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Homemade Halloween Costumes for People Who Don’t Do Fancy Dress

Posted on 20 Comments 6 min read

Homemade Halloween costume ideasWhen it comes to homemade Halloween costumes, I have two main requirements:

01. It has to be cheap.

Because why spend a lot of money on a Halloween costume you’ll wear once, when there are SO MANY SHOES you could be buying instead?

02. It has to be cute.

Or relatively cute, anyway. I, you see, don’t really DO fancy dress. I mean, I DO like to dress “fancy”, that’s for sure. But I’m not a huge fan of feeling silly (I feel silly enough when I’m NOT in fancy dress…) so the idea of wearing one of those totally OTT costumes which would require me to change my entire personality in order to pull it off is pretty much my worst nightmare. (I’m exaggerating: that creepy old woman from Insidious is my worst nightmare. Obviously.)

Don’t get me wrong: those costumes are amazing and creative, and I love seeing other people in them. But personally, I like to use  Halloween as an excuse to get ‘dressed up’ in the glamorous sense: let’s face it, it’s not every day you have an excuse to get glammed up to the nines, so why not make the most of it, with some homemade Halloween costumes that are fun – as opposed to completely mortifying – to wear?

Here are some of the homemade Halloween costumes I’ve worn in previous years…

Tippi Hedren in The Birds Halloween Costume Idea - Tippi Hedren fancy dress The Hitchcock Halloween Costume | Tippi Hedren in The Birds

Drawing inspiration from classic horror, all I needed to create my Tippi-Hedren-in-The-Birds Halloween costume was a wig, some wire, and a couple of toy birds – purchased from eBay for just a couple of pounds each. I already had the green, 60s-inspired dress, but if you don’t happen to dress like you’re in a Hitchcock movie a lot of the time anyway, any green, pencil-style dress will do.

My one concession to “proper” fancy dress was the wig: as a natural redhead, a lot of “character” costumes are ruled out for me unless I want to change my hair colour, so a lot of my Halloween costumes from years gone by have featured a wig. This one also came from eBay (and also cost just a few pounds), and provided a handy anchor for the wire headpiece the birds are attached to, which was handmade by my long-suffering husband. (I didn’t think to get a photo of it on its own, but it was basically just a wire circle, which sat on my head. No, it wasn’t the MOST comfortable thing I’ve ever worn, but it wasn’t unbearable either, and the wine definitely helped. Doesn’t it always, though?)

[More photos here]

Dorothy from The Wizard of OZ - easy home-made Halloween costume/fancy dress

The Classic Costume:Dorothy from The  Wizard of Oz

This was probably the easiest Halloween costume I’ve done, because I didn’t have to buy anything, and there was no need for a wig. This costume started with the red, sparkly shoes, which I already had. (Because OF COURSE I had red sparkly shoes. Doesn’t everyone?)  One thing I’ve learned from years of putting together homemade Halloween costumes, however, is that you don’t need to exactly replicate the character you’re going for: as long as you get the basic style and colours right, it’ll normally work. My blue dress, for instance (from ASOS, a couple of years ago), isn’t anything like the gingham pinafore Dorothy wears in the Wizard of Oz, but with a turtleneck top (Zara) underneath, it creates the same impression.

Similarly, although my shoes happen to be covered in glitter (which you can actually DIY at home, if you have an old pair of shoes you don’t mind sacrificing), really ANY pair of red shoes will create the desired effect: the main thing here is to contrast them with the blue of the dress and the ankle socks. (Which I actually DID have to buy specially for this costume, bringing my overall cost to about £2…) Add the classic ‘Dororthy’ braids, and a small dog (I took a stuffed version with me on the night itself, although I’m sure Rubin would’ve been happy to come along…), and you have a cheap Dorothy-from-the-Wizard-of-Oz costume, which is nothing like all of the ‘sexy’ Halloween costumes you’ll find in stores.

(Is it just me, or are the ‘sexy’ costumes particularly weird when it’s a ‘Sexy Dorothy’? I mean, she was a little girl, for God’s sake!)

