Halloween is a fun time of year but it can also be challenging from a budget perspective. Rather than spending way too much money on store bought costumes which lack creativity, consider some of the options available at thrift stores. Creativity can spur even more fun, and walking through goodwill stores can allow you to see your options in different ways.
Below, you’ll find a guide to some Halloween costumes you can put together with items from a goodwill thrift store. Thrift stores contain treasures and surprises that may surprise many people, and goodwill stores will allow you to keep more money in your wallet.
Doctor or Nurse
Balancing the desire to be festive with a want to be appropriate can be a difficult task. Many school districts have strict rules and regulations when it comes to costumes which can be worn, so if you’re walking through a goodwill thrift store to find something for your child to wear for a school celebration, you need to keep those restrictions in mind. It’s also important to be comfortable; Halloween celebrations might involve a great deal of walking around or squeezing into busy parties, and awkward props or tight clothes might be bothersome.
Many second hand stores have a wide variety of scrubs and other medical wear available. Some of these come in wild patterns and colors that add a level of fun to the proceedings. You might also be able to find a low-cost stethoscope in order to add some authenticity to the proceedings. If the scrubs are purchased at a low enough cost, you might even consider doctoring them up with a little red paint to achieve a gruesome effect. If you’d rather keep them clean, scrubs are generally comfortable enough to serve double duty as pajamas once the costume is done.
Parent from another era
No child wants to dress like his or her parents. Indeed, very few adults aim for that fashion statement as well. When the look can be exaggerated, however, it can be a lot more fun. Today’s kids likely have parents who were reaching their own social peaks in the 80s and 90s, and the distinct fashions of those times are likely to be on display at goodwill. Older clothes are the most frequently donated, and so you’ll have access to period-accurate pieces which can be fun for everyone to experience.
These costumes can also be a fun bonding experience for a parent and child. If your kids don’t have a thorough understanding of some of the more outrageous fashions of your youth, a quick spin through a secondhand clothing store is a great way to make sure they’re accustomed to those items. Most people feel a little better when they’re able to laugh at themselves, and you and your children should both get a hearty chuckle out of seeing what other people thought could be worn by someone else some day. If nothing else, you may gain a little perspective around your own fashion mistakes.
If old clothes are the most commonly donated, then perhaps the second most would be clothes which are typically only worn on vacation. Loud floral shirts, shorts with too many pockets, and outrageous sunglasses and floppy hats tend to collect dust in a closet until they’re deemed ready to be donated. If your Halloween has you wishing you were able to get away somewhere tropical, then looking for those clothes is a good way to get in the spirit. Vacations, after all, are supposed to be relaxing and comfortable, so the clothes are bound to be as well.
One thing to keep in mind is that dressing for a tropical destination might be a challenge if you’re celebrating Halloween in an area which enjoys a somewhat cooler climate. If your trick or treating is going to take you house to house in cool, wet weather, shorts and a floral shirt may not provide the coverage you’re looking for. In a busy house party, however, you might enjoy the respite from an otherwise stuffy atmosphere. A tourist costume also gives you the ability to look for ridiculous props like sunglasses or old, broken cameras that might complete the ensemble.
Your President of Choice
Many goodwill locations feature a wide variety of suits and other formal clothes that are donated in an attempt to assist people who need to spiff up for important occasions. In your case, Halloween can be one of those circumstances. Loud colors and patterns from the 60s and 70s are likely to give way on the shelves to more muted options from more recent times. As you trace the path of United States history through the clothes, you can pick a President of the United States that you might enjoy emulating.
It’s important to remember that not all presidential costumes have to carry a political statement. Abraham Lincoln, for example, can be achieved with a top hat and a painted on beard. Most people will be able to figure out you’re Richard Nixon if you insist on aggressively thrusting out peace signs. An avant garde costume idea could even be a dark suit with a powdered wig and a claim to be a modern George Washington. Keeping things light and relaxed can help bring an air of calm to what might otherwise be a fraught costume choice and is a good way to get reliable laughs.
Today’s modern exercise videos are largely hosted on YouTube and feature attractive, smooth-talking people stretching in comfortable clothes that accentuate healthy bodies. Those videos are a far cry from the productions of yesteryear which included garish outfits, odd jogging suits, and skin tight garments which looked good on very few people who had the courage to go out in public wearing them. Though they may previously have been a sign of someone with poor fashion sense, they could now represent an opportunity for a good natured and surprisingly productive Halloween costume.
