Last-Minute DIY Halloween Costumes


It's a few days before Halloween, and while I have put up Halloween decorations, I have given barely a thought to what I'll wear as I hand out pencils and candy to the little witches and goblins that visit my door. Part of my procrastination stems from the fact that I don't have children of my own hounding me for costume ideas or reminding me months before the candy-feast that Halloween is impending. Of course, I make mental notes throughout the entire month of October as I visit orange-and-black-themed shopping centers and grocery stores, but I often wait until a few days before the holiday to figure out my own costume and decide whether I stay home and hand out treats or attend a costume-themed party. However, my delay in choosing an outfit has made me more ingenious than I ever thought I could be when it comes to whipping up a costume at the last minute.

Quick and Free Costumes

Here are some ideas on making your own costumes from things around your house.

Classic White Sheet

There's the timeless white sheet as a homemade ghost, but don't just stop at a sheet; add chains from a bicycle lock for some sound effects. Tired of the ghost costume? Turn that white sheet into a Roman toga by adding a rope as a waistband and a few leaves as a head-piece.

Versatile Clothing 

Who knew that an old vest could help make a fisherman? Add a few lures and fish hooks, grab a fishing pole, and don a floppy hat, and voila! The old man from the sea. A little red lipstick or face paint for goriness can turn an everyday fisherman into a haunted illusion of a fishing excursion gone awry.

Do you own a pair of denim jeans? Cowboy boots or work boots? Add a straw hat and a thick cattle-wrangling rope, tie a bandana around your neck or hat, and you're a cowboy or girl.

Cardboard Boxes 

Old cardboard boxes have so many uses, especially when it comes to costumes. Turn an old square box into a television set using a few markers and a wire hanger. Add straps to the box using suspenders or belts and make the box wearable. Or decorate the square box and turn it into a million things such as a milk carton (do you want white or chocolate?), a computer printer (have paper spewing out of the top using a roll of paper towels), or a box of crayons (a few crayons could be sticking out of the top, created using a whole roll of paper towels with the outer towels colored in Crayola colors). The ideas are endless. Of course, you could also just go as a packing box: Tape some rolls of packing tape around for a quick and easy costume.

Inexpensive Alternatives

Here are some great places to look for last minute accessories and clothes for cheap.

Thrift-Shop Clothing

Thrift stores know that they have some of the best bargains when it comes to costumes. That's why they often display their Halloween ideas in their store windows. Not only can you find actual Halloween costumes of yesteryear, you can find clothing for just about any occupation imaginable.

Garage Sale Bargains

Sometimes garage sales sell clothing from different eras — pieces that would make for terrific vintage costumes. Keep a look out for shawls and cloaks or top hats and canes that could create period pieces.

Mix-and-Match Costumes

A few days before Halloween, stores often mark down their seasonal products substantially. Since the majority of their stock is nearly sold out, this is a terrific time to purchase a few key costume pieces for less; mustaches, eye patches, witch hats, and straw filler are a few adaptable elements that work for a multitude of possibilities.

These low-cost, easy ideas work for both adults and kids. Homemade costumes are usually much more creative and fun to dress up in and cost less as well — a two-for-one bargain.

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Guest's picture

Great ideas. A friend of mine used a cardboard box and some paint to make a cool Spongebob Squarepants costume!

Little House's picture

That's hilarious! It's funny how the most mundane item, a square box, brings out the creativity in people.

Guest's picture

Halloween is a perfect time to pull out that terrible bridesmaid dress you were forced to wear over the summer.

Ugly Stepsister - Put on your most glamorous makeup and add a set of “ugly teeth”. Whenever someone asks who you are, just smile and let them figure it out.

Devil in a Blue Dress - If your bridesmaids dress is blue – pick up devil horns, a pitch fork and tail.

Stephen King’s Carrie - Grab a tiara and apply red body paint to your face, hands and dress.

Play on Words - Make a pageant type sash to put over your dress. You can be:
* Miss Cellaneous
* Miss Demeanor
* Miss Stake
* Miss Informed
* Miss Appropriation

Titanic Survivor - Wear a life vest, lots of drippy jewelry and slick back your hair with gel for the wet look.

Happy Halloween!

Melissa Tosetti

Little House's picture

What a wonderful way to reuse "occasional" items like bridesmaid's dresses! Thanks for sharing all of those terrific ideas.

Guest's picture

My favorite place to get Halloween costumes is Goodwill. There is just a huge selection of clothing, shoes and accessories. Its very inexpensive and when you are done, you can donate the items.

Some notable costumes I've made from items purchased at Goodwill include: 'Steve Urkel', 'Prince', and 'Yo' Babies Mama'...good times!

Little House's picture

I like the idea of Goodwill costumes too, you can donate them right back when you're finished.

Guest's picture

My costume that I'm planning is fairly cheap and easy: a garden salad.

1-3 green plastic tablecloths from dollar or party supply store, bunched up with duct tape and taped to a green shirt.
Red balloons for cherry tomatoes.

That's all I'm probably going to do, but it can be customized further with more salad fixins.

Little House's picture

I think that costume idea is really creative! Small cardboard boxes could be added for croutons, or purple balloons for grapes. Thanks for sharing that easy costume idea!

Guest's picture

I always liked growing a goattee and going as the evil version of myself....80's TV style!

Will Chen's picture
Will Chen

Hi r/reddit!

Guest's picture

One of my good friends often frequents halloween parties as an old man using thrift clothes and some simple theatre makeup techniques..... In another 40 years he won't need the makeup anymore!