Homemade Halloween costumes not only save money, they can also be some of the most clever and fun — and that’s how you win costume contests! Too often the prospect of creating a Halloween costume is so frightening that people just splurge on a store-bought costume, but don’t be afraid. You’ve got this.
Enlist family members or friends for help — Facebook was seemingly tailor-made for getting ideas and input, or help putting the pieces together — and have a blast. Start with your closet. Make it a party by digging through your clothes (or those of friends and family members), looking for that special item that sparks an idea.
Here are more than 20 of The Frugal Yankee‘s favorite homemade Halloween costume ideas — including some recipes for cooking up scary halloween makeup on a Shoestring budget:
CLASSIC HALLOWEEN COSTUMES
Cut the sleeves off an old flannel shirt. Wear it over a long-sleeved thermal shirt. Strap on a tool belt, add some old hand tools. Smudge on brown face paint for a hard-working look. Finish off with work gloves, boots, a plastic hard-hat, and maybe some safety goggles.
Fringe the bottom edges of old pants or a black skirt with a scissors. Tuck in a big white blouse, tie a red scarf around your waist or head, and add some temporary tattoos to exposed skin. (Skulls and crossbones work best, yar.) Clip on some gold costume jewelry, and dab on black face paint for a beard. If you have time, pick up a fake hook, eye patch, or pirate sword at your local party store.
Start with overalls, a plaid flannel shirt, work boots, and a straw hat. Loosely tie a bandana around the hat and add some freckles on her cheeks with face paint. For little kids — who may tire of walking — you can pull a red wagon filled with stuffed animals or toys (cows, pigs, and other barnyard friends). When she’s ready to stop harvesting treats, she can climb in for a ride.
All you need are jeans, a flannel or Western shirt, a vest, cowboy boots and a cowboy hat. Add a bandana or maybe you’ve got a toy gun or a sheriff’s badge. If not, you can find them cheaply and easily enough at a dollar store or convenient store.
The key to this costume is layers: the more colors and fabrics, the better. Wear mismatched flowery skirts, a few old scarves, shawls, and strings of costume jewelry. Add some lipstick and face paint. Top off with a hat or a tambourine, and you’re ready to go.
BASICS + BUILDING BLOCKS
These start with tights, leotards, sweats or even fleece pajamas.
Start with black sweats and matching hoodie. Add white strip down the back from top to tail, either with chalk, white fabric markers, or white gaffer’s tape. Grab face paint and add some whiskers and a pink nose.
Wear a pink, brown, or white leotard. Add a powder puff or large pom-pom to the backside. Make ears from construction paper and secure them to a plastic headband, and just hop along.
Dress all in green: tights and a T-shirt work well. Cut poster board into a large oval. Use green and black spray paint or acrylic paint to color the poster board “shell” and create a pattern. Attach to the back of a belt or staple lengths of elastic to create armholes and “suspenders”. Green face paint adds a lot to this one — but beware for the singles out there looking for that Halloween kiss!
Start with black tights or jeans and a black T-shirt. Make eight (8) legs from cheap black pantyhose stuffed with any thing dark and lightweight (other pairs of pantyhose, tissue paper, etc.). Sew or staple the ends to keep the stuffing from falling out. Pin each leg to your clothing, and add a little make-up (see below).
Start with black sweats, a black sweatshirt, and black shoes. Cut a large oval from poster board or cardboard. Paint it red with black dots. Staple black elastic pieces (in a loop) onto the board form arm holes. For antenna, attach pipe cleaners with black pom poms to the ends to a headband.
White sweats, Christmas socks, white tennis shoes, a black hat, fake snow, mittens, scarf, and black pom-poms for the coal. Spray the hat to look like snow and glue on a red bird from the craft store. Use white makeup (see below) plus a white eye mask. You can glue a fake carrot to the mask as a nose. Add white pom-poms to the sweatshirt.
Put on black sweats and black shoes. Cut poster board into wings and paint them any color. Punch two holes toward the edges of each of the wings, then thread and tie black ribbon through them to attach the wings around your waist. Attach pipe cleaners and pom-poms to a plastic headband. Glitter on the wings, glitter makeup, or sparkly body lotion adds an ethereal effect
Sometimes it’s fun to wear exactly what it is printed on the back of an “ironic” t-shirt.
Cut a slit in empty cereal boxes — either full-size or individual packs. Glue plastic knives into the holes. Drip red paint down from the knife hole in the box. Attach the cereal boxes to a T-shirt or sweatshirt.
Black Eyed Pea
Wear all white and black tennis shoes. Cut out the letter ‘P’ from black construction paper or fabric. Pin the P’s all over the white outfit. Use make-up (see below) to paint a black ring around one eye.
BUNCHES OF THINGS
Bunch of Grapes
Start with a base of all green or all purple clothing. Attach balloons of the same color with safety pins to the top half of your body. Paint your face and hands the same color. Add a green felt or wool hat to make a “stem” on top. For more realism, put four (4) balloons across your shoulders and four (4) across the back, then a row of three (3) more under that (front and back), then two, then 1, for a “bunch” silhouette.
Bag of Jelly Beans
Blow up a bunch of different colored balloons. Cut two leg holes in the bottom of a big clear plastic bag and cut two arm holes near the middle. Stand in the bag while you fill it with the balloons. Loosely tie the bag around your shoulders with a colorful ribbon. Cut off excess bag around face. To make it a little fancier, copy a Jelly Belly logo and enlarge it big enough to show up as a label, then print on paper with an adhesive back, or tape/pin to the bag.
Laundry Basket…Clean or Dirty.
Wear sweat pants and a sweatshirt. Cut a hole in the bottom of an inexpensive (thin) plastic laundry basket. big enough that you can fit through, but small enough to “sit” on the hips after you pull it over your head. Fill basket with laundry. Strategically pin a few dryer sheets or clothes pins on your outfit.
For each of these homemade costumes, cut holes in a cardboard box for head and arms, or suspend an open box from shoulder straps made of strips of fabric.
Paint the box silver, glue on a few extras (gumdrop knobs, etc.). Paint a matching, smaller box and cut eye holes, then use the second box as a head. Grab silver tights or leggings and practice your robot voice (or doing The Robot.)
Paint the cardboard box red, then tack on paper plates for wheels. A motorcycle helmet or goggles completes this look.
Tape pieces of poster board onto the box to make the front and back come almost to the floor. Paint it white and add a handle.
Wrap the box in Christmas paper, then stick a large bow on your head.
Head on a Platter
Cover the box with a tablecloth. Glue a silver plastic platter in the middle cut hole, big enough for your head to pop through. Glue on a couple of place settings of plastic dishes and glasses. Now your head is on a silver platter.
Hot glue yogurt containers or paper/plastic cups to the top of the box, laid out like a Lego piece. Take a smaller box, one that will fit on top of the head snugly, and hot glue yogurt containers to that, too. Spray paint the whole thing whichever color Lego you want to be (based on whatever color sweats and turtlenecks you’ve got!)
DIY HALLOWEEN MAKE-UP
1 teaspoon corn starch
1/2 teaspoon water
1/2 teaspoon cold cream
Mix ingredients together, then add food coloring. Wash your face and any area to which you’ll be applying makeup, then dry thoroughly. Apply a thin coat of cold cream to your entire face. Using a cotton ball, gently pat cornstarch over the cold cream. Keep your eyes closed. Apply make-up with fingertips.
What are YOUR favorite homemade Halloween costume ideas? Share them with us by posting a comment below.
Copyright 2009 Shoestring, LLC and Garen Daly. Photo: iStock