31 Simple, Last-Minute Halloween Costumes That Don’t Require a Trip to the Costume Store
The months seem to go by faster and faster until, before you know it, it’s October 30, and you’re scrambling to put together a last-minute Halloween costume of your own creation. Your attempt at a DIY Halloween costume (perhaps something inspired by your favorite Halloweentown character, pulled from the options already in your closet) may leave something to be desired, though.
You knew Halloween was coming—you’ve likely been trading Halloween quotes and Halloween puns for weeks now, between binge-watching Halloween movies on Netflix. Sure, you might have planned to go as a pineapple, an astronaut, or even just a witch, but as the days passed, you just never got around to getting to the costume store to buy that ensemble. It happens to the best of us. Fortunately, waiting until the last minute to research Halloween costume ideas doesn’t mean you’ll be relegated to being the photographer all evening long while everyone else shows off their smart costumes.
Our editors have anticipated your dilemma and come up with some last-minute Halloween costume ideas that you can pull together in a snap. There’s no trip to the store (which is probably picked over anyway) necessary. You can create a great, easy Halloween costume with just a trip to your closet, and no one will ever know you waited until the last-minute to do so—unless you tell them, of course.
Cheap Halloween costumes don’t get better than this. These costumes can work for all kinds of Halloween party themes and situations, particularly if the mood is more playful and funny than seriously spooky. Whether you really did procrastinate on your costume this year or you’re just expected to have a new costume for every party, lunch, school event, and trick-or-treating occasion, these last-minute Halloween costumes have you covered—no need to thank us when your DIY get-up wins the top prize at the costume parade.
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Throw Back Thursday Costume
Can’t tear yourself away from Instagram? Give #TBT a life beyond the screen (in the most literal fashion) by using adhesive letters—masking tape or cardboard cut outs will work, too—to spell “Thursday” on the backside of a T-shirt. Then, wrap a bandage around yourself. Top it off with moans about your aching back.
A Rose by Any Other Name Costume
Even if your RSVP to the Halloween bash doesn’t include a forbidden love interest, a nod to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in your last-minute Halloween costume will please any lit-loving friends. Simply wear a rose-hued shirt, give yourself a nametag that displays any name but “Rose” (we’re partial to “Violet” or even “Lily”), and tote a few roses along for the night. Don’t want to carry a bouquet around at the party (we don’t blame you)? Iron on a rose patch or two, instead. It is a little more permanent (your shirt will forever have a rose on it), but it does make for a more flexible costume.
Catcher in the Rye Costume
No matter how hard you may try, you can’t have a do-over for your teenage years (for better or for worse). You can spend the entirety of Halloween night reliving those glory days, though—if only just for a few hours. All you need is a catcher’s mitt, a little blue (try a blue T-shirt and jeans), and a couple of pieces of rye bread. A nametag with “Holden” written on it ensures that even those who might not have done their required reading in high school know exactly what you are, too. An air of existential angst is also optional.
Beat Around the Bushes Costume
So you’re headed to a party where you don’t really know anyone? Or maybe you just really don’t want to have to answer the question “what are you dressed as?” over and over again? Slip on a green T-shirt and use safety pins or hot glue to fasten artificial leaves and foliage around the collar (or all over if you’re feeling bold). Then add a pair of headphones and, much to the dismay of your fellow partygoers, ask indirect, vague questions all night long. Consider it the most perfect excuse for keeping awkward conversations to a minimum (you’re welcome).
Forget about what your salary actually is, because on Halloween it doesn’t really matter. You’re the breadwinner tonight, no matter what your situation actually may be. Wear a T-shirt in a bold primary color (yellow, blue, or red) and hang a gold medal around your neck (you could also pin a first place ribbon to the breast of your shirt). Then proudly carry around a loaf of bread (any variety will do). Just don’t go buying rounds of drinks for all of your friends—unfortunately, you’ll still have to face your real bank account once the party is over.
Chip on Your Shoulder Costume
If you’re miffed about having to dress up again this year, here’s your chance to air any and all grievances … and pull together a last-minute costume at the same time. And, bonus: There’s little-to-no effort involved in this one. Simply put on a yellow T-shirt and tape a snack-sized bag of potato chips onto the shoulder. For a seamless costume, we recommend matching the color of your T-shirt to the color of the potato chip bag. One thing you will definitely be happy about? With this costume on, you’ll have a snack ready to go whenever the hunger pangs strike.
