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Inexpensive and Easy Halloween Costumes

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Rose Mary is an Air Force veteran and an Occupational Therapist. She enjoys researching and writing on a variety of topics.


When I was in college, Occupational Therapy students had to host a party for developmentally delayed adults every Halloween.  Our last year of OT school, my roommates and I threw a Halloween party.  Guests were Occupational Therapy students, Physical Therapy students, medical students, and dental students.  Almost all costumes were from things we already had on hand.  Very few of us spent money on these outfits.  I have challenged myself to remember as many cheap and easy to put together Halloween costumes as possible.  I must admit I had some help.  I was able to find my Halloween photos from my years of OT school at the Medical University of S.C. in Charleston. 

MUSC OT Classes of '87 & '88

Witches, pirates, clowns, farmers, scarecrows and a whole lot more.

Witches, pirates, clowns, farmers, scarecrows and a whole lot more.


Borrow a suit.

A white suit with pastel shirt, loafers without socks, and sunglasses and you’re Sonny Crockett from Miami Vice.

A black suit and tie with a white shirt and sunglasses, and you’re one of the Men in Black.

Add a fedora and you’re a Blues Brother.

Pirates.  Arrrh!

Pirates. Arrrh!


Thanks to Captain Jack and Pirates of the Caribbean, you don’t even have to find a funny black hat to be a pirate. Get some dark pants and tuck them into your socks. Striped socks are a plus, along with huge hoop earrings. Eye patch and dirty smudges are optional. Place scarf strategically around your head. Arrrh.

Start your transformation to fortune teller with a scarf around your head and large hoop earrings. Long sleeved blouse and long flowing skirt complete the look. Layers are even better. Carry some tarot cards or a crystal ball.

Start with a solid colored 2-piece bathing suit. Strategically place sheer solid colored scarves around you for a belly dancer ensemble. A face scarf and lots of jangly jewelry are a plus.

Marsha in her rented Can Can Saloon Girl costume.  Mike and me in our sheets.

Marsha in her rented Can Can Saloon Girl costume. Mike and me in our sheets.

Sheets and Fabric

Toga! Toga! Toga! My roommates and I threw a Halloween party at our rented beach house on Folly Beach. Our roommate Marsha loved Halloween so much she budgeted for a rental costume! Mike and I emptied the linen closet and did the toga thing. Everyone should do this once.

I later did a variation on the toga theme when I went to a Halloween party at a nurse’s base housing unit during Desert Storm when I was stationed in Turkey. I safety pinned a piece of elastic around my chest under the arms. I had about 3 yards of gold lame fabric. I wrapped it around me a couple times, tucking it into the elastic, then threw the remainder over my shoulder. I had huge silver earrings, a snake bracelet and a cheap necklace that looked like a hundred or so coins. Dramatic eye makeup completed my Cleopatra! One of our Army Special Ops friends borrowed some sheets and did the toga thing.

Mime and Cat Burglar.  Folly Beach Halloween Party guests.

Mime and Cat Burglar. Folly Beach Halloween Party guests.

Tights and Leotards

The possibilities are almost endless with matching tights and leotard, especially black.

Add a long black tail, some black pointed ears on a headband, draw on some whiskers and you’re a cat.

Add black or purple balloons and you’re a bunch of grapes.

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Add white face paint, and you’re a mime.

Add a black watchcap, black face paint, and a coil of rope on the shoulder, and you’re a cat burglar. You could also do this with black long sleeved shirt and pants.

Wear red leotard and tights to start your devil outfit. Add a long red tail and horns on a headband. Red or black cape optional.

Wear any color tights and leotard, or matching sweats. Cut a large oblong from poster board and write “crayola”, and you’re a crayon.

Wear a black leotard, nude hose or tights and you’re on your way to being a playboy bunny. You’ll need black pumps, bunny ears and a fluffy tail.

Wear colored tights and a matching turtleneck. Add a box painted white with black dots and you are die. Partner up and you’re a pair of dice.

Class Halloween Party for Developmentally Delayed Adults

Elizabeth in cat costume, Marsha as punker, me in scrubs, Cathy as domestic goddess and Mike as scarecrow.

Elizabeth in cat costume, Marsha as punker, me in scrubs, Cathy as domestic goddess and Mike as scarecrow.


Borrow a pair of scrubs. Add a stethoscope around your neck and you’re a doctor or nurse.

