Frugal Halloween Costumes

Not long ago we added some costume ideas to the kid's page. Since then we've received quite a few suggestions from our readers...enough to start a separate section to hold them all. Many of the kid's costume ideas would also work for adults.

Ideas for Kids' Costumes

Kids love to dress up in costumes whether it's for Halloween or just for fun. The costumes sold at the store are usually very flimsy, won't stand up to more than one night of "Trick or Treat" and are not especially cheap either! Here are some ideas for costumes you can make from stuff you already have around the house or can buy cheaply.

FOR BABIES: Okay, we know that babies don't really need a costume but sometimes (especially if you have older kids who are dressing up) you want one anyway. A cute and comfy way to make a costume for baby is to start with pajamas. Attach a pompom to the seat of a pair of white pjs and make ears out of white cardboard or felt and you have a bunny. Use other colors and ears for a bear, cat, etc. Yellow pjs and antennas made from pipe cleaners make a bumblebee and red a lady bug (you can add stripes or spots with black felt or permanent marker if you're feeling really creative). The best thing about these costumes is that once Halloween's over you can get lots of future use out of the pajamas.

PIRATE: For this one you need a big white shirt (one of Mom's or Dad's will work nicely), dark pants, boots, a bandanna, a wide belt and a little felt and cardboard for accessories. Put on the clothes with the belt around the outside of the shirt and poof out the shirt above the belt. Tie the bandanna around the child's head. You can add some gold chain jewelry and a hoop earring if you have cheap one that you're not worried about losing. Make an eyepatch out of a piece of black felt and elastic. Make a sword from cardboard and cover "blade" with aluminum foil.

ANGEL OR FAIRY: White nightgown or dress (pastel colors are good for fairy), posterboard for wings, metallic pipecleaners for halo, antennae, wand. Decorate wings with glitter if you like and attach with safety pins or tie on with scarves or wide ribbon.

BUTTERFLY: Black leotard and tights or leggings and turtleneck, pipecleaners for antennae, posterboard for wings. Decorate wings in bright colors.

CRAYON: Make a tube out of posterboard or felt that fits around the child. Cut holes for arms. Make a pointed hat out of the same color. Decorate tube with markers or additional felt to look like a crayon. Dress child in a black leotard or leggings and turtleneck. Put on tube (it's easier if you put some velcro on the back) and hat...voila! Instant crayon!

KING OR QUEEN: Bathrobe in a "royal" color (purple, burgundy, midnight blue, emerald green)...velour is nice if you have it. Posterboard and shiny gold paper for crown. Old jewelry.

BUNCH OF GRAPES: Green leotard or leggings and turtleneck. Lots of round purple balloons. Dress child in leotard. Blow up purple balloons and attach to child.

GYPSY: Big, full skirt. Lot's of jewelry. Bandanna to tie around head.

ROBIN HOOD: Green tights, long brown vest, wide leather belt. Make an appropriate hat out of green felt and carry a toy bow and arrow or make one from cardboard.

Some ideas from From Jana Barnes in Paducah, KY: Here's a great idea for a child's turtle costume. Start with a green or brown sweat suit. From lighter green or brown fabric, cut a large circle and sew (or glue) to the front of the sweat shirt. To make the shell, locate a plastic mixing bowl and small flat pillow or piece of foam. Place the bowl on the foam and cover in fabric. The pillow should extend slightly from the base of the bowl. Decorate accordingly with fabric remnants, fabric paint or pens. Attach straps so that the child can wear the shell as she would a backpack. It's very cute when assembled. Additionally, you may want to locate a mixing bowl that fits as a hat and cover in coordinating fabric.

Another quick and easy idea for a little girl is the "Statue of Liberty" costume. A toga can be quickly assembled from fabric or sheets. The crown and torch can be fashioned from tin foil.

The list of costumes below comes from one of our website visitors, Gale, who points out that buying pieces for costumes is thrifty if you're buying clothes your kids can add to their regular wardrobes (like sweatpants, turtlenecks, pajamas, etc.). She also advisess looking for things like bunny ears and flower headbands at clearance sales after Easter. We'd add to that by suggesting that any after holiday sale could be a treasure trove of costume "pieces"...for example, after Christmas you could find things like reindeer antlers on headbands and (obviously) after Halloween you could pick up make-up, black capes, etc.

