Shop your closet for an awesome Halloween look

What’s your upper limit price tag for a great Halloween costume?

Did you see the prices on the rack with the Halloween costumes? The sign that made you stir there says sale in big letters and 50% off. Looking at the tags you think it is a joke as they still cost $25 to $40. When being on a budget fashion-wise, it is not wise to spend your money on a costume that you wear only for 4 hours on one day (a year). However the invitation said “Halloween costume.” Thus you’ve got a problem because you actually can’t waist your clothing budget for a costume. Moreover, you are not willing to spend money on a cheap costume that despite being 50% off fails to be a good deal. The piece is looking plain cheap and would just show-cast all your most hated features! Yuck!

Halloween costume for adult woman
Vampire Halloween dress in velvet with mesh accents at the hem, fishnet tights, and L.K. Bennett pumps (all own). This dress is one of these $20 costumes bought on sale. It has a Princess cut, which is rare for cheap Halloween costumes. I wore this for Halloween dances which interestingly are not on Halloween

Ok, I am in with you. Costumes that look like one-way clothes, are badly sewn together, or are looking like they were the first piece of the new seamstress in training who never had sewn before, look never great! Period! Do I have to mention that the fabrics are often so shiny that they will highlight every lump and bump? Often the darts for the breasts would not even be a fit for Diana the Goddess of hunting. You are right! There is nothing worse that cheap fabrics in combination with bad sewing, fit and color. And who wants to look like Frankenstein’s monster, Snow White’s stepmother, or Dracula’s mistress?

Why not spending the money on something you like or just save it, and nevertheless look great at the Halloween party in clothes that fit?

Sew a costume ahead of time

You are probably right that you could do that for half the price and better when you had the time to look for fabric, and do the sewing. But you don’t have that time now on the last minute or just in general. In case that you have the time, you may think carefully about the pattern. If there are occassions like Pioneer Days or a St. Patrick’s Day parade or something similar on an annual basis, it’s best to double-dip and sew a piece that works for both.

DIY costume with bonnet, lace gloves, and bucket bag

DIY Halloween costume to save
DIY 19th century Halloween costume that I sew myself.

I would wear this 19th century costume for a sit-down dinner party that would ask for a Halloween inspiredtheme. This skirt is way to heavy for dancing! What I like about this costume is that it is a real costume for me. Me in a bonnet! LOL!

Don’t let the right outfit be a random thing. Wear the right look in every situation by looking up what to wear when in How to Dress for Success in Midlife. Buy my book now.

Now what if you are very last minute?

Shop your own closet for #Halloween! #budgetfashion Click To Tweet

Modify clothes you already own for Halloween

My late mom never bought any costumes for us girls. Instead she made us to take a look at the various items in our closets to build a costume out of items we already owned. It is pretty easy when you ask yourself “what are the roots of this design” and then take your costume inspiration from there. You also could ask yourself what could it be with a slight (reversible) modification? As a kid I sew gold foil on a nightgown to be the Star Dollar of the fairy tale by the Grimm brothers.

I also liked to disguise as a witch in all black with a self-made wide brim cone hat and loafers.

Make a Halloween costume by adding accessories

Historic costume

Nicole in a historic costume on a World War II Harley Davidson in a Golden Day costume
Gold Rush costume shopped from my closet by wearing a Karl Jäger skirt, Hammerschmidt vest, Double HH lace-up booties, western skirt, Russian scarf and self-sewn blouse (all own)


For instance, this gray blazer could make a great pirate costume by just adding your son’s plastic sword, wrapping a silk scarf around the head, and tights under a cotton capri that you bind tight to the leg with a wide band. You could also pair it with riding boots and pants, something that you would never do otherwise, as it would be over the top and look costumery. But that’s for Halloween exactly what you want. 😉

Fit-And-Flare blazer for Halloween
This gray asymmetric fit-and-flare c/o Lookbook Store blazer would make a great jacket for a pirate costume when paired with the right accessories and a pirate hat