It’s generally not proper party etiquette to monopolize the small talk by telling stories about oneself all night long. (We know you’re excited about your kid’s latest report card, but do you think everyone else at the event is, too? Debatable.) But if it’s Halloween and you have kitchen sponges (do everyone, including yourself, a favor and use brand new sponges) glued all over your T-shirt, you might (might) just get a pass. Starting all sentences with “I” is a required part of the getup … just don’t blame us when people start to back away slowly.
For the person who absolutely can’t stand to dress up, but has a costume party they have to attend (read: work party and no more personal days left for the year). This costume is so easy that you can wear whatever you want, but still consider yourself dressed up and ready to go to the monster mash. Simply spell out “letter” with adhesive alphabet stickers (iron on letters or cardboard cut-outs attached with hot glue work, too) and place them on a plain baseball cap. Bonus points for anyone who scribbles a faux letter onto a white T-shirt and wears that too.
If your go-to costume (year after year … after year) is a ghost or a witch, stray out of your comfort zone just a little bit and try this quick—and equally easy—cat costume this time around. Spell out “copy” with adhesive alphabet stickers (in a pinch, you could also cut out cardboard letters and use hot glue to attach them) and place them on a white T-shirt (or, opt for a black T-shirt with white letters). Don’t forget to finish the look with your old standby ears and tail. Can a DIY Halloween costume get any easier?
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Satisfy your wanderlust (if only for one night) with a costume that comes together quicker than you could travel, well, just about anywhere. Simply purchase an accordion map—or, better yet, use one you already have on hand (because you have your smartphone for that now)—and then lay a blue T-shirt on top of the map. Trace around the perimeter of your shirt, fold in half, and cut. Safety pin one half to one side of your body. If you’ll be dancing the night away or running from house to house, use hot glue for a more secure costume.
Breathe new life into an old standard with this supremely simple upgrade. All you really need is an old white sheet you can spare (or, grab a new one from the clearance section at your local store). You’ll still need to cut eyes and a mouth out of the white sheet, but two props—a pen and a writer’s notebook—ensure the costume is different from the other friendly ghosts trick-or-treating with their kids. And because the costume wouldn’t be complete without a solid pun, don’t forget to tell everyone about all of the buzz your forthcoming boo-ography is getting.
Pretend to be an ordinary thief by gluing a multitude of colorful guitar picks to the front and back pockets of an old pair of jeans (the grungier the better!). A black and white striped shirt, a mask, and a tote bag disguised as a money bag is optional, but would, of course, complete the look. Your Halloween party hosts need not worry about whether or not they should have invited you over though—this costume only sounds mischievous. In fact, the only thing we can condone stealing may be an extra cupcake (or two) from the dessert buffet.
Ceiling Fan Costume
Ready? Okay! H-A-L-L-O-W-E-E-N! Go Halloween! Use adhesive letters (masking tape or a print out that’s stapled or glued on will work in a pinch) to spell out “Go Ceiling!” across a plain T-shirt of any color. Try the school colors if your child is headed to the annual costume parade. Carry pom-poms or even clean mopheads. Don a high ponytail and a short pleated skirt to complete the look. A peppy, cant-bring-me-down attitude is optional, but highly encouraged. The only thing that could possibly make this last-minute Halloween costume even better? A few friends that can help you form your very own (and very official) squad.
Fork in the Road Costume
So you don’t want to dress up this year, and you’ve made every excuse in the book as to why you can’t: you don’t have time to buy a costume, costumes are so expensive these days … we’ve heard them all. But everyone (yes, even you) has a black shirt tucked away in his or her closet, so you have no reason not to dress up this year. Turn your black shirt into an instant costume by using white duct tape to make a line of dashes (your lane lines) that begins at the bottom of your shirt and ends at your collar. Fasten a plastic fork along the route.
Split P Costume
Cut out a large p from a piece of colored construction paper (green is the obvious first choice, but any color of paper will work in a pinch), and then cut it in half. Tape each half to either side of a zippered hoodie, so that the zipper appears to slice through the letter. You could use a hot glue gun instead, but that’s, unfortunately, a bit more permanent. And just so you don’t have to field questions all night long, ensure everyone gets the joke by carrying a can of split pea soup along with you for the evening.
