating homemade costumes:
You don’t have to achieve an exact look. Look for things that are close enough, or changeable. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes – that is the best way to learn. The best costumes come from letting go of control.
Living on the Cheap has put together a list of 101 homemade costume ideas to help you begin (If you don’t have time to read all 101 right now, pin this article on Pinterest or share it on Facebook for later.).
Use materials you already have around the house (take a look in that recycling bin), can borrow from relatives (surely Grandpa has an old leisure suit or at least a fedora in the back of his closet), or can buy items inexpensively from a thrift store or discount store (plaid jackets or strips of felt).
If you’re an athlete or a sports enthusiast, you can pull an easy and convincing costume from your existing uniforms and supplies.
Supplies: Toilet paper or bandages. You will need a large supply.
Instructions: Wrap yourself from head to toe in toilet paper or bandages. If you have old white sheets or white tee shirts, you can tear or cut the material into strips.
Supplies: Old clothing that can be thrown away after Halloween — jeans and a shirt, pants and a jacket, a dress or skirt for women, etc. The more “normal” looking, the better. Gel or hairspray, white face makeup or pale (ivory) liquid foundation, dark eye shadow and eye pencil or liner (black or gray), baby powder, a makeup sponge or brush, corn or pancake syrup, chocolate syrup, food coloring.
Instructions: Partially rip or shred the clothes — especially the sleeves, hems and pockets. Drag them through dirt or mud, and smear on fake blood made by combining 1 cup corn syrup, 1-2 tablespoons of chocolate syrup and 1-2 tablespoons of red food coloring. Try for a dark color – bright red blood will give you a cartoon appearance. If needed, add a couple small drops of blue or green food coloring to darken the fake blood. Wash your hair the night before and let it dry as you sleep so it will look messy. You can also back-comb your hair or smear in a lot of conditioner for a greasy look, wear a lopsided bun, or create an up-do that is partly undone. Spray the finished look to keep it in place. Apply white makeup or foundation over your entire face and neck to create an unhealthy pallor. Use dark eye shadow to accent sunken areas of your face (around eyes, under cheekbones and chin). Brush or blot baby powder on your face to set the makeup and add to your paleness. Dribble fake blood into your hairline and let it run down your face. Pour blood into your hand, and then “eat” it to get a nice mouth smear, and let it dribble down your chin and throat. Walk slowly, move stiffly, wheeze when you breathe, act confused and leave your arms slack and mouth open. Lean forward and shuffle when you walk, dragging one foot behind you. Don’t talk much (mostly grunt and groan), but ogle human flesh like it’s your favorite meal (which it is).
3. Zombie Bride
Supplies: Long white dress, white face paint or makeup, hair gel, dead flowers or fake black roses.
Instructions: Mess up your hair and use the hair gel to make it look matted. Put on white face paint or makeup and carry your ghoulish bouquet. Feel free to add any additional touches from the costume above.
Supplies: Velvet three-piece suit or dark slacks, white shirt, red (or brightly colored) vest, a long, dark trench coat and dark shoes. Or simply wear dark clothes and top with a dark cape. You’ll also need white face paint, a pair of Dracula teeth, jojoba or other hair oil, black eyeliner and red lipstick.
Instructions: Deck yourself out like Dracula and flip up the collar of the trench coat. Paint your nails a dark color. Liberally coat your face, neck, and hands in the white face paint. Line your eyes with black eyeliner, and apply lipstick just to the insides of your lips. Slick your hair back with the hair oil and flash your fangs.
5. Scary Ghost
Supplies: Cheap white bed sheet from a thrift store like Goodwill, scissors, black marker, black eye shadow. Optional: chain links.
Instructions: Drape the sheet over yourself and have a helper mark the sheet at the point where it hits the floor. Also ask them to gently mark the places to cut your eyeholes. Trim the bottom of the sheet an inch or two above the floor mark (so you won’t trip). Cut out eyeholes and then use a black marker to outline them. Color the area around your eyes with black eye shadow to increase the creepiness. To amp up the scare factor, find some chain link to carry and shake.
Supplies: White and black theatrical makeup. Eyeliner. Makeup brushes.
Instructions: Paint your entire face white. Use black paint to draw dark circles around your eyes and to fill in your bone structure. Wear regular clothes.
Supplies: Cowboy hat, boots, jeans, plaid shirt, belt with large buckle.
Instructions: Put on your best dancing boots, your favorite pair of Wranglers and the biggest belt buckle you can find for an authentic look. Add a rope or piece of straw in your teeth if you have it, but leave your horse at home.
Supplies: Slim-fitting, straight-leg slacks (the higher-waisted, the better), white button-down shirt, white socks, black dress shoes, calculator, belt, dark-framed glasses, white tape, hair pomade or conditioner. Extra points if you add a plastic pocket protector with a mechanical pencil. Optional accessories: a slide rule, a protractor, sci-fi comic books, or a book about math, science or engineering.
Instructions: Wear slacks and button-down shirt. Hem the slacks above the tops of your shoes (use masking tape for a temporary hem). If possible, hike the waistband above your natural waist; use masking tape under the band to stick the pants to your shirt. Tuck in the shirt and add an unattractive belt. Use the pomade or conditioner to slick your hair, part it on the side, and comb the sides back; create a fold in the front if possible. Put calculator or pocket protector in shirt pocket and wrap white tape around the middle of your glasses. Frequently push the glasses up to the bridge of your nose. Adopt a nasal tone in your voice.
