Family themed creative costumes

Homemade Adult and Toddler Costumes Ideas for Halloween

TDS Reader Contributors

Related Articles

Family Halloween Costumes

Toddler Halloween Costumes

Halloween on a Dime

Fun Costume Ideas Needed

I am trying to find some creative ideas for fun homemade Halloween costumes. I am looking for adult costumes as well as ideas for my soon to be one-year-old. I am also interested in finding some group themed costumes so we might have matching costumes as a family.
Christine in Austin, TX

It's a Jelly Fish

This idea came from a costume book I read about while in Texas. I love it, but have yet been able to locate the type of umbrella needed. First, you find at a garage sale, your attic, or perhaps a thrift store, one clear bubble umbrella. These were popular in the 70's. They encapsulate the shoulder area instead of flare out like a typical umbrella. Second, you take bubble wrap and cut strips from the top of the umbrella down to the floor. You can use irridescent streamers or anything somewhat pastel in color or clear. Then once you have finished, you walk while moving the umbrella up and down, resembling a flowing jelly fish. This made a lot of sense for someone in the north. It can get pretty cold here in Colorado about Halloween time. With this costume, you can wear anything you want underneath!
Marcia N

Fabric Link Resource

For lots of ideas to get those creative juices flowing, check out FabricLink's Halloween Costume Closet at This website has instructions for making costumes for all ages as well as party and decorating ideas. There are also links to other related sites.
Julie in Conn

Start With a Sweatshirt

One of the best and cheapest ways to make costumes is using hooded sweatshirts bought at thrift stores. You can usually pick them up for around $2.00 and then dye them using fabric dye. If the sweatshirt has a decal on it, just turn it inside out. I avoid buying sweatshirts with embroidered accents because removing the embroidery causes holes, although I have done it in a pinch. Here are some costumes I have made.

Seagull - white sweatshirt with feathers cut out of felt and sewed under the arms. Cut a beak out of felt and attach it to the top of the hood. Add large googly eyes and you're done. I also dyed white leggings yellow for the legs and made shoe covers out of yellow felt with holes to attach them using the shoelaces.

Lion - Hooded sweatshirt dyed a tan colour and turned inside out. The mane was made by sewing 6 inch lengths of dark brown yarn around the edge of the hood. This sweatshirt had a pouch pocket which I removed and made into a tail with a dark brown yarn tassle on the end.

Dinosaur - I used a dark green sweatshirt and cut a slit down the back from the edge of the hood to the ribbing at the waist. I cut triangles out of felt and sewed them into the slit for the spines on the dinosaur's back.

Cat - Just use a black sweatshirt turned inside out and add ears out of felt and a tail made of either an old nylon or the sweatshirt pocket. Black mini gloves can be used with felt pieces glued to them for the cat's pads or just use fabric paint.

Dog - Same as the cat but with different ears and tail. I like to add a dog collar with a "name tag" on it.

With all of these costumes, the legs were made using leggings purchased on sale and dyed the appropriate colour. A hooded sweatshirt is a great base for a costume, just use your imagination.

I See Spots

Some friends went lasr year as 101 dalmations (OK, only 4 dalmations, but use your imagination!). Mom, Dad, and two girls 3 yrs and 6 mos all wore white tshirts with red ribbon around the neck as a dog collar. They added some black spots glued on with fabric glue, dog ears on headbands, and a little makeup to make puppy-dog noses and whiskers. It was too cute!
Bonnie H.

From the Costume Trunk

I'm lucky to have a huge costume trunk of things (picked up over the years at yard sales, thrift stores, etc.) to choose from when Halloween rolls around. But if you're not that fortunate then here are a few ideas that are free or at least inexpensive...

  1. Tourists---sunglasses, knee-high socks, sandals, hat, camera, brightly colored and/or Hawaiian print clothing, a map, and don't forget the zinc oxide sunscreen over your nose.
  2. Gypsies---peasant blouses, lots of jewelry, head scarf (or hat for a man), dramatic make-up, brightly colored skirt (pants) and dark simple shoes.
  3. Hoboes---old hat, messy hair, old and/or torn jeans and plaid shirts, boots. Don't forget to rub some burned cork on your face!
  4. Mimes---long sleeved, red & white striped shirt, black pants, black shoes, white gloves and face paint.
  5. Carhop---scarf around the neck, class ring on a chain, roller skates, short skirt or jeans with the cuffs rolled up, red lipstick, and either Dad's dress shirt (with the cuffs rolled up) or a short sweater.

