10 Halloween Costume Tips and Tricks for the Reluctant DIYer!
Happy Friday, friends! First, a quick thank you to all of you who took my mini survey on Wednesday and left quite thoughtful suggestions! I’m so glad you all like reading more about the military lifestyle, and I will definitely be including some of you questions and topic ideas into coming posts! If you want to catch up or take the survey, click here! I promised you all another office update/project today, but truth be told it’s still in progress and not quite where I want it. So instead of scrambling and rushing, I decided to bump Monday’s post to today, and hopefully I’ll have the office update ready for you on Monday! I think this works out a bit better anyway, since quite possibly many of you are doing what I’m doing this weekend: getting Halloween costumes together!
Every year, I tell you all the same thing and I’m going to say it again this year: Halloween is not really my thing. Yes, I’m creative and crafty, but costumes aren’t particularly something I excitedly look forward to, and sewing clothing is NOT my forte. Despite my annual reluctance however, I have come up with some clever and creative costumes over the years…and today, I’m sharing my top tips and tricks for DIYing a Halloween costume when you aren’t particularly crafty.
Choose User-Friendly Supplies
If I had to boil this post down to just one tip, it would be this one. If you don’t know how to sew, don’t love to sew, or don’t have time to sew, you CAN still make really creative costumes using fabric. There are several really great fabric options and notions for costumes that don’t require hemming or sewing and are really easy to work with! When I am putting costumes together, I like to keep things as simple as possible. As such, these are the supplies I turn to over and over again:
- Fleece – Comes in a ton of different colors, is inexpensive, doesn’t fray, and stretches (so if you don’t get the sizing just right, it will still fit!). It is also warm so it’s great for keeping kiddos warm on Halloween night.
- Felt – All hail, the Halloween costume super fabric! Like fleece, it’s inexpensive, comes in a ton of colors and doesn’t fray. It’s a bit scratchy, so it’s not ideal for making into huggable clothing, but it is perfect for making shapes, patches, apliques, hats, eye patches and more thanks to it’s stiff structure.
- Vinyl – Marine vVinyl comes in a lot of different colors and also doesn’t fray, meaning you can cut it and use it without hemming or sewing it. It is also great for making patches or bags, and or anything with a hard/sleek/scaly-like texture.
Notions & Supplies
- Heat’n’Bond – Our Super Hero costumes (photo above) were made entirely using Heat’n’Bond. It is great for joining almost any two (or more fabrics) together without sewing.
- Hot Glue Gun – It’s only a Halloween costume, remember! If you don’t feel like sewing buttons or other accents on, just glue them!
- Cotton Stuffing – Add shape and bulk to any fabric shape.
- Styrofoam and/or Tin Foil – Need a unique shape or structure? Cut it from styrofoam or mold it from tin foil and then wrap in the fabric of your choice!
When I am creating costumes, I always start by searching Google for good inspiration images. I usually print out different angles and views of the character or costume idea and keep them close by as I’m crafting. Little details are what can make the difference in a costume, so picking up on subtle features is easier when you have multiple images for quick reference. Images also help me decide which features to include and exclude when I get a bit overwhelmed. Also, keep the images with you when you are out shopping for supplies so when you stumble upon a possible button or buckle or ribbon, you can match it to your inspiration (this is especially helpful if you have a child who is a bit particular about costumes matching just right 😉
Adapt Pre-Made Clothes
This is another one of my favorite and go-to methods for making costumes. I am not very good at nor do I enjoy making clothing, but I also like our costumes to have that homemade look. I will often start with a pre-made item and cut it apart, add to it, or adapt it. I usually shop consignment stores to find inexpensive pants, jackets, tops or skirts that I can use as a base and build off of. In the cowboy jeans above, I found a $4 pair of jeans at a kids consignment shop and the red fringe at the fabric store. I simply cut the jeans along the side seams on both sides, inserted the fringe and sewed them back up. Much quicker than making pants from scratch, and I can be sure they will fit when all is said and done!
Combine Homemade and Store-Bought
Don’t feel like you have to DIY each and every element of a costume! Whether it’s for kids or adults, a few DIY’d items added to regular clothes or store-bought items create a really fun costume that is still unique but didn’t cause you pull your hair out making it. I often try to thrift basic costume staples and then DIY the more unique aspects of the outfit. For Flynn Rider, almost everything Henry wore was regular clothing items…the tunic and the bag were made custom to match the movie character just right!