9. Back to the 1970s
Supplies: Slim-fitting, bell-bottom pants or jeans hemmed just above the tops of your shoes (use masking tape rather than sewing them); slim-fitting, long-sleeve shirt with a small flower print and/or large collar and cuffs; large “shades” (sunglasses); and platform shoes. A woman can also wear big hoop earrings, a long printed skirt or dress, as well as hot pants with tights and boots. Other optional accessories: boom box, leather or macramé head band, afro wig, wide-brimmed hat and a roach clip.
Instructions: If you have long hair, part it in the center and wear a head band around your forehead; otherwise style your hair in an afro. Put on the pants, shirt and shoes. When you walk, bob your head and swing your shoulders. Adopt phrases such as “Can you dig it?” “Funky!” “Groovy,” “Outta sight!” and “Keep on truckin’.”
Supplies needed: Paint-splattered smock, white button-down shirt, artist’s palette (make one out of cardboard if you don’t have a real one), beret, old paint brush, washable paint or bold-colored makeup.
Instructions: Wear the smock over dark pants and a flowy white shirt. Smudge a little paint here and there on your face and hands. Don a beret and carry your paint brush and palette. (Optional: Draw a goatee and thin mustache on our face using eyeliner.)
11. Bird Watcher
Supplies: Brown or khaki pants, button-up safari jacket, hiking boots, binoculars and large-brimmed hat. Optional: bird-watching guide book.
Instructions: Wear all items and walk around looking through your binoculars. Periodically, flip through your bird-watching guide. If you have a toy bird or craft bird, mount on your shoulder, the binoculars, or the book.
12. Virtual Worker
Supplies needed: Pajama bottoms, house slippers, white button-down shirt, blazer, laptop, phone headset.
Instructions: Do your hair and makeup in a professional style. Wear shirt and blazer (optional: add a tie) on top and the pajama pants and slippers on the bottom. Carry your laptop. Wear the headset and periodically say, “Please hold.” Optional: Accessorize with kids or pets.
13. 1950s Woman
Supplies: Sheath or shirt-waist dress with full skirt, 3″-4” high heels with pointed toes, pill box or cloche hat or head scarf, short or long sleeve gloves, frilly chiffon apron, mink stole, thick head band, pointed frame eye glasses, Chanel No. 5 perfume, foundation makeup, eyebrow pencil and red lipstick. (Note: You will not need all supplies; choose from them for a specific look.)
Instructions: Apply foundation evenly, define eyebrows with high arch using the eyebrow pencil, and apply lipstick. Hair can be done in a page boy, smooth up-do “beehive” or a French twist. Wear gloves and a scarf for a “city” look. Use gloves, hat, mink stole and updo for an “on the town” look. Use the head band and frilly apron for an “at home” look.
14. Old-School Reporter
Supplies: Raincoat (a trench coat is best), notebook, pen, camera with strap, paper name tag. Optional: fedora or green eyeshadow.
Instructions: Wear the raincoat and wrap the camera strap around your neck. Write “PRESS” on the name tag and put it on your chest. If you have a hat, you can stick your “press pass” on that. Carry your notebook and pen.
15. Sweet Dreamer
Supplies: Pair of flannel pajamas, slippers, stuffed animal, hair ties, teddy bear or other stuffed animal. Optional: Blanket to drag around, sippy cup filled with water.
Instructions: Arrange your hair in pigtails (or braids), wear pajamas and slippers and carry your teddy bear and blankie.
16. Used Car Salesman
Supplies: Plaid jacket or pants (if you don’t have access to an old suit, try second-hand stores), button-down shirt, hair gel, cigar, gold jewelry, car keys.
Instructions: Wear the suit and sick back your hair using a lot of gel. Wear large pieces of gold jewelry — multiple chain necklaces are good — chew on your cigar, and carry the car keys.
17. “Lady of the Evening”
Supplies: Brightly colored, metallic or leopard clothing; the more mismatched or garish the better. Short tight dress, or short shorts and bustier. Accessories include a handbag and patent leather boots or very high heels. Black fishnet or thigh high white stockings. Strong makeup. Optional: dollar bills and chewing gum.
Instructions: put on your outfit and exaggerate your makeup using strong blush and red lipstick. Carry the handbag. Stuff dollar bills into your breast and let them hand out. Say things like “No tricks, just all the treats you can eat!”
Supplies: Conservative dress in black or light blue; white apron, sturdy shoes, compression stockings or knee-highs, hairspray, makeup, rubber gloves. Optional: feather duster, broom or bucket of cleaning products.
Instructions: Put on the outfit, do your hair in a severe bun and hairspray it and do normal day-time makeup with a bright lipstick. Add the rubber gloves and choose a cleaning accessory to carry around. Dust or sweep something every so often.
Supplies: Dress (either black or something with a busy pattern), cardigan sweater (extra points if it’s sleeveless), tights, sensible shoes, round glasses, book. Instructions: Put your hair either in a bun or part it down the middle and straighten it. Wear the outfit and glasses, carry around the book, and — most importantly — be sure to “shush” people all night!
20. Construction Worker
Supplies: Plaid shirt or work shirt, blue jeans, work boots, hard hat, tool belt. Optional: Hammer or tape measure.
Instructions: Wear the outfit and every once in a while, try to find something to hammer or measure.
Supplies: White jacket, loose pants, clogs, toque (chef’s hat) or white construction paper, apron, flour. Optional: mixing spoon and bowl or rolling pin.
Instructions: Write “Chef” and your name in small letters on one side of the jacket. If you can’t find a chef’s hat, make one out of the white construction paper by rolling it into a tube and stapling along the tall end. Smudge flour on your face. Carry rolling pin or bowl with spoon and stir vigorously as you say, “I’m mixing up some delicious treats!”
