Waste Free Halloween Costumes

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Happy Halloween from my family to yours!


It’s almost Halloween and if you’re anything like me, you’re just realizing that Halloween this year isn’t going to be the same. Our town has canceled trick-or-treating. Our school has canceled the Halloween parade. Our kids are allowed to wear their costumes to school (with their COVID masks safely in place).


In the midst of all this loss, I’m hopeful there’s a chance to rebuild Halloween in a more sustainable way.


This year, it will be less grand. This year, there will be less events, less expectations, less Jones’s to keep up with. This year, might just be the perfect time to try to incorporate some waste free principles into your Halloween traditions.


The last couple of years, mostly since my kids have been old enough to celebrate with the traditional Halloween activities, I’ve been brainstorming and practicing to create more sustainable costumes. Here are a few of my favorite ideas for you to consider.


  1. Use what you have
  2. Borrow from a friend
  3. Buy used
  4. Make your own


Here’s how I’ve used these various strategies (often in the same costume) to build a variety of low-waste and waste free costumes over the years (and what a walk down memory lane this is for me!).


Use what you have – we seem to have some amazing clothes at our house! These things come into our lives, as gifts or hand me downs and they live in my kids closet or the dress up bin, just waiting for their chance to shine!

This dress was a gift from a co-worker who visited from Malaysia a few years ago. My kids both have one and the dresses are absolutely stunning. We wore them for a wedding and were so excited to wear them again for Halloween in 2019. We bought a few accessories – a head chain, bracelet and henna tattoos – to dress my oldest up as a Malaysian princess.


My mom might just create the best costumes… ever! She dressed up as a queen in 2019, wearing her mother-of-the bride dress and my cape… both from my wedding! And do you even notice that my dad is wearing a blanket for his robe?? They stopped at Burger King for a couple of crowns… Priceless!


Here is one more fabulous example from my parents – here they are in 2017 as Mary Poppins and Burt. The costumes were created entirely from existing clothes in their closet and props they already owned, complete with the chimney sweep brush we actually use to clean our chimney each fall!


Borrow from a friend or buy used – this is especially great for expensive adult costumes that can be passed around the neighborhood and kids costumes that can be passed down to younger siblings, cousins, and friends.


Here is my youngest daughter in 2019, dressed up in a fish costume that was a hand me down from friends. I got to match her, with waders and a fishing net from the garage – what a catch we were!


Can you believe this bluebird costume was a hand me down from me to my oldest daughter?!?! My mom made it when I was 5 or 6 years old and in a local theater production of Snow White. Its still in amazing shape and is a favorite costume, on Halloween and an average Saturday morning, of both my kiddos!


Make your own – I’m shocked at the amazing things you can make with felt and a little glue or fabric + a sewing machine! These costume examples hail from when we had only one child (and so much more time + energy for making homemade costumes)…


When my oldest daughter was two, she loved riding around on her stick horse, so I made this adorable little jockey costume. I hot glued “silk” material onto a plastic construction hard hat we had lying around and sewed a very simple “jersey”. I think we purchased the crop to round out the costume. The whole package quickly became part of her costume bin and she regularly played jockey for months after Halloween!


I think this was 2014 and when I asked my daughter what she wanted to be for Halloween, she answered “PIZZA!” without skipping a beat. So, I bought some felt from the craft store, found some stuffing in the basement craft bin, sewed and hot glued my way to this adorable slice of pizza! The costume slid over her head and hung from her shoulders like a sandwich board sign… a technique that could be used in SO many creative ways!


My parents recently uncovered a dress (with puffed sleeves!) that I wore as the flower girl in my aunt and uncles wedding in the mid ’80s and delivered it to our house. You should have seen the excitement in my girls’ faces and the squeal of joy when I finished zipping it up on my oldest daughter – it fits her perfectly! We’re still ideating on the rest of her costume… should she fully embrace the 1980’s with crimped hair and leg warmers? Or will the puffed sleeves inspire an Anne of Green Gables costume?


We’ve got a whole week to figure the rest out!


What does Halloween look like for you this year? Are you dressing up at all? Anyone having Halloween parties… small ones at home or school parties?


What can we learn from this lower key Halloween? How can we use this to practice a slower and more sustainable life? What activities and habits to we want to hang on to as we begin to build our “new normal” on the flip side of this pandemic?


Please share your thoughts and costume ideas in the comments below. Bonus points if anyone can figure out how to upload a photo of your favorite low-waste or sustainable costume!

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