A Guide to Sustainable Halloween Costumes

Halloween is a fun holiday and despite the expected consumerism around the day to buy costumes and candy, it's really not that difficult to celebrate sustainably! As soon as fall starts to hit and the weather gets a little chilly, the question, "What are you going to be for Halloween?" becomes more and more frequent. And I have to say…adding pets into the mix makes me even more excited for the holiday, ha!

I grew up in a household where my mom sewed (or taped, glued, and stapled) Halloween costumes for my brother and me. This often meant I got the seemingly lackluster version of whatever costumes were in the Party City catalog I so anxiously went over with my friends so we could coordinate. Finally, in eighth grade, my mom agreed to let me buy the costume I wanted from the store…and I learned just how crappy, for lack of a better word, that whole experience was. Costumes were sold out, Party City was packed, and the cute bee costume I bought didn't fit me that well, was itchy, and I think even broke while trick-or-treating. That really taught me my lesson…and I haven't bought a costume again!

Whether I've put together an outfit from items already in my closet, made myself something, or found the missing piece for an outfit from a thrift store…I've been able to avoid buying new costumes!

1. Start with what you have

Looking at what you have in your closet with a specific Halloween lens helps inspiration to strike. Last year, a neighbor gifted me a floor length black silk dress, so I decided to be a vampire. Are any of your items things a character from cartoons, movies, or TV shows would wear? I've been Superwoman, a flapper, Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games, a jet-setting model (wore a trench coat, red lip, sunglasses, and heels), a ballerina, a frat bro, Kate Middleton, a black cat, and this year think I'll be a witch! 


2. Borrow what you don't

I LOVE my Facebook Buy Nothing Group. I use it constantly. And I love borrowing items I know I won't use frequently. Recently, I borrowed wigs for a wig birthday party from a neighbor who has an extensive costume and wig collection! Costumes or accessories for costumes are the perfect items to request on Buy Nothing or from friends. You can also request items to keep from these sources, of course.


3. Make from items you have

For Halloween my senior year of high school I wanted to be a sailor. I had the navy striped shirt, the high waisted shorts…I just needed a sailor cap to complete the outfit. Every store was out of stock. So, I googled how to sew one. Turns out they're not that difficult! I had some white muslin fabric so I used that and made a sailor cap I still keep in my costume stash! Last year I wanted Mudge to be a bat to go with my vampire costume and after searching through available options, decided to make her bat wings using a black harness she already had, wire hangers, and black felt I received from a neighbor on Buy Nothing!

4. Buy items second hand

Goodwill starts their huge Halloween section in early September. They have racks and racks of costumes and aisles of Halloween accessories and decorations. I'll be honest, it's not well organized, but if you have time to browse and sort through what they have, you'll probably be rewarded! I've looked for items second-hand to complete costumes…such as a blue gingham dress and red converse to complete my Dorothy look when my friends and I went as characters from The Wizard of Oz. Those I found on Poshmark and I've worn both since, making them successful additions to my closet! I did find my dog a hot dog costume at Goodwill and she will be wearing it this year, matching with her dog friend who received her hot dog costume from Buy Nothing.

 5. Avoid it, but if you need to, buy new

If and only if you've exhausted every other option, or there's a hygienic reason, then buy anything new that you need. Last year I bought vampire fangs, it's not the end of the world, but I prefer not having to buy anything!

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