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Sometimes even I can’t believe how cheap I am. (Halloween: Best DIY Costume Ideas)

By Melissa Summers

When I was pregnant with my daughter along with planning her bedroom and hoping for a girl I could shop for, I also browsed Halloween costumes thinking of all the costumes I’d create for her. I made her into a small monkey one year and an absolutely adorable chicken the next year. Then, at the ripe old age of 4, she discovered the Party City Seasonal Flyer. In the face of vinyl and polyester costumes made by many small Chinese children in large factories where they wondered why the Americans dress their young boys in tights, the lovingly handmade costumes of the past couldn’t hold their value .

I’d tell those little sweatshop workers that some Americans don’t really want to dress their children in polyester and vinyl but they’ve found themselves on the losing end of a battle. A battle against polyester and vinyl where no one’s a winner. Unless you’re a fan of bad costumes then okay you win.

All my costume dreams died the year my daughter dressed as some sort of pink diner/50’s girl and my son dressed as the victim of a man eating dinosaur. The costume my daughter wore represented everything I hate about store bought costumes. It was almost $20, was falling apart by the end of the night and it had iron ons all over it.

This year I have a request from my daughter for something so horrible, I just…I don’t know where I went wrong. My daughter would like to be this, which appears to be some sort of attitude laden vampy little girl. She may as well have requested a Bratz costume, in fact those costumes annoy me less than the ‘Monster Girl’ costume annoys me.

Even more annoying? I have to spend $30 to be irritated by my daughter’s costume.

So I’ve been searching for costumes because even if they can’t be a chicken and an egg forever, I don’t have to spend $30 making my daughter look like some sort of un-dead prostitute.

I don’t just dislike store bought costumes because they’re mostly expensive, poorly made, and often inappropriate.

I also dislike them because so many of them lack any creativity and that’s part of what makes halloween fun.

The Family Fun website is full of great, easy to create halloween costumes which have helped me intensely in my quest to steer my kids away from the more commercial (and expensive) character costumes. The pizza slice is a personal favorite as well as the penguin. If I can convince one of my kids to be a piece of pizza, I’ll have to remove everything but the pepperoni just like in real life. My husband has been begging my son to be a robot for halloween for the last three years. So far no bites, but believe me if he ever aquiesces, Logan is prepared.

Martha Stewart’s site (original home of the Chicken Costume) has so many good ideas, I’m a little disappointed all our halloween party invitations are falling on the eve of my husband’s marathon. I know you’re scoffing at the thought of putting together something from Martha. You’re saying, “Right, it’s going to take me 127 hours to hand sew imported zimbabwaen (SP) ostrich feathers all over that thing and Melissa, I love you but I’m not doing it.”
babyspider.jpgBut wait! Look, there are several no-sew options (a baby spider? You can’t resist.)! They also show you how to use fleece (mostly no sew as fleece doesn’t unravel) to make a few costumes. I really like the octopus, but don’t see directions for it on the site. I made a chicken suit though, I think I can figure it out.

I know I know, I’m asking a lot of you to make something, especially since I have grand plans and then at the last minute I’m standing at Party City buying yet another piece of crap costume. So let’s look around at some less commercial-ized ready made costumes. They’re still a bit expensive but at least they’re not Trampy Monster Girl.

Gymboree has a nice selection of costumes for littler kids. This alligator, at $23.49 is still pricey but since it’s well made you can use it for dress up after Halloween passes. Then, when your child outgrows it, sell it on Ebay where there are women rabid for Gymboree. I’ve often resold outgrown Gymboree clothes for more than I bought them for on Ebay. Crazy.

If you have a child who’s a size 5T or under then Old Navy has quite a few simple costumes for around $20. I’m partial to the chicken costume of course, but they’ve got several cute options like this lion. And they’re all warm which is good if you live in Michigan where it’s alternately 80 degrees or 40 degrees each halloween. At this point a lot of the sizes are sold out at Old Navy, but Ebay has a lot of new or slightly used costumes going for under $10.

My plan is to give my kids some home made costume options, and then, if Max still insists on the Power Ranger SPD costume (which is $45 thankyouverymuch), we’ll be plowing through Ebay to find a cheaper option. But maybe, just maybe we’ll get to make a robot this year.

Later this week we’ll be looking at all sorts of halloween treats so make sure you peek back over.

Related Content:
More DIY Costumes (2007)
Another Halloween Tradition: Trunk-Or-Treat
Celebrating Halloween Traditions: Boo
Great Halloween Crafts
How To Take Great Halloween Photos
What not to wear this Halloween
Our Favorite Halloween Costumes for 2007
Best Halloween Children’s Costumes 2006
Best DIY ideas for Halloween costumes (from 2006)
Best Halloween Trick or Treating Bags, Masks and Costumes
Best Halloween Cookies & Crafts
Best Children’s Halloween Books


Melissa Summers
About the Author

Melissa Summers

Melissa Summers was a regular contributor writing Melissa’s Buzz Off.


