Essential DIY Halloween Ideas for Last-Minute Costumes

By Jake Schroeder
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Photo Courtesy: Ogutier/Pixabay

Do you ever feel that Halloween creeps up on you or that you're never actually ready when the day arrives? Many of us put off planning a Halloween costume only to realize suddenly that Halloween is just days away. If this describes you, you'll be relieved to know that there are plenty of simple, do-it-yourself costumes that are perfect for last-minute prepping. Don’t get spooked by how simple these costumes are; they’re still totally cool, creative and creepy, too.

Wednesday Addams

Wednesday Addams is one of the more beloved characters in the Addams Family, and her classic black frock makes for a popular getup on Halloween. Part of what makes her such an appealing choice is the simplicity of her outfit: a black long-sleeved dress with white collar, black shoes and socks, and two black braids.

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Photo Courtesy: Mooshuu/Flickr

If you're feeling adventurous, you can even use white makeup to give yourself Wednesday’s signature pale pallor. The best part is that, despite this look's simplicity, it’s instantly recognizable as the famous TV and movie character. Most people will know exactly who you're dressed as — and admit they love Wednesday’s sassy cynicism, too.

Wonder Woman

Don't be intimidated by Wonder Woman's seemingly complex outfit. At first glance, there's a lot going on, but you can capture the primary-colored essence of Wonder Woman using minimal materials. With a red tank top and blue skirt or shorts, you're already halfway there.

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Photo Courtesy: SocialButterflyMMG/Pixabay

Make a "W," a headband and a belt out of yellow construction paper, and finish the look with red boots. You can get as detailed as you want with her armor (try cutting a shield out of cardboard), but if you're running short on time, just stick to the staples and you'll be golden.

Colored Pencil or Crayon

This costume idea is absolutely adorable on kids. Not only is it fun and straight-forward, but it can help keep them warm on a chilly fall evening. Have them pick their favorite color, and make it an art project the whole family can enjoy.

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Photo Courtesy: William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

First, dress your child in black pants and a long-sleeved black tee. To create the crayon, use materials like construction paper, a brightly colored dress or loose fabric. Then you can either draw or paste on a brand name or generic crayon logo, along with the color name. Complete the look with a pointed party hat in a matching hue.

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Ladybug

Just because this costume is especially cute on children doesn't mean you can't rock it as an adult. While ladybugs might not put the "creepy" in "creepy crawly," their charm — and this costume’s simplicity — more than make up for it. All you’ll need are a red-and-black outfit and small black pom-poms to attach to your clothes.

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Photo Courtesy: Sheila Brown/Public Domain Pictures

Make yourself a pair of wings using construction paper or wire and an old pair of leggings, and voila! You've transformed. If you have a pair of antennae to wear, they’ll provide the perfect finishing touch to your costume, but you don’t have to rush out and buy them. Just wrap some black pipe cleaners around a headband.

Cat

Ah, the classic Halloween costume: a cat. Chances are you've already been this fuzzy pet at some point in the past, but what's the harm in doing it again? Black eyeliner is the main ingredient — it’s necessary for drawing whiskers and a cat nose. Next, try to get your hands on a cat-ear headband.

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Photo Courtesy: Zen Sekizawa/Getty Images

The choice of clothing is up to you on this one, but items with leopard print or stripes are good bets. You can safety pin a tail at the base of your back and feel confident knowing that absolutely no one will be confused about what you’re dressed as.

Emoji

With texting meeting most of our communication needs these days, dressing up as an emoji is a surefire way to share your feelings on Halloween. You also have a wide selection to choose from: heart-eyes, sunglasses, the emoji blowing a kiss. Whichever face you prefer, the steps to putting it together take just a few minutes.

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Photo Courtesy: @JTWHnG/Twitter

Raid your closet and your desk to find a yellow shirt and construction paper. Simply cut out the eyes and mouth of the emoji and paste 'em to your shirt. If you want to run with this idea, go for it. Have a red dress in your closet? The "dancing girl" emoji lets everyone know you’re ready to party.

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Bandit

There are few costumes more classic than the bandit on the run. To be a bandit, you'll need a horizontally striped black and white shirt and black pants. Grab a beanie, or any type of black hat, and paint your eyes raccoon black. Don't want to bother with the makeup? Then simply wear an eye mask.

