There was a time when selecting a Halloween costume was simply a matter of visiting a special aisle in your favorite department store and plowing through all the ready-made cowboy, princess, monster, and clown selections on the rack. Many of us can still smell the flame retardant on the "one size fits no one" body suits and feel the thin plastic face mask snap on our innocent little faces. Ah, youth.
As adults, however, creating the ideal Halloween costume can involve much more planning, investment, and execution that we realize. Professional-grade costumes can easily cost several hundred dollars, and many ideas require elaborate props and challenging makeup effects. There must be an easier and more affordable way to become the belle or beau of the office ball without investing so much time, effort, and money in the project.
Here are some clever last-minute Halloween costume ideas that use stuff you probably already have on hand, at a price you can afford. You might have to perform a few simple crafting tasks or invest in a couple inexpensive props, but you'll at least be welcome at the fog-spewing punch bowl at your next Halloween office party.
The point of most last-minute "Dang, that's tomorrow night?!" costumes is to stretch a simple premise to its (un)natural limits. Case in point: wear a blue shirt. Collect any awards, ribbons, medals, or trophies you can find. Hold several loaves of white bread. Congratulations, you are now the "bread winner"!
This costume idea practically invented the "too clever for words" genre of DIY Halloween gear. Darken one eye with black or blue eyeshadow, shoe polish, or inexpensive Halloween makeup. Create a large letter "P" and affix it to the front of a shirt. If anyone asks, you are a "black-eyed pea." (They WILL ask.)
Green with envy
This is a great costume idea for couples who don't mind remaining within a few feet of each other for the sake of a sight gag. One partner wears green clothing. The other partner wears a homemade sign that reads "envy." Together, they are "green with envy." Separately, they will spend a lot of time explaining themselves.
Here's another last-minute costume idea that requires less than five minutes of prep time. Find a cocktail dress or other formal wear from the closet. Create a sash bearing the word "Apology." You are now officially a "formal apology." Hold for the polite snickering.
World's worst electrician
The secret to this costume is layering. Start with a work shirt or overalls, preferably with a name tag. Wrap an extension cord around your torso and chest. Add a tool belt if available. Hold a large light bulb as a prop. Use black Halloween makeup to create "soot" on various parts of your face and neck. Tease all of your hair straight up and use heavy hairspray and gel to hold it in place. Maintain a look of shock and awe. You are now the "world's worst electrician."
Overworked office employee
Allow art to imitate life. Put on an office-appropriate white or blue dress shirt, tan khaki pants, and a business tie. Fill each pocket with numerous pens and pencils. Attach as many sticky notes to the front and back of the shirt as possible. If available, wrap at least one (if not two) corded telephone handsets around the shirt. Carry a coffee pot or an oversize mug as a prop.
Rosie the Riveter
Some party guests may not get the 1940s pop culture reference right away, but one popular last-minute costume involves wearing blue denim slacks, a blue denim shirt, and a red bandana. Roll up the sleeves and assume a "show off your guns" pose. You are now Rosie the Riveter.
Movie theater floor
This DIY costume might take a little more time to create, but the results will be worth it. Find a large square of carpet remnant, linoleum floor covering, poster board, or other flat surface. Collect all forms of trash associated with movie theaters: Empty beverage cups, lids and straws, gum wrappers, popcorn boxes, small candy boxes, and ticket stubs. Using tape or a hot-glue gun, arrange all of these items randomly on the board. Wear the board as a placard, and tell everyone you are a "movie theater floor."
Time to practice your acting skills. Use dramatic makeup to create a severely undernourished, extremely angular model look. Wear a headband and the trendiest, most fashion-forward clothes you can find. Spend the entire evening making intense Blue Steel faces and taking nonstop selfies. Remember to stay in character as much as possible.
One of the all-time classics in "minimal investment, maximum impact" Halloween costume lore. All that's required is a large men's white button-down dress shirt, white "tighty-whitey" briefs, white crew socks, a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses, microphone, and a triple helping of self-confidence.
Error 404: Costume not found
When is a Halloween costume not a costume at all? When you decide to go all high concept and create a sign reading "Error 404: Costume not Found." For maximum effect, be sure to accent it with the most generic clothing you can find: plain T-shirt, khaki pants, and minimal accessories.
This is a two-pronged approach to homemade costuming. The first half of the process involves applying dots of various makeup skin tones to your face and neck, creating a pixelated appearance. The second part of the costume uses sheets of construction paper to create a large placard. The idea is to use earth tones to simulate the pixelation of a human body.
Chip on your shoulder
This costume idea doesn't even reach "last minute" status. It's closer to "nobody told me this was a COSTUME party!" territory. Empty a snack-size bag of potato chips. Tape or safety-pin said bag to your shoulder. Become your own walking punchline.
What any Halloween party needs is an obscure cultural reference to the father of psychoanalysis, and this costume certainly meets that goal. Find a slip dress in your closet. Create and attach various words and phrases associated with Sigmund Freud, such as "ego," "id," "superego," "anal retentive," "Oedipus complex," and so on. (Optional: tell guests how you feel about your mother.) You are now a "Freudian slip," and everyone will envy you.
Michael Pollick is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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