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DIY Halloween guide

Remember how easy it was to do Halloween when you were a kid? Throw an old white sheet over your head, call yourself a ghost and head out trick-or-treating.

Well those do-it-yourself days are creeping back, as parents are just saying no to high-priced specialty store kids costumes and relying on their own ingenuity to outfit trick-or-treaters.

Arlana Kemplin of Lighthouse Point said she and her husband, Jeff Manresa, balked at the prices in a Halloween specialty store when they started hunting costumes for their sons, Val and Iban, both 9.

"We're not going to buy a $50 costume, when it's basically a piece of cloth," said Kemplin, who handles operations and activities at A.C. Moore Arts & Crafts in Pompano Beach. "So we went into the closet and pulled out our old costumes."

Adding some new accessories or make-up will put a new spin on last year's outfit, ultimately saving them a bundle and adding to the fun.

"My husband says that's what makes Halloween fun, being creative and coming up with your own costume," Kemplin said.

Robert Tabor, a Fort Lauderdale costume designer and artist who has worked for companies such as Nickelodeon and Mattel, advises parents to find inspiration - and cheap materials - in their surroundings.


Check out our list of local fun family events for Halloween here.For costumes:
  • Offers ideas for easy costumes to make out of cardboard boxes, sweatsuits and thrift store finds, among others. Procrastinators take note, the site includes tips on last-minute costumes.

  • Kaboose: Tips for making your own costumes, including ladybugs, hula dancers, a firefighter, pig, frog and cat.

  • Offers great no-sew costume ideas for kids, including corn-on-the-cob, tomato and carrot outfits and strawberry, lobster or a pea pod costumes for babies.

  • Martha Stewart: Ideas for no-sew costumes, including how to use coffee filters to put ruffles on a fairy godmother costume. Cute baby costumes such as a roast turkey and pie.

For party ideas: 

"There is so much available in your house that can be turned into something else, without making you spend a cent," he said.

Large appliance boxes, old pillowcases, Christmas decorations - they all can be repurposed into something new, Tabor said. Turn your kids' old character sheets into a fun ghost, or paste pages from old picture book onto an inexpensive rain poncho to make a walking storybook.

"You can get 50 percent of what you need in your house," Tabor said. "It's really kind of fun to look at things with a different eye, and it's all right there."


Out with the old: Get out last year's costumes to see what base pieces, like a black-hooded grim reaper's smock or white angel's dress, can be refashioned into something new. Sweatsuits and leotards also make good foundations.

Play with toys: Look in the toy bin for light sabers, swords, plastic guns, fairy wands, crowns, butterfly wings and the like that can be used as accessories.

Shop for inspiration: Leave the credit card at home, and go look at costumes for inspiration. Kemplin said her son wants to be the headless horseman. She found ideas on how to make that from a headless butler costume she examined in a store.

Use makeup: A little fake blood and make-up can go a long way. If you're after a scary look, a grotesquely made-up face is all you really need, Kemplin said.

Shop in your closet: Or Mom's or Dad's. Look for old bridesmaid dresses or outgrown suits. Use checked shirts for cowboys or scarecrows. Groovy plaid shirts or shorts can create a cool nerd outfit.

Hit the thrift store: Goodwill, Salvation Army and consignment shops can be a gold mine. Look for boots, hats and accessories that can liven up your look. Old costumes, oversize clothes, crazy patterns and pieces that can be cut up or decorated can make costuming fun.


Hit the craft stores, like Michael's, A.C. Moore Arts & Crafts and JoAnn's for these time-saving products:

Liquid Stitch, a clear-drying fabric glue, binds fabrics together like sewing. It's machine-washable, nontoxic and nonflammable.

Stitch Witchery uses iron-on strips to adhere fabrics.

Foam or felt sheets can be bent into shapes and glued to make hats, or cut up to make appliques for other costume pieces. Fabric paint, including a glow-in-the-dark variety, can dress up a fabric or sheet used as a costume base.

Masquerade masks, feather boas, beads, feathers and ribbons can make inexpensive adornments to your own clothes.


ScarecrowGet a burlap sack from the grocery store. Cut arm and neck holes. Pull it on over jeans and a plaid shirt, tie a rope at the waist, add a few wisps of straw and an old hat.


Use a black sweat suit as a base. Attach flexible tubing, such as electrical conduit or drainage pipe, to make legs. Add fake spider webs for more fun.


Use a leftover wedding runner or old pillowcase. Cut out the eye holes, belt the

waist with yarn. Shred the edges for a creepy look.


Buy an old frilly bridesmaid dress from a thrift store and pin up the skirt. Use a cheap crown or make a cone-shaped hat out of poster board and top with inexpensive netting. For a twist, use scary make-up to make an evil princess.


Use a hunters' fluorescent orange vest. Great for visibility! Wear over a green shirt and pants. Paint your child's face orange.


Tie old scarves around the waist and head. Use a colorful skirt, gold costume jewelry, and bright lipstick.