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Photo Courtesy: John D. Fisher/Flickr

Finally, grab a black garbage bag to tote around for stashing your plundered loot. If you’re feeling crafty, paint a dollar sign on the bag in white. Pull on some black shoes, and your costume is finished. Now you can pretend to steal people's candy all night long.

Lumberjack

The lumberjack costume requires totally minimal effort — well, depending on your wardrobe. If you're a fan of cozy, laid-back style or all things grunge, chances are you have these clothes in your closet already. Most important is the bright red plaid shirt, which will get you 80% of the way there.

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Photo Courtesy: Darkinkuniverse/Pixabay

Another crucial part of the outfit is an ax or a hatchet. (Make it a fake one to be safe.) From there, it’s as simple as putting on a pair of blue jeans, some big boots and maybe one of those fuzzy hats with the ear flaps. For comfort and ease, lumberjack is the way to go.

Scuba Diver

Darling, it’s better down where it’s wetter — even on Halloween. Like the crayon costume, you’ll start with an all-black outfit (or an actual wetsuit if you have one). Raid the garage or your mudroom to find a pair of snorkeling goggles. For the oxygen tank, it’s time to get a little creative.

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Photo Courtesy: @eventsusa2/Twitter

Cover two empty 2-liter soda bottles in duct tape and connect them with strips of tape in another color. Glue them onto cardboard and add two fabric straps to wear them as a backpack. Fancy yourself more of an astronaut this Halloween? The bottle base makes a great jetpack with red and yellow streamer "flames" shooting out the bottom, too.

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Clown

With the release of movies like It, clowns have put in the hard yards to earn their reputation for creepiness — but they can be whimsical, too. Although you'll probably need to purchase some items for this costume, it’s not too difficult to slap together. The recognizable rainbow afro is a go-to accessory you can find at any costume shop.

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Photo Courtesy: levisaunders/Unsplash

If wigs make your forehead itchy, temporary hair dye is a fun alternative. Don’t even try to get away with this one without the red button nose, though. Pair it with a colorful outfit (like suspenders and a bright blazer), and oversized shoes. If you're up for it, white face paint is a classic finishing touch.

Where's Waldo?

This iconic picture-book character really delivers on the nostalgia factor. If you have a white T-shirt that you don't mind painting, this might be the costume for you. With red marker or fabric paint, create the wide, horizontal stripes Waldo’s never spotted without. Draw a red stripe on a white beanie, and attach a pom-pom.

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Photo Courtesy: Fjmustak/Wikimedia Commons

The finishing touch to Waldo is his pair of round glasses, but any kind will do in a pinch. If you already don a pair of glasses on the daily, then it couldn't be simpler for you. Just be ready for kids to point and shout, "I found him!"

M&M

There may be no simpler costume than dressing as one of these delicious candies. The necessary items are — count them — a blank T-shirt and white tape. Yep, you only need two things to complete this look, and they’re probably already in your house.

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Photo Courtesy: @mmschocolate/Twitter

The important aspect of the M&M costume is the T-shirt — it should be a color that actually exists in the M&M bag. It should also be completely blank. Create the lower-case "m" with any type of white tape. Throw on black pants and white gloves if you have a pair, and you’re ready to party.

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Pirate

You don’t have to sail the seven seas to find the components for this costume. A basic pirate getup consists of a long-sleeved white button-up and baggy black pants. On top of the shirt, you can wear a vest or trench coat. Wrap a brightly colored scarf around your waist as a belt, and slip on some tall boots.

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Photo Courtesy: sik-life/Pixabay

If you don't have the quintessential triangle hat, a bandana wrapped around your forehead will do the trick. Now, go crazy with the jewelry; put on as many rings, earrings and necklaces as you own. Smear black eyeliner around your eyes, and carry a small sword to complete your costume. Don't forget to say "Trick ARR treat!"

Cereal Killer

If you're a lover of puns (or sweetened grains in milk), it doesn't get much better than the cereal killer costume. The best part is that you can go in your normal clothes — mostly. All you need are some empty cereal boxes, plastic knives and some red paint.

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Photo Courtesy: Eli Christman/Flickr

Glue the boxes onto an old shirt and stick the knives into them. Then, splatter the red paint around. People will probably come up to you asking, "What on Earth are you supposed to be?" You'll be able to deliver your pun all night long. It’ll make people laugh and get conversations going.

