By Sheila Julson
Wisconsin Better Business Bureau
Whether it’s a last-minute invite to a Halloween party, or just procrastination, coming up with a quick and reasonably-priced Halloween costume can leave one in horror. Come late October, a trip to the store will often lead to all the good costumes being picked over, leaving one with a choice of parading around as last year’s Hollywood blockbuster character, or cobbling together mismatched costume pieces discarded on the shelves. Even the fun props and fake blood have been snapped up.
Thrift stores and basics lying around the house can be creative and economical saves. Here are some classic Halloween costumes that can be created with supplies not too difficult to find.
Mummy – This easy-peasy classic costume just requires a couple hours of labor and good scissors to start, and it is warm if one plans to attend any spooky outdoor events. Dig out an old pair of light sweatpants and long-sleeved shirt or sweatshirt. Don’t fret if you don’t have any, as most thrift stores and resale shops have racks of athletic garments and loungewear. The pants and shirt will be the base of the costume. Next, grab an old light sheet, tarp, curtains – whatever fabric may be lying around in the attic or basement. Thrift stores also have this stuff available, too, and the more worn or dirty, the better to add to the aged mummy look. Now comes the fund part – cut, cut, and cut the fabric into your “bandage” strips. Lightweight cotton tears easily, which is all the more better to give a ragged look. Weave the strips around and over the pants and shirt, and the strips can be secured by hand tacking with needle and thread, or glued on. If one goes with the latter option, be sure to allow at least a day for the glue to set and dry. Reserve a couple strips to wrap around the head. To give the illusion of the ancient mummy just unearthed from the tomb, dust the costume with compact facial powder or brown or earth-toned eye shadow.
Pirate – Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean film series has set off sort of a pirate-mania in recent years, but it’s a versatile costume that can be put together in a hurry. The rogue sea crew look can be put together by fishing out some old cast-off clothing or thrift store garments. Cut a pair solid color pants or jeans at shin length. Run them through the washer and dryer to fray the edges. Be sure to also pick up two shirts - either a striped or solid color, and a darker solid color to use as a vest. To create the vest, cut off the sleeves of the darker shirt, and cut the bottom straight across. Since most pirates weren’t as stylin’ as Johnny Depp, be sure to also cut the collar off. The shirts can be frayed in the same manner as the pants with a quick run through the washer and dryer cycles. Take those scraps you removed from the shirts and cut to use as bandanas and waist sashes. Women can also find long crinkle cotton gauze “gypsy” style skirts, and a pair of boots will complete the look. If the nearby store is sold out of plastic cutlasses, one can be cut from scrap cardboard, painted, and coated with varnish to give the blade a shine. Fake pirate battle scars can be drawn on with eyeliner, and men’s facial hair can be darkened with mascara to give the look of a hardened Captain Hook beard. Make-up easily comes off with cold cream.
Scarecrow – Old jeans, an oversized flannel shirt, and some hay picked up at a garden center provides the base for this costume. On the jeans, use the cut and fray technique as described for the pirate costume above. Leave the flannel shirt untucked, and tie a rope around the waist. Tuck the hay in the placket of the shirt, and additional hay can be glued to the jeans and shirt. Bonus if you’ve got an old hat, as that can also be frayed and hay applied.
If you’ve decided not to go the homemade route and instead want to purchase a costume this year, make sure you check out the company thoroughly before purchasing. The BBB often receives complaints (a total of 378 last year) about costume stores and websites that delivered costumes late (or not at all), poor quality and difficulty obtaining refunds. Some customers found the stores closed when they returned to report a problem.
The Wisconsin BBB offers these tips to help you avoid being haunted after Halloween is over:
- Location. If you're interested in trying a new or unfamiliar online merchant, ask the company for its physical location (address and phone number) so you can check its BBB Business Review at www.bbb.org.
- Customer satisfaction policy. Determine the company's refund and return policies before you buy. If online companies can’t offer concrete commitments on how they will handle any potential problems you may have with their products or services, reconsider doing business with them.
- Leave nothing to chance. Be sure you have a thorough understanding of everything involved before placing an order. Be clear on the price and any shipping and handling charges. Know the terms of any product or service guarantees. Find out how long it will be before you receive your order. Federal law requires that goods and services be delivered within 30 days, unless a different delivery period is specifically stated by the merchant.
- Guard your personal information. Only provide your credit card number online in a secure environment. Look for the prefix “https://” in the URL box listing the website’s address to be sure that the site you are using is secure.
- Ask how long a store will operate. If you’re buying from a seasonal store, ask them whether they will be open after the holiday and whether they will accept returns when the season is over. If not, consider buying elsewhere or taking more time to be sure the item is exactly what you want before making the purchase.
For more consumer information, go to the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau’s website at www.wisconsin.bbb.org, like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/WisconsinBBB or follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/WisconsinBBB.