22. Gold Miner
Supplies: Plaid work shirt, pants (or overalls), rubber boots, red kerchief, gold spray paint, pick ax, small pan, small bag, rocks. Optional: floppy hat.
Instructions: Wear the shirt, pants and boots and tie the kerchief around your neck. Carry your pick ax in your belt loop. Wear the optional floppy hat. Spray rocks gold, then tie them up in the small bag and carry or tie to your belt. Show off your ores off as you trick-or-treat.
Supplies: full-length black dress with long sleeves and a large white dickie (or second hand turtleneck with arms and lower body cut away); or a black skirt and jacket with white blouse would also work. Wear a black scarf or short black veil held in place by a white headband. Definitely wear or carry rosary beads. Do not wear makeup.
Instructions: put on the costume and be sure to adopt a pleasing smile. Optional: carry a bible or a ruler. When trick or treating, say “Your prayers may be answered. Trick or treat?” Scowl and hold the ruler up if you have one, saying “The golden rule is to treat others to treats!”
Supplies: Pants or jeans, outdoor shirt tall rubber boots, fishing hat, tack vest, fishing pole, tackle box, hooks, lures or fake worms.
Instructions: Roll the hem of your pant legs up to show off your boots. Stick a couple hooks in the brim of your hat or put some loose lures in a pocket of your vest. Carry your fishing pole, and use your tackle box to collect treats as you go from door to door.
25. UPS Delivery Worker
Supplies: Brown button-down shirt, brown pants, brown baseball caps, cardboard box. Optional: Clipboard and pen.
Instructions: Sport full brown outfit and carry box around all night. Ring doorbells and ask for people’s signatures.
From pop culture and history
26. NCIS Forensic Specialist Abby Sciuto (played by Pauley Perette)
Supplies: short black skirt or tight pants, black top, black platform shoes, white lab coat, black pigtails, heavy leather and metal dog collar, fake tattoos. Optional: 20 oz. lidded soda with straw or stuffed hippopotamus.
Instructions: Dress Goth style in the clothes, put on the lab coat and braid (or attach) pigtails. Talk about testing samples with your major mass spectrometer, drink from your soda or hug your hippo.
27. Flo from Progressive Insurance
Supplies: White polo shirt, white apron, paper name tag with “Flo” written on it, blue marker, wide headband, red lipstick.
Instructions: You either love or loathe this TV insurance commercial personality, and dressing as her makes for a recognizable and easy costume. Just wear a white shirt and apron. Use a blue marker to write “Progressive” on the apron and attach the paper name tag. Put the headband on your hair leaving the bangs out and swept to one side. Tease hair behind head band to create volume. Pucker up with your best bright red lipstick.
28. Troll Doll
Supplies: Nude bodysuit, troll wig, large costume gemstone.
Instructions: Remember the troll dolls you loved playing with as a kid? Now you can be one. You will be completely covered up in this costume so it’s ideal for cold weather, but the tight-fitting body suit leaves little to the imagination, so be sure to buy the correct size. Pair the bodysuit with a bright-colored troll wig and sew or stick a gem to your belly. If the no-coverage look leaves you feeling exposed, add a tutu.
Supplies: Tan coveralls, black boots, black gloves, black elbow pads, utility belt, large backpack and a vacuum hose. Optional: black, red, and white duct tape, swim mask.
Instructions: Dress in the coveralls, tucking the pants legs into the boots and wearing the elbow pads and utility belt over the top. Stick the end of the vacuum hose into the backpack, and then aim the hose at anything that remotely resembles a ghost while you sing, “Who ya gonna call?” The black, red and white duct tape can be used to make official-looking patches for the coveralls; the swim mask will serve as protective eyewear if you encounter any ectoplasm.
30. Sister Mary Severity
Supplies: Several yards of cheap black cloth, a black long-sleeved T-shirt, rope or twine, white cardboard, staples, black stockings and shoes and a yardstick.
Instructions: Cut a piece of cloth that’s a two times’ your height less about six inches. Fold it in half and cut a hole for your head in the center. Put on black T-shirt, stockings and shoes and pull the black cloth “habit” over your head. Belt with a piece of rope or twine. Make a neck piece and wimple out of white cardboard and staple well into shape. Drape remaining piece of black fabric over the headpiece. Grab a ruler or yardstick and threaten to rap the knuckles of every bad boy in sight.
31. Greek Philosopher or Goddess
Supplies: White sheet (twin or full-sized), cord or belt, safety pins.
Instructions: Click here for step-by-step visual instructions on appropriately wrapping a toga. Pin at the waist and shoulder to keep it from falling off and add a cord for style. Really Greek out by making a laurel wreath from twigs in your yard to wear on your head.
32. Brunhilde the Valkyrie
Supplies: Viking helmet (find one cheap at a party store or discount outlet), twin-size sheet, gold belt or length of rope spray-painted gold. Optional angel wings, pet dog, toy spear and shield.
Instructions: Wrap yourself in the sheet and cinch it with the belt. Wear the Viking helmet. If you have a dog, put the wings on him and tell people he’s your flying horse. If not, carry the toy spear and shield.
33. Prom Queen from Hell
Supplies: Old bridesmaid or prom dress (the uglier the better) from thrift store; torn black fishnets, cheap tiara, eye makeup and bright-colored lipstick. Optional: Length of material for sash, glitter and glue.
Instructions: Rip the dress in places and create a jagged slit part-way up the leg. If you want to create a sash, take a strip of white material that is long enough to go across your body. Fold it in half and staple or glue the bottom edge. Write “Prom Queen” on the sash with glue and then sprinkle copious amounts of glitter over the glue. Put on the dress, torn fishnets and tiara. Apply heavy, dark eye makeup and let it smear down your face. Put on bright lipstick and streak it beyond your mouth.
