I'm not too far removed from college, where Halloween was typically celebrated for three nights (real Halloween, plus the preceding Friday and Saturday). That means I got pretty good at throwing together easy and inexpensive Halloween costumes.
Just in case Halloween snuck up on you or your original idea fell through, here are 9 last-second Halloween costumes that you can make with stuff that's probably already in your house.
These costumes could work for a woman, man or child. Just use your imagination!
1. A nerd
We could get into some deep, existential argument about what really makes someone a nerd, but this is a shamelessly easy and distinguishable costume that anyone can wear for Halloween. Try thinking "Revenge of the Nerds" or the character Eugene in "Grease." As you can tell from the photos above, this costume is an old, reliable friend of mine.
What you need: a button-down or polo shirt (preferably one with a pocket so you can put pens and/or a calculator inside), high-water pants -- high-waisted is also good, loafers, glasses, tape.
There are only a few steps to put this costume together; tape the center of your glasses and assemble your outfit -- high socks with loafers, high-water or high-waisted pants or shorts, a button-down or polo shirt with pens in the pocket. Some added touches: suspenders -- or suspenders made from duct tape, a tie and a calculator in your back pocket.
2. A tourist
A coworker who wants to remain anonymous and sits at the desk next to mine has worn a tourist outfit a handful of times for Halloween and costume parties. This is simple and you can have a lot of fun really living the part. Case and point: One of my best friends, Liz (pictured above), was a tourist our last year of college. She bought a disposable camera and took pictures all night. The photos took forever to be developed -- because no one has done that in like, 25 years -- but they were well worth the wait.
What you need: a button-down short-sleeved shirt (Hawaiian print = A+), some kind of shorts so that you can show off your socks and sandals; also needed are a pair of sunglasses or two, face paint to serve as permanent "sunscreen" on your nose and under eyes, a bucket hat or straw hat.
You can wear your shirt unbuttoned with a white T-shirt underneath. Better yet, break out a souvenir T-shirt that your grandma got you in Vegas or the airbrushed T-shirt that you bought on spring break. Extra points for fanny packs!
3. Rosie the Riveter
Girl power! But a guy can pull this off, too. Just ask my friend Cory (pictured above). Just be sure to pose with the signature bicep flex in all photos from the night.
What you need: a denim shirt, denim pants, red bandana. Yes, it's that simple!
If you want to be a little more glamorous, ladies, bright red lipstick and a cat-eye liquid eyeliner could really drive home the 1940s look.
4. Clark Kent
Basically, just out your nerd outfit with a superhero shirt on underneath. A real Superman T-shirt is preferable, but you can make one if you're strapped for time and cash.
What you need: dark slacks or a business skirt, a white button-down, a superman T-shirt or a royal blue T-shirt, glasses, (optional) tie
You know the look -- Superman tee (or makeshift) under a partially unbuttoned white shirt, business slacks or a skirt, a pair of glasses and a tie. You can make your own Superman shirt with a plain royal blue tee (inside-out also works) and printing or drawing the Superman logo and taping it onto your shirt. Here's a good logo for your use.
5. A hippie
Far out! This one is simple (for ladies, anyway) now that the gauzy, layered look is so popular. Target is full of shawls, lace cardigans and floor-length skirts that I could totally picture on Jenny in "Forrest Gump." So you could opt for the fashionable hippie or be more casual...bell-bottoms or wide-legged pants, a tie-dye shirt or a fringed shirt or vest.
What you need: some combination of bell-bottoms, a floor-length skirt, a fringed shirt or vest (make your own with this great tutorial), a tie-dye shirt and/or shawl.
Great accessories for this outfit are John Lennon-esque round sunglasses, a headband worn around the forehead, flower crowns, anything with a peace sign on it and, for guys who have short hair, a long-haired wig.
6. A scarecrow
Your homemade scarecrow costume would be much cuter than a real life scarecrow. Also, think about how cute a whole family of scarecrows would be! Start thinking of ways to con your gang into that one...
What you need: jeans -- extra points for overalls, a flannel shirt, and, for a nice touch, a straw hat.
For the makeup: eyeliner pencil, blush and light, matte eyeshadow. Watch a makeup tutorial here.
Scarecrows typically wear little burlap bonnets, but you (ladies) would look equally and adorably country by wearing your hair in pigtails or braids. Guys could sport a worn-out baseball cap or straw hat. If you have access to real straw or hay, stick a few pieces in your hat or hair for added scarecrow flair.
7. Wayne and Garth from "Wayne's World"
Party on! This is one that makes the most sense if you have a partner -- otherwise you'll just look like a guy in a flannel shirt. This is especially fitting for a blonde and brunette duo, guy or girl (see the photo above, circa 2014, of me and my friend Alyssa).
What you need: jeans -- acid wash and/or torn work nicely, a black T-shirt and black hat (for Wayne), a flannel button-down and plastic-rimmed glasses (for Garth).
You can make your own "Wayne's World" hat using a fabric pen, or you can be like me and order one off the internet for a few bucks. If you went out with just a plain, black baseball cap, though, I think people would still get the costume.
8. A professional wrestler
Yeah, brother! This costume is deceivingly easy to put together. And it's hilarious -- check out my coworker Emmalee in the photo above.
What you need: a brightly colored T-shirt or tank top, brightly colored shorts (spandex if possible!), a brightly colored bandana, brightly colored duct tape (to make boots), sweet sunglasses and (optional) fake mustache. Bonus: a feather boa. Or boa constrictor, I guess.
Assemble your outfit and save the boots for last -- you'll want to do this when you're already dressed. Duct tape boots can really come in handy for future costumes, too. Here's a tutorial.
9. A dead...something
Cheerleader, basketball player, princess, cowboy -- whatever costume you have lying around -- just add some fake wounds, dab some light powder on your face and make yourself look, well, dead. Here's a good zombie makeup tutorial, and there are dozens more on the Internet.
What you need: your costume (pre-death, i.e. the cheerleader example), zombie face makeup kit or fair face powder and/or foundation, thick eye color pencil in charcoal, red glossy lip color (something you could pass as blood dripping from your lip).
Around Halloween, you can find a basic makeup kit at any drug store or grocery store for only a few dollars. This will be more than enough to transform you into the world of the undead. If you are really serious about only using things in your house, you could pull this off using a few cosmetic items.
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