Add a long scrub coat, scrub hat, mask and Crocs and you’re a surgeon.

Folly Beach Halloween Party

Me in my sheets and Punk Rock Bud.

Me in my sheets and Punk Rock Bud.

Old Clothes

There are unlimited possibilities in old clothes. Raid your closet, your friends’ and family’s closets and Goodwill.

Work jeans with a plaid shirt and you can be a farmer. Straw hat is a plus. Stuff some straw in your pockets, pain some red circles on your cheeks and you’re a scarecrow.

Wear a long black skirt and long sleeved black blouse. All you need is a black pointed tip hat and you’re a witch.

Try oversized belted pants with a few holes, layered mismatched shirts, a few dirt smudges and you’re a hobo.

Outrageous clothes are a must for the punk rock look, but it’s all in the hair. Colors and gel for spiking are essential. One of our OT classmates, and her med student boyfriend came as punk rockers. He was so clean cut conservative it was quite a transformation. I didn’t recognize him at first!

Leggings, lace, layers, beads, headband. Madonna anyone?

Do you resemble a politician or politico’s spouse? Ultra conservative business attire required.

A housecoat, slippers and a few foam rollers and you can be a domestic goddess.

Folly Beach Halloween Party Guests

Guests' Halloween Costumes.  Don Johnson Miami Vice, punk rocker, hobo, devil, can can girl, toga, Cleopatra, crayola crayon, clown, toga.

Guests' Halloween Costumes. Don Johnson Miami Vice, punk rocker, hobo, devil, can can girl, toga, Cleopatra, crayola crayon, clown, toga.

Pop Culture

When we had our Halloween party in Turkey, our Physical Therapist went as the Church Lady. She dressed in ultra-conservative and outdated skirt and blouse, carried a Bible and wore horn-rimmed glasses. She said “Well isn’t that special” whenever possible. Turns out later, she’d never seen Church Lady on Saturday Night Live.

So what is your pop culture favorite that you could reprise for Halloween?

It's All in the Delivery

For lots of fun characters, the right Halloween costume is only a small part of the equation. You have to act the part.

A tank, ultra short running shorts and running shoes are fairly easy to come by. Can you find an ultra curly wig? Now for the real test: can you channel Richard Simmons?

Can you get a long straight black wig? Have provocative clothing? Can you perfect the Cher hair toss?


Now you have 30 cheap and easy Halloween costume ideas. Enjoy your Halloween, whether it be at a party, or at home giving out candy.


Mike from Harrisburg Pa on September 26, 2016:

I have 3 worn jeans. The 1 I have modified for a hobo and/or farmer. I easily found the hobo accessories. The other 2 I may eventually go with a hippie. I'll get that good laugh again and forget the commercial costumes.

svalentine79 from Fayetteville, Pa on October 17, 2011:

Great info thanks!

rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on August 23, 2010:

Thanks What's News. Lots of fun memories looking through those old pictures.

What's News on August 21, 2010:

These are gret ideas for people on a budget trying to find that perfect Halloween coustume. Well written. Great hub.

rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on October 02, 2009:

Thanks Paradise7. I was so glad to find these pictures. My brother scanned them for me.

Paradise7 from Upstate New York on October 02, 2009:

Good hub for HubMob. I liked the pictures so much.

rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on October 01, 2009:

Thanks lyrics, judyd and atomsw for stopping by, reading and commenting. It was so much fun to find these old pictures and remember my classmates. Happy Halloween!

atomswifey from Michigan on October 01, 2009:

how fun and cute!

judydianne from Palm Harbor, FL on October 01, 2009:

We used to always go to Goodwill or Salvation Army to look for things with which to make a costume. We found wigs, trench coats, a bridal gown, shoes, hats, flannel shirts and lots of other things. You just have to use your imagination! You have some very good ideas here! Some of these can even be made at the last minute. I love your pictures!

lyricsingray on October 01, 2009:

Very smart and cool - can't believe Halloween is so soon - thanks! Kimberly

rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on September 30, 2009:

Thanks KCC and Storytellersrus. Do you think I should change my title?

Barbara from Stepping past clutter on September 30, 2009:

Ah, Halloween costumes for ADULTS! I was expecting to find some nostalgia or a forecast of things to come, not a useful site to inspire my imagination! Thanks for all the ideas!

KRC from Central Texas on September 30, 2009:

Great ideas! Thanks for sharing!

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