34. Naughty Maid
Supplies: See Maid costume above. Short, sexy dress, short apron, fishnet tights, high heels, bold makeup.
Instructions: Wear clothes and do your makeup in bolder colors. Play up your eyes, wear a bold color on your lips and add a beauty mark with an eyebrow pencil or eyeliner. Style your hair in an updo. Carry a feather duster and use it to tickle potential clients.
35. Carmen Miranda
Supplies: Prairie skirt and peasant blouse from thrift store, straw hat, plastic or felt fruit, red lipstick, glue.
Instructions: Glue plastic or felt fruit in a high stack onto the hat. Wear the skirt, blouse and hat, and apply red lipstick.
Supplies: Rubber snakes, three hair extensions, bobby pins, long dress.
Instructions: Braid hair extensions and pin into hair. Wrap braided extensions and hair into a bun. Pin and weave small snakes around extensions and throughout hair. Use more bobby pins to secure larger, dangling snakes. Pair with a long (preferably white) dress. Stare at people and see if they turn into stone.
Supplies: Red and white striped shirt, blue jeans, red beanie.
Instructions: Photo bomb pictures in large crowds. Continually lose your friends and wait for them to find you.
38. Miss Piggy
Supplies: Pig nose, old prom or satin dress, pumps, blond wig, false eyelashes, purple eye shadow.
Instructions: Wear dress and wig with pink pig nose. Carefully put on false lashes and go heavy on the purple eye shadow. Speak in a high falsetto; oinking is optional. Make it a double date: Get a guy to wear green and be Kermit the Frog.
39. Miss America
Supplies: Old prom dress, sash, crown, glitter, glue.
Instructions: Write “Miss America” across sash in glue, then sprinkle on glitter. Wear all items. Practice your parade wave all night: elbow, elbow, wrist, wrist.
Supplies: Use clothing that you have or buy something at Goodwill or another secondhand store. Choose grossly mismatched plaids or prints, or oversized plain pants and jacket, or clothing that might seem out of place such as a large flowered nightgown (especially on a man), a belted lab coat or overalls with a blazer. Consider accessories such as a white belt, red suspenders, or a piece of rope to hold up pants. Add a wig (or “afro” your hair per instructions below). Use any hat: a man’s fedora, fishing hat or even a doll’s hat. Add other accessories such as a plastic flower sticking out of a lapel or hat, or carry something odd, such as a stuffed dog on a leash, a musical instrument or a tool. For makeup, the basics are white face makeup, black eye pencil, red blush, red lipstick and baby powder (to set the makeup; just make sure you don’t inhale it), plus a sponge or brush to apply makeup and a large brush to apply baby powder (you can also put baby powder inside a sock for this purpose).
Instructions: Wash and set your hair if you don’t have a wig. If you have longish hair, wet it and wrap thick strands in strips of cloth and tie the end. You can wear your hair in these rags; or let it dry, unwrap the rags, and you should have a large afro-mass of hair. For short hair, use lots of gel and mess it up like you just got out of bed. Wash your face and hands before applying makeup. For makeup ideas, check out How to Make a Clown Face or check the ideas pictured here. After applying makeup, finish your hair or put on your wig. Dress in your clothes. Any finishing touches? Would the pants look funnier if they were shorter? Hem them with masking tape.
41. Tardis from Doctor Who
Supplies: Large moving box, blue hooded sweatshirt, jeans, blue spray paint, white spray paint, box cutters or scissors.
Instructions: Paint the moving box blue. Cut out a hole at the top for your head, and cut off the bottom end. Paint white outlines on the box for windows. Don a blue hoodie and jeans, then get into the box.
42. Fortune Teller
Supplies: A cheap muumuu from a discount store, a scarf or turban, sandals, makeup, bling, a goldfish bowl, glue and glitter.
Instructions: Wear the muumuu (you can find garishly colored, polyester ones in the lingerie department of stores like Ross, Marshall’s and TJ Maxx) with sandals. Wrap the scarf or turban around your hair, and wear as much bling and makeup as you have at your disposal. For your “crystal ball,” wipe or spray the inside of a cheap goldfish bowl with glue and liberally sprinkle on the glitter.
Supplies needed: Toy sword or purchased pirate accessory kit (available inexpensively at big-box stores), black construction paper, black eyeliner, flowy white shirt, dark pants, calf-high dark boots, kerchief, long scarf.
Instructions: Cover your hair with the kerchief Johnny Depp-style. Tuck your pant legs into the dark boots. Cut out a mustache with the construction paper (or you can draw a mustache and goatee on your face with eyeliner). Drape the scarf around your waist over the white shirt and tie it to the side. Brandish your sword and practice your best pirate “Aaargh!”
Supplies: White clothes, gold jewelry, bubble wrap, clear packaging tape, gold ribbon.
Instructions: Cut two wings out of bubble wrap, taping together pieces as needed. Cover the edges of the wings with tape to strengthen and stiffen the wings. Punch holes in the top of the wings and thread ribbon through them. Wear white clothes and gold jewelry. Tie the wings around your shoulders. Take a second piece of gold ribbon and tie it around your head for a halo.
45. Gene Simmons, member of KISS
Supplies: Black jeans, buttoned shirt, platform shoes, heavy leather and metal dog collar, white and black face makeup, black makeup pencil, red color soda pop or red candy. Optional: heavy leather black jacket or black wings, electric guitar.
