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Be Green for Holiday Dress Up - Make a Costume Trunk

Updated on September 11, 2018
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Here in Louisiana we say, "Let the good times roll!" Holidays are celebrated with crafts, costumes and decorations, to everyone's enjoyment.

Some ears, a tail, a knit shirt and pants plus makeup and voila, a cat appears.
Some ears, a tail, a knit shirt and pants plus makeup and voila, a cat appears. | Source

Inexpensive Costume Items That Can Be Reused or Repurposed

This Halloween (and for Mardi Gras, too), go green and save money by starting a costume trunk of discarded or out of date clothing and bedding items. With a little creativity these items can be used for years to put together dynamite, inexpensive, homemade Halloween (or Mardi Gras) costumes.

If you use an old trunk or foot locker to store them in, they can be organized and tucked away until needed. Accessories for costumes can come from your own closet, yard sales, thrift stores and after Halloween sales. Why not start gathering things today! You'll feel better because you will get ahead of the mad rush to get costumes made and you'll be recycling, while saving some cash.

Here are some photos of costumes we have created over the years and tips for organizing and using items from a Go Green Costume Trunk.

Tips for the Go Green Costume Trunk

Use an old trunk, a foot locker or even a big plastic box for storage. It's best to keep them in a climate controlled area.

Most of the items in our Go Green Costume Trunk are ones that we (or some of our relatives) once wore or used. The thrift store and yard sales are also good places to look.

Buy new items on sale after Halloween for pennies on the dollar.

Such things as:

  • Wigs
  • Fake fingernails, claws, ears, tails, wings, etc.
  • Masks
  • Costumes, hats, head dresses, halos, horns.
  • Make-up (should be stored separately in a zip lock bag in a cool place.)

Costume Construction

Safety pins of different sizes are your friend. Remnants of cord, lace, braid, elastic, rope, velcro and even shoe laces can be used to secure costume parts. Many can be no-sew or very little sewing projects. Fabric glue and iron on magic hem tape webbing are quick and easy no-sew alternatives.

Top 10 Reusable Costume Items

Elvira & the Friar

Elvira & the Friar
Elvira & the Friar

Long Black Dress and Hood

The basic long black dress can be used as the base for many costumes. And if you can find one with a hood or hooded jacket, all the better. The one I have is actually a polyester knit halter dress (circa 1975), with a short, long sleeve hooded jacket.

Other items in the trunk or on hand will add to the ensemble. Start with the clothing and then search everyone's closet for additional touches.

Possible costumes:

  • Elvira - combine with a punk wig and long witch wig, Heels, black stockings, fake nails, dog collar and bracelet, white make-up, fake eyelashes.
  • Witch - Crone: Witch hat, wig, green make-up, warts. Or for a modern witchy vamp use white makeup, fish net stockings, spike heels & slit the dress along the seam.

A long black robe or a blouse and long skirt plus peaked hats and you have a pair of witches.
A long black robe or a blouse and long skirt plus peaked hats and you have a pair of witches.
  • Vampire - witch wig, fangs, white make-up. Along the same line, with a few extra touches, the Adams family and Munster wives could be done in much the same way.

  • Cruella DeVille - Drape part of a white sheet for half white - half black dress and secure with braid. Add a black and white punk wig, black hat, cigarette holder.
  • Ghoul, Spirit, Ghost or other undead - white makeup and fake blood

Long Brown or Black Robe with Hood and Also Kimonos

Kimonoes, Friar and Native American
Kimonoes, Friar and Native American

Kimonos with pointed straw hats make a quick and easy costume. Also see the bad Friar who is attempting to corrupt the ladies and the Indian maiden.

Hooded robes are very versatile for men or women. Pants / shorts and t-shirt can be worn underneath. Just add a mask or some other props and you have a clever costume.

Friar or Monk - Brown robe with sandals. Special characters include Friar Tuck of Robin Hood (add skullcap or wig and sword or leg of lamb) and St. Francis of Assissi (bird on shoulder).

Add a mask or makeup for the following:

  • Wookie
  • Werewolf
  • Ghoul
  • Vampire
  • Dementors
  • Wraiths
  • Harry Potter and other Hogwarts students
  • Wizard
  • Elf
  • Hobbit add hairy feet

A Cat and St. Francis

Long-haired Witch Wig and other Wigs

Native American and Bad Friar
Native American and Bad Friar
  • A witch wig can be plaited or gathered into braid for a Native American costume.
  • Made into a bun for Miss Nelson is Missing or another strict costume.
  • Other short wigs can be layered over the long wig for different effects.

