When it comes to store-bought Halloween costumes, there’s the good, the bad, and the ugly (and that last one is usually the price tag — ouch.). Fortunately, there are plenty of fun, creative ways to give kids costumes they’ll love without breaking the bank (or driving to every Halloween shop in the northern hemisphere). Whether you’re looking for something simple or a fun new challenge, we’ve got 6 costumes that’ll wow you and your kids. Check out these classic, contemporary, and off-the-beaten track DIY costume ideas.

1. Ice princess 

There’s a good chance your daughter has begged you for this costume at some point. While there are a number of ways to tackle it, the good news is that, with a few tricks, it can be relatively easy to replicate.

What you’ll need

Top:

  • White T-shirt
  • Turquoise matte fabric paint
  • Glittery finishing paint
  • Fabric glue
  • Sequins
  • Paint brush

Skirt:

  • 3 rolls of turquoise tulle
  • 2 rolls of white glitter tulle
  • Turquoise ribbon or elastic
  • Scissors

Making it happen

The top: Take your T-shirt and draw a line where the top of the dress would go, then fill in that area with blue paint. Once it’s dry, cover that with glitter finish and let that dry. When it’s set, glue on sequins for a finishing touch.

The dress: Wrap the elastic strip around your child’s waist and add 10 inches for a bow. Then measure the skirt length, from the waist to the floor, and double it. Cut the tulle into strips and attach with a slipknot. Do this all the way around the elastic until it’s covered (about 50 strips). Alternate 3 blue strips for every white strip.

2. Nerd

We all know that nerds rule the school, so think of this one as a tribute. With a few cleverly repurposed items from around the house, you can create a top-notch costume for cheap (or possibly even free).

What you’ll need

  • Cheap sunglasses
  • White washi tape
  • Bow tie or black felt
  • White or plaid button-down shirt
  • Khaki or plaid pants (or shorts)
  • Pocket protector or duct tape
  • Suspenders or red felt strips

Making it happen

Here’s the beauty of this costume: it pretty much assembles itself. For the glasses, you can easily reuse an old pair from around the house and pop out the lenses (or get some cheap sunglasses and do the same). For an extra nerdy effect, wrap some washi tape around the bridge.

The bow tie: You can either buy a clip-on variety or make one by taking a rectangle of black felt, bunching it in the middle, and taping it in place, and then adding a small strip of fabric to hide the tape. Attach to the shirt with a safety pin.

The pocket protector: Purchase one, or fashion one out of duct tape or thick paper by cutting it to the right shape (a few pencils in the pocket doesn’t hurt either). A similar choice can be made with suspenders: choose actual ones or cut long strips of red felt and pin (or glue!) them to the shirt.

2. Flailing tube man

Come on down and take advantage of this great costume idea! The mascot from your friendly neighborhood used car dealership is now a huge hit on All Hallows Eve. This costume takes a bit more handiwork to pull off, but it’s pretty inexpensive. Plus, it makes a fun project for you and the kids.

What you’ll need

  • Scissors
  • Hot-glue gun
  • Tape measure
  • Marker
  • child’s fabric tunnel (6 feet)
  • 3 yards matching ripstop nylon
  • Black mesh fabric
  • Scrap white and black fabric
  • Kraft paper

Making it happen

First, make a template for the face with your kraft paper, cutting out 2 circles for the eyes and a half-moon for the mouth.

The mouth: Cut the mouth out of the nylon tube. This will be your trick-or-treater’s lookout point, so make sure it corresponds with your child’s height. Then, cut out a large piece of mesh or tulle (or other breathable fabric) and glue it to the inside of the mouth.

The eyes: Cut out 2 white circles and 2 smaller black circles and glue them together (wackiness is encouraged). Glue the eyes to the nylon tube above the mouth.

The arms: Cut out one arm hole on either side (2 total). Make sleeves by cutting out ripstop nylon in a matching color (about 48 inches long) and as wide as the circumference of your arm holes. Then, glue the arms to the inside of the holes (you might want to work inside the tube while your “assistant” holds the arms from the outside).

3. Pirate

It’s a classic for a reason. What we love about the pirate costume is all the ways you can mix, match, and customize the look. With so many variables, you have the option to go elaborate or keep it simple. It’s also a great way to reuse old or tattered clothing (in fact, the more tattered, the better).

What you’ll need

  • White long-sleeved shirt (billowy, if possible) or horizontal striped shirt
  • Old black pants
  • Black fabric
  • White fabric paint
  • Bandana
  • Plush parrot or monkey
  • Vest or fabric
  • Face paint (optional)
  • Scissors (optional)
  • Red scarf
Check out:  4 Ways to Make Your Halloween Haunt Safe for Trick-or-Treaters

Making it happen

While the pants-and-shirt combo is pretty straightforward, you can really hit it home with some awesome accessories. A red scarf around the waist is a perfect touch.

