Some people like to buy bagged costumes for costume stores, but that isn’t a good option for everyone.
Some reasons bagged costumes are not a good option for everyone:
- Bagged costumes are often really expensive
- They tend to have unpleasant textures, fabrics, smells, and seams
- It might be hard to find one in your size, especially if you are a woman and don’t want to wear a sexualized costume.
- You might not find one you like
- The costume store might be too unpleasant or overloading to tolerate
Luckily, there are other options.
One option (probably the hardest one) is sewing your own.
- That’s a lot of effort, particularly if you do not have a sewing machine
- The advantage is that if you go to a fabric store, you can pick a pattern
- There might be some less-difficult patterns available
- There are a lot more non-sexual options for costumes in fabric stores than costume stores
- Also, you can pick the fabric and make sure it’s a texture you like or can at least tolerate
Another option: Making a costume out of a box:
- If you have a big cardboard box, you can cut out a hole for your head and your arms, then paint it or draw on it
- The easiest box costume is to go as dice. You just draw the right number of dots on each side (or glue pieces of construction paper).
- If you google “box costume”, you will get a lot of different options and instructions for box costumes.
- This is fairly cheap and can be fairly straightforward (it can be complicated too, but it doesn’t have to be)
- If you use paint, it will be messy. So either make your costume outside or put down newspaper or a tarp first
- The major downside of box costumes is that they are unwieldy. They make it harder to move, and especially to use your arms. This might be very uncomfortable.
Another thing you can make out of a box or cardboard: flat cardboard costumes:
- Cut out a piece of cardboard in a shape you like.
- Some shapes that work well: Hershey’s kiss, star, Easter egg, rainbow
- (You could probably make a Tardis costume this way too)
- Decorate the shape you’ve made.
- Some things that work well as decorations: aluminum foil (works great for a Hershey’s kiss or star costume), markers, colored duct tape, paint, stickers
- Attach a string to the costume and hang the costume from your neck with ribbon or string. You can either poke holes in the top of the costume and tie on ribbon/string, or tape it on with strong tape (regular scotch tape will not be strong enough to hold it up for long)
Wigs or hats:
- Buying just a hat/wig can be cheaper and more tolerable than buying and wearing a whole bagged costume
- You can dress as a clown by putting on a big rainbow wig.
- It helps to paint your face and/or use a clown nose, but it is not necessary.
- You can wear a jester hat and go as a jester
- You can wear a witch’s hat and go as a witch. (Wearing black clothing helps, especially a black skirt. Or, if your hat is not black, clothing can be the same color as the hat)
- If you wear a crown, you can go as a king/queen. This works especially well when paired with velvet clothing.
Going to a party dressed like one of your friends:
- Eg: if you usually wear tie-dye and flowing skirts, you could borrow clothes from a friend who dresses conservatively.
- Make sure that this is ok with the person who you’re dressing like. If you show up in a them costumed and they think you’re making fun of them, it will end badly
- Be careful about costumes that involve cross dressing. Make sure that you’re not making trans or gender nonconforming people the butt of a joke.
- Be careful about dressing in clothing associated with an ethnic group or religion other than your own. That usually ends poorly.
Minimalist or pun costumes:
- Costumes that aren’t really a full outfit, but will look like a costume.
- If you google “last minute costumes” or “minimalist costumes” you will get a lot of suggestions
- Eg: holding a sign that says “nudist on strike”.
A fairly easy cat costume
- Get an old pair of tights to use as a tail.
- Stuff one leg with newspaper
- Tie the other leg around your waist to hold the tail on
- Paint your nose pink and draw cat whiskers on your fac
- (Preferably with face paint. You can use a marker for this, but it’s likely to be very annoying to get off later. OTOH, (non-toxic) markers might be more tolerable from a sensory perspective)
- If you like, you can make cat ears out of paper and attach them to a headband or hair clips
Other things that look vaguely costumey:
- A hat with flashy fake plastic jewelery
- Spraying or dying your hair a bright unnatural color (this will create a smell though; it’s probably best to check if you can tolerate the smell before putting it on your hair). You can also dye your hair with koolaid if you hair is light.
- A feather boa
- Face paint
- Zombie makeup can be particularly effective. Because you can wear whatever clothes you want and be like “A zombie college student” or wear a tie-dye shirt and be a zombie hippie (might be inadvisable around kids because could be read as a drug reference) or a suit/tie/jacket and be a zombie executive
- A mask, even without other costume pieces (be aware that in some areas, it is illegal for adults to wear masks, or illegal to wear masks that cover your whole face)
- A prom dress can look like a costume on Halloween
You can also go to a thrift store and find interesting stuff to wear or build a costume out of. That is usually pretty cheap.
Short version: If you want to wear a costume but don’t want to or can’t go to a costume store, there are other options. Scroll up for some examples.