Iron Chef Costume
An incredibly basic, yet clever costume that’s perfect for the person who would really rather go to the party in her blue jeans and a T-shirt. All you need to complete this costume is a chef’s hat and an iron. You probably already have an iron, but you may have to pick up the chef’s hat at a restaurant supply store or the costume outlet. Alternatively, you could make a chef’s hat out of white paper. Bonus points for going all out and swapping the jeans and the tee for baggy chef’s pants and a white coat or an apron.
Before the days of selfies there were self-portraits (we know, it’s hard to imagine a world without selfies). This Halloween, keep your phone in your pocket (you can do it!) and carry a large, empty picture frame (minus the glass, of course). No idea where to get a large enough picture frame? Make one out of cardboard and paint it gold. Hold it in front of your face. No filters necessary. The best part? You can wear whatever you want. In fact, we encourage you to show off your most stylish ensemble—it is your self-portrait, after all.
For some, dressing up for Halloween might feel just as torturous as a traffic bottleneck (maybe that’s why you waited until the last minute?). But this costume is pretty painless—and you won’t get heckled for not donning a costume. Simply grab an empty soda bottle from the recycling bin. Then, tie a string around its neck and loop the whole thing around yours. Complain all night about “traffic on the 501.” The best part about this getup? It’s easy to go straight from the office to the party, because you can pair the prop with whatever outfit you want.
It takes an adventurous person—a buccaneer, really—to venture out on Halloween night with dollar bills taped to their body. Show your daring side by taping a $1 bill to each of your ears. Now you’ve got a buck an ear. Love the idea but worried you’re going to have to field a lot of questions about this particular costume? (What in the world are you?) Pirate-like clothing (raggedy black pants, a tucked in white T-shirt, a big belt, excessive jewelry) and an eye patch are totally optional, but will help people understand what you’re dressed as.
Tickled Pink Costume
If your Halloween motto is always glamorous never scary or the simpler the better, you’ll love this fun, easy costume. Just wear your favorite pink dress and accessorize with a feather boa. Everyone will be, well, tickled pink when you show up dressed from head to toe in rose or fuchsia. Want to go all out? Buy a few bright pink boas and wrap them around a white dress borrowed from your closet. Secure with safety pins (or use hot glue if the dress is one you can part with). Now that’s a fun costume that’ll have people talking.
Cat Out of the Bag Costume
Why dress up as a black cat when you can distinguish yourself from the other felines that are out and about in the neighborhood on All Hallow’s Eve with this last-minute costume. The new variation on the old standby still requires a pit stop at the costume superstore to pick up a kit that includes cat ears and a tail (unless you already have a set at home). But the only other thing you’ll need is an empty bag or a pillowcase. Bonus points for taking the time to master matching cat make-up for a look that’s nothing but sheer purr-fection!
What you need:
• black or other dark-colored dress
• black or striped tights
• black shoes
• dark-colored shawl
• pointed hat
• a high tolerance for the question “Are you a good witch or a bad witch?”
What you need:
• denim skirt, jeans, or shorts
• plaid or gingham shirt
• Western boots
• cowboy hat
• bandana (optional)
• mamas who let their babies grow up to be…
What you need:
• black dress or black skirt and cardigan
• button-down white shirt
• black tights
• black shoes
• braids and a thing for headless dolls
What you need:
• black sheath dress (extra points for fringe)
• T-strap heels or Mary Janes
• “jeweled” or feathered headband
• long “pearls” (or actual pearls, if you’re a ritzy dame)
Bad Sandy From Grease
What you need:
• tight black pants
• off-the-shoulder or strapless black top
• wide stretchy black belt
• black leather jacket
• red slides
• hoop earrings
• a teasing comb and a new fondness for bad boys
‘90s Grunge Rocker
What you need:
• plaid flannel shirt
• white T-shirt
• cargo or denim shorts
• black tights or white socks
• Doc Martens or similar boots
• a worn-out copy of the Singles soundtrack
What you need:
• beaded headband or bandanna to wear as a headband
• fringed vest (optional)
• a totally groovy attitude
What you need:
• maxi skirt
• boho top
• head scarf or bandanna
• jangly bracelets, layered necklaces, and hoop earrings
• a working knowledge of palmistry
Gwyneth Paltrow in The Royal Tenenbaums
What you need:
• striped polo dress
• “fur” coat
• satchel bag
• sensible shoes
• clipped-back bob
• omnipresent smokes and a secretive nature