Saturday, August 31, 2013

Tips for Cheap Halloween Costumes

Homemade Costumes
Photo by Jessica Quirk
Frugal Moms know it pays to plan ahead; October is not the best time to find cheap Halloween costumes. Halloween and pretend play do not need to cost a bundle.  For those who learn the tricks, creating great costumes on a budget becomes a fun challenge.

As a stay-at-home mom helping her family live on one income, those tricks became vital,  I'd love to share my tips with you.

Read on to find out when you should start shopping, and other key tips to help you save money while putting together great costumes on a budget.

Thrifting - Recycle, Repurpose, Upcycle - whatever you call it, it gives unwanted items new homes, keeping them out of the landfill, and saves money in the bargain.

The key to making a great costume out of clothes found at thrift stores is to have an idea of what you want before you go in. Know some options for what you'd like to be, look at some pictures to see the basic components that could make up the costume, and then look for those, but be flexible, with a few different ideas that could achieve the look you want.

Rosie the Riveter Costume
Photo by Jessica Quirk

Also keep in mind that thrift stores that rely on donations tend to save their Halloween and costume items received throughout the year. In September, before most of us are thinking about Halloween, and sometimes as early as late August, they start putting their costume stock out on the sales floor. The early shoppers get the best selection. As we get closer to Halloween the stock of costumes and accessories gets picked over and can become quite poor.

Knowing the general schedule the local thrift stores put out their Halloween stock has helped me deck out my kids' costume & dress up box for several years now. I've found many very nice previously worn high-quality full costumes, and a wide variety of costume accessories like hats, tiaras, wands, wings - you name it. My favorite find was a vintage kid-sized Daniel Boone-style leather jacket that looks like it came out of the seventies (at least!). It's difficult to find that quality in newer costumes.

Costumes You Can Make From 3 Common Thrift Store Items
  • Choir Robes or Graduation Gowns: Angel (white), Demon (red), Harry Potter & friends (black), Witch (black), Wizard (any color)
  • Prom Dress: Miss America, Carrie, Princess, Southern Belle, Vampiress, Zombie
  • Wedding Dress: Bride of Frankenstein, Zombie

Save It For Next Year - Components of costumes from years past can be mixed and matched into new looks.  And, if your taste runs to classics rather than the hottest new thing, you can also shop off the Halloween clearance racks in November to put up good costumes for next year.

Homemade - Take a good look at what you already own that might be useful to make a Halloween costume. Often, celebrities and TV character costumes can be duplicated with normal clothes put together in a new way. 

Sewing is a skill not all of us have, but for those who do, there are great vintage patterns and costume patterns online and at sources like eBay. Re-purposing old sheets and old clothes as material for a new costume in our sewing project is another way to reduce and recycle.

Homemade costumes do not need to be boring nor look cheap, and sewing skills are optional!

7 Quick Ideas For Build-Your-Own Costumes
  • Hippie: Tie-dye, bellbottoms, or a long dress, with beads and a headband. Fringed leather vests are another fun possibility.
  • Mobster: Sharp suit and a hat.
  • Vampire: Vampires have been a Halloween favorite for so long, capes are rarely hard to find. Dress shirts and suit pants are an easy standard attire.  Add a light dusting of pale body glitter if you want to reference the latest craze.
  • Nymph, Fairy, or Dryad: Flowing dress with a circlet head-dress. The circlet can be easily crafted from a garland of flowers, leaves, or even shiny stars or similar material.
  • Druid: Long robe, natural wood walking stick.
  • Rosie the Riveter: Blue shirt, red scarf or bandana (ideally with polka dots).
  • Biker: Black biker T-shirt, bandana, jeans, boots.  Optional: Black leather jacket.
Share and Pass It On - Pass your costumes on to your kids, or from older kids to younger ones. Pass them on to cousins, or trade with friends. It's not hard to adapt Halloween costumes, morphing one thing into another, especially when you have a pool of accessories (hats, fake weapons, wands, wings, etc) to draw from.

Have a great tip I missed?  Feel free to share.

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