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Making that Special Halloween Costume for Your Child
Halloween has always been a highly anticipated holiday in our house. When I was a kid my mom would ask me what I wanted to be months in advance. If my answer was the same come September she would map out a “to-do” list from purchasing made items to the items needed to create/sew my costume.
Generally the last two weeks of October are when I receive the most emails/inquiries requesting help on costumes or advice for a quick and easy DIY costume.
The world of fabric and patterns has changed over the years. When I was a child it was much cheaper to make a costume then it was to purchase one. Even those plastic rain sheet/mask combos from the 80s weren’t as cheap as they looked.
In most cases it is now much cheaper to buy a pre-made store bought ready costume than it is to make one. But that doesn’t mean you have to settle for a store bought costume or that making an inexpensive fun good looking costume is a thing of the past. With a good plan, a list, and creativity there are many ways to make a Halloween costume that is both inexpensive and fabulous!
The first step in creating any costume is having an idea of what you want to be and if there are any items in your house you can repurpose for your costume. This is always the advice I give when asked to make a “fast” or “inexpensive” costume.
You can apply the following tips to any costume project whether it is for a child or adult!
10 Tips on Making that Special Halloween Costume:
1- Pick a character or theme
When selecting a character or theme also select a back up. This helps when shopping as you may find more items for the back up character than for your original.
2- Select a Color Scheme
Any more it seems every character has more than one color palate. You can do a quick google search if you are unsure of what color palate you want to go with or want inspiration. One good search is typing in the phrase “inspiration costume” and the character name. Then click on the images section.
3- Break the costume into pieces
You have a theme (or character) and a color scheme. Now look at the costume as pieces. Make a list.
Example: Batman has a mask, a cape, a shirt, a belt, pants and boots.
When making this list make jot down other character ideas that your child children talked about or that you know they love.
4- Create a time line and budget
Example: Halloween is two weeks away and you only have $20 to spend on that mouse costume for your son. Here are your options:
- Check your local Traget, Wal-Mart, party store or pop up Halloween store. They might have something for $20 or less that is premade
- Purchase ears and a tail from the costume section and then buy a matching gray (or black) jogging suit in the child’s size.
If you feel like your inspiration or talents are lacking but you want something special, have money, and are doing a search a month ahead of time then I suggest taking a look on Etsy for a costume made with love.
5- Get Specific
Can the items on my list be bought or made? This is a very important question to ask when creating your needs list. Homemade costumes are awesome but we don’t always have time to make 100% of the items needed. That is no reason the costume still can’t be made. Prefabricated items can be used for almost any costume like the mouse example above.
Once you have your list of pieces, think about whether found items can be used or does this piece need to be made. Next to each item on the list note down what color you are looking for, the size, possible material and if this is a store bought item or item needing to be made. If it can be a prefabricated item, note down the stores you want to look at.
Example: When making the Teen Titans Batman for my nephew, I needed to have a light to medium gray shirt and pants that matched. That year I couldn’t find a jogging set in his size in that color. So I had to purchase grey knit fabric and make the pieces myself. HOWEVER when I made my nephew a Peter Pan costume the shirt and pants did not need to match but they had to be in the same color palate like. I was able to find a polo shirt and leggings in different shades of hunter green at a thrift store.
6- Consignment and Thrift Store Shopping
Consignment shops are a great place to start when looking for a ready to wear costume at a discounted price. Last year, at our KidtoKid store, I found two great condition Tinkerbell costumes. I paid $20 for both costumes when the original cost for one was $25+. All I had to do was make headbands and decorate shoes to complete the costumes.
Some people think of thrift stores as places where clothing goes to die. I see them as places of second chances and new beginnings. As a costumer the thrift store has always been my best friend both for ready made items and pieces I could alter.
I wait to go to my local thrift store until I know they have put out their Halloween items. It is highly unlikely you will find a head to toe rack ready costume but it doesn’t hurt to look. I find that the costume area provides inspiration and a place where I can pick up pieces to complete a look. Once the Halloween section is exhausted, get creative. I scour all of the departments.
Years ago, when making Jake and Cubby costumes, I found colonial style pants and a Captain Hook jacket. While I couldn’t use them then, I knew my eldest nephew would love to be Hook at some point so I purchased the items. Last year when my nephew decided he wanted to be Hook I was excited to be half-way done with his costume.
While creating a pirate costume I found a unique red vest in the women’s department. The costume was for a man but I didn’t let that stop me from purchasing the vest. When my friend tried the vest on with his black silk shirt and leather pants the pirate look was complete.
7- Think Outside of the Box
Being flexible and thinking outside of the box pays off whether piecing together a costume or making one. Definitely look in unexpected places and think of untraditional items in a new light.
Look in all sections of a store. Look at items around you that can be used as an accessory to complete the costume.
Felt is great to use for faux belts, hats and masks. Silver dryer hoses make wonderful robot arms!
When I couldn’t find a brass buckle for a pirate costume I thought outside of the box. I created a buckle using four buttons and a cheaper smaller brass buckle as the under-frame. I then used the same buttons and a bit of hot glue on a pair of dress black shoes I purchased at the thrift store for a matched set look.
For a Teen Titans Robin costume a couple of years back I bought a red t-shirt. All it needed was green sleeves. This purchase saved me time and money. I didn’t need to buy a pattern. I cut the sleeves off and used them as a pattern to make the new sleeves. Then I zig-zag stitched on the new sleeves.
8- Making a Costume Doesn’t Mean Sewing
Don’t be afraid to make a costume just because you might not know how to sew. Over the years I have seen some amazing costumes created using tape, glue, and even staples. While sewing fabric items means durability and longevity, if this is a one time only costume proceed with however you feel comfortable constructing it.
Children are notorious for dropping projects on their parents last minute. A friend told me about a Dorothy costume her daughter needed for school the next day. This friend had a love/hate relationship with sewing machines so she had to come up with a different way to make a last minute costume. Two sheets, a pattern, hot glue (where the costume didn’t need to bend) and double sided carpet tape (for the seams) was her answer. The costume worked for that one day school event. From the pictures I would never have been able to tell that is how the costume was put together!
9- Coupons, Coupons, Coupons
Many fabric and hobby stores have coupons either through snail mail, email, apps, and even doing a quick google search online. Some fabric/craft stores even honor competitor’s coupons. I even use coupons at my local thrift stores.
For each detailed costume I make I keep a project folder where I can keep my patterns, fabric/trim samples, my list, maybe a sketch or photo for project inspiration and my coupons. Until I have all the items needed for the costume I keep the project folder with me so if I have an “ahah!” moment I feel prepared.
10-Pre-Plan for next year
A good portion of my costume planning involves thinking of next year. When at the thrift store browsing for this year’s costume, I buy items to put away for future costumes. If you like to do post Halloween candy shopping (at Wal-Mart or Target) that is also a good time to look at any marked down costumes. That is also a good time to go to places like Hot Topic and TJMaxx. You never know where you might find an inspiration piece. In the past I have purchased a winter princess, Batgirl, a medieval dress, Piglet, and a Buzz Lightyear costume all for under $10 a piece. Each item was used either the following Halloween, for a Renaissance festival or to even play dress up in.