Every year we buy these flimsy costumes made in another country and they never see the light of day again. It is almost scary to think about how much money is wasted on Halloween. Across the nation, Americans spend billions each year. Spooky, huh? So why should you buy a new costume year after year, when you probably have all the materials you need to create a unique, inventive or clever Halloween costume on your own? Let everyone else snap up the itchy acetate witch dresses and cheap plastic vampire capes. This year, you are going to get creative with these do-it-yourself costumes!
Before getting too specific, here are a few guidelines to keep in mind when designing your look:
- Comfort counts. Whether you are following the kids around trick-or-treating or you have a hectic party circuit, wear something comfortable enough to be in for hours. One of the advantages of using your own closet for Halloween costumes is that you will not be stuck in scratchy synthetic fabrics or a hot plastic mask all night. So make the most of it with clothing that lets you move around freely.
- Start with closet items that are costume-ready. Do you have a former football player or cheerleader in the house? Do you wear a uniform to work? Are you a fan of vintage fashions? All of these items are natural starting points for a fun costume.
- When in doubt, be a zombie. Adding zombie makeup to any outfit turns it into an instant Halloween hit. That old chef’s jacket, a knife handle, some hot glue and zombie makeup and poof, you are a zombie chef. The same goes for construction workers, lawyers or any other readily identifiable profession. Plus, zombies have it easy at parties; no matter how awkwardly you dance or make conversation, you can always chalk it up to your act.
- Invest in pieces for the long term. A pork-pie hat, newsboy cap or driving cap makes a great centerpiece for a variety of different looks. In fact, you can get away with just wearing jeans or nice pants and a dress shirt. Plus, the hat is something you will wear over and over again, and not just one night a year.
If you are still stumped for Halloween ideas, here are some great costumes you already own:
Real cowboys do not wear plastic spurs and foam chaps. They wear hard-working jeans, boots and a cowboy hat. If you have the hat and boots, the rest of the look is easy. Choose a plain blue chambray or white cotton shirt for authenticity. Add a bandana around your neck, and a large belt buckle to drive home the theme.
It is football season, so elements of a football player costume should be easy to find. As with a cowboy costume, the hat – or in this case the helmet – makes the look. If your helmet is no longer in use, feel free to paint or scuff it to suit the specific theme of your costume. Tuck a piece of turf in the facemask and paint on dirt to look like a roughed-up quarterback. If you have a jersey, that is great. If you do not, cut out some numbers and letters from an old garment and glue them to a plain, oversized shirt. Finish the Halloween outfit with a pair of tight pants to the knee and matching socks.
Almost everyone has a few older pieces of clothing lurking in the closet. Maybe you could not bear to part with your 1980s puffy-sleeved prom dress. Perhaps you have held onto your bellbottoms hoping they will come back in fashion. These older items might not be the cutting edge, but they will lend authenticity to a Halloween costume. Be a hippie for a night with jeans, a loose, colorful shirt, and a headband. Don all black clothing over white lace, apply black eyeliner and relive the glory years of Goth. If you have a really interesting closet, you might have a throwback gem. No one will forget the Spice Girls and Geri Halliwell’s Union Jack dress, for example.
Topical television costumes
While your closet probably does not contain the rich silks and embroidered fabrics of “Game of Thrones,” other current television shows are a gold mine for clever costume designers. A tailored 1960s suit and a fedora puts you most of the way to a dapper Don Draper from “Mad Men.” A pork-pie hat, dark glasses, goatee and dark windbreaker complete Walter White’s Heisenberg look from “Breaking Bad.” The series might be over, but it generated so much conversation that your costume will be gold. You also cannot go wrong with anything based on “The Walking Dead,” a perfect Halloween inspiration.
Halloween costumes do not have to be cheap and disposable. In fact, costumes are better when they showcase some of your own ingenuity. So dig through your closet and find the right look. You will spend less and enjoy your Halloween party more when you are dressed in something clever.