Melissa Summers was a regular contributor writing Melissa’s Buzz Off.

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  • When I was younger I was never allowed to buy a halloween costume. One year I was a football player (my older brother played football), one year I was a cheerleader (yes I was also a cheerleader). My favorite costume was when I was a christmas present. My mom got this huge box, cut a head and arm holes in it and wrapped it with paper. I had a green turtle neck on and I wore one red stocking and one green stocking. On my head was a big bow. The only hard part was walking up and down the steps to trick or treat — I lived in the city. That and the fact that I couldn’t put my arms together so I had to hold my candy bag with one hand and swing my body around to ask for candy. It was still a cool costume!

  • My mom always made my costumes when I was growing up and they were fantastic. She even made me a “My Little Pony” costume one year that kicked butt.
    Of course, I lack an essential creative gene and have to purchase my children’s Halloween costumes. *hangs head in shame*

  • Tina

    We never had money to buy costumes as kids…so we made them, and were things like clowns or a robot. I was a Goddess one year (wearing a ‘fancy’ night gown that was in our dress up box)–my real name is Athena, so it worked well. Anyway, it’s kind of fun to see the costumes they have for kids, so this year we’re buying (with the idea they can be used for dress-up later).

  • Melanie

    I’m so worried about the yen for storebought when my son gets older – so far (he’s 4) we’ve done all homemade and it’s worked well, but who knows how long I can get by…. Of course,I always had homemade costumes as a kid, too, so maybe I can pass that down? Either way, thanks for all the suggestions. Because right now the plan is to be a mummy and I’m NOT loving that kid-wrapped-in-toilet-paper idea.

  • Amy

    Oh, yikes. That monster girl costume is so awful. It is TOTALLY an un-dead prostitute. I would like to think I won’t let my daughter dress like that when she’s older, but she’s already toting the fugly Dora backpack to preschool every day. So, who’s to say?

  • B

    Holy Balls! $23.49 pricey? I like the way you talk! Because you, like me, would just about fall over and die if you take a gander at the Pottery Barn Kids costumes my daughter was looking at.

  • Jenn

    What the hell is the deal with the Power Rangers? Ugh. DS#1 has been a Power Ranger every year since he had a clue about dressing up. Now DS#2 is joining in. There still may be hope for my youngest – a girl. But…who am I kidding? I’ll be at Target on October 28th trying to figure out if the 4T costume is really too big for my 2T daughter and why there are no more numchucks to go with the crappy Ninja costumes that were left for my sons to wear. Sigh.

  • pursegirl

    My kiddos, 14, 12, & 8, have been whining at me since around age 5 about the rule in our house: “we don’t BUY costumes! What’s the fun of that?” I have to admit I broke down and bought pieces of a cheerleader costume because it was 75% off. Cheerleader? Geez… I’m a no-sewer and glue, sweats, felt, and thrift stores have made the three nay-sayers into fairies, pheonix (rising from ashes, no less), Queen of all things, frog (my personal fave with spray painted scuba flippers as feet!), Pippy Longstockings, evil monster dudes (many variations), and Medusa. I love, love, love Halloween.

  • my little guy was that old navy chicken costume last year (the perfect accessory to his brother’s farmer costume) and I loved it. So easy and warm – he wore his pjs underneath. Wish I could stuff him into it this year too. I dread the age when they put up a fight over what they want to be vs. what I feel like making them be!

  • I love the phoenix idea! Congrats on the craftiness. Someday I hope to be so inventive!

  • I still haven’t got my kids costumes worked out. My daughter (she’s 7) wants to be a fairy which shouldn’t be too hard, it’s just a matter of getting all of the stuff put together. All of the store bought fairies look like hookers to me. My son (6) wanted to be a ghost. But not a “Scream” ghost, a white one, without a bleeding face … but make it at home ?? A HORROR – according to him. I will admit that we have bought our costumes every year so far. It’s just so easy … Costco has the greatest furry ones for my son and all of the Disney princesses for my daughter. This year though, the furry ones are Winnie the Poo. That was a no go and my daughter has been all of the princesses there. So I’m in a lurch now that it’s a week away and we’re left with no ideas and no time and it’s an hour to any shopping. Crap !! My whole point for posting a comment was to tell you Melissa that I was in Target yesterday and all of their costumes are 30% now and they have those Power Ranger costumes with the muscles there. Good luck !!

  • Grandma Patti

    I am a grandma and just finished making a VERY furry chicken costume for my 1 /12 yr old granddaughter, a red flying dragon for her 4 yr brother, and an Evil Kneivel outfit for my other 1 1/2 year grandson. I will cry when they want storebought!