Fake It Until You Make It
Remember, these are costumes, and they really only need to portray an image of a character…every detail doesn’t have to be exact or perfect. Last year, when I was faced with making a Rapunzel costume, I was dumbfounded when my thrifting search came up empty. I was not up for making a full dress and almost gave up when my sister suggested an apron instead of a dress (brilliant!) Not only did it use less fabric, but I was sure it would fit since it only needed to cover the front. I didn’t look like much from the back, yet every little kid knew exactly who I was from the front. For Greg’s Pascal costume, I wasn’t about to make him a big ol’ onesie to wear. But a green shirt paired with a tail (that he slid onto his regular belt) again gave the illusion of Rapunzel’s tiny sidekick. When it came time to make Henry’s Flynn Rider tunic, I couldn’t quite figure out how to make it a closable vest (or rather, I wasn’t really up for it!). Instead, I made a basic vest out of just two pieces of fabric (front and back) and used my sewing machine to make the vest-like details. Thanks to the fake front seam and buckles, it sure looks like a traditional vest! If you’re not up for a big costume construction (or don’t have the time), think about the quickest and easiest method to getting the look you want. What elements are necessary? How can you “cheat” it?
The Charm is in the Details
I know I just said that not every detail needs to be exact, BUT!! Costumes are really made in their details. A few well-placed items can REALLY set a costume apart and help it feel very real (especially to a little one!). Buttons, grommets, buckles, ribbons, lace, rhinestones, patches, netting and more are often easy to attach and can do wonders in making basic clothing items feel more costume-like.
Make Kid Costumes Comfy and Secure!
This is more learned from experience. Both at age 2 and 3, Henry wasn’t quite in the dressing up stage yet and he REALLY didn’t like what we put him in come Halloween night…which can be quite a bummer when you put a good deal of effort into the costumes. Having fought Henry to keep his costume on AND watched other kids who actually did, I’ve learned two things: 1) Make the costume comfy and very similar to something they already wear. Add embellishments to sweatsuits, pants and t-shirts, and hoodies that look and feel like their normal clothes. Try to make attachments and accessories as unnoticeable to a toddler as possible (or else they will pull at it) by putting it on their backs, on top of hoods etc. And that other tip: 2) Whatever you add, attach it! Henry found a way to take off almost every accessory two years in a row, so by the end of the night, he was just in jeans and a shirt. Sewing cuffs, caps, scarves and other accessories into the outfits would have helped him stay costumed the whole night!
Fit as You Go
(Oh my gosh, look at my sweet little Henry at 6 months old!!!! Sniff!)
If you are not good at sewing clothing, but you are going to give it a go, I highly suggest trying it on at multiple steps along the way to ensure it fits right when all is said and done. Even better, make a rough, practice version out of inexpensive fabric before using your “real” fabric to ensure everything comes together and fits just right. That little Waldo onesie sure looks cute, but what you can’t really tell is the arms are SUPER tight and the neck is SUPER wide and loose. But I used my only red and white knit on the first try and couldn’t really fix it. Henry was obviously none the wiser and looked adorable, but a practice version (or two), would have made the final product turn out much better!
Wait Until the Last Minute
Yes, you read that right! This probably isn’t the best tip for busy folks, but it has been our experience with Henry that he changes his mind several times between when we start talking about Halloween and when it actually arrives. What was going to be the perfect costume on October 1st, is completely out of the question come October 31st! Which is a big, big bummer when you spend time and effort on “the perfect” costume. Case in point, Henry went through a Duck Tails phase a few weeks ago and he decided the three of us were going to be the three ducks (Huey, Dewey, and Louie). I bought all the supplies and even had a plan in place that I was pretty excited about. Over night, he switched hard to Paw Patrols and hasn’t wavered. With Halloween one week away, it’s time to commit, so I am now knee-deep into a Chase costume (boo…I really liked the duck idea!). Since I’m (obviously) not into making crazy elaborate costumes, waiting until the last minute works for us. And that way, I can be sure to make him exactly what he wants come game day!
Every year, I dread the whole Halloween costume situation. I groan and complain and roll my eyes and stress…but every year…I have such a good time bringing my (or now Henry’s) ideas to fruition. Especially the last two years, when Henry has been very specific in his requests, it’s a pretty awesome feeling to be able to bring his (current) favorite character to life. What feels like a very overwhelming and nuisance task, starts to take on a life of itself, and I find myself getting lost in the fun and creativity of re-creating details and elements of the characters. So few projects can just be made up as you go along, and it’s pretty liberating to just create for the sake of creating. I had no interest in creating a Chase costume, but seeing Henry’s excitement with each new element now has me all motivated to make it even better! Don’t stress! Let yourself be creative, silly and whimsical…and just have fun with it!
I can’t finish out this post without a little Duesterhaus family costume parade. Here are our costumes from the past four years. Just click on the photos to go directly to the posts, which will have all the details and how-tos!
If you’re making costumes this weekend like me, I wish you luck and hope some of these tips and tricks help you out! If you have any great easy and last-minute tips, please feel free to share below! Be sure to keep an eye on Instagram to see progress of this year’s costumes over the next week…and I’ll see you back here Monday with that office update! Happy weekend!