I was always part of the create-your-own-costume crowd; it wasn’t until I was in college that I actually browsed through my first costume store and saw how much people were willing to pay for a costume.
My freshman year, I went to a friend’s dorm to help her get ready for a costume party. She decided on a slutty cop costume, and it didn’t come cheap. After spending a whopping 60 bucks for her outfit, she still wanted to get her nails done and buy a pair of black heels to go with it. Most likely she’d wear it for one night, which she probably wouldn’t remember much of, and be done with it. I was convinced it was not worth the money.
For a Halloween party last year I visited a costume store to see if I could find something classy, but still sexy and affordable. I left empty-handed because everything cost way more than what I was willing to pay. I ended up making my own costume, and buying just a few necessary accessories.
If you’re smart about it, and you plan at least a couple of days in advance (that means today!), you can make a costume at home that’s just as cute as the ones at the store and can be done on a much smaller budget. Stop paying 60-something bucks for an outfit you’ll wear at most once a year. Besides, after dressing as a slutty cop once, how many times are you going do it again? In the age of Facebook, it’s expected that you won’t wear the same costume twice.
By refusing to buy the prepackaged costumes at the costume store, you’re forced to get creative in either recreating or inventing your own homemade costume.
At my first college costume party, I dressed up as Audrey Hepburn à la Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Since I already had the dress, the major piece of the costume, I saved quite a bit of money. I did purchase a hair clip and a pair of gloves, and I still ended up spending about $25 on those. My roommates were the Fanta girls. They all bought a different colored fabric and made a toga out of it. They spent $7 total on their costume.
You have to be strategic if you want to get away with spending little money, but it is doable. Some of the best costumes are the clever or unusual ones you won’t see anywhere else.
A couple of years ago, my neighbors went together as dirty laundry and a laundry basket. One girl safety-pinned socks and other clothing items to herself and the other tied a laundry basket around her waist.
One website described a costume for a shark attack. A wetsuit is ideal, but girls who don’t have one can make their own with a one-piece swimsuit and board shorts. Put Velcro strips on the body and attach some to the back of shark toys and make them look like they are attacking you. For extra effect, slash holes in your suit and dab it with fake blood. Consider wearing additional accessories like goggles, a scuba mask, or a homemade oxygen tank.
Another great option is to go as a celebrity. In the last couple of years Kate Gosselin and Lady Gaga have been the celebrity costumes of choice for women. These looks can be achieved with a few key props or accessories. Girls who want to channel Gaga can throw on a leotard and a blonde wig.
For a less trendy celeb costume, a website called HubPages suggests dressing as Martha Stewart. This costume doesn’t take a lot, and it’s usually made of items that can be found in anyone’s closet. If you have a flannel shirt, khaki pants, and an apron, you’re good to go. Bonus points if you wear a pair of handcuffs.
Last year, I saw a girl dressed up as Amy Winehouse. She wore denim shorts, a white tanktop, and a signature Amy Whitehouse wig she bought online. It’s simple, easy, and cheaper than $60.
This year, I think Katy Perry, her fiancé Russell Brand and Tiger Woods and his mistresses will be the popular celebrity costumes for couples and/or groups looking to dress up together.
Want other pop-culture inspired costumes to try? Take ideas from popular TV shows. If you have a school-girl skirt, a white polo, and a toy microphone, you can be Rachel Berry from the TV show Glee. There are always characters from shows like Mad Men and True Blood. If you like the doctor idea and need a couple’s costume, go as McDreamy and Meredith Grey from Grey’s Anatomy. Get scrubs from Walmart and wear the “Hello. My name is…” stickers.
Whatever you do, try to stay away from the clichéd, overused costumes like referees, French maids, bunnies or cats, nurses, firefighters, and cops.
Look at places like Goodwill and the Salvation Army. If you have a box and Velcro, you can create pretty much any costume, whether you want to be a Rubik’s Cube or a chick magnet.
Sometimes, you can’t plan ahead and have to throw a costume together at the last minute. Here are five costume ideas anyone can use when that unexpected party invite comes along.
Doctor: Wear scrubs with whatever accessories you can throw together, e.g. gloves, a stethoscope, or a surgical face mask.
Athlete: You might have an old football, baseball, or cheerleading uniform in your garage. Or maybe you have a jersey for a particular sports team you can wear with athletic shorts or leggings. Accessorize with sweatbands, shoulder pads, and other props. It’s not the most creative, but in a time crunch, it’ll do.
Tourist: Get a fanny pack and a camera to wear around your neck. Wear them with a souvenir shirt (think I Heart NY or Destin, Florida). You can also wear a visor and carry a map.
Cowgirl/Cowboy: Denim shorts or blue jeans, cowboy boots, and cowboy hat. ‘Nuff said.
Hippie: Don’t limit yourself to the typical bell bottoms and flower power stuff. Denim vests, tie-dye shirts, and cutoff shorts are all great options. If you don’t have anything that fits the “Hippie” description, Goodwill should have something. Braided headbands and peace sign jewelry are great accessories for this look. Guys can wear a button-up shirt left open at the top with a vest and jeans. Peace sign necklaces are also good.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a cool costume. This Halloween, don’t get ripped off at the costume store. Save your money and make something at home!