Halloween is coming, and its that time of year when costuming is on the mind. Don’t have a lot of spending money? I’m here to help with a few tips that I’ve played with over the years. I do costuming as a hobby, but I like to be as cheap as possible.

1. Plan ahead

You know the costume parties are happening, but you really don’t want to spend the money on a costume? That’s fine. Take an old set of clothing and bury it in the yard (or someplace with a lot of dirt and mud and grime). Mark it so you know where it is! Bury that for 2 weeks, minimum. The longer its under ground, the better it’s going to look when you dig it up. When you dig up your costume, slap some of that dirt on your face, hands and hair. If you can go the day without showering, even better. Get a bottle of fake blood (not the capsules, those are expensive and taste bad, or see below to make your own fake blood) and put it on your mouth, hands. Voila! You have an authentic looking Zombie costume! If smell is a concern, you can tell people you’re really into character, or just use some Febreeze on yourself before you leave the house.

Do you want to get really ambitious with the extra time you have planned ahead for? Pick up some liquid latex, and make yourself a mask or prosthetic pieces. Give yourself some Spock ears! Get creative! It’s more fun to be original then to be a costume out of a bag. Plus, you’ll be the life of the party! People will always ask what you are if they don’t understand.

2. Make it yourself

As I said above with planning ahead, make it yourself. Most bag costumes are going to fall apart after that one use. Even just using sew tape (if you are awful at sewing like I am) lasts so much longer, and that means you have a reusable costume in the future! (You never know when someone decides to have a costume party in May, or if you decide to start cosplaying!) If you aren’t aware of the wonderful thing that is sew tape, go to any fabric store…it looks like tape made of cotton mesh. Stick two pieces of cloth together with it using an iron. Its quick, its easy, and no mess!

Something that is also easy to make is fake blood. I make mine chocolate flavored because I don’t like the taste of pure corn syrup.

1 cup of light corn syrup
Red food dye
Cocoa powder
Water (optional)

mix the red food dye and corn syrup together until you get the color you desire (a deep red is usually about 4-5 drops, if you use a gel food coloring it is much more vibrant but requires less)  add in the Cocoa Powder for color and consistency. If you add in too much cocoa powder and it gets too thick, add in water 1 teaspoon at a time. There you have some cheap and easy blood!

3. Thrift Stores

In general, Thrift Stores have become my best friend. You can get everything there, from simple black t-shirts for 99 cents to the most complex beaded dress you’ve ever seen for a $1.50. During the Halloween season they usually have bag costumes, used for a few dollars (saving you that 49.99 that they want you to spend at the store). I can justify spending a couple of dollars for a one time costume. Just clean it first.

Before you start going to any other store for your costume or costume pieces, check the thrift stores in your area. I know Salvation Army and Goodwill are everywhere, and some are warehouse style. Don’t skim past the racks, because the good stuff is usually hidden. Dig dig dig, and you’ll find what you’re looking for. Sometimes you need to alter it, and that is when you go for the sew tape that I mentioned earlier.

4. Theater Companies

Something I know that a lot of  theater companies do is donate old costumes that they won’t use again. It never hurts to ask, so I recommend asking around. Times are tough right now, people understand that. Even if they don’t have anything available, ask them if they know somewhere local that you can go for cheap costumes. Theater geeks are as thrifty as they come, and we usually have a local place that we prefer.

5. Find someone to help

Don’t think you have what it takes to make your own costumes? That’s okay. Chances are there is someone in your social circle, or even outside of your immediate social circle that can help. We’re sneaky like that, and we’re always around. Also, you’d be surprised what people know about costuming that they just don’t reveal. I pride myself in helping people trying to make their own costumes for the first time, because it is a little nervewracking to do it by yourself the first time. Don’t be afraid to ask around, and to see if your friends have costume pieces they aren’t using. Ask if you can borrow something. Remember, cheap is the goal here. Cheap and fabulous!

Do you have any tips that people should know for cheap costuming? Have you made your own costumes? What did you make?  Have questions? Leave a comment, I can help with what I can!