Thursday, October 9, 2008

Easy, Low-Cost DIY Costume Ideas for Halloween

By: Nikki Phipps

Let's face it, not everyone can afford to spend a lot of money on elaborate Halloween costumes, especially if you're living on a fixed income. Likewise, not everyone can afford to spend a lot of time making them either, especially those without sewing abilities. Wouldn't it be nice if you could create your own costumes with little time or money invested? Well you can. In fact, there are numerous costume ideas that can be created yourself for next to nothing. Better still, there's little or no sewing involved. All you need is a little imagination and some creativity, something most of us already have tucked away somewhere inside us. And if for some reason you don't have it, I'm sure the kids do.

An interesting way to come up with ideas for costumes is to keep a trunk or box somewhere handy and fill it with miscellaneous items. This can help spark the imagination. For instance, load it up with old clothing, fabric of varying lengths, pantyhose, fashion accessories, artificial flowers, pipe cleaners and other craft supplies, aluminum foil, yarn, old sheets or curtains, etc. Nearly anything can be used. Instead of traditional Halloween bags for candy, use other items related to your costume and store them in the 'imagination box.' For example, you can implement items such as old pocketbooks, pillowcases, garbage bags, baskets, doctor's bags, small backpacks, or even diaper bags.

Ever since my kids were old enough to participate in trick-or-treating activities, I have made their costumes. Once Halloween approaches, I begin asking them what they would like to be. Then I scour the house and our box of goodies to find whatever I might already have on hand, making a list of the items with which I need. Generally, these few items can be purchased at the local thrift shop or dollar store so there usually isn't too much money invested in the project.

For safety reasons, I prefer to use make-up or face paint as opposed to masks. You can easily make your own out of food coloring and corn starch. This is not only safer than using masks, but it's also cheaper, easier to apply, and comes off just as easily with mild soap and water. A simple cream can be made with one part corn starch and two parts food coloring to create the desired shade for your costume. Apply to the face with your fingers just like foundation. And with a few drops of red food coloring and a little corn syrup, you have home-made blood for those ghoulish costumes.

One year my daughter went as a witch. It isn't as difficult as you might think to come up with creative ways of putting this outfit together. In fact, they can be as easy or difficult as you can handle. For the witch ensemble, I simply used a tattered black dress and a witch's hat my daughter already had. I mixed up some green face paint and added a wart with an eyeliner pencil. For her hair, I used some fiery, red-orange yarn that I attached to the hat with Velcro. Add a small broom and there you go.

Another year, she was a butterfly. The butterfly was fashioned together by cutting a pair of wings out of some cardboard, which I decorated with multi-colored pieces of felt (you can also use aluminum foil and decorate with sequins, glitter, etc.). The body of the butterfly consisted of nothing more than a black sweat suit; however, a dark-colored leotard should work just as well. Wings can be attached in whatever way is easiest for you. They can be sewn onto the back of the sweatshirt or fastened with elastic bands fitted around the child's arms. You could also try using Velcro for felt-covered wings. This not only sticks to the felt but to the shirt as well. Add an antennae headband and, if desired, some face paint. The headband can either be purchased from the dollar store for a couple bucks or put together yourself using an ordinary black headband with black pipe cleaners attached.

I transformed my son into a lively jack-in-the-box one year. This idea came about through my own childhood memories. My mother also made a lot of our costumes growing up. Aluminum foil would incredibly become a tiara, a wand, or antennas. Lacy curtains would suddenly become flowing gowns. Her creativity was amazing, and one costume in particular stood out above all others-a kitchen table. She had taken a simple cardboard box, cut out a hole in the bottom, and slipped it right over my head. After draping a tablecloth over the box, my protruding head became the centerpiece with a carefully placed 'hat' made from a pair of pantyhose and artificial flowers.

And from this kitchen table costume, another one was born-the jack-in-the-box. It uses the same 'box' concept and originality. I simply took a box, decorated it, and attached it to my son with suspenders (can use elastic as well). On one side of the box I fashioned a handle. He wore dark sweatpants and a regular long-sleeved shirt that I attached ruffles to. I painted his face to mimic that of a joker.

A few years back, my kids decided that they wanted their costumes to match. We looked around the house and soon enough found ourselves with a cowboy and an Indian. For the cowboy, my son donned a cowboy hat and boots, a western shirt, blue jeans and a denim jacket. All of which we already had. To accessorize the look, I tied (loosely) a red bandana around his neck and fastened the holster (complete with toy guns) around his waist. Once again, these were items that we already had on hand.

My daughter, of course, was the Indian. Her costume was also something we had just lying around. I took an old brown pillowcase and cut a v-neck hole in the bottom that was large enough for my daughter's head to fit through. I then cut two more holes in either side for her arms. I hand-stitched designs around both the neck line and bottom of the 'dress' and with a pair of scissors, I carefully cut slits along the edges to give it a frilly look. If you don't sew, that's ok; you can easily use fabric paint to decorate the dress instead. To set off the dress, my daughter wore braided pigtails with a feathered headband around her forehead. The only item I purchased for this was a pair of moccasin slippers from the dollar store. To hold all their candy, my son carried a pillowcase 'loot bag' while my daughter used an old harvest basket lined with an orange towel.

Ever had the option of dressing up for work with the most original taking first prize? This one worked for me. Once again, I borrowed the idea from my mother, giving it my own twist-a tomato plant. For this costume, I wore a dark green leotard with green hose and slippers. I found a dark green table skirt and simply cut out holes to allow me to both slip it over my head and run my arms through. I pinned some green artificial leaves onto the leotard and table skirt along with little tomatoes made from Styrofoam balls that were painted red and topped off with green stems (you can also use tomato pin cushions found in craft stores). I finished it off with a green beret full of leaves. By the way, I took the prize.

I have found balloons to be quite useful for costumes; however, they should only be applied to those of older children or adults. Once again, safety is important and balloons tend to pop easily and small children can accidentally try to eat the balloon peices. Balloons are inexpensive and come in a wide variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. You can create one-of-a-kind costumes with hardly any work involved. Imagine a bunch of grapes (like that from Fruit-of-the-Loom). Choose a purple sweat suit or leotard and attach purple balloons carefully with small safety pins. Add some ivy vines and top it off with a matching hat full of ivy leaves. This could also be used for other berries as well with appropriate colored sweats and balloons. For instance, you could try raspberries, strawberries, or blackberries.

Then again, why not go out as Mr. Bubble? Wear white and use some white balloons to instantaneously become soap suds. Accessorize with a scrub brush and a hat or bag made up of bath materials such as sponges and empty shampoo, bubble bath, or soap containers. When you apply balloons to any costume, however, try not to put any on the backside. This could make it difficult to sit down.

Other interesting costume ideas might include a scarecrow using denim bib overalls, a plaid or flannel shirt, rope or twine for belt, a straw hat, gloves and boots. Stuff all the pockets with straw. Turn an old sheet into a ghost. Create a hobo from some old clothes and add a hat. Paint the face with a five o'clock shadow and fashion an old hankie to a stick. What's autumn without leaves? Use a dark-colored sweat suit (with hood) and pin silk leaves all over it. Walk around carrying a rake and gather candy in a leaf bag.

Remember, a little imagination can go a long way; and best of all, it's free to use.

Author Bio

This article was written by Nikki Phipps and was sponsored by

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