Tick-tock, tick-tock, the Halloween countdown is in its final hours. Are you ready? Or are you frantically poring over Pinterest trying to find something to make that won’t have you burning the midnight oil all week? I’ve combed the interwebs to their very ends and I think I’ve found some winners for you. Admittedly, I’m a bit of Halloween addict, so planning starts in August around here. This year we’re all going as aliens and a giant UFO has crashed in my front lawn. But I get it, not everyone out there needs a twelve-step program for their ghoulish obsession.
Keeping it lightweight, flexible enough to move in, easy to see out of, and just durable enough to make it through the neighborhood for trick-or-treating are priorities to keep in mind.
The key to a great costume is a short list of versatile supplies. With the right vision and the ability to improvise, you can whip up a killer costume without a ton of time and money. Keeping it lightweight, flexible enough to move in, easy to see out of, and just durable enough to make it through the neighborhood for trick-or-treating are priorities to keep in mind. Nothing ruins Halloween faster than your little one face-planting on someone’s porch because they can’t walk/see/move in their costume.
With that in mind, I give you my secret arsenal of costuming supplies: felt, cardboard, zip-ties, duct tape, spray paint, tulle, metallic tape, balloons, and Styrofoam balls. These are all easy to come by, possibly even out in your garage or already in your stash of crafting odds & ends. They also are relatively inexpensive which is a plus since this is probably only going to be worn once or twice.
Felt is Your Friend
Felt comes in an endless range of colors and is exceptionally easy to work with. You can cut any shape without worrying about frayed edges, and no-sew adhere it with glue or double stick fusible web. You can layer the pieces for a great applique effect with minimal effort. Those adorable sushi roll costumes? Felt is your go-to ingredient! This link has a bounty of baby costume ideas using felt.
Hoard Your Cardboard
Cardboard is also super cheap. Moving boxes can be purchased at home improvement stores for around a dollar a piece. It’s not quite as easy to cut as felt, but it doesn’t take any more than an Exacto knife or heavy-duty scissors. It can be painted (plan on a few coats because it drinks up paint like a sponge), and taped and will hold up through your Halloween festivities. Throw in some zip ties (lots at the $1 store!) in the mix and you can punch holes in your cardboard and attach it to nearly anything. You’re not limited to just flat boxes either. Think of your oatmeal container, wrapping paper cores, and concrete forming tubes for options when your costume is calling for a cylindrical shape. I fell in love with this brilliant tractor for a special needs child on my costume hunt. Cut and spray paint your cardboard into the desired shapes and colors, zip tie it to the wheel chair, and voila! Your little one will be ready to roll in style.
PRO TIP: My cautionary tale for cardboard is that it can be tricky to move in. Last year my entire family sported Lego Superhero costumes fashioned out of cardboard boxes. They looked great, but I realized a little too late that none of us could bend over. We struggled like upside down turtles every time one of my boys dropped his trick or treat bucket. So if you are going the cardboard route, think single sheets and accessories rather than full body coverage.
Duct Tape is the Bomb
Duct tape is a no-brainer. It comes in nearly every possible color and pattern now and it sticks to everything. Add quick details to existing solid color clothing like super hero belts and logos, or reinforce and color your cardboard in one easy step. You can even use it to give your pumpkin some colorful bling! Here is an entire site dedicated to the creative uses of duct tape. Team up duct tape and rolls of felt from the fabric store for a quick, no-sew costume that looks great and is flexible enough for easy movement. Bacon & Eggs, anyone?
Tulle is Terrific
As the mom of two boys, I am a tulle novice compared to those of you out there with closets full of fluffy tutus. But when Halloween rolls around, I see the rainbow of tulle at the fabric store as a limitless cloud of costume possibilities. Does your little one love cupcakes? Cut the bottom out of a round laundry basket, cover it in brown felt or craft paper, use ribbon to hold it on like suspenders, top it with a fluffy poof of tulle frosting and glue on pompons or plastic gemstone “sprinkles”.
Or pay homage to our Rocket City’s history with a little shout out to space travel. White sweat pants and shirt make the perfect palette for a custom jetpack. Spray paint two 2-liter bottles silver and add amorphous “flames” of red, orange, and yellow tulle blasting out of the bottom. Attach the jetpack using metallic tape and add more metallic tape to the rest of the outfit for fun space suit details. The folks at Doodle Craft have provided a great tutorial. They used felt for their flames, but I think a mix of felt and tulle would be perfect!
Get Your Shiny On
I mentioned metallic tape above, and if you aren’t familiar with it, go grab a roll and try it out! It’s a bit more expensive than duct tape, but it is super-shiny and just as sticky. One great thing about metallic tape is that comes off the roll on a paper backing, so you can cut it to size/shape before you peel it. For an added bonus, you’ll be one step ahead on making sure your costume has some reflective surfaces for safety. Find it with the duct tape at your home improvement store.
Up, Up, & Away
Part of me hesitates to include balloons in my Halloween toolbox. What kid wants a balloon popping in their face and scaring them? But for older kids who can handle the risk of a little fright, they can be a great resource. Use packing tape and clear plastic giftwrap to make a big bag, and fill it with colorful balloons for a life size serving of jelly beans. Balloons also make great bubbles, popcorn, grapes, etc., and can be taped onto a variety of surfaces quite easily. My suggestion: go with the more expensive balloons and don’t overinflate to avoid the frustration of constant popping!
Styrofoam is Versatile
These lightweight, paintable, glueable orbs of possibility can fit the bill for tons of costume accents. The cuteness of this delicious get-up with Styrofoam meatballs is killing me! Seriously, who wants to loan me their baby so I can make this? A dish towel, a dollar store bowl with the bottom cut out, and a skein of yarn are all you need to add to bring those meatballs to life! Don’t stop at meatballs, this adorable gumball machine tutorial would be just a cute, but even lighter, if you swapped out the real gumballs for painted Styrofoam.
Don’t Forget About Fido!
Do your pets get in on the festivities? This costume has to be one of the best I’ve ever seen! One dog, two outfits, a stuffed animal, and a box. Simply genius. This one might take a bit of work, and a very patient animal, but the results are priceless. Cut curved shapes out of the box to accommodate your dog’s torso, attach the faux limbs to the box with zip ties or duct tape under the jacket sleeves, and secure the stuffed animal to the box so that it will stay balanced once your pet is dressed.
If you are feeling like the time crunch just isn’t going to allow you to go DIY this year, how about supplementing a store bought costume with things you already have? One of my all time favorites was the year that my sister-in-law dressed my niece in a lobster costume, and she and her husband donned chef’s gear and carried her in a big pot (which doubled as a treat bag) while wielding wooden spoons. Hilarious with just a touch of macabre = Halloween perfection!
Whatever you dress your kids (and yourselves!) up as this year, have fun and be safe! Be sure to incorporate some reflective surfaces into everyone’s costume. You can find reflective tape at running stores, and the dollar store always carries glow sticks and flashing lights to help keep your little goblins safe. Happy Haunting!
The mom of three rambunctious redheads, Meg Nester is a Chicago area native and wannabe crafter extraordinaire. When she’s not tending to her boys (and baby girl) or training for triathlons, you can find her in the garage wielding her beloved power tools or firing up a kiln full of enamel jewelry.