9 Very Fine DIY Halloween Costumes
If you’re always pulling together a Halloween costume at the last minute or buying one from a store, it’s time to up your game. Here are just a few examples of great costumes you can craft from materials on hand, and our advice for the essential products you need no matter what costume you’re building.
The first rule to making your own jetpack is keeping it light. You can find lots of cool things to attach to it in your garage, but they’ll weigh you down quickly. Instead, look through your recycle bin for plastic containers in unusual shapes and sizes. Think about what you can cut, and how you can position it to create the overall shape you’re going for.
For the base of this jetpack, start by cutting the back panel out of an old backpack. Cut a piece of rigid cardboard in the same shape, and hot glue it to the panel to create a solid base. Now it’s time to get creative with your plastic pieces; begin placing them on the backpack to create your jetpack body. The center panel for my jetpack is the plastic face of a toy car. Beneath that is a baby bottle. Each of the side tanks was created with two cut plastic soda bottles. The top domes are halves of a football. The black nozzles are made with three stacked baby rings, and the domed lids that come on powdered juice drink containers. The decorations are a halved silly putty egg, a few beads and some cardboard details.
Once you have figured out your jet pack’s structure, hot glue everything except the nozzles to the base. Spray paint the entire pack silver, including the straps. Separately, glue together the baby rings and juice container top, and spray paint them black. Then glue them into the pack. If desired, add line detailing to the pack with a black Sharpie.
If you want your Halloween costume to look authentically old — whether you’re going for a zombie bride or a Victorian vampire — you’re going to have to make your stark-white clothing more browned or yellowed. An easy, cheap way to get the weathered look is to dye your clothing using tea or coffee. I recently used this to make a Victorian ghost outfit look more authentic. Here’s how.
Fill a large soup pot with water and bring to a boil. When the water has come to temp, add your tea or coffee. For my dye I stained two dresses, and used 50 Lipton’s black tea bags and half of a small can of instant coffee. A tea stain will give your fabric a deeper yellow-brown appearance that looks dirty, while instant coffee will give you a lighter brown color that looks old. Allow the liquid to steep for 5-10 minutes, then remove the tea bags. Wet your garments with water first, wring them out, and add them to the liquid to steep. To keep my dresses fully submerged, I had to weigh them down with another soup pot filled with water. Allow the garments to sit for at least four hours, or longer if you’d like a deeper color. Note that dyeing will work best on natural fabrics like cotton, and may not take on synthetics like polyester.
Once your clothes have gotten the right patina, remove them from the liquid and rinse them with cold water. If the color seems too dark, continue rinsing — but keep in mind that the clothing will look lighter once it’s dry. To lock in the color, fill your sink with warm water and add a good splash of white vinegar, and let soak for 10-15 minutes. Then remove, wring out and let air dry. Your resulting garment should be significantly more spooky.
The hardest part of any astronaut costume is finding a good helmet. Plastic costume helmets look cheap, quality models are expensive, and those weird fabric versions just look ridiculous. Save your dollars and dignity, and DIY your own space helmet with items from your local craft store.
- 2 16-inch Styrofoam wreath rings
- 1 12-inch Styrofoam half ball (make sure this is hollow so you can put your head inside it)
- A few pieces of scrap styrofoam
- Hot glue gun
- Silver fabric
- NASA patches
Create the base of your helmet by hot-gluing the two Styrofoam wreath rings together. Then attach the half-ball to the ring at an angle, leaving a substantial opening for your face. To reinforce the top of the helmet, cut two wedges from the scrap Styrofoam and place them between the half-ball and the base rings, and secure with glue. This will also help force the top of the helmet open a bit more. To create a more polished helmet, attach silver fabric to the inside, as well as over the scrap wedges. Complete by attaching decorative patches of your choice.
Game of Thrones Dragon Head
A few years ago, a good friend of mine asked to do a matching Game of Thrones Halloween costume. Like every young woman who watches GoT, she wanted to be the beautiful, ethereal, blonde-haired Daenerys. Surveying what female characters were left… I opted to be a dragon instead. Here’s how I DIYed a dragon head, the centerpiece of my costume.
- 1 latex dinosaur mask
- 1 Styrofoam half-ball
- Black spray paint
- Miscellaneous decorations from the fake flower aisle of the craft store
The inspiration for my dragon head was Drogon, the black, spikey member of Daenerys’s trio. The base for my hat was a latex T-rex mask I bought at a local Halloween shop, which I spray painted with a thin coating of black.
Rather than wearing the mask over my head all night, I opted to turn it into a hat. This hack works great with any over-the-head latex animal mask, especially for children who might be hot and uncomfortable wearing a mask all night. To create a hat out of any mask, simply push a hollow Styrofoam half-sphere (available in the fake flower section of most craft stores) into the head of the mask to create a solid form. Then fold the neck of the mask inwards, and hot glue the edges to the inside of the hollow dome. Just be sure to try the hat on before gluing it.
To finish off the dragon hat, I added a few decorations from the fake flower section of the craft store. I made two horns on the dragon head out of two plastic jalapeños I spray painted black and attached upside down to the head. Then I added a few fronds of a fake plants in red and black to create spikes.
Mini Ghostbusters Proton Pack
This DIY miniature Proton Pack is based on the newest Ghostbusters movie gear. The parents, outfitted their 5 year old daughter for Halloween in this classic costume. The pack lights up and the blaster dismounts in case your little comes across Slimer while trick or treating.