Five Minute Halloween Costumes for Busy Parents

When our children were young and Halloween rolled around, I was one of those terrible mothers who couldn’t sew, and even worse, I wouldn’t spend money on ready-made costumes. For years we used our ever-expanding dress-up basket for self-selected costumes—easy! When a child chooses their own disguise from a wide variety of options they are invested—no tantrums or refusals to wear the fifty-dollar Darth Vadar costume. My favorite year was when 7 year old Nicky spent four days duct taping his sweat suit into a knight in armor. The process was priceless, and 20 years later I still have it.

The trick is to have the right gear in your basket. With 3 boys I was on the prowl in thrift shops and garage sales for soldier fatigues, hunter vests, camoflauge shirts and pants, basketball uniforms—you get the idea—to supply our basket. I also added pegnoirs, gold sandals, costume jewelry, and martial arts suits.

There were years when the children were in grade school and plaintively asking what they could be for Halloween I would suggest four or five ideas (which of course they scoffed at) and then backed off. There were many times they came up with nothing the day before the Halloween class parade, and panic seized them. Well hey, all of a sudden my ideas sounded promising.

Try it. Tell your child that this year the costume is up to him. Suggest the dress up basket (even better have him shop in a thrift shop with you to supply it). Be clear about what you are willing to spend in time and money to make the costume happen. Suggest nothing until he asks. Allow freedom (within reason) over the costume, and don’t give feedback unless asked. The following are a few simple costume ideas that can be made up at the last minute. Most of the items are available at thrift shops, or found in your home. For a safe evening of trick-or-treating, buy reflective tape at the hardware store and run a few strips on the back of all costumes.

Bunch of Grapes

What you will need:
green or purple sweat suit
green or purple balloons
small safety pins
green hat

Put on the sweat suit, then attach the balloons with the safety pins (through the tied end) to the sweat shirt.


What you will need:
black suit jacket
white shirt
top hat
white gloves
stuffed bunny rabbit
black pants
magic wand
red artificial flower for the lapel

Put on the jacket, shirt and pants, then pin the flower to the lapel of the jacket, and place the bunny in the top hat.

Pegnoir Princess

What you will need:

pegnoir set or full length nightgown (the kind made with that shiny slippery material)
gold or silver high heels or slippers (thrift shops always seem to have several pairs of these lovelies)
gold or silver belt
flower garland made from artificial flowers ( your child can use pipe cleaners to wire them together in a head sized circle)
crown (cut from several thicknesses of aluminum foil and taped together)


What you will need:
black sweat pants
black sweatshirt
reflective tape
black gloves
safety pins
leg cut from black tights
dark stuffing (rags, old clothes, etc.)

To make a tail, stuff the leg of the tights with dark colored rags, and knot the end. Put on the clothes, then attach the tail with the safety pins. Use the reflective tape to make a long white stripe down the back and onto the tail.

Use a roll of white toilet paper, or an old white sheet cut into strips and wrap it around the body mummy fashion. Wear white gloves on the hands, and remember not to cover the eyes and nose. Use white face paint instead (see recipe below.)


What you will need:
thick black tights or cotton leggings
black long sleeved shirt
black nylon stocking
strips of reflective tape (available at the hardware store)
skeleton mask (optional)

Lay the strips of reflective tape in a skeleton pattern on the shirt and the leggings. To finish the costume, pull the black nylon over your child’s head, and estimate where and the size holes you will need to cut for his or her nose, eyes, and mouth. If desired, your child can wear a skeleton mask to complete the look.

Homemade Face Paint

What you will need:
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
2 tablespoons cornstarch
food coloring (if desired)

Mash the shortening and cornstarch together with a fork in a shallow bowl or saucer until well mixed. If you want another color besides white, divide the paste and add a few drops of food coloring until it reaches the desired intensity. Refrigerated, this recipe will keep for a week.

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