How to Celebrate Halloween
     Without Hollowing Out Your Wallet

By Karen R. Smith


Halloween has become big business and is now second only to Christmas in terms of holiday revenue generated. If you’re a baby boomer, no doubt you recall a simpler time, when a sheet made a ghost or a cardboard box became a robot. Now, with a Halloween boutique in just about every neighborhood, and major retailers adding huge Halloween sections on their sales floors, it’s a whole new ballgame, filled with choices for costumes and decor. While that’s certainly terrific if you want - and can afford - a store-bought experience, many families are seeking something more personal and less expensive. There’s no substitute for the fun of creating Halloween together, and anyone can do-it-yourself with a little imagination and a lot of laughs!

Bewitching Fashions
You’ll want to craft a witch costume that suits the wearer, which might mean using a black leotard as the base for your teenage daughter’s outfit while using a dated black cocktail dress for your own, depending on who wants to show how much of their curves in the process! For youngsters, if they don’t have solid dark clothes for the costume base, you can start the fun either with a trip to the fabric store (SAS on Speedway has an amazing selection, all at discount prices) or by dying an assortment of their worn-out clothes in your washer... or in a bucket out in the garage!

Black and purple seem to be the popular choices for today’s crones, and the glamorous witch has glitter and sequins too. If you began with an old dress that has those glam touches, all you really need to do is artfully shred it, at both the hem and sleeves, to give it motion and dimension. If you’re starting with old tees and shorts, glitter them first (hit the dollar store for glitter and glue) and then start cutting. You can glue on small plastic spiders, pumpkins, snakes, eyeballs... everything your witch will need for a night on the town.

There are terrific instructions on Youtube for making your own witch hat, although there are many inexpensive versions for sale at our local retailers too. Add black tights -- shredded fishnets look particularly nice on today’s witches -- and glue a plastic scorpion or two on the front of your shoes and your witch is ready to go.

Little Gems
Lots of the fun in dressing the under-2 crowd is that they look adorable in just about anything. The juxtaposition between those innocent faces and a ridiculous outfit is irresistible! And their small size makes doing it yourself a breeze.

A friend of mine on the east coast found a giant sneaker at a thrift store, probably used as a display at a trade show. It was just the right size to use as a bunting for her 5-month old baby and the cutest thing ever. Keep your eyes open and your creativity on high. I made a gumball machine costume for a friend’s toddler last year, made from dollar store pompoms glued onto a tee shirt. The child wore red shorts, and I made a cardboard coin slot and dispenser, which I covered in aluminum foil that I stapled onto the shorts.

Felt and fabric are your best friends when it comes to making infant costumes since they are soft to the touch and safe for your kids. Feeling ambitious? Cut dozens of different colored green felt pieces into circles; overlap them onto your baby’s onesie and create a dragon (big circles) or a snake (little circles)... if you sew, tack them down that way. If you don’t, use a fabric glue to secure them instead.

Adult Options
As more of us party on Halloween, couples costumes have risen in popularity. Any pair you can think of can work, whether it’s Groucho and Harpo or fish and chips! Talk things over with your partner first and be sure you’re on the same page. With cast-offs like styrofoam packaging and strapping, you can craft just about anything. My twin nephews wanted to be their favorite food last year -- a burger and fries. We made the burger and bun like an old-fashioned sandwich sign, easy to wear. I used layers of oaktag to make the bun, patty, lettuce, and tomato. We cut the french fries out of styrofoam, spray painted them and then glued them onto an old tee shirt. The boys were thrilled and their costumes looked great!

Last year, my husband wore his regular clothes, so he was totally comfortable. His costume was a standard backpack I’d purchased at a thrift store. I added messages written on white mat board and fabric and stuck them all over the backpack. Each one was a psychiatric term -- arrested development, neurotic, oedipal complex, anxiety, etc. I wrote each in a different color and cut the white backgrounds so they were shaped like comic book speech bubbles. When we reached the party, he just had to put on the backpack and he was comfortable -- and popular -- all night long. Can you guess what he was? Emotional baggage of course!

Remember, you don’t have to go it alone. Check the internet for do-it-yourself costume ideas and have a great time this Halloween!

About the Author:
Karen R. Smith is an award-winning journalist and publicist. Her book, "Stylishly Sexy" is available online and she takes private style clients throughout Arizona and across the country. Visit her at