Dead Easy DIY Halloween Costume Ideas

Dive into your Tickle Trunk! It's way more fun to make your own Halloween costume.

Credit: Flickr / Nathan Bittinger

DIY Halloween costume ideas for kids

Just give this kid a hat and he’s ready to round up a cow or two in his improvised DIY cowboy costume.


Sure, making your own Halloween costume can help save money and reduce waste, but it’s also just plain fun


Blame Mr. Dressup. But I’ve never been content with the idea of going to the department store and picking out a Halloween costume for me or Maia. And it’s not just the idea of the expense and waste of buying an outfit for one night—Casey and Finnegan used to have so much fun delving into the Tickle Trunk and putting together fantastic characters that I wanted to have the same experience.


Happily Maia has the same DIY gene. For her, the idea of choosing a pre-accessorized costume would mean missing half the fun. Actually more than half the fun. For Maia next year’s Halloween begins shortly after this year’s stomach ache wears off. Somewhere around November 2, she starts a mental inventory of all the costumes she saw at school or while trick-or-treating and begins planning.

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By July she’s usually put together a dozen or more Halloween costumes. If these were the typical store-bought costumes at $20–$30 a pop, we’d be broke by August. But fortunately Maia sees our house as one big Tickle Trunk and if we are missing a much-needed sword, tiara or blood-spurting wound for the costume du jour, she either figures out how to make one or saves her pocket money for our next thrift store or craft store run.


The costume making typically gets into high gear by late September. This week, she’s been a Polynesian dancer (a colourful length of fabric torn into two pieces to make a sarong and a top plus a flower behind her ear), a pirate, a cat (brown sweat suit with fun fur stripes sewn on, headband with matching ears, fun fur tail, face paint), an old-fashioned girl (circa Laura Ingalls Wilder) and a clown. She still hasn’t decided exactly what she’ll be for Halloween though.


My only rules when it comes to the day itself is that the costume can be altered to suit the weather and that we can make her bright enough to show up on the dark streets. Beyond that it’s just her and the Tickle Trunk. I’ll be on hand when needed with a needle and thread and face-paint.


That said, while I’m all for DIY, I’m also a fan of low effort…


Ideas for making your own Halloween costume

Some people like to start with an idea and build from there, but we tend to go the other way. Our strategy is to do a big closet clean: I pull out the strange or spontaneous purchases that never worked out; go through all my accessories; sort through spare fabrics, old sheets and towels; and empty our junk drawers. The resulting pile usually contains enough base items to make pirates, hippies, clowns and hobos (which tells you something about my closet…).

With those inspiring items in mind we head to our favourite thrift store to add whatever is missing. The final stop tends to be a craft store, although we’ve also popped by automotive stores and the odd grandparent’s garage.

But if waiting for inspiration doesn’t work out, here are some old standbys to get you started.


DIY cowboy costume

With jeans, a plaid shirt, a vest, a bandana and a hat your kid will be ready to round up a cow or two.


DIY Greek god or goddess costume

Start with a white sheet to wear as a toga, grab some artificial leaves to make a headdress, and add a pair of sandals to complete the look.


DIY princess to pauper costume

Hunt down the most glittery ball gown in the thrift store (or that bridesmaid dress you wore in 1994), cut it down to size, badly, send your child to the park in it three or four times and add a dented tiara. (This was supposed to be a regular princess costume, but my dress altering skills required a change in plans…)


DIY witch costume

Start with black pants and a shirt or a black dress. Make a witch’s hat and add a broom and creepy green face paint.


DIY traffic light costume

Start with a dark sweat suit. Cut three circles of red, yellow and green fabric or felt. Glue (or staple, I love staples…) these onto the outfit.


DIY crayon costume

Find a solid-coloured sweatsuit. Paint or use a magic marker to print the word “crayon” in large black letters down the length of the suit (use washable pens and paints). Going with the same colour scheme, create a pointed hat in the same colour.


DIY fisherman costume

Find boots, a yellow slicker, rain pants and accessorize with a fishing pole complete with a fish. Add a hat adorned with flies or a sou’wester and you’ll have the perfect rainy Halloween costume.


DIY bag-o-leaves costume

Start with a dark sweatsuit and hat. Glue (or staple) leaves to the hat. Cut the bottom out of a paper yard waste bag. Cut a circle of cardboard with a hole in the middle to fit around your kid’s waist. Put the bag on so it is like a tube around your child (over the cardboard ring). Use clip-on suspenders to hold the bag up. Crumple newspapers and stuff into the bag almost to the top, then fill the rest of the bag with leaves.


DIY fleecy animal costume

We found some really inspiring ideas here when Maia was trying to sort out a ladybug costume.