Cowboy/Cowgirl

Like the pirate, a cowboy or cowgirl costume is easy and popular. If you've got some country running through your veins, you'll love this opportunity to dress up as a Wild West hero. With a cowboy hat, button-down shirt, vest, blue jeans and some cowboy boots, this outfit comes together fast.

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Photo Courtesy: samsin/Pixabay

You can enhance your look with a big, flashy belt buckle and a fake pistol or lassoing rope. Tie a red bandana around your neck, too — it's part of the look and keeps you warm. All that's left is the twangy country accent. Brush up on your two-step skills before you head to the party.

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Rosie the Riveter

For years women (and men) have been drawn to Rosie the Riveter's iconic look during Halloween. Sure, the message behind Rosie is a positive one, but the costume is pretty easy, too. And you have our permission to replace "Trick or treat" with "We can do it!" while you’re out on the town.

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The thing you might have the hardest time finding is the polka-dot bandana, but you can easily use a red washcloth (or other piece of red fabric) with white tape dots. Don a denim or chambray shirt, blue jeans and black boots. Roll up those pant legs, apply some mascara and stick a "Rosie" name tag to your chest.

Shrek and Princess Fiona

Children and adults alike can't seem to get enough of Shrek and Princess Fiona. This is an especially good costume if you're looking for something to do with your spouse. Warning: you might want some green body paint for this one — lots of green body paint.

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Photo Courtesy: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

After finding Fiona's long green dress and Shrek's white shirt, brown vest and belt, go ahead and cover any visible skin with green paint. The hardest part is done! You can make the ears with paper or modeling clay attached to a headband, and make Shrek's bulging belly with a pillow. Give Fiona a tiara for some ogress-worthy glamour.

Robot

If you have a technology whiz for a son or daughter, consider dressing them up as a robot — or dressing yourself up. This costume is especially fitting for people who like a bit of an art project. With cardboard, glue and markers, you've got just about all you need to become a robot.

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Photo Courtesy: David Nevala Photography/Getty Images

Wearing a cardboard box is one of the easiest ways to make this costume, but you can easily use grey clothes as your base, too. Paint your boxes silver or add as many buttons and gadgets as your heart desires to your silver shirt. Get creative; there are plenty of household items you can incorporate, like bubble wrap and silverware.

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‘80s Workout Fiend

If you wanna get colorful (or physical a la Olivia Newton-John) for Halloween, go for the ‘80s look. It helps if you know your way around a hairdryer and makeup brush when you really want to accomplish this look, but with a leotard and calf warmers from a sporting goods store, you’re already halfway there.

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Photo Courtesy: @Peterfent/Twitter

You'll want big, blown-out hair to throw in a high ponytail with a scrunchie. Add a bright headband, wristbands and a belt. Paint on several layers of bright eyeshadow, and be as heavy-handed as possible with the blush. Complete the look with tennis shoes — and a pair of leggings or tights if cold weather is in the forecast.

Bat

Ah, the great bat debate: are they totally adorable, or totally creepy? Whatever your feelings are about these winged wonders, they make for an easy last-minute costume option — and one that’s not as hard to create as you might think. All you need are an all-black outfit and a black umbrella.

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Photo Courtesy: Windell Oskay/Flickr

Cut an umbrella and attach it to the arms of your hoodie to mimic a bat’s shiny black wings. With a pair of big black ears, no one will be scratching their head trying to figure out what you are. Up the ante and create a sinister smile with a vampire-teeth mouth guard.

Stick Figure

Glow-in-the-dark masks have capitalized on the popularity of The Purge, sure, but they’re appealing for a variety of other reasons. Perhaps it's due to the costume's simplicity or the fun of seeing yourself glowing at night. Although there are many ways to accomplish this look, the easiest is using a Halloween staple supply: store-bought glow-sticks.

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Photo Courtesy: PxHere

Tape the glow sticks onto black clothing and around a black hood. Once the lights go out, all anyone will see is a glowing stick figure walking along. Just wait to crack the glow sticks until you head out — you don't want them to lose their shine before the night ends. Find more inspiration here.

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Ballerina

This costume is easiest if you or your child has practiced ballet before; you might already have the frilly tutu and dainty ballet shoes. These aren’t items most people have lying around in their closets, though. If you do happen to have them or don't mind buying some, you’ll set yourself up with a pretty simple costume.