NINJA: Black turtleneck (best) or long sleeved shirt, and black pants (sweatpants look best) and 2 strips of bright (neon) fabric. Use one strip for a belt and one for a headband. Black stretch gloves (about $1 at WalMart or Target) make a nice addition if you're in a cold climate. You can make ninja knives from cardboard.

STORMTROOPER: White sweats with black turtleneck underneath, white or black stretch gloves, and white shoes. Make the helmet from a plastic milk jug. The handle of the jug would be the back and the bottom of the jug is the top of the helmet. Cut around and over the handle so the back is all open. Cut out the nozzle, so now you should have a jug with just the bottom and 2 sides. Put that upside down on your kid's head and mark where to cut out eye holes. Make sure the holes are large enough for your child to see out of easily, and you may need to make it all open almost like a motorcycle helmet for your kid's nose (helps to look at a stormtro0per to get the shape right). Paint the mask white with Odds-n-Ends paint, and for the black parts(except eyes) glue gun construction paper, felt, fabric, or use paint. If you want to make the belt cover small boxes (juice boxes work) or cut pieces of styrofoam then attach to strip of white muslin to tie around waist, tucking ends in. If you want eye area black like real stormtroupers use makeup.

DARTH VADER: use black sweats, paint the stormtrouper mask black, and add a black cape. Light Sabre can be made from wrapping paper tube.

PETER PAN & ROBIN HOOD: These two costumes use the same pieces almost, so a child can be Peter Pan one year and Robin Hood the next, and all you need to change is the smock. For Peter Pan get green fabric, fold in half, cut a hole for the head and cut the bottom jagged. Tie on with a belt made from a strip of fabric. I'd also add a pair of shorts to your list of costume pieces. In cold climates use green sweats instead of tights and forgo the shorts.

KNIGHT: Silver lame for smock, (Fold it in half and cut out head hole just like for Peter Pan and Robin Hood) white, grey, or black turtleneck and tights with shorts or sweatpants. Make a shield and sword from cardboard covered with foil. For more details you can embellish these with puffy paint or glue on plastic jewels. You can also cut out a coat of arms from felt and glue or sew to smock. Another addition is using a hooded sweatshirt or sewing a hood from the silver lame(about $3 a yd at WalMart)

DRAGON: Recycle the green shirt, tights, pants, shorts, etc from Robin Hood or Peter Pan then add purple wings made from felt (can safety pin or baste on). Sew a tie-on green tail with a row of pointy scales made from felt, and glue some felt spots on it. Make a hood with more pointy scales up the middle, use a green stocking cap, add small horns to a headband, or just paint your child's face green with purple spots and skip the headwear. If you want your dragon to "breath fire" tape streamers to a dowel.

FOR BABY: to your list of sleeper based costumes (above) add a flower. Glue silk flowers to a bonnet (or a stocking cap, but make sure the cap is stretched over a ball of newspaper approx the size of baby's head so there are enough flowers) and to a pair of socks that baby is growing out of so you don't ruin a good pair. For cheap flowers compare candle rings to the other silk flower bunches. You can always add the leaves in as filler if needed.

This idea was sent to us by Summer Horton as a suggestion for an adult costume but we think it's even better for kids so we've included it in the kid's section:

A friend of mine had a wonderful costume several years back that she made on very short notice, and really, all it cost her was a dollar something for a bag of balloons. She went as a bag of gumballs, wearing all one color of clothes, long sleeve shirt and leggings. She took a large clear garbage bag and cut two slits at the bottom of it for her legs, just big enough for her legs to go through without cutting off the circulation. Then she blew up a whole bunch of different colored balloons. Stepping into the bag, she filled it with the balloons, and had afriend help her put armholes in. Then they bunched the top of her bag around her neck and made it stay with some clear strapping tape (not too tight - that's why the strapping tape is nice - it holds the bunching in place, so you don't have to strangle yourself trying to keep the top of the bag bunched closed.) And then she loosely tied a length of braided yarn around the strapping tape. She added a red beret, and tied a large price tag she cut out of stiff paper to the little sticky-outy bit in the middle of the beret. That's it, I think.