If you manage to work up a routine which matches the look of your workout clothes, you could manage to get a little bit of sneaky exercise in while you’re enjoying Halloween festivities. Even if you don’t want to spend your night of celebration sweating to the oldies, you’ll still do very well on the comfort and range of motion fronts. If you’re going to be forced to walk a long distance for candy on Halloween night, doing so in some comfortable clothes and supportive shoes could be very helpful. In addition, tights and leg warmers can help hold in heat on a cold night.
Whether you want to emulate a specific person or you simply want to let your inner star out onto the stage, some crazy, ripped clothes and a little bit of attitude can go a long way toward showing off a rock aesthetic. Many goodwills even have a used musical instrument section, though if you’re purchasing props, it’s important to make sure you’re going to be comfortable toting them around for the full night. To that end, you might be better off shopping for drumsticks than a guitar that you have to lug around.
One major advantage of purchasing used clothes at a second hand store is, of course, the relative low cost. Since they’re cheap, you should feel free to alter them with minimal guilt. If being a rock star means a ripped shirt and some shredded jeans, you should feel free to get creative. If it means outrageous hair paint and an even more outrageous hair design, then you won’t have to worry about making a mess when your hair hits your shoulders. Keep in mind the necessary restrictions on appropriate clothing, as rock stars don’t often have to worry about dress codes.
The most cliche Halloween costume of all time might be an old white sheet with a couple of eyes cut out of it. That image of a ghost is likely to be enduring for as long as Halloween is celebrated, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have options when it comes to acting as a specter of the underworld. There are plenty of ghostly apparitions that don’t fit into such a neat box, though if you do want to stay traditional, sheets and tablecloths will likely be widely available.
Another option for a ghost costume is to try to emulate the look of a famous deceased person and somehow display that identity through a matching set of tattered clothing. You could even stay loyal to the sheet or tablecloth costume design but, rather than choosing plain white, opt for a loud or colorful pattern which has to be explained away as some sort of surprising malfunction in the creation of the ghostly process. If you do opt to masquerade as the ghost of a real person, keep in mind that your fellow party goers may have been affected by a death. Make sure your choices are timely and on the right side of the line of tastefulness.
If your closet has a flowing white blouse that you might never wear again or a pair of cut off black pants that don’t have an occasion attached to them, you might consider donating those clothes. Plenty of other people have made the same calculus, and that’s why a pirate costume is relatively easy to cobble together. Combined with a collection of scarves, bandanas, and audacious hats, you should be able to shop cheaply and transform into the scoundrel of the seas that you see in your imagination.
Pirate costumes also allow for the integration of props. Swords and old time pistols may have limited utility in situations where weapons make people nervous, but a treasure chest can really sell the look. Some stores might even have stuffed animals that could allow you to have a parrot mounted on your shoulder for the duration of an evening. Pirate costumes also tend to be enhanced by heavy eye makeup and a carefully curated sway, allowing you to use your imagination to improve your costume while inexpensive clothes serve as its useful backbone.
The old west may not have been at the head of the fashion frontier, but the people who colonized the American west did have a distinct look. Whether it’s a large bonnet and a floral dress or a wide brimmed hat and comfortable trousers with suspenders, it’s easy to make sure the point of your costume comes across. A pioneer costume is yet another design which benefits from the tendency of people to get rid of their old or otherwise unflattering clothes; most of the antiquated designs which made up the more modern pilgrim wardrobe are being disposed of in larger numbers.
Pioneer costumes also offer you the opportunity to embrace the grotesque and exaggerated. There are many stories in American folklore about parties of settlers which may have gone missing or been forced to turn to unfortunately gruesome tactics in order to stay alive. With some makeup, fake blood, and easy to use prosthetics, you can turn a standard pioneer costume into one which implies a zombie’s hunger or the terrible injuries which wouldn’t have been a laughing matter at the time. As with other costumes, the less expensive clothing makes it easier to justify smearing some blood stains around.
One of the biggest struggles that many people have when thrift shopping is finding garments that fit them correctly. If you’re designing a Halloween costume, you should seize the opportunity to turn that challenge into an advantage. If the clothes in your local goodwill don’t hang in the way that you want them to, then you should consider transforming yourself into an unfortunate soul who may not otherwise know any better. High water pants and short sleeve, button up shirts can bring out the classic nerd in anyone who enjoys a non-harmful stereotype.
A nerd costume is yet another which can benefit from the variety of props or additional clothing articles which may be found at a goodwill. Some oversized glasses of an unattractive design can go a long way toward getting the point across that you’re someone who absolutely can be trifled with. So too can an ugly bow tie or a pair of suspenders with a ridiculous pattern. You could even subvert the trope and turn your nerd costume into a nerd’s revenge and use the laughter of other party goers as fuel for sharing some fun and esoteric trivia.