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Custom costumes without the cost

How to make an inexpensive Halloween costume

By Hanna Smith | Contributor

It’s October. Pumpkin-flavored everything is in all the stores, and Halloween is just around the corner: costume season. But a store-bought costume can cost $20 on average. That’s too expensive for one night of visiting Halloween open houses or attending the Halloween dance.

This Halloween, consider you and your floormates dressing up as fun animals. It will be like having your own zoo.

Using some plain t-shirts, fabric paint and spare cardboard, you can save some money and spend some quality time with your friends doing simple crafts. Skip the stores, and have some fun creating a cast of crazy creatures.

The first step is easy: pick out a shirt. Plain tees in all colors can be found for around $3 at your local craft store. Try grabbing something with long sleeves to keep warm in the fall air.

For animals such as lions or deer, pick out a brown shirt. Grab orange for a tiger. Bears and bunnies can come in multiple shades, from brown to black to white. Or, go crazy and create a cast of rainbow animals. It’s Halloween after all, so have fun with it!

Now, get your hands on some fabric paint from the craft store. You can also purchase a pack of fabric markers, but paint will go farther with these costumes. Just be sure you use materials specifically made for fabric, as regular paint will turn the shirts crunchy and can carry irritants.

Grab white paint, unless your shirt is already white. In that case, pick up some pink. If you chose a creature such as a cheetah or tiger, use black for those spots and stripes.

A group of friends can even make themed costumes, as exemplified by members of Gerig. (Photograph by Hannah Stumpf)

A group of friends can even make themed costumes, as exemplified by members of Gerig. (Photograph by Hannah Stumpf)

Now, lay the shirt out flat with the front facing up. Slide a piece of cardboard or some plastic shopping bags inside. This will keep the paint from bleeding through to the back. Mark out an oval, with the skinnier ends at the top and bottom. This will be the belly. Don’t make it too big.

Be sure to leave a couple of inches of empty fabric at the top and bottom. Fill in the oval and let it dry.

Once the paint has dried, touch up any patchy areas. This is when you’ll want to add in additional details, such as tiger stripes or white spots for deer.

No animal is complete without some cute ears. This is where the cardboard comes in. Use a pencil to trace out an ear shape. For most animals, a rounded triangle about the size of your palm will do. Cut the ears out and paint them in corresponding colors to your animal, then set them aside to dry.

Once the ears have dried, gather some glue and a plain plastic headband. You can also choose to go with a warm winter hat to keep your ears warm. Attach the ears to the headband or hat using a hot glue gun. For a stronger hold, use fabric glue. This can be found in the fabric or sewing sections of your local craft store.

Finish off the look with leggings, shorts or sweatpants in colors corresponding to the shirt. For bears and bunnies, attach a pompom about the size of your fist to the waist of the pants. If the shirt hangs low enough, you can place it along the back hem. For lions and tigers, attach a length of ribbon in a matching color. Add on some noses and whiskers using eyeliner or face paint, and you’re done! Head out with your wolf pack and rule the scene.

These simple costumes are easy to wash and will last for many Halloweens and pick-a-dates to come. And the best part: they won’t break the bank.

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