If you are the proud owner of a layering mesh or tulle skirt like the one in the photo below, why not going all the way down the ballerina path by adding a leotard and ballet flats and wearing your hair in a ballerina knot?

meshskirt for posh chic adult Halloween costume
Nude net skirt c/o Lookbook Store styled with own gray silk cashmere sweater and gray belt plus pale pink patent leather sling back. The waistband of the skirt features pale pink satin

Motorcycle Biene

You have long blonde locks, a motorcycle jacket, motorcycle boots, and black leather pants? Why not wear them all together and be Mrs Beryl Swain for a night? In 1962, she was the first female TT rider, riding a 50cc Itom. She came in twenty second, but who cares? She plowed the road at least and tried. <3

Mad Men 60s sectretary

What about that sheath dress? Instead of wearing it in a modern way like shown in the photo below go full down the line of the 60s by styling your hair up in waves and going matchy-match on the jewelry (pearl earrings and a matching pearl necklace work best), on the colors of the bag and shoes. Think Mad Men.

posh Plaid sheath dress with giraffe print cashmere sweater underneath

Recycle impulse buys as Halloween costumes

Think where you have that ethnic outfit that you loved so much when you saw it when on vacation. The one you never had the nerve to wear it after then, because in the aftermath, you think it looks costume when out of the cultural context? Well, that’s your chance to introduce others about the beautiful traditional clothing of the country you visited. Wear it respectful and in an educational way. For instance, think of this cute Lederhosentuerle skirt with a puff sleeve blouse (no low cleavage please) and (low) Heidi braids, white lace knee high socks and Mary Janes – a German little girl’s Sunday’s Best look. High braids and large cleavage would take it into disrespectful territory (in my opinion as ex-German who lived a couple of years in Bavaria). I am sure you get the idea and will do it right.

Lederhosentürlerock for Halloween

ethnic items as Halloween costume
Bavarian Hosentürle skirt, Carhartt gingham shirt, GNW tights, Aigner sandals, Fossil denim jacket.

Note in the above Halloween outfit idea a wool, lodden or felt traditional janker would be better than adding a denim jacket.

How to get a Halloween costume without breaking the budget

post banner how to get a Halloween costume on a budget
Here are some further examples of Halloween costumes that I made by shopping my closet, re-purposing items and DIY. Get inspired and have fun creating your low cost outfit for Halloween.

mature woman in DIY costume from her own closet Gold Rush costume made out of a western style slip, with a peasant blouse under a corsage and a metallic belt with Double HH lace up booties, and a fake pony tail (all own)

Amelia Mary Earhart inspired look American aviation pioneer Amelia Mary Earhart inspired aviator look with shearling jacket, skirt and hat

mature blogger in dance hall costume for Halloween DIY Gold Rush dance hall girl dress (thrift find) with Karl Jäger shoes (all own)

#fashionover50 midlife woman standing in front of a Sitka rose bush in a midi garment Style your brown polka dot dress like Vivian Wards‘ look at the polo in the movie Pretty Woman. I would just add white gloves and a white hat

Shop your own closet for a costume! #Halloween Click To Tweet

If someone wonders about your costume just say I shopped my closet for Halloween, and spread the word so your friends owe you a good budget tip too. 😉

Check thrift stores

Thrift stores often have cool pieces that combined or alone make a cool costume (see the dance hall look above). Ask yourself what could this item be beyond what it was made for.

Trick or treating

When you need an outfit for trick-or-treating make sure that you wear the right underwear underneath to not catch a cold. This is especially true for the northern states. Also take a flash light with you so you won’t trip.  And when you are invited to a party make sure to inquire first whether it’s an indoor or outdoor party. After coming to Alaska, my first Halloween party was a bonfire in the scary cold.

Halloween at Work

Are you  looking for a work appropriate Halloween costume idea?

I hope this post inspired you and gave you some ideas what to wear for Halloween without spending (too much) money for a costume.

Happy Halloween and celebrate responsibly. Have fun at your party, and designate a driver.

Get a subscription to my blog here.

Photos: G. Kramm

© 2013-2020 Nicole Mölders | All rights reserved