Instructions: Using a black pencil, line a deep ‘V’ on your forehead, four “flames” or “wings” above and below each eye, and your entire mouth. Fill in your face and sides of forehead with white makeup (outside the black lines). Then fill in inside the lines with black makeup. Drink the red soda or suck the red candies to make your tongue red. Put on the jeans, shirt opened to the navel, shoes, and collar. Put on the jacket or wings and hang the guitar around your neck. As you trick or treat, stick your tongue out as far as you can and make hissing noises and scream “I Love It Loud!” ad “Watchin’ You!” (famous song titles ).
46. Tippi Hedren in The Birds
Supplies: Old white shirt, red marker, red lipstick, scissors, birds (make them from black construction paper using these instructions or buy some from the craft store), glue gun, glue.
Instructions: Make several birds and attach them to your shirt — don’t forget the sleeves — using hot glue. Near a few of the birds, make a small slit in the shirt and draw a blood stain around it with the red marker. Use the lipstick to create cuts on your face and hands. You may want to put a bird in your hair, on your shoes, etc. Wave your arms to try to keep birds from attacking you.
47. Tinkerbell from Peter Pan
Supplies: Cheap sparkly dress, wooden spoon, aluminum foil.
Instructions: Wear the dress and make a magic wand from the wooden spoon and aluminum foil.
48. Norman Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter
Supplies: Denim jeans, denim work shirt (or chambray shirt if you have one in your closet), red lipstick, red and white polka dot bandana.
Instructions: Tuck in your shirt and roll up your sleeves to show off your muscles. Put your hair up in a bun and tie the bandana around your head with a knot at the top. Secure in place with bobby pins if needed. Top it all of with fierce red lipstick. Now, remember your line, “We can do it!”
Costumes for couples or groups
49. The Great Lakes
Supplies: Five oversize light-blue shirts, markers or fabric paints.
Instructions: This costume requires five people. Each person selects one lake — Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie or Ontario, for those of you who don’t quite remember your fifth-grade social studies classes. On the back of the shirt, write the name of your lake. On the front, paint shapes to reflect your lake’s different land and water features. Stand with your friends in a complete set. This look can easily be adapted to other bodies of water.
50. Blue Man Group
Supplies: Black shirts, black pants, blue body/face paint, paint brushes, fabric paint in various colors. Optional: bongo drum, beach ball, bald caps.
Instructions: This costume is best with three people. Splatter various colors of paint Jackson Pollock-style onto the shirts and pants. Paint all exposed skin in blue — extra points if you can find a bald cap and paint your entire head. Carry paintbrushes, drums or beach ball and don’t talk a lot.
51. Puppet Master
Supplies: Two thin wooden slats (rulers work if you don’t have any scrap lumber), glue or tape, yarn or thin rope.
Instructions: This costume requires two people — a parent and child work well. Cross the slats over each other to form an X shape, securing it in the middle with your choice of adhesive. Run yarn or rope from each end of the slats; tie securely (but not too tightly) to second person’s wrists. Optional: The adult can dress in a costume as well — we found an old serape from a South America trip and a leather cowboy hat for our puppet master. But the real secret is practicing a few times with the human puppet to make sure he or she knows to move when you put pressure on the strings.
52. Salt and Pepper
Supplies: White T-shirt, black T-shirt, white face paint, black face paint. Optional: iron-on transfer letters in white and black.
Instructions: “Salt” wears the white T-shirt and face paint with a black letter “S” ironed on to the front of the shirt. “Pepper” wears the black T-shirt with a white letter “P” ironed on to the front of the shirt. Hang out together and act spicy.
53. Publisher’s Clearinghouse Winner
Supplies: Suit and tie for man, hair rollers, bathrobe, slippers and coffee cup (optional) for woman. Big cardboard check, balloons.
Instructions: The man should dress for business, and the woman should dress as if she just got out of bed. Put the Publishers Clearinghouse logo on the check and have the man carry the check and the balloons.
54. Rock, Paper, Scissors
Supplies: Black clothing, rock, paper, scissors and strings, lanyards or chains.
Instructions: The three people should dress all in black. Attach the rock, the paper and the scissors to string or chain so that each person can wear one around his or her neck.
55. Mario and Luigi from “Super Mario Bros.”
Supplies: Overalls (or blue jeans and suspenders), red T-shirt, green T-shirt, white caps, white gloves, brown work boots, fake mustaches (or black eyeliner to draw them in), red and green fabric paint. Optional: boxes to carry.
Instructions: Wear overalls — or pair jeans with suspenders. Mario wears the red shirt; Luigi gets the green shirt. Paint a red M on Mario’s cap and a green L on Luigi’s. Don or draw on your mustache — the thicker the better — and wear the gloves. The box makes for an easy prop that can double as a trick-or-treat container.
56. Orange is the New Black Inmate
Supplies: Orange or khaki scrubs. Minimal makeup.
Instructions: Organize a group of girls. Channel your inner inmate.
57. Tight Pants from The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon
Supplies: You’ll need (tight) white pants, a striped shirt and a bowl-cut brown wig.
Instructions: Fight over Tight Pants with a friend on Halloween. One town isn’t big enough for two people with tight pants, according to The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. YouTube “tight pants skit” to learn the simple dance move and the tune that goes something like this: “Everybody’s talkin’ bout my tight pants, I got my tight pants, I got my tight pants on.”
58. Too Busy To Make a Costume Costume
Supplies: Halloween-themed T-shirt; you can get one inexpensively at stores like Target and Walmart.
Instructions: Wear the shirt. It speaks for itself, although you can also say that you are a sexy person who is too busy to make a costume. Save it for future years. If you feel the need, add a name tag that says “This is my Halloween costume.”
59. Gift box or Christmas gift (suggested for a young girl)
Supplies: A medium-size cardboard box, any brightly colored gift or Christmas wrapping paper, tape and ribbon. Tights and leotard in a coordinating color.
