8 easy and cheap homemade Halloween costumes

Shiver me timbers! Halloween costumes ARRRR easy to make! Tribune staff writers Pat Pemberton and Julia Hickey model their homemade getups.
Shiver me timbers! Halloween costumes ARRRR easy to make! Tribune staff writers Pat Pemberton and Julia Hickey model their homemade getups. The Tribune

This Halloween, the only thing scarier than ghouls, ghosts and goblins is the economic forecast.

Finances are tight this fall, which means less money for freaky festivities and expensive store-bought costumes. Luckily, a spooky solution may be as close as your own closet.

Homemade Halloween costumes are cheap, easy and eco-friendly, since they often feature recycled clothes, props and accessories. Plus, most of the materials for the perfect costume can be found around the house or at your local thrift store.

Here are some frighteningly fun costumes that simply scream “Happy Halloween!” Although none of them require sewing or heavy lifting, little witches and warlocks may need adult supervision.


You’ll need:

A prom dress with a full, poofy skirt (look for formal dresses with lots of layers of tulle and netting)

Artificial flowers, feathers, beads, ribbon, etc.

Fairy wings

This sweet, simple costume is perfect for full-size fairies and petite pixies alike.

Using large, sharp scissors, cut through all layers of the dress at or just below knee level. Now use your scissors to create a zigzag edge along the bottom of the dress. For best results, cut one layer at a time. (For a more modest look, keep the bottom hem past the knee. Flirty fairies can go shorter.)

Attach artificial flowers and other embellishments to the top layer of fabric with needle-and-thread or glue.

You can purchase wings or make your own using wire hangers and pantyhose. Visit for an easy-to-follow video tutorial.


Men, you’ll need:

Loose button-up shirt, preferably white

Black or brown trousers



Eye patch

Women, you’ll need:

Loose, ruffled blouse, preferably white

Long, full skirt

Shawl and/or bandanna



Get ready to sail the high seas in a swashbuckling outfit inspired by “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

Guys can channel their inner buccaneer with homemade pirate pants.

Using large, sharp scissors, cut pant legs just below the knee. Make small cuts at 1-inch intervals. Then rip the bottom of the pants into strips about four to five inches deep. Pair your pirate pants and shirt with a long vest, or make your own by cutting the sleeves and collar off an old shirt. A wide leather belt, bandanna and eye patch complete the look.

For women, becoming a pirate wench is as easy as donning a ruffled blouse, long skirt, wide belt and boots. Tie a shawl over one hip and accessorize with hoop earrings, gold necklaces and rings.

Swords, daggers and stuffed parrot toys make great accessories for either sex.


You’ll need:

Black clothing Cape

Vampire fangs

Vampires are hot this Halloween, thanks to the popularity of “Twilight” and “True Blood.”

Our bloodsucking beauty wore a black, corset-style top, long black skirt and knee-length black boots. However, the possibilities for va-va-voom vamps are practically endless.

Gals, choose dark-colored clothing with a Gothic feel. Velvet, satin and lace are a plus. Guys, channel your inner Dracula with a tuxedo-style suit and cape, or go for a more romantic look with a loose, button-up black shirt and pants.

Mimic vampires’ deathly pallor with pale makeup and a trickle of fake blood. You can purchase fake vampire fangs at most costume shops and drugstores.

G.I. Joe and Jane

Military surplus stores are a great source for camouflage clothing, uniforms and more.

Harry Potter

Dress up as everyone’s favorite wizard with an old black graduation robe, a white button-up shirt, black pants and a gold-and-red striped necktie. Wear glasses and use makeup to draw a lightning-shaped “scar” on your forehead.


Pair a prom dress with a toy tiara and scepter. Or add a sash to become a beauty pageant winner.


Already have a sexy black outfit? Add a witch hat and collect your Halloween candy in a cauldron.


This costume is ideal for trick-or-treaters with anger issues. Take any outfit — an old suit, a Western shirt and Wrangler jeans, a Hawaiian shirt and board shorts — and destroy it. Rip out seams. Fray hems. Finish with fake blood and ghoulish makeup.