I have a confession to make: my kids have never had a store-bought Halloween costume. Also? Neither did I. Call it a family tradition or call it frugality, but in the end it makes for a more sustainable holiday tradition. Think about it. If you need to buy a new costume for your little darlings every year, you’re depending on someone else to provide that costume – a costume that’s more likely than not made from plastic and synthetic materials. DIY Halloween costumes are so much more fun and creative. And they don’t have to be elaborate!
Why not make your own DIY Halloween costumes and skip the imported, low quality disguises?
This post may contain affiliate links; I'll earn a small commission if you choose to make a purchase.
But I don’t have a creative bone in my body, some of you are saying. So get zany.
- Dress ’em up in a flowing skirt, some scarves, and copious amounts of costume jewelry. Or pull out the patterns and and have them wear plaid, polka dots, and florals all together. Slip your kiddo into jeans and a flannel shirt and tuck some loose straw into the arms and legs for a scarecrow. The thrift store is your friend.
- If you’re comfortable with a hot glue gun and paint, you can get the whole family involved in crafting costumes from recycled cardboard boxes.
- Have friends with kids similar in size to yours? Get together for a costume swap. Pull out all of the old costumes, clean out your closet (be honest; will you really wear that neon green and yellow floral skirt again?), and open up the dress up box so the kids can go to town creating their own costumes.
- If you’re still stumped, grab a paper bag and try one of the costumes below.
How to Make DIY Halloween Costumes from a Paper Bag
Is it the eleventh hour and you still have no costume for the kiddos? No worries! Even if you’re good about bringing your reusable bag to the market, odds are good that you have a brown bag or two kicking around. This time of year they’re the go-to material for last-minute Halloween costumes. You can have any of these costumes ready to wear in less than 24 hours, but some will take no more than an hour or two.
First, follow the instructions in the video above to create a simple paper bag vest. Carefully turn the vest inside out so that the store logo is on the inside, and you’re ready to get started on your DIY Halloween costumes. (If you plan to paint the bag, you’ll want to do that the day before you plan to decorate it.)
Here are ten quick and easy paper bag costumes to get you started:
1. Fisherman: Trim the vest so that the front edges are rounded (see photo). Glue on an assortment of old fishing gear, like lures, bobbers, and flies.
- Wear with: Jeans, a flannel shirt, and a funky hat.
- Accessorize: Carry a fishing pole.
2. Cowboy: Fringe the bottom of the vest and glue on “pockets” cut from a second paper bag.
- Wear with: Jeans, a flannel shirt, a bandana, and a straw hat.
- Accessorize: Tie on a rope.
3. Robot: Paint the paper bag vest silver and add a control panel with miscellaneous parts from the toolbox like washers and springs or old computer components.
- Wear with: Grey sweats and a grey sweatshirt.
- Accessorize: Make a robot head out of a small square box that fits over your child’s head.
4. Paper Bag Princess: Based on the fabulous kids’ book from Robert Munsch, this vest needs no embellishment whatsoever.
- Wear with: Brown or tan leggings and a neutral colored shirt.
- Accessorize: A crown made from a paper bag.
5. Duck: Add feathers made from paper plates (see more detailed instructions here) and paint yellow.
- Wear with: Black sweats and a yellow sweatshirt.
- Accessorize with: A ball cap covered with more “feathers” and orange felt for a bill (see photo).
6. Cat, Dog, or Rabbit: See number 5 and paint the vest accordingly.
- Wear with: Sweats in a color to match the painted vest.
- Accessorize: Cut the appropriate shaped ears out of felt and glue to a beanie.
7. Space Invader: Paint the vest white and glue on stars and lightning bolts made out of construction paper. Outline the shapes with glitter glue.
- Wear with: White sweats and sweatshirt.
- Accessorize with: A bike helmet. Not the right color? Use colored masking tape to transform it into a suitable space helmet color.
8. Ladybug: Paint the bag red and glue on black construction paper dots.
- Wear with: Black leggings and a black turtleneck shirt.
- Accessorize: Slip on antennae from the dress up box and carry a silk flower.
9. Fred Flintstone: Wad up the vest and then smooth it flat. Repeat 5-10 times, until the bag becomes supple and resembles leather. Cut the bottom of the vest into jagged ‘V’ shapes. Paint to resemble an animal print if you’d like.
- Wear with: Tan leggings or sweats.
- Accessorize: Cover a small baseball bat with brown paper from another bag so that it resembles a club.
10. British Redcoat: Paint the vest red. Glue on gold trim, fringe, and buttons.
- Wear with: Grey sweats and a red sweatshirt.
- Accessorize: Make and wear a tri-corner hat.