Instructions: Cut the top off of a medium-size cardboard box. Cut a head-size hole in the other end, and arm holes on each side. Check the fit and make sure the trick-or-treater can walk comfortably and the box covers her torso. Gift-wrap the box with paper and ribbon, punching through the head and arm holes and securing all paper edges with tape. Wear the leotard and tights and put the box on top. Style hair in pigtails or add hair ribbon and a little blush on her cheeks.
60. Bag of Trash
Supplies: Large lawn-leaf bag, duct tape, crumpled newspaper, a few empty cereal or other food boxes, crumpled candy wrappers. Safety reflectors. Long underwear and a black plastic top hat. Face paint optional.
Instructions: Cut arm and leg holes into the bag. Reinforce the holes with duct tape. Put on long underwear (dark is best), put on the bag and fill the empty spaces with crumpled newspaper and an empty box or two for show. Tie the top shut around the neck (not too tight) with either the bag’s drawstrings or more duct tape. Glue or stick candy wrappers onto the hat. Paint face if desired. Stick a couple of reflectors onto the trash bag for visibility.
61. Freudian slip
Supplies: Old slip, pieces of paper, pen.
Instructions: Cut paper into strips. On each strip of paper, write a word or phrase associated with Sigmund Freud — for example, Id, Ego, Superego, Oedipus Complex, Oral Fixation, Repression, etc. Take the phrases to your slip, and you’re a Freudian slip. Wear thick glasses and smoke a fake cigar like Sigmund Freud.
Supplies: Glasses, a pad of super-sticky Post-It notes, black marker.
Instructions: Write “Eye-Pad” on one of the Post-It notes, and stick it to one lens of your glasses. Wear.
63. Fresh Produce
Supplies: Two fresh produce boxes (or three, depending on how tall you are) from the grocery store (ask the store manager to give them to you); duct tape, green tights, long-sleeve green T-shirt, cabbage leaves, carrot tops, and any other produce you have at home.
Instructions: Cut out a hole (big enough for you to fit through) in the middle of the three boxes. Stack them and duct-tape them together. Make duct-tape “suspenders” and attach them to the top box. Wear green tights and shirt; drape cabbage leaves over your head and glue a few carrot tops to the top box lid.
64. No, I Did Not Steal Your Pumpkin (maternity costume)
Supplies: Old T-shirt (either a couple sizes too big or a maternity style); fabric paint, preferably in orange.
Instructions: Use fabric paint to write a message on the belly of the T-shirt: “No, I Did NOT Steal Your Pumpkin!” This costume can also be worn by those with large beer bellies.
65. Mad Scientist
Supplies: Lab coat, rubber gloves, hair gel. Optional: beaker or test tubes.
Instructions: Don the lab coat. Muss your hair and then apply hair gel so it sticks out for a wild effect. Pour colored water or soda into test tube/beaker. Carry them around, shouting “It’s alive!”
Supplies: Your regular clothes.
Instructions: Explain to others that Halloween didn’t fall on a full moon.
Supplies: A Christmas sweater and drugstore shopping bags stuffed with gift wrap and bows.
Instructions: Wear the Christmas sweater, carry the bags and tell people that you want to get ahead the game and focus on the next big holiday.
Supplies: Set of long underwear, matching paper for hat, stapler, string, iron-on black letters.
Instructions: Iron the word “crayon” or “Crayola” sideways on your long underwear top or bottoms. Roll paper into cone shape and attach a chin strap using the string and stapler to wear as a hat. A lone crayon is a sad crayon. Get a few friends to join you wearing different colors.
69. Raining Cats and Dogs
Supplies: Rain jacket, rain boots, umbrella, black paper, scissors.
Supplies: Large cardboard box, white paint, black paper, scissors, glue or tape, black clothing.
Instructions: Wear black pants and shirt. Paint a cardboard box white. Cut black circles out of construction paper. Attach to sides of box in dice formation. Cut holes for your arms and head. Go with a friend as a pair of dice.
71. Bag of Jellybeans
Supplies: Large, clear plastic bag; scissors, duct tape, curling ribbon, colored balloons.
Instructions: Blow up lots of colored balloons. Cut holes in plastic bag for arms and legs and reinforce them with duct tape so they don’t split. Fill bag with balloons. Loosely tie the top of the bag at your neck using curling ribbon. Try not to sit down all night.
72. Pot of Flowers
Supplies: Large bucket (big enough to go around you), fake flowers, thin rope, scissors, tape. Optional: Store-bought fake butterflies or paper ones made at home.
Instructions: Cut off bottom of bucket so you can wear it. Poke holes in the top of the bucket and attach rope to create makeshift straps to hold the bucket up on your shoulders. Pull the bucket up around your torso and attach straps. Add fake flowers to your hair and tape them to the inside of the bucket to create a garden. Fake butterflies make a great bonus accessory.
73. Floor Lamp
Supplies: Black clothing, electric cord, lampshade.
Instructions: Dress in black. Put the lampshade on your head. Tie the electrical cord around your waist and let it hang down.
74. Cereal Killer
Supplies: Mini or regular-size cereal boxes, black clothing, red paint, fake knives (store-bought or made at home with cardboard and silver paint), tape or string to attach boxes to clothing.
Instructions: Wear black clothing. Splash red paint on cereal boxes, and stab fake knives into boxes. Tape boxes to you or string them around your neck and scare people away from breakfast. As Tony the Tiger would say, this costume is Grrreat!
75. Playing Card
Supplies: Large pieces of poster board, red or black ribbons, red or black construction paper.
