8+ Easy/Cheap/Fast (ish) Alternatives to Store Bought Halloween Costumes

October 13, 2015 5 min read

If you’ve never listened to Jerry Seinfeld’s bit about Halloween costumes, you must! Well, that bit along with the rest of I’m Telling You for the Last Time (which I think/laugh about every time I’m in an airport, every Olympics, as well as every Halloween... that kind of longevity IMO = Comedic Genius). Anyhow, the short version is: store bought Halloween costumes can be some of the junkiest, most terribly constructed, disappointing purchases of the year.

Don’t get me wrong: some can be great; you’re never going to be able to replicate an Iron Man by craftiness the way you can buy one. And our furry Cookie Monster & Elmo suits have had a great run. But, store bought costumes can be costly, and with Nov/Dec coming around the corner post-Halloween, it may not be the right budget-blowing holiday. And the amazing costumes that are fabulously constructed and inexpensive... well, we don't know why they are so cheap and we probably don't want to know, truth be told.

My pregnant self with my Paulie Bleeker

The other factor, of course, is time. Home-crafted costumes can be incredibly time consuming! Even sourcing the different elements of a simple costume can be brutal. You want to be Where’s Waldo and it’s more like Where’s A Striped T-Shirt in This Thrift Store or Where’s A Dollar Store With Circle Glasses.

Or, you may be completely un-“crafty” and creating something brings you dread instead of joy.

Well, I’m sorry to say that as with most things in a mature, adult life: it’s tough to have it all! "Low cost, low effort, and fast" is the dream! And it isn’t always realistic. But, I’ve done a lot of Pinterest searches for Halloween costumes over the years, and I thought I would share the best of what I’ve found (that fits, as well as can be, into the dream of inexpensive, easy, fast, & not-junky). Sharing costumes between families or friends is, of course, a great ethical, environmental, and money-saving route.

These costumes would work for adults or children, for the most part (though I will note that one of my most massive personal pet peeves is parents dressing their children in totally age inappropriate costumes; grade schoolers should NEVER be dressed as Walter White or Alex from A Clockwork Orange! EVER! [rant over])

Happy costuming & GOOD LUCK!

I love these jelly beans and I try to convince my kids to be this every Halloween (to no success). Add more or less clothes/jacket depending on your climate or if it's an inside party or outdoor trick-or-treating.

Materials: Clear garbage bag, balloons, ribbon  Effort/Time: Easy/Under an Hour Cost: Very Low


I would generally imagine Andy Warhol to be an adult costume, but my daughter learned about him in Kindergarten and loves pop art, so you never know... Sub in a white + stripes shirt, or print out a banana, or go with Marilyn as your buddy. Warhol & two more artist costumes here >

Materials: Just the wig, really; soup from the grocery store & clothes if you have nothing black  Effort/Time: Easy / as quickly as you can find or borrow the wig Cost: Wig cost


I saw the image on the left on Pinterest (original source) and LOVED it, so I re-created it for my daughter a few years ago. For the bottom, I spray painted an old lampshade, cut holes & put two strips of white fabric/rag on each side to make pseudo-suspenders (you could use twine or ribbon or anything). I found a white hoodie somewhere (thrift or consignment or Old Navy?) and I did really crude hand-sewing to attach the cotton batting fluff in a few spots. The sprinkles were from a sheet of sticky foam. After Halloween, the lampshade got trashed in the costume box and I snipped the fluff off the sweatshirt so it could be worn normally.

It was actually really simple and not all that crafty. It would be tough if you were going somewhere you needed to sit down, but for trick or treating, it was perfect, because you could layer up under the costume, if needed. And it was adorable!

Here is another version > Or, if you are even more crafty, try this darling birthday cake costume, instead >

Materials: Lampshade, spray paint, cotton fluff/batting, sticky sparkly foam sheet  Effort/Time: Medium. Probably takes an hour or two, plus trips to the thrift & craft store Cost: Very Low


We may have passed peak irony, but these are still funny and easy. More details on each are here (left) and here (right).

Additional, more involved Hipster costumes here >

Materials: Converse seem to be a must. Maybe a beard. A Cardigan. 3D Glasses nicked from the movie theatre. Fake tattoos. A Sense of Humour.  Effort/Time: Low. Depends on whether you make the boombox or not. Mostly just collecting/sourcing clothes  Cost: Low -to- Price of Converse


The full description of how mama made this Miss Piggy costume is right here. She said it cost her $13 in items she didn't have, so I suppose it depends on the robustness of your princess-related costume box.

Materials: Various pink clothes, boa and/or pearls, pig nose & ears, blonde wig.  Effort/Time: Mostly just collecting/sourcing clothes & supplies (Dollar Store?); Possibly light crafting for the ears  Cost: Low-to-Medium (Depending on what you have)


Gnome CostumesThere are many ways to make a Gnome, but this darling little guy demonstrates that you do not need much to create a successful gnome! From what I can tell, the key ingredients are: beard, red hat, and a blue or flannel/checkered shirt plus belt or suspenders. The red hat could be poster paper formed into a cone, and the fluff could come from cotton batting (the inside of a pillow!), cotton balls, or a cut out of felt or fake fur. Polka dots, stripes, and flowers are good for girls.

Materials: As above. Reasonably easy to cobble together or find at the craft or dollar store Effort/Time: Couple hours (including run-around for missing materials)  Cost: Low


Rosie the Riveter Costume 

Do a quick Google image search for Rosie the Riveter and you will be inspired! Just about as simple as it gets: all you need is a chambray or navy shirt, a red bandana, and a bad-ass attitude. The bottoms can be improvised, though loose work pants or boyfriend jeans (the irony of this clothing descriptor is not lost on me), and a pair of work/hiking boots seems ideal. 

Materials: Chambray or navy shirt, red bandana, lipstick  Effort/Time: Almost none! Sourcing clothes, if you don't have any that work  Cost: Low



More on the crafty side, but very straightforward, this bath puff costume would be perfect for an indoor party (though, add white or blue shirt/sweater/pants and you could still pull off trick-or-treating). Full instructions are here > 

Materials: 30 yards of tulle (for an adult), something to use as a clothing base, rope Effort/Time: Couple hours + sourcing the tulle; some crude hand-sewing skills  Cost: Medium. Tulle runs $1.49/yard at Joann, so it would depend on where you're getting the tulle and how big the costume needs to be.


If you're still at a loss, Google and Pinterest are thoroughly extensive and overwhelming resources! What was your best, or most memorable, or most simple-but-fabulous costume? Share below! 

On attribution: In many cases, I've linked the original source to the image or close below. In others, I can’t attribute these to their original sources! They appear so thoroughly on Pinterest, all wormholes with no end. To the ones who originally created &/or posted these costumes: AMAZING! Well done, you. Email me, so you can get credit.


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