From an anonymous contributor: Hi. I had an idea for an accessory. For pom-poms to go with a cheerleading costume you'll need paper and a shredder. shred paper. attach at end. There you have pom poms.

From Anna: I was having the worst time finding an affordable, original costume for my 4 year old daughter until I looked in my own closet. I found a bright pink skirt that had bunched taffita on the outside (sort of Cyndi Lauperish, yes, I was a child of the 80's). I added a little white tank top and a blue jean jacket that had flowers stitched all over it (garage sale find). Then I put her hair into multiple ponytails and sprayed each one a different color, with spray hair color. She was completely different from every other trick-or-treater! I paid $1 for the jacket (size 6t and she still wears it). The tank top came in a package of six for $4. The spray hair color was probably the most expensive of the lot but I bought that with a friend and we did 4 children with 4 cans. Now I always look in my closet to see what I can mix and match for costumes.

HEADLESS MAN (from an anonymous website visitor): I took one of my father's flannel shirts and put padding on my shoulders (towels attached with tape that brought my shoulder height up to the top of my head). With the shirt over the towels, and still hanging well below my waist, from the rear I looked like a headless man walking down the road. I put a very thin white hankie over my face with slits for my eyes. I wore old baggy jeans and work type boots. Didn't cost anything but time and figuring out how to feel my dad's shirt out enough to have realistic shoulders.

From Samantha Morrison: One year one of my friend decided to dress up as a lollipop. Heres the how: Dress in all white or all black (if you're trick -or- treating wear black with reflector tape). Cut 2 circles out of heavy construction paper. (be sure to make eye nose and mouth holes on one circle). Glue together, leaving a hole for your head to fit through. Before putting on, cover with plastic wrap. (don't forget eyes mouth and nose hole). Be sure to leave extra around the edge, so it looks like a lollipop wrapper.

Ideas for Adults' Costumes

Many of the kid's ideas above will also work for adults. Some additional ideas that are not necessarily suitable for children are:

LADY OF THE EVENING: Short, tight skirt or dress, fishnet stockings, low cut top (if using a skirt instead of a dress). Crimp or tease hair, wear huge earrings and tons of makeup. A personal note on this one...Ron and I used this idea one year. I was the "lady" and he was her "escort" (he wore a sleazy polyester shirt, white hat with a brim and lots of gold chains). I borrowed most of my costume stuff from my mom (who is quite a flashy dresser) and got a lot of laughs telling people where I got my outfit!

STAR TREK: Black pants & boots or high top sneakers (for men) or tights (for women). Long sleeved jersey in one of the three star trek colors...red, blue or gold. Short, long sleeved dress in one of the colors for women. Wide gold rickrack to sew around bottom of sleeves. Make a "pin" out of cardboard like the ones they wear on the show. You can buy a pattern for the shirt and dress if you want to try sewing them...they are not difficult to make. I made one for my daughter when she was in college.

ADAM & EVE: Beige (or whatever color matches your skin tone!)leotard or turtleneck and leggings. Cut "fig leaves" out of green felt and place strategically.

From Theresa Pander, 9/4/02: For a couple go as a clothes line: brown or gray pants & shirt and holding a rope between them with clothes pinned to it. This was really cute and won first prize in the couples contest.

From Courtenay Pogue, 10/31/02: This year I went as a person being attacked by giant spiders. I made 2 very large spiders by using garbage bags filled with other garbage bags (which I can recycle) and heavy construction paper for yellow and black eyes, black legs (each sheet was folded into 8 sections and torn off to create irregular edges) and red fangs all taped to the 2 sections of garbage bag spiders. I wore my usual business casual wear but strung the yarn around me as if I was caught by the spider. I made a web with the yarn and draped this over my cube at work. There was a contest and I won second prize and was very happy knowing that my investment in the costume was under 3 dollars for the yarn ( and have over 3/4 left to recycle as well). The spiders came home to trick or treat and then will be used as decorations for a party I am having the next day. Your website was great and inspired me to write. Best of luck with your work

We'll be adding more ideas to this list as we think of them...if you have any good ones send them along!