If you've got a closet full of clothes, or access to one, then all it takes is a little bit of imagination and you're all set!

Shop party supplies and decorations at The Oriental Trading Company!

It's More Than Clothes

I'm not a big seamstress, but AM a bit arts and craftsy, so my costumes tend to be pulled together from real clothes and odds and ends. For years, my husband and I held adult costume parties, so every Halloween was another challenge to figure out costumes.

What I've found is that including detailed or interesting props/accessories is a good way to get great results from even "common" costumes. For example, you've probably seen a million French Maid costumes throughout the years, and when the time came that I'd run out of ideas and resorted to that old stand by, I spiced it up by buying an inexpensive plastic tray, and glued on some disposable champagne glasses. Or take along a feather duster.

A similar idea is to go as a waitress. Find an old uniform from a second hand store, put an apron on over it, and get an old school lunch tray if you can find one. (or use a styrofoam tray, or use the top of cardboard shirt box etc.) Glue on a paper placemat, napkin, plastic or cheap aluminum utensils, plastic glass, and paper or styrofoam plate... you get the idea. It would be even better if you had some children's plastic food that was no longer used, and glued that on to the plate. If you are making this for a child going trick or treating, you might want to even glue a discarded glove to the bottom of the tray so that they don't have to hold on to it the hold time, they can just let their arm hang down and not worry about dropping it.

Another old standby is the doctor costume. Seems like everyone has those surgical scrubs kicking around their house somewhere, and if you go to the costume shop and buy cool props like severed arms and feet, and big fake butchers cleavers etc., you end up looking like a mad doctor, which is much more interesting.

Make togas out of sheets, and buy shields, swords, and helmets from the costume shop to be a Greek soldier. Or make a shield from an old trash can lid. The year that my husband and I dressed like this, we also dug out some old metal goblets we'd picked up somewhere along the way, and used those as we had drinks throughout the evening. In the costume jewelry bin, I'd found an old snake belt and bracelet, and these were good additions.

Sometimes one small item will be the inspiration for an entire costume. Try to collect interesting odds and ends as you come across them in garage sales, junk piles on the side of the road, or family clean up sessions. Someone once gave me a big tall hair comb which inspired me to make a Spanish dancer costume. I bought some black lace to use with the comb as a Mantilla (sp), and bought a paper fan at a craft store, which I also decorated with lace. Then I hunted through my closets and collected costume junk bin, and pulled out red and black things to wear with it. One thing I've found is that being a packrat helps at Halloween time... when you get an idea for a costume, you can poke around in your bin of old clothes, costume jewelry, and previous year's props to help complete it. This minimizes how much you have to either make or buy.

We found a monkey mask one year for my husband, just the top of the face which was more comfortable than a whole mask. That inspired us to buy matching monkey "hands", then we dug through the costume bin and found an old pair of coveralls. He ended up looking rather like a reject from the planet of the apes.
Suzanne T

Easy, Pardner

An easy costume is a cowboy. Cheap felt hats and bandanas are available at Walmart. My son would put on any vest he could find, and a flannel shirt and jeans. He happened to have a pair of cheap cowboy boots, too. Let your child help you with ideas. It is amazing what their creative little minds will come come up with. Just have fun with it!

Take the Next Step

  • For clever costume ideas on the cheap, check out the TDS Guide to a Frightfully Frugal Halloween.
  • No time for a DIY costume this year? Shop the newest costumes available at!
  • It's tough raising kids today! You need every time and money saving idea you can find. That's why you'll want to get our free weekly Dollar Stretcher for Parents newsletter. You'll find great ideas designed just for parents that will help your family 'live better...for less'! Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE.

Stay Connected with TDS


It's tough raising kids today!

Dollar Stretcher for Parents is a weekly newsletter designed just for parents that will help save your family both time and money.

Little Luxuries

And get a copy
of our ebook
Little Luxuries:
130 Ways to Live Better...For Less
for FREE!

Your Email:

View the TDS Privacy Policy.

Debt Book