Halloween Costumes On A Dime


“Mommy, I want to be a boy.” Did my 8-year-old daughter just ask me to begin the gender reassignment process for her?

“For Halloween, Mom! I want to dress like Daddy!”


I have a love/hate relationship with Halloween. LOVE stealing Milky Ways out of my kids’ candy cache. HATE coming up with costume ideas.

I would sooner remove my own eyes with a melon baller than step into Halloween USA, of which I am certain the CEO has no small children of his or her own.

Every year, I have to explain to one or both of my middle school sons that, no, they can’t dress up as a pimp, a gangster or a rapper. Then I try to explain to them that some of my very favorite times in college came from a bunch of us silly kids coming up with costumes out of each other’s closets.

Halloween doesn’t have to be hard—it just takes some creativity.

“Halloween is the perfect opportunity for people of all ages to practice thinking from a creative angle by making a personalized costume rather than simply buying something pre-made,” says Attea Middle School art teacher Candice Wu.

“I would love to see parents challenge their children to hone their artistic and problem-solving skills in a unique, handmade costume, and to make the celebration of Halloween more meaningful and grounded in our values of community.”

Need a few ideas to get the ball rolling? Take a trip through your closets and cupboards:


  • Bridesmaid dresses are great for fairy princesses, opera singers and awards show winners.
  • Suit jackets are great for bad undercover agents, high-powered business executives or disgraced Wall Street financiers.
  • Those ‘80s holdouts? Your Jams shorts with a pair of black socks from your husband’s drawer, and you’ve got the classic tourist!
  • Dad’s referee shirt and a cane painted red at the bottom, and sunglasses? A blind ref!
  • Cans, plastic and cardboard attached to outfit? A recycling fairy!

Halloween doesn’t have to be all about the expensive.

A wig that was used to be Bill Gates two Halloweens ago can transform a little girl into that “guy” she’s giggling about, wanting to see if she can trick her friends.

“At school, we encourage everyone who participates in Halloween activities to come up with costumes that don’t cost a lot of money and that express their creativity,” says Glenview’s Westbrook Elementary School principal Lori Hinton.

“Making your own costume can certainly be a cost-conscious alternative to purchasing a costume. Making a costume together is also a great family activity—I think our students with home-made costumes are extra proud during our annual Halloween parade!”



If you’re looking to keep spending at bay, consider:

  • Costume swaps—talk with neighbors about who is wearing what and if people have things that can be recycled.The oldies but the goodies—you don’t need to go high-tech to be a great ghost or a mummy. A plain white sheet or several rolls of gauze will do the trick!