List 14: Quick, Easy and Cheap Halloween Costumes

Around this time of year I see a lot of suggestions for “easy” Halloween costumes. Unfortunately, many of those suggestions are not as easy as one might like. The two main offenders:

  • The “no sew” option – Sure, there is no sewing, but it will still take you hours to assemble. These ideas are great for the Pinterest crowd but are not so good for those lacking time, patience, and a hot glue gun. Examples: Covering clothes with fake leaves (swamp people) or cotton balls (sheep) or hand cut out paper feathers (owl).
  • The “just throw this on” option – There are a lot of costumes that require no assembly whatsoever. All you need is wear a few articles of clothing that are the signature items of a celebrity or character from film or TV. Easy! Unless, of course,  you don’t have the specific piece of clothing that is required and need to drive all over town to find it. Examples: Waldo from Where’s Waldo? or The Blues Brothers.

Below are 40 truly easy Halloween costumes. All of these require minimal assembly time and use items that most people own, could easily borrow, or could buy inexpensively from a wide variety of stores. You could actually pull these together at the last minute. Most of these suggestions aren’t likely to win you an award for best costume, but at least you won’t be the party pooper who didn’t bother to dress up.

If you try any of these costumes, please share photos on my Facebook page.

  1. Super Fan.  Put on all the apparel and accessories you have for your favorite sports team (or all your city’s sports teams). Extra credit for painting your face.
  2. Model Employee. If you’ve worked in one place for a long time you may have accumulated a lot of clothing, hats and other items with your employer’s logo on it. Put it all on. Name tags or ID badges are a plus. Extra credit for painting your face.
  3. Walking Resume. If you don’t have enough apparel from a single employer, you might have things from a variety of places where you have worked. Wear them all.
  4. DIY Gone Awry. Put on dirty clothes. Paint splattered is ideal. Add a tool belt or have tools sticking out of your pockets. Messily wrap yourself in any wires and tape that you may have. Attach any other miscellaneous DIY project detritus you can find: pieces of wood or drywall, pipes, carpet scraps.
  5. Bad First Aid Instructor. Raid your first aid kit. Cover yourself in bandages and medical tape. Make a sling out of a piece of fabric. Tape a yard stick, hockey stick, or baseball bat to your leg as a ineffective brace. Be sure to refresh your emergency supplies when you are done.
  6. Bad Dog Walker. Get as many dog leashes and collars as you can, and tie them around yourself as if you got tangled up and the dogs got away from you. Get a bunch of plastic bags and tie them around your belt. If you want to be gross put chocolate candy bars in the bags. Tear them open and eat them throughout the night. Yuck!
  7. Wrong Holiday. Put on anything you may have for another holiday such as New Years Eve, Easter, St. Patrick’s Day, Fourth of July, or Christmas. Don’t limit yourself to apparel.  Any decorations that can be wrapped around you or otherwise attached to your outfit are fair game.
  8. Sugar Daddy/Mama. For this you need to have or borrow a Baby Bjorn or other babywearing carrier. You also need a 5 lb bag of sugar. Put on the carrier. Stuff the bottom with a blanket or towel so that the bag of sugar sticks out of the carrier when placed inside. You can draw a cute face on the bag of sugar or give it a hat. Don’t forget to name your sweet baby.
  9. Pussy Riot Band Member. If you have a brightly colored balaclava wear that, or cut holes for your eyes and mouth in a brightly colored ski hat that can stretch down over your face. Pair with a dress in a different bright color. This can also be group costume.
  10. 50 Shades of “Gray.” Wear an outfit made up of layers of gray clothes, ideally in various shades of the hue. BDSM accessories are optional. (If you happen to have those on hand I won’t judge.)
  11. T-Shirt Ninja. Wear all black (or all white). Have an extra t-shirt that matches your outfit. Follow the instructions in this video to make a ninja mask out of the t-shirt.
  12. T-Shirt Skeleton. This one takes a little skill with scissors, but you can cut a rib cage pattern out of a white t-shirt and wear it over a black shirt for a skeleton effect. The instructions here are a bit fussy (as one expects from Martha Stewart), but you could freehand a rib cage on the shirt and cut it out for a similar, if not perfectly symmetrical, effect.
  13. Dry Cleaning. Put on a shirt with a wire hanger still in it. You may need to secure it with tape or pins. Expand the top hole of a dry cleaning bag so that you can put your head through, and make holes for you arms. Wear the bag over your outfit.
  14. Dexter Victim (During). Isn’t it considerate how Dexter wraps his victims private parts with enough layers of plastic wrap to maintain their modesty? Still you probably want to have some neutral colored underwear or a swimsuit on before you wrap yourself in a thick layer of plastic wrap around you crotch/butt and (for women) around the breasts.
  15. Leftovers. The amount of wrapping around a Dexter Victim may be a little less covering than you are comfortable with. Instead, wrap yourself with even more plastic wrap and aluminum foil to be leftovers. Accessorize with plastic food containers and storage bags. If you or a friend are feeling creative you can have someone use a sharpie to label the type of “food” being stored in each area: rump roast, chicken breasts, pork belly, etc.
