Costumes for kids — especially character costumes — can cost anywhere from $50 to more than $100. That’s a lot for an ensemble that will be worn once or twice, and probably smeared with chocolate!
For thrifty parents who want to save money, many outfits can be created from thrift-store finds and items around the house. We’ve gathered 15 DIY costume tutorials featuring characters from "The Incredibles," "The Descendants," "Frozen," "Star Wars," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," "Captain America," "Thor," "The Lego Movie" and "Maleficent," among other genius ideas.
So, crafty moms and dads, grab your glue gun and some cardboard and let’s get started!
1. ‘The Incredibles’
Tabitha at Fresh Mommy Blog sure knows how to make easy look super professional. These slick costumes are made from regular black and red clothes, a felt logo (she gives you the design to print out) and some funky hairstyles. See how she achieves the look and adorable family photos on her blog.
2. Mal and Evie from ‘The Descendants’
These impressive outfits from My Sister’s Suitcase blog are made of custom-made dresses that do take some time to put together. Don't let that put you off though, because there are detailed tutorials on the blog plus lots of tips on where to buy affordable but cute accessories. The resulting costumes are bound to attract a lot of attention.
You won’t believe what Cheri over at the I Am Momma Hear Me Roar blog used to make this tough Viking costume: brown, fuzzy toilet seat covers! She used a white T-shirt and brown sweatpants as a base, and a toy-store helmet topped off the ensemble.
The most recognizable feature of Maleficent is her magnificent horns! Rachel of The Chic Site blog offers a tutorial for making a headdress from a headband, foil and Dixie cups. When these beauties are wrapped in black satin and accented with purple ribbon, no one will know you made them yourself.
If your kids are fans of the hilarious book "The Day the Crayon’s Quit," they will no doubt love this simple costume idea. The House That Lars Built blog gives you a template to make the crayon head with cardboard, and the outfit itself is as simple as some colored leggings and tops. Read the full post for all the colorful details.
This unicorn costume from Jane Can... is nothing short of genius. Felt wings, simple white leggings and — best of all — no sewing involved! Add a glitter horn made with cardboard and lots of colored tulle and you’ve got a unicorn fit for prancing around and trick-or-treating. Check out Jane’s tutorial for all the magical deets.
7. Lego-figure costumes from ‘Star Wars’
Look what a mom can do with cardboard, foam and a hot glue gun! Julia of the Everyday Mom blog made these amazing "Star Wars "Lego figure costumes for less than $20. She says that adults can even fit into these suits, doubling the fun (and usefulness). These basic directions could be altered to create other Lego figures, not just "Star Wars" characters.
Who ya gonna call? Everyone knows that trick-or-treaters need ghost protection on Halloween night! We love this costume (available at Walmart) that offers girl power and brings the reimagined classic movie to life.
Looking for a more homemade approach? This amazing costume from the At Second Street blog was crafted from a thrift-store dress, a Diet Coke box and other random items. Check the post to see how to make your own! Green slime not included!
9. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Cowabunga! Michele of The Scrap Shoppe blog brings it again with these amazing TMNT costumes. With a spray-painted aluminum roasting pan as the shell and a sweat suit as a base, your kiddo will be a hero in a half shell!
10. Elsa from ‘Frozen’
If your princess longs to be the famous ice queen, then check out the Kiki and Company blog. Kiki shows you how to make an Elsa dress — sparkles, train and all. The dress has no sleeves, making this sewing pattern super simple. It is perfect for layering over a long-sleeve shirt in winter.
11. Olaf from ‘Frozen’
Who doesn’t love Olaf, the cute snowman from "Frozen" who loves warm hugs? Karen over at the Desert Chica blog made an easy Olaf costume from a white hoodie and felt. She says the hardest part was finding an all-white hoodie, so she offers a link in her post for finding what you need.
12. Thor and Captain America
The Scrap Shop blog also offers this fun tutorial for a Thor costume using black sweatpants and a gray sweatshirt as a base. With a chest protector painted onto the shirt, the look is completed with boots and gloves of felt. Just like that, your mini Thor will be ready for battle with Loki! An oversized hammer crafted from cardboard will make a kid feel powerful, but unable to do a sibling any major damage.
She also made this amazing Captain America costume from a blue sweatsuit! She painted the details right onto the material, and created gloves and boots from felt. Don’t forget the shield, crafted from cardboard. All-American ingenuity.
13. Pokémon trainer
If your kids are running around chasing Pokémon, why not look the part? Kaysi of the Keeping It Simple blog shows you how to create a super easy Pokémon Trainer costume. She even includes instructions for how to make a Poké Ball! Gotta catch ’em all!
If your kiddo wants to catch dreams (or trogglehumpers) as the Big Friendly Giant this Halloween, Karen of the Desert Chica blog comes through for us again. She put together this great costume from thrifted items and duct tape! Check her post to see how she did it.
15. Harry Potter
To be properly attired for Hogwarts, one needs the appropriate uniform. Let the Doodlecraft blog shows you how to create an inexpensive, yet authentic, tie. And if you scroll to the bottom of the post and click on the “robe" tag, it will take you to her post about how she made Harry’s robe as well.
Editor's note: This story was originally published in 2014 and has been updated for October 2022. ParentMap staff contributed to this article.