Easy Last-Minute DIY Halloween Costumes

A version of this article first appeared on our blog a few years ago. Our homemade Halloween costume tips were so popular that we’re re-posting (and updating) for 2015!

Halloween DIY Costume Ideas

Just realized that Halloween is only a few days away? Got a last-minute invite to a weekend costume party? Have absolutely NO idea what to wear, but can’t bear the thought of setting foot in an overcrowded costume shop? Below are some of our favorite DIY costume ideas, many of which can be created with materials you already have around the house:

Pair some outdated khaki shorts (the pleated ones you keep planning to donate to the thrift shop are perfect!) with a graphic tee shirt from a previous vacation. Add white athletic socks (pulled up to the knees, of course), running sneakers, and a baseball cap or other funny hat. Hang a camera or a pair of binoculars around your neck. And don’t forget the fanny pack…and the selfie stick!

Jackson Pollock Painting
Grab a pair of white tights, sweatpants, or leggings and an old white tee shirt (long sleeves will work best). Borrow some colorful paints from the family art supply stash, and go to town! (If you don’t have paints handy, any type of inexpensive acrylic or craft paint will work; you don’t need to invest in fabric paints unless you plan on washing and re-wearing the costume.) No time to get messy? Turn your costume into a fun art project for your kids!

Start with a green or brown sweatsuit. (Leggings and a matching tee shirt will also work.) Make a headpiece by fastening pipecleaners and two painted ping pong (or styrofoam) balls to a plastic headband. If you don’t wear glasses, pick up a pair that make you look extra smart. (Accessory stores like Claire’s sell  inexpensive “fashion” frames with clear lenses, or you can buy a cheap pair of drugstore reading glasses and pop the lenses out.) Then hit your bookshelf and choose a big, colorful coffee table book as a prop. Just make sure it won’t be too heavy to carry around all night!

“Kid in a Candy Store”
Choose child-like clothing (bright colors, stripes, polka dots, cartoon characters, etc.), mismatched socks, and a colorful pair of sneakers. Then hit the local drugstore or dollar store and pick up bags of 99-cent candy, which you can string to make “jewelry.” (Short on time? Use pre-made candy necklaces, rings, and bracelets instead). A giant lollipop makes a great prop. You can use a real one, or create something simple out of paint, cardboard, and a popsicle stick.

High School Gym Teacher
Pull on a pair of track pants or athletic shorts, a solid-colored polo shirt, and a pair of sneakers. Pick up a retro terrycloth headband and matching wristbands (you can find them at American Apparel, or at many sporting goods stores), carry a clipboard, and hang a whistle around your neck.

“Everything but the Kitchen Sink”
Raid your kitchen for almost-empty food containers, cereal boxes, egg crates, bags of snacks, etc. (Make sure they’re lightweight paper or cardboard and not glass or metal!) Use glue, safety pins, or staples to secure the packages to one of your kitchen aprons. Stuff the pockets with plastic utensils (ladles, spatulas, etc.) and carry a pot or pan as a prop.


First, grab a pair of green leggings, sweatpants, or kelly green tights. Pair them with an oversized orange sweatshirt or long-sleeved tee (both should be inexpensive and readily available at a local big box store.) Cut your jack-o-lantern face out of black felt and use glue or thread to secure it to the front of the sweatshirt.

The basic idea for the pumpkin costume will also work as a tulip or other flower. Instead of an orange sweatshirt, pair your green bottoms with any colorful (red, yellow, purple) A-line dress you might happen to have in your closet. (Men can substitute a brightly colored polo shirt.) Cut the felt leaves to match those of a tulip, and to get your point across, be sure to carry a bouquet or basket of real flowers!

Black Cat/Dog
For a very simple DIY animal costume, put on black pants and a black tee shirt. Cut up an old black tee shirt (or buy a yard of inexpensive black fabric at the local craft store) and sew a casing to make a tail, then stuff it with a bit of poly-fill. (You can also save money by using the stuffing from old throw pillow or teddy bear that is headed for the trash!) Make ears out of the same fabric or black felt (use the same stuffing technique to help them stand up) and attach to a plastic headband. Use a black eyeliner pencil to draw on a nose and whiskers, and you’re ready to go!

Birthday Cake
Make a “candle” headpiece by painting cardboard paper towel rolls (follow the natural diagonal lines on the roll to create a striped design). Stuff the top of each roll with a bit of orange tissue paper and secure them to a wide plastic headband by punching holes in the bottom and tying tightly around the band with a piece of string. Choose pastel clothing (pinks, yellows) as a base, then “decorate” yourself using felt cut in the shape of oversized sprinkles. You can get creative by adding bows, ribbons, fake fruit, artificial flowers, and anything else you might have in your craft or gift wrap drawer. For a prop, carry a wrapped present, bunch of balloons, or a metal cake server.

1950s Guy or Girl
You might not have a poodle skirt lying around the house, but you probably have a pair of capri pants. (If not, a cuffed pair of jeans will work just as well!) Pair them with a collared silk blouse and a cardigan sweater. For footwear, choose slip-on penny loafers or white canvas sneakers (such as Keds) and a pair of ankle socks. Pull your hair into a ponytail and tie it with a colorful scarf. Guys can take a lead from Grease by pairing jeans and a white pocket tee with Converse sneakers and a black leather jacket