  16. LAN Party Aftermath. Here’s one for the gamer geeks. Wrap yourself in ethernet cable. Attach a network hub, computer or game console peripherals, and empty energy drink cans to yourself.  If you are the sort of person who would dress up as this you likely have plenty of this stuff. A party hat would be a fun, if inauthentic, touch.
  17. Makeover (Before Picture). Put together the most unflattering, clashing and otherwise horrible outfit you can. Have messy hair and (for women) do an awful make-up job.
  18. Photoshopped You. Wear all black, all white or another fairly neutral base. Use safety pins or tape to attach a dramatically too small outfit (or something tucked and folded to look too small) to yourself. Stuff appropriate spots of the attached outfit. Use make up to create obvious “slimming” shadows on your face.
  19. Hobbyist. Dress in the full gear of a sport or hobby.
  20. Faux Retro. Finding an actual vintage outfit that fits and is affordable usually takes some searching, but with the ways that styles recycle you may be able to piece together a 90s, 80s, 70s, 60s or 50s look from things already in your closet. Bonus points if the clothing items are leftover from the actual era you are emulating.
  21. Toilet Paper Mummy. Wrap yourself in toilet paper using tape to keep it in place. Stay out of the rain.
  22. No time to get ready. Wear a towel wrapped around yourself. Be sure it is well secured, and it’s probably best to have something on underneath. Wrap another towel around your head as if you just came out of the shower.
  23. Up Too Late. Wear pajamas, slippers and a robe. If you have them add an eye mask or a teddy bear.
  24. Static Cling. Pin socks and (if you are feeling racier) underwear to your outfit. Use safety pins that you’ve attached from the inside of your clothes so that they aren’t visible.
  25. Pot Head. Put a pot on your head.
  26. Inner Turmoil. Wear things for two rival sports teams at the same time, or make it a couple’s costume by having each member of the couple dressed as a Super Fan of the opposing team.
  27. Local Tourist. Wear clothes and accessories with your city’s name or other local tourist cliche on them. (For DC such an outfit must include a cheap FBI hat.) Carry maps and a camera.
  28. Toga! Whether done in homage to the Romans or the boys of Delta Tau Chi, draping a sheet on yourself is a classic last minute costume.
  29. The First One Passed Out a Party. Look generally a mess. Draw on your face with a marker. Make sure it is truly washable first. Possibly attach some other things to yourself that pranksters might put on a passed out person. Try not to become a self-fulfilling prophesy.
  30. Gifted Individual. Use wrapping paper, ribbon, and gift bags to wrap yourself up like a present.
  31. Stick Figure. Wear a single color that contrasts to tape you have. For example, wear a dark color if you have masking tape or a light color if you have black electrical tape. Place a line of tape down the middle of your body and down each arm and leg.
  32. Fork in the Road. Wear all black. Use white or yellow tape to make a dotted line down your chest. Tape a fork in the middle.
  33. Gender Bender. Switch clothes with someone of the opposite gender.
  34. Style Swap. Dress like someone with a completely different style from you. You could dress like a specific friend or just become a glamorous, conservative, slutty, sloppy, preppy or other contrasting version of yourself. Note: this costume only works if you are going to a party where people know you well; otherwise, it just looks like clothes.
  35. Backwards Person. Put your clothes on backwards.
  36. Lawn Bag Pumpkin/Trash Bag Ghost. If you have one of those lawn bags that look like a pumpkin, cut leg holes in the bottom and arm holes near the top. Put on the bag. Stuff with leaves or paper. Secure the top with tape. If you can’t find a decorative lawn bag you can use a regular trash bag. If it’s a white bag you can draw black eyes and a mouth to make it a ghost. If it’s a black trash bag you can just be a “bag of trash.”
  37. Burglar. Wear black clothes and a black ski hat or balaclava. If you want to be punny you can accessorize with a cat stuffed animal (or several if you have them) to be a cat burglar. A pillowcase full of “loot” is another good accessory, and lady burglars can use it as their purse.
  38. Super ____. Make your own superhero costume kindergartner style. Wrap a towel or other cloth around your neck as a cape. If it won’t tie closed use a safety pin. If you are feeling creative you can design a superhero emblem; otherwise, put your initial on pieces of paper that you attach to your chest and the back of your cape.
  39. Subliminal _______. There was a professor at my school who would sometimes wear a Batman t-shirt instead of a plain white t-shirt under his dress shirt. Because you could make out the Batman symbol under the other shirt people took to referring to this look as “Subliminal Batman.” Send your own pseudo-subliminal message by wearing a t-shirt with a symbol or message on it and wear it under a shirt that allows the print to show through.
  40. Child’s Costume. If you do have a chance to go to a store that sells Halloween costumes but you want to do something more creative than just buy an adult costume, try looking in the children’s aisles. Look at the kids’ costumes and see if you can figure out a way to get it on your body. Depending on the costume this may include cutting larger openings or–particularly for infant-sized costumes–just taping or pinning the costume onto your other clothes. The result will be sillier than a generic adult costume, and it will probably be cheaper. If you are a parent you might do this to get extra use out of your kids’ old costumes.

UPDATE! Click for MORE quick, easy and cheap Halloween costumes and EVEN MORE quick and easy Halloween costumes.


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