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Photo Courtesy: sobima/Pixabay

Once you slick your hair back into a bun, add some eyeliner and lipstick. If you're someone who likes to dance, there's no better excuse than a ballerina costume to twirl, leap and prance the night away. Want to take it a step further? Add some glittery wings and a wand to transform this into a fairy costume.

Skeleton

Skeletons are everywhere on Halloween — as decorations, on cookies and sometimes even propped in the yard to scare trick-or-treaters. This Halloween, why not become one yourself? All you need are black clothes and white fabric paint. It’s a breeze to outline the design and color it in.

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Photo Courtesy: Mlwmiller/Wikimedia Commons

After some careful artistry, you'll have the ribs, arms and legs of the skeleton boldly decorating your clothing. Some stores even sell shirts that already show a skeleton's torso — in which case the job is easier for you. To really bring the look home, do some white and black face paint.

Elliot and E.T.

There's nothing better than dressing up as characters from your favorite childhood movie. Elliot and E.T. make for a popular costume choice for people with small dogs — just wrap Fido in a blanket and call him an extraterrestrial. You can easily pull this one off even if you don’t have a furry friend, though.

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Photo Courtesy: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

All you need to resemble Elliot is a red hoodie. You can glue handlebars to a small crate, and plop an E.T. stuffed animal inside. If you think your arms might get tired carrying a crate around all evening, attach it to a backpack or create straps for your arms.

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Jellyfish

There are many ways to make a jellyfish costume, but the simplest is by using an umbrella. Ideally, this umbrella is transparent, much like a jellyfish. You can stick lights and tissue paper up top to create its muscles, gut and eyes. Hang tentacle-esque lights and streamers off the edges of the umbrella, and you’re ready to go.

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Photo Courtesy: greyloch/Flickr

If you want to be even more jellyfish-like, slip on a flowy pink or purple dress to mimic the thicker tentacles, and tape tiny fish to the top of your umbrella. Added bonus: it's a flowy, glowy costume that’ll also keep you dry in the rain.

Poison Ivy

Let's be honest. Poison ivy by itself is terrifying. If you've ever gotten a rash, you know just how important it is to stay away from this plant. Coincidentally, Poison Ivy is also the name of a superhero, making it a fitting Halloween costume.

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Photo Courtesy: Stefan Schubert/Flickr

First, dress in all green and cover your clothes with faux leaves. You can even gather some real ones from outside — but please just use regular ivy. Create vines snaking along your arms with pipe cleaners or makeup, and wear a red wig or use temporary hair dye. Finally, dot some freckles onto your face with brown eyeliner.

Deer

Makeup is what really makes this costume come together, so don’t worry too much about finding extra supplies. For clothes, you really only need brown pants and a brown shirt. For some extra flair, wear a headband and fashion antlers out of pipe cleaners. Top it with some ears or faux flowers to channel Mother Nature while you’re at it.

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Photo Courtesy: Libre.De.Marzo/Flickr

The rest of the costume comes down to makeup. Give yourself a black nose and black upper lip to channel a deer’s muzzle, and dust on lots of bronzer. Last but not least, create some cute white freckles all over your cheeks to look extra a-doe-rable.

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Unicorn

Child or adult, girl or boy — a unicorn costume is one that makes its wearer feel special. The most notable aspect of this costume is the single (and sparkly) unicorn horn; you can make this out of paper and attach it to a headband or hat.

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Photo Courtesy: DPA/Getty Images

The rest of your outfit should include a tail, a mane and lots of pastel colors. If you have long hair, you've already got the mane part down. Consider using temporary dye or adding things like glitter gel for added pizzazz. As a bonus, cover your shoes with socks to make them appear hoof-like. The more whimsy, the better!

Cookie Monster

Although it’s not the most diet-friendly choice, Cookie Monster is a great costume because it's easy, and it means you get to eat cookies. All you have to do is dress in blue from head to toe. Be sure you add a blue hood or hat that you can stick some googly eyes onto.

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Photo Courtesy: Fairfax Media via Getty Images

Now for the delicious part: you need a bowl, plate or bag of cookies. Any time someone comes to ask about your costume, devour a cookie like it's the only food on Earth. If you see other people with baked goods in their hands, creep up on them and ask, "Cookie?" in Cookie Monster's hilarious voice.