Instructions: Cut construction paper into hearts, diamonds, clubs or spades and numbers to replicate a card. Glue them onto to the “card” in the proper places. Make two cards that are alike. Cut holes in top upper corners of cards, lace ribbon through to allow “card” to be worn like a sandwich board sign.
76. Grocery Bag
Supplies: Brown craft paper or actual grocery bags, cardboard or a box large enough to go around body, brown ribbon, glue, empty food packages.
Instructions: Cut top and bottom off of box, and cut armholes on the sides. Wrap paper around cardboard or box and cut top with pinking shears to simulate top of grocery bag. Cut holes in top corners of front and back of “bag,” loop ribbon through it to go over your shoulders (think sandwich board sign) to allow it to be worn. Glue empty food packages such as pasta bags, cereal boxes and tin cans around the top of “bag.”
77. Wind-Blown Guy
Supplies: Armature wire, tape/hot glue gun, hairspray or hair sculpting product, undershirt, dress shirt, tie and umbrella (optional).
Instructions: Look like you are standing in a wind tunnel … all night long. To give yourself the wind-blown look, attach wire inside the seam of your shirt and tie so it looks like the wind is blowing against you in one direction. Style your hair so it flows in that same direction. An inside-out umbrella completes the look.
Supplies: White shirt and thick marker.
Instructions: Draw a huge # (hashtag) on the front and the back of your shirt. Speak in hashtags throughout the night: Hold up your hands, make two peace signs and then hit them together to make a the hashtag sign #. For inspiration, watch Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake’s hashtag skit on YouTube.
Supplies: Old cheerleader uniform or pleated skirt and team logo sweater or shirt; white socks, athletic shoes, glitter for your face, team ribbons, pompoms.
Instructions: Wear your hair in a ponytail and don your uniform. Paint your school logo on your cheeks using glitter. To show extra school spirit, pin team ribbons to your sweater. Shake your pompoms as you yell, “Trick or treat!”
80. 12th Man / Super Fan
Supplies: All the clothing you own from your favorite college or pro sports team — hat, jersey, scarf, face paint, socks, shoe laces, etc. Optional: air horn, foam finger.
Instructions: Wear insignia items from your favorite sports team. Carry a foam finger and sing your school song if you’re really a super fan. Blow the air horn at random intervals, and shout everything (true fans have no inside voices!).
81. U.S. Olympic Gymnast
Supplies: Leotard, plastic rhinestones, hair ribbons or scrunchies (red, white & blue), American flag patch, glitter for your face.
Instructions: Bedazzle the leotard with rhinestones. Attach U.S. flag patch to front or upper arm area of leotard. Put hair into pony tail or bun with hair ribbons. Put glitter on temples or cheeks. Consider wearing a medal on a ribbon around the neck. Back-flips are optional!
82. Croquet Player
Supplies: White pants, shorts or skirt; sweater vest, socks, shoes, croquet mallet, iron, spray starch. Optional: straw hat, croquet ball.
Instructions: Iron and starch clothes for maximum crispness. Put on outfit and carry croquet mallet (and ball, if you have one).
83. Baby Football (baby costume)
Supplies: Brown onesie, self-adhesive white felt.
Instructions: This creative costume by Love Bug Living can also sub as a game day outfit for baby. Cut a one-inch wide strip of felt and attach it vertically down middle of the onesie. Cut five thinner short strips to lay across the vertical strip. Carry the baby like a football — but avoid actually using baby as a football.
84. Football Player
Supplies: Football jersey, pants, cleats (shoes), padding and helmet (with mouth guard attached), football. Optional: black grease paint, sports drink.
Instructions: Wear the gear and carry the ball. Paint horizontal lines of grease paint below your eyes. Randomly raise your arms and shout, “I’m open!”
85. Basketball Player
Supplies: Basketball, long shorts, socks, your biggest and brightest athletic shoes, ball Optional: mouth guard.
Instructions: Wear the gear. Don’t forget to dribble the ball as you walk.
86. Tennis Player
Supplies: Shorts or tennis skirt, polo-style shirt, socks, tennis shoes, tennis racket, tennis ball.
Instructions: Wear outfit; carry racket and ball, and periodically bounce ball on top of racket.
87. Yoga Instructor
Supplies: Yoga pants, shirt, head band, ballet flats (if outdoors), yoga mat, yoga mat bag, towel.
Instructions: Wear outfit and sling the towel around your shoulders. Pull your hair into a high ponytail. Put the yoga mat into the bag and carry it over one shoulder. If you’re going to remain inside, you can go barefoot or wear yoga socks.
Supplies: Bathrobe, knee-length athletic shorts, boxing gloves, towel, sneakers, black or red makeup.
Instructions: Wear shorts, sneakers and bathrobe. Put a towel over your shoulder and use black makeup to give yourself a black eye. Put on your boxing gloves and hum the Rocky theme song.
89. Golf Pro
Supplies: Plaid pants, polo-style shirt, golf shoes (or saddle shoes), golf club. Optional: golf tees, scorecard, short pencil, golf cap or sun visor.
Instructions: Dress in the golfer outfit. Stash golf tees or your score card and pencil in your shirt pocket. Adding a golf cap will add authenticity, as will carrying a golf club. If you’re borrowing one, we recommend you ask first and choose an iron, as some golfers tend to get prickly if you scratch one of their woods.
90. Bicycle Racer
Supplies: Bicycling pants or shorts, shirt, shoes and helmet. Optional: bike chain, map, tire pump, water bottle and energy bars.
Instructions: Dress in cycling outfit and carry the bike chain, water bottle, map and tire pump. Hand out energy bars.