[More photos here]

Mia Wallace from Pulp Fiction Halloween Costume Idea/ fancy dress

The Pop Culture Costume: Mia Wallace from Pulp Fiction

Another easy (and some might say lazy) Halloween costume idea is Pulp Fictions’ Mrs Mia Wallace. Once again, I had to buy the wig, and also the fake cigarette, which has seen me through many a Halloween costume over the years. If you have a pair of black capris, a plain white shirt and a black bra, however, you can easily throw together a Pulp Fiction costume for next to nothing. Wigs like this one will only set you back a few pounds (All of mine have come from eBay: no, they’re not a quality you’d wear OTHER than for fancy dress, but hey, it’s Halloween – it’s allowed. Wouldn’t want to let a REAL cigarette near this one, though…), and will instantly turn you into Mia Wallace. Variations on this costume include fake blood around the nose, and a hypodermic syringe in the chest – if you’ve seen the film, you’ll know why. I actually DID have a syringe on the night itself (this photo was a trial run), but we ended up using it for vodka shots: whoops.

(Added bonus to this one: if you’re feeling self-conscious, all you have to do is take off the wig, and you’re no longer in fancy dress. Homemade Halloween costumes don’t really get more “homemade” than this…)

[More photos here]

The Pop Culture Costume: Mia Wallace from Pulp FictionThe Last Minute Costume: Glam Witch

Ah, the classic witch: the homemade Halloween costume of choice for those who need a costume idea in a hurry, and have absolutely no idea what to go as! Luckily, all you really need to be a witch is a pointed hat: I decided my witch would be the glamorous sort , so I found this very stylish little witchy fascinator on eBay (who I promise aren’t sponsoring this post, by the way: I just tend to get most of my Halloween props there!), and the rest of this look was basically all about the makeup. The dress and shoes I already had, and the tulle cape came from my mum’s box of fabric scraps: mischief managed!

[More photos here]

halloween costume ideas for women

More homemade Halloween costumes:Marilyn Monroe, Holly Golightly, Joan Holloway

These photos were all taken in the days before  I realised it was a bad idea to take photos indoor at night, so the image quality is kinda crappy. These are three women who can always be relied upon to provide ample costume inspiration, though : Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn (as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s…) and Mad Men’s Joan Holloway. I’m actually really tempted to recreate these one year: partly so I can do a better job with the photos, but mostly because I can do a much better beehive these days. When it comes to homemade Halloween costumes, classic Hollywood (or TV shows which drawn inspiration from that era) is a great source of inspiration: you get to ‘dress up’ in the true sense of that phrase!

As you can see, that fake cigarette gets a lot of use at Halloween…

Finally…Halloween costumes for women: Samara from The RingThe Non-Cute Costume: Samara from The Ring

OK, so this costume is a little different from all the others, and doesn’t exactly meet the “cute” criteria. After years of glamming it up every Halloween, however, my friend Ewen challenged me to wear something NON-glam for a change: enter Samara from The Ring! Another cheap wig and a long white nightgown, et voila: I didn’t even need any makeup! (I wore it anyway, though. Well, I was still ME under all that hair…)

[More photos here]

   *    *   *

As for this year, I’m not planning to dress up (Although, my usual “exhausted new mum” look IS pretty scary, tbf…), so here’s the full list of all of my Halloween costumes: enjoy!

5 easy Halloween Costume ideas, using clothes and props you probably already have in your closet...

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20 Comments
  • Ewen McNamee
    October 23, 2014

    I’d forgot how great your Tippi Hedren one was – top effort!

  • CiCi Marie
    October 23, 2014

    Some great ideas in here – I think The Birds one has to be my favourite though – toy birds on a wire is inspired! I’m completely in your camp about using what you’ve already got to create costumes, with the odd very cheap extra to give it the right look… My favourite costume from recent years was for Medusa – I bought a long silver dress that was incredibly cheap in a sale (because in real life far too hideous to wear), bought a tonne of cheap rubber snakes and a hairband and with some ‘snake print’ face make-up, I was there! These days, I literally know no one who does anything for Halloween, which is a shame, because my wardrobe’s expanded so much I must have something useful in there by now…

    • Amber
      October 24, 2014

      That sounds amazing! I think fashion blogging definitely helps with Halloween costumes- there’s always *something* you can pull out of that closet!

