How To DIY A Last-Minute Halloween Costume

There are two types of people who celebrate Halloween: The first are the ones who plan for the holiday in August, put up elaborate displays of spiderwebs, tombstones and skeletons in their front yards, and wear elaborate costumes that take hours to create. Then there are the rest of us normal folks who can barely manage to get a couple of pumpkins onto the porch, much less find something spectacular to wear. For this second group, October 31 often finds them without anything to wear while answering doors or accompanying their kids on the neighborhood candy rounds. 

Fortunately, you don't have to spend a wad of money at the party store or be a whiz with a sewing machine to come up with an outfit suitable for the holiday. All you need is a little imagination, some simple props, and perhaps a little face paint, and you'll create a festive look that will make a statement. Here are a few ideas to get you going.

Get ghostly

You can't get more classic — or more simple — than dressing as a ghost. All you need is a plain white sheet (flat, not fitted!) and a scissors to cut out eye holes. In just a few minutes, you'll be good to go. For a little more finesse, you can add accessories such as a hat, sunglasses, feather boa, or even a face mask. Even easier, suggests Good Housekeeping: Wear a black shirt and pants, then drape and pin strips of cheesecloth and gauze all around.

If you're a fan of "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," you could pay tribute to that 1966 Halloween cartoon classic by going as Charlie Brown. As you may recall, his ghost costume had a lot of extra holes because his scissor skills were a little shaky. In case yours are too, Amazon also sells the iconic Charlie Brown yellow T-shirt with the black zig-zag — no scissors necessary. To really get the idea across, carry a rock — or a whole bag of them. 

Be a little catty

Cats are mysterious, often unpredictable, and long associated (wrongly, of course) with black magic, which is why they've been a popular Halloween symbol for ages. Best of all, as Bustle notes, they're the little black dress of Halloween costumes: simple, always appropriate, and versatile. Start with an all-black outfit, preferably something form-fitting like a minidress and dark hose, or a leotard and leggings. (Alternately, you could go with a leopard-print theme, shown here.) Pick up a cat-ear headband, like this one from Forever 21. If you can't find a costume tail, stuffing a leg of a black stocking with paper or cotton balls will give you the same effect. Press-on nails from the drugstore make instant claws. Bustle also suggests trying a variation on that classic theme: dress it up with a faux fur wrap and velvet dress, or be a "barn cat" in jeans and plaid.

For your face, YouTuber Sonia Castaneda has some pointers. Use liquid eyeliner to create a dramatic cat's-eye effect, followed by bold smoky eyeshadow. Lightly shadow the hollows of your cheeks with a dark beige blush.  Color the tip of your nose with a black face-paint crayon or eye pencil, add a couple of dots and a few whiskers about three-quarters of an inch from your nose. Next, draw a line down the philtrum (that little indentation under your nose) and fill in your upper lip as well. Use a light pink or peach lipstick on your lower lip. Purr-fect!

Go scarecrow

Another super-easy costume option, suggests Country Living, is also a traditional symbol of autumn: the scarecrow. If you have a plaid shirt and overalls, you're already ahead of the game. If you don't have a straw hat lying around, check out your local party store or Halloween pop-up. (This hat from Party City is a budget-friendly $3.) To simulate straw sticking out of your wrists and neck, you can either buy kraft paper shreds at a crafting store, or tear ordinary newspaper into shreds.

Scarecrows can either be "Wizard of Oz"-friendly or kinda creepy (like the model seen here). It's all in the makeup. For a cute look, use a red face paint crayon to draw circles on the apples of your cheeks and color the end of your nose. Add freckles on your cheeks if you like, and draw exaggerated lashes on your lower eyelid. If you're going for the scare, outline your eyes in black and draw a stitched line on either side of your mouth and on your lips. This tutorial collection from Glory of the Snow offers a variety of options.

Be a fun pun

Instead of getting spooky, go for the laughs in a clever pun-based costume. PopSugar offers some great ideas that require only one or two props to get the idea across. For instance, attach a bag of potato chips to the shoulder of your shirt and there you have — wait for it — a chip on your shoulder. (Cue the groan.) Or decorate your shirt with mini-chocolate bars and pictures of Eminem or Jay-Z and go as ... a candy "rapper." (Cue the groan again.)

The possibilities are as endless as your ability to personify common phrases. How could you dress as "assault and battery"? A "smart ass," "rotten egg," or "superstar"? What if you wore a large circle with the word "tuit" written on it? (Think about that one for a second.) 

Play around with wigs and props

You don't have to commit to a full head-to-toe costume to dress as a famous character. Wigs, hats, and an accessory or two can be all you need. For instance, a pageboy wig, oversized sunglasses and a top hat will convey the Willy Wonka look nicely. (Or substitute a blonde or orange wig, like this one from Rubie's, for the original Gene Wilder version.) A long red wig could be the jumping-off point for Ariel, Jessica Rabbit, Poison Ivy, or Daphne from "Scooby-Doo"; just find a shirt, suit or dress in the character's signature color, and you're good to go, per Cosmopolitan. No time for a wig? PopSugar suggests a more deconstructed Ariel look using just a purple top, light green pants, and a Flounder stuffed toy.

With a prop star wand, strap-on wings, and some creative face paint, you can transform yourself into a magical fairy in no time. Simplest of all: a witch's hat. Whether you combine it with a long dress, a jumpsuit, or a bathrobe (hey, witches need their rest too), you'll get the point across.

There's nothing that says you have to "be" anything specific for Halloween, either. Just pick out a few distinctive pieces from the party store – say, a purple wig, suspenders, fishnet gloves and some necklaces – and you're good to go. The important thing is to have fun going outside your usual fashion comfort zone. Happy haunting!