Black (or other color) knit top and pants (80's mix and match) or Leotard and Tights

Live Long and Prosper - Vulcan Costume Using Mix and Match Knit Outfit
Live Long and Prosper - Vulcan Costume Using Mix and Match Knit Outfit
  • Animals - Match the color of the animal and add animal ears, nose, tail (cat, dog, rabbit, pig) and face paint. The good thing about knit is that it will stretch, so many sizes can be accommodated. Knit is also comfortable to wear. It's not as much fun if your costume is uncomfortable.
  • Humanoids:
  • Vulcan
  • Robin Hood
  • Peter Pan
  • Elf

Cat Makeup Tutorial

Bell Bottom and Other Jeans

Hippie Costume with Vintage Clothing
Hippie Costume with Vintage Clothing

Jeans are very versatile and easy to find. We kept the largest pair of our jeans from the seventies and could squeeze into them through the '90's. For our last '60's outfit, we had to go to the thrift store for a pair.

  • Hippie
  • Zombies
  • Cowboy

Tie dye and other T-shirts

Hippie Costume with Tie Dye and Crochet Vests
Hippie Costume with Tie Dye and Crochet Vests

T-shirts can be painted or torn in various ways to make interesting costumes.

Painted T-Shirt

These unique painted T-Shirts can make anyone look curvy and cute.
These unique painted T-Shirts can make anyone look curvy and cute.

Very Creative Halloween Costume Ideas

Vintage Dresses, Clothing, Dance and Actual Costumes (on sale)

Goldilocks Costume Using Sun dress and Baby Doll Blouse
Goldilocks Costume Using Sun dress and Baby Doll Blouse

Goldilocks and the 3 Bears was created from an old sundress, baby doll blouse, blond wig (from clearance sale), white stockings and net bow.

Find items at a thrift store, in your own closet and/or Mom & Dad's.

Long white dresses make great Angel costumes, just add some wings and a halo. For Bride of Dracula, just add a vampire bite and some fake blood on the neck and white make up.

Dance costumes can be used for fairies, flappers, go-go dancers, etc. by adding wings, headbands, white boots, fringe or net.

Masks and Animal Ears, nose, tails

One of 3 Pigs
One of 3 Pigs

Buy them on sale after Halloween and keep them in climate controlled trunk or container and they will last for years.

Old Hats and Head Dresses

Elvira and Witch
Elvira and Witch

Find at thrift stores or when cleaning out grandparents house.

Useful items include:

  • Witch or wizard hat
  • Top Hat
  • Chinese hat
  • Vintage Women's Hats
  • Native American Headdress
  • Turban
  • Snood
  • Tube Scarf
  • Hood
  • Cowboy hat
  • Crowns
  • Princess Cone
  • Scarves

Old Sheets and pillow cases

With minor sewing and gathering around the neck, many costumes can be constructed from old sheets and pillowcases. Ghosts are easy to make by just cutting out holes for the eyes and mouth.

King and Queen Sheet, Little Sheet, Don't give a Sheet, Jack Sheet, Duke Sheet, Duchess Sheet, Holy Sheet, etc. (with signs) make a whole family of "sheets".

Blue Tarp Togas were a special design after Hurricane Katrina. Notice the duct tape bracelets and anklets. Very creative! White sheets can also be used.

Stem of a mushroom, flower or other botanical. Add a mushroom cap or flower hat.

Add a mask or face paint and a long sleeve shirt and pants to a decorated pillowcase and you can do many animals. Cut holes for arms and head. Use fabric paint or felt cutouts (glued on) to make spots.

For fat things like pumpkins, cut a slit in the pillowcase hem to make a casing and run a cord through it to gather. Stuff it with newspaper or some other packing material. Make sure to keep it away from flames.

To make a cape, cut an old sheet of the desired color, to the desired length. You can use glue or magic iron on hem tape to turn under the raw edge. Cut another strip off about 3 inches wide and 2-3 feet long. Fold in half and zigzag stitch together, or use fabric glue or iron on magic hem tape. Thread the strip through the wide hem at the top of the sheet and gather. Tie in a bow around the neck.

Blue Tarp Togas

Blue Tarp Togas
Blue Tarp Togas

Homemade Halloween Costumes


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