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Slacker Mom’s Guide to Halloween Costumes

Quick and easy ideas for Halloween costumes

Author Elisa Murray

Published on: October 21, 2022


Sure, you could spend months planning and creating elaborate Halloween costumes for the whole family. But if you, like me, lack the skills/drive/time to match your DIY ambitions, not to worry. Save the sewing for next year (or the next, or the next ...). Between Buy Nothing and easy homemade solutions, Halloween costuming can be a snap.

1. Do an easy DIY costume.

While we love fantastically cute costumes, what about modestly cute and fantastically easy? Check out these ideas for 15 DIY costumes (some very easy, some not as much) or for easy DIY costumes made out of recycled materials.

Here are a few ideas from readers and our own staff of crackerjack slacker moms. Once you’re thinking in the slacker mindset, it’s easy to come up with dozens more:

  • Class outfits: gymnastics, ballet, etc.
  • Tutu + T-shirt + unicorn headband = unicorn
  • Karate uniforms paired with a mask = karate zombie
  • School T-shirt + pom-poms = cheerleader
  • Box + decorations = old-school robot
  • Florescent T-shirt or vest + garbage-truck-obsessed child = garbage man
  • Dress in black from head to toe, top the noggin with a black ski mask; fill mesh/see-through bag with several stuffed cats = cat burglar
  • The classic white-sheet ghost — endless variations
  • Anything with fake fur. Easy to cut, doesn’t unravel (but it can shed) and no major sewing skills are required to slap something together.

3. Buy secondhand (or firsthand).

Value Village is Halloween Central in October, offering tons of new and gently used costumes for sale, plus accessories galore. Other secondhand stories are also good bets, and, of course, there are many party/costume shops around, including Party@ Display & Costume (stores in Kirkland, Lynnwood and Issaquah, or shop online); Vintage Costumers in the Roosevelt neighborhood in Seattle, which rents cool costumes; Champion Party; and, for awesome accessories galore (lobster claws, googly-eye glasses, etc.), Archie McPhee in Seattle's Wallingford neighborhood.

Another great place to find secondhand costumes is Facebook Marketplace. Log in and see what is available in your area. A quick search of "children's Halloween costumes" yielded scads of results, many costing as little as $5. 

Buy Nothing is another great way to find free costumes, right in your community! Join your local group (through Facebook) and find everything from kid costumes, clothing dye (for a DIY costume), and even costumes for your pets. 

"Young girl wearing a paper rabbit mask"

3. Leave it all up to the kids.

You’re onto this cross-cutting strategy already, right? Think of it as “teaching kids to be self-reliant.” Have them come up with the idea, help them figure out the essential elements and then let them execute. A trip to a local secondhand store, a dollar store (or your basement) should do it.

There are some excellent free resources online. First Palette has a great variety of free templates for hats and masks. All of the printables are free to print, with no signup required. There are some nice simple ones, such as bears, bunnies and cats; and then more sophisticated options, such as these cool-looking Roman imperial helmets.

We know we’re just scratching the surface of doing Halloween the slacker-mom way. Please chime in with your tips!

Editor's note: This article was originally published in 2013 and updated in 2022. Vicky McDonald contributed to this article. 

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