The vestFold a rectangle of felt in half and then in half again. Cut off an arc at the top right “open” end for the neck hole and then another wide arc at the top of the folded end for arm holes. Pin the open spots together and cut rounded corners on each side of the opening of the vest. If you want, you can go back in and sew these together.

The eye patch: Cut out the patch and long strip from black felt. Use white fabric paint to add a skull and crossbones and join the pieces with fabric glue. Then just tie the ends of the strip. You’re ready for the high seas!

The beard: Don’t forget to dab on some black face paint for a beard and accessorize with lots of toy jewels and beads.

4. Hipster

This costume is pretty cool. Maybe even too cool? We’ll let you be the judge.

What you’ll need

  • White v-neck shirt (or ’80s band T-shirt)
  • Cardigan
  • Skinny jeans
  • Beanie
  • Thick black glasses
  • Fake tattoos
  • Canvas tennis shoes
  • Scarf

Here’s another one that pretty much assembles itself. When it comes to the shoe, the more garish, the better. As for tattoos, anything vaguely zoological — say, with deer or koi fish — will hit that perfect number.

4. Shark hoodie

Chomp! Your little trick-or-treater is bound to strike terror in the hearts of swimmers everywhere. This easy shark outfit, complete with teeth and dorsal fin, is surprisingly cheap, although it does require a little bit of sewing (if you’re up for it). Otherwise, you might be able to get away with hot glue.

What you’ll need

  • 1 blue or gray hoodie
  • 2 pairs matching sweat pants (one for wearing, one for cutting up)
  • 1 sheet plastic canvas (12 x 18 inches)
  • White felt
  • Black felt
  • Cotton batting
  • Measuring tape
  • Scissors
  • Sewing pins

Making it happen

First, measure the top and bottom inner portion of the hood. Cut 2 strips of white felt, about 1 inch wide, to the proper length. Then, cut out some triangular zig-zags for teeth, going about halfway into the strips as you cut. Once those are set, glue or sew them to the inside of the hood.

The eyes: Cut out 2 white felt circles (about 1.5 inches in diameter) and 2 smaller black circles. Sew or glue the black circles on top of the white pieces and then attach each completed eye to the hood.

The fin: Cut out a dorsal shape from your sheet plastic (about 9.5 inches at the base and 10 inches tall). From your extra pair of sweatpants, cut out 2 dorsal shapes with a half-inch gap all the way around. Sew or glue them together with the insides facing out. Then cut the very tip of the dorsal fin off (not going through the stitching or glue) and turn it right-side out. Then place your plastic inside with cotton batting on either side to fill it out. From there, attach to the back of the sweatshirt, right underneath the hood.

6. Vampire 

You can’t go wrong with a classic. And since you probably already have the clothing, you can go for broke on the makeup. (Plus, a cape is pretty much mandatory no matter what.)

What you’ll need

  • White shirt
  • Black pants or dress
  • Fake fangs
  • Black shoes

Makeup:

  • White foundation
  • White face powder
  • Eye shadow (brown, gray, charcoal, and red)
  • Eyebrow pencil
  • Fake blood

The cape:

  • 2 yards polyester, felt, or fleece
  • Scissors

Making it happen

What’s great about this costume is that there are so many ways to mix it up. If you have the resources, you could play around with vests, cumberbunds, or skirts. The clothing part is fairly straightforward, but there are plenty of opportunities to really hit a home run with the makeup and accessories.

The makeupApply foundation and cover with white face powder. Then apply the various shades of shadow around the eyes, under the chin, and in the hollow of the cheek. Add some fake blood around the mouth with a cotton swab and voilà! (A widow’s peak is also a great touch).

The capeMeasure out a 28 x 18-inch piece of fabric. (Or measure it to fit the shoulders and the length down to the floor.) Then fold your sheet in half lengthwise and cut an arc — say, half of a U-shape — along the top corner (the folded side). The thinner areas will make handy ties for around the neck. Along the bottom of the cape, cut out 2 large scallops. This will unfold into a bat-like wing pattern, making your little vampire ready for the evening.

No matter which costume they choose, help your kids stay safe this Halloween.

Happy trick-or-treating!

DIY hacks | Home and garden

about Chris

Chris has written everything from fiction manuscripts to pretend newsletters about pirates. He's even edited numerous volumes of work written entirely by kids. As a freelance writer at Esurance, he strives to bring out the whimsy and heart of insurance. Outside of Esurance, Chris is an audiophile, visual artist, and explorer of late-night taquerias.