91. Baseball Player
Supplies: Baseball jersey, pants, socks, stirrups, cleats, mitt or glove, bat. Optional: green paint.
Instructions: Wear uniform and carry mitt hanging off bat. Use green paint to mimic grass stains.
92. Soccer Player
Supplies: Soccer jersey, shorts, knee socks, and soccer ball. Optional: red paper or cardboard square.
Instructions: wear the soccer uniform and carry the ball. Occasionally bounce the ball on your toe or kick it around. Hold up the red card and yell out penalties like “bad candy score!” “no throwing candy!” “no illegal stealing of candy!”
93. Band Member
Supplies: Band uniform, musical instrument (any type of horn, cymbals, or a marching drum), and hat. Any military uniform or bulky pants suit could substitute, with a military style hat — add a team logo, cords, or feather for effect.
Instructions: wear the uniform and carry the instrument. Walk with a marching step in a straight line and occasionally do an about face and walk in the reverse direction before turning around again. At corners, turn sharply. Talk about John Philip Sousa, sing Stars and Stripes Forever, clang the cymbals or bang the drum and yell “Go Team”!”.
Supplies (girl): Old cheerleader uniform or pleated skirt and team logo sweater or shirt; panty hose (with or without short socks), athletic shoes, regular makeup, and a baton.
Instructions: Wear the uniform, put your hair in a ponytail, do fairly strong makeup with rouge and bright red lipstick and put a big, big smile on your face. Hold up your baton (or toss it high in the sky if you can pull it off) and yell, “Fight, fight, fight for your right to trick or treat.” Walk with a prance, glance from side to side, to show off your bright smile and team spirit.
Supplies: Black leotard or dress, black tights, black shoes, black eyeliner, pink lipstick, head band with black ears (store-bought or easily make your own using a plain head band and black ribbon using these instructions. Optional: Cat tail, either store-bought or made using one leg of a black stocking filled with crushed black paper) and attached with a safety pin.
Instructions: Buy or make your cat-ear head band (and tail, if you want one). Paint your nose pink with lipstick. Draw whiskers on your face coming from your nose. Wear the black leotard or dress and black tights, and if you’re wearing a tail, have someone help you pin it in the right location. Randomly “Meow” and paw at things during the evening.
Supplies: Black tights, leggings, or sweatpants; black long-sleeve top or leotard, two pairs of black tights, pillow stuffing or two pool noodles cut into two pieces each, black thread, black stocking cap.
Instructions: Cut top of tights so you have four tubes that are closed on one end and open on the other. Stuff with stuffing or noodles. Hand-stitch them closed and sew two onto either side of shirt under the sleeves. Use long pieces of thread to stitch fake legs to each other to give them extra support and help them to move when you move your arms.
Supplies: Black clothes, black felt, hot glue, black stocking cap.
Instructions: Cut felt in the shape of bat wings (try out this pattern). Using hot glue gun, glue wings to bottom of sleeves and side of top. Cut two triangles out of remaining felt and hot glue to top of hat.
98. Groot (Guardians of the Galaxy)
Supplies: Brown shirt, brown pants, black marker, black craft foam, brown craft paint (different shades), green craft paint, paint brush, elastic or string (to tie onto the head), scissors, pen, paper.
Instructions: Take the black marker and draw woodgrain-like markings on the brown shirt and pants. For the mask, draw a template of Groot’s head on white paper based on a picture. Just make sure it covers the wearer’s face and the eye markings are correct. Use the template to cut out the mask shape unto the black craft foam. Next, use a pen and score wood grain lines into the craft foam. Next, paint the mask with a couple different shades of brown. Paint across the tips of the mask with the green pain to mimic the lichen Groot has at the top of his head. You can use the black marker for more definition if you think it is necessary. After this, cut out the eye holes. Finally, when the paint has dried, poke holes on both sides of the mask and slip your elastic through and fit on your head.
99. Khaleesi – Mother of Dragons (Game of Thrones)
Supplies: White Dress, White Cape, Long blond wig Gold Shoes, Gold arm cuff, mascara, eyebrow pencil, purple contacts (optional)
Instructions: For the hair, wear loose or choose a braided style and pin back. The makeup should be light, with the mascara for thick lashes and thick eyebrows using the eyebrow pencil. In the book, she has purple eyes, if you want to get those contacts.
100. Donald Trump
Supplies: Billionaire wig, orange makeup, suit, black shoes, red tie, “Make America Great Again” hat or sign (optional)
Instructions: Cover visible skin in orange makeup. Wear wig and other clothing. Use strange facial expressions.
101. Despicable Me Minion
Supplies: Scissors, black marker, silver marker, tape, pins, foam coffee cups, black gloves, black suspenders, yellow shirt, denim shorts
Instructions: Print out the minion logo and tape it to the yellow shirt. Cut the bottom 1.5 inches off 2 foam coffee cups. Paint the outside and inside wall of the bottoms with the silver marker. These are the eyes, so leave the bottom white and put black “eyeballs” in center with the black marker. Press the pins through the center of the pupils and attach them to the headband. Wear your headband eyes and the rest of the clothes!
Supplies: Empty boxes, markers, white and/or silver clothing, star stickers
Instructions: Cut and decorate a box to cover your body, and one to act as a helmet. Use space-related stickers on the boxes. Wear silver or white clothing (a puffy vest would look great). Use another box as a rocket ship.
Living on the Cheap writers Sara Frederick Burgos, Carole Cancler, Laura Daily, Linda DuVal, Carolyn Erickson, Belinda Hulin, Annie Logue, Jody Mace, Val McCauley, Heidi McIndoo, Laura Perry, Rosie Wolf Williams, Julie Sturgeon and Jenny Willden contributed to this report.
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