  • Helen Mae
    October 23, 2014

    Great costumes! Just goes to show, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on tat at Hallowe’en.

    • Amber
      October 24, 2014

      Exactly! Last year I had to come up with two costumes, and before I cobbled together the Dorothy one, I went and had a look round the shops… most of the the ready-made costumes would’ve cost me about £30-ish, which is just ridiculous: I mean, I can buy an ASOS skirt for that much 😉

  • Lizzie
    October 23, 2014

    It’s great that you show Halloween can be fun on the cheap! Birds on a wig is genius! I love Halloween, but I hate spending tons of money. Last year the only thing that I bought was a witch hat, and this year I am dressing as Frida Kahlo, which, ashamedly, involves buying nothing. I don’t know why I have those kinds of clothes.

    • Amber
      October 24, 2014

      Frida Kahlo is a great choice! And I had to laugh at your last sentence – I’m always thinking things like that! Like, why DO I have red glitter shoes?!

  • char
    October 23, 2014

    The Birds is amazing.

  • Alexandra Marie
    October 23, 2014

    Oh my heavens, how cute is the Tippi Hedren costume!? Alex

    tobebeautifulingodseyes.blogspot.com

  • Sarah (stylesixties)
    October 23, 2014

    The Birds costume has to be my favourite. I don’t really ‘do’ fancy dress either but that costume is one I could see myself wearing.

  • Flagless
    October 23, 2014

    I like the Samara one, might just recreate it some day. My last fancy dress party I also went the cheap route and dressed up as Buffy – I had my dad fashion a scrap piece of wood he had lying round into a stake, I borrowed a cross necklace from a friend, used red jeans, black top and combat boots I already had and fluffed up my hair a bit. Non-blondes would also require a wig, though.

    • Amber
      October 24, 2014

      I go through life hoping a redhead will become famous for something, so I can dress as her for Halloween without needing a wig!

  • Porcelina
    October 24, 2014

    Absolutely fabulous ideas, all of them, but like the others I think The Birds one is my favourite (and that photo is just perfect!). I tend to just wear something a bit spooky rather than dress up as someone else. I have this fab ’70s dress from the car boot sale that is black with this cape attached, that might get an outing again this year! P x

  • Selina
    October 25, 2014

    I usually sit around watching Hocus Pocus so I don’t normally do anything. But sometimes I get invited out or lounge around with snacks and popcorn in a costume. So far I’ve been *counts each year* Snow White with a dress and cape, Miss Havisham with all white and a cameo brooch, Alice with a blue creepy dolly dress and bloomers, Elphaba and Pippi Longstocking with a patchwork dress, stripy tights and a monkey. I think the birds one you did is so clever

  • Emilia
    October 29, 2015

    2 requirements (cheap & cute) are very pleasant. My dress concept is pay less but beautiful more!

  • cordell
    September 8, 2016

    where can i find the Ring dress? i just want it for daywear

  • May
    October 25, 2018

    I’m bummed you left your Daenerys costume out, I loved that one! Halloween isn’t really a thing in my country, which sicks because I love it, but this year a friend who’s as obsessed as me is throwing a Halloween party and I’m here for it. I’m going as a pin-up girl- I already have the high waisted polka dot shorts, the jean shirt and the red lipstick. All I need is practice my winged eyeliner and the classic pinup curl!

    • Amber
      October 25, 2018

      It wasn’t really a homemade costume – I had to buy everything for it! – but there should be a link to it at the bottom of the post 🙂

  • Justina
    October 25, 2018

    The Birds will forever be my favorite costume of yours.
    Another great way to save money on Halloween costumes is to share with friends. I’m going to be a pirate this year (I’m giving out candy at an event for neighborhood kids) and borrowed the costume from a friend. Now all I have to do is pop some leggings and a long sleeve black shirt underneath and I’m ready to go.

  • Myra
    October 25, 2018

    I love your creativity

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