Halloween Costumes – With a DIY Thrifty Twist

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If you were a child of the ’60s or ’70s, you probably remember the store-bought costumes of that time… the ones that came in the carboard box with the thin cellophane cover. The awesome image of the superhero, villain or clown on the box never really came to life when you donned the thin plastic face mask – you know, with the razor sharp edges that dug into your neck, and the skinny little rubber-band that was supposed to keep the mask in place as you ran from door to door, trick-or-treating. After the first house or two, the mask usually ended up as a hat perched on top of your head.

Those pre-made purchased costumes are fun, but homemade costumes are my favorite! They are so much fun to put together and allow you to express your creativity!

DIY Halloween Costume

While you can still purchase pre-made Halloween costumes, why not put your own together instead? Thrift stores and yard sales are some of the best places to shop for costumes! Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Mad Scientist

Want to dress up as a mad scientist? Just find a white lab coat and an old wig. Cut the hair on the wig to shorten the length, and muss it up so it looks wild and crazy. Add a pair of vintage horn-rimmed glasses and a bushy mustache (optional) and you’re all set! Carry a few vintage science bottles for shot glasses and share your evil potion – drinks all around!


Ah! This one is easy! Buy an old wedding gown from your local thrift store and give it a tattered look. Use make-up to add dark circles under your eyes and white powder or hair paint to add streaks of white to your updo. Don’t forget the smeary red lipstick. Perfection! You’ll be the life, or after-life, of the party!

Silent Movie Star

For a man – find an old black suit coat and pants, and a pair of shiny black shoes. Add a white button up shirt, a black tie, and a black hat (all things that are pretty easy to find at a thrift store). Add a bushy black mustache and bushy black eyebrows. For a woman – find a sleeveless black dress, long white gloves, add a long string of pearls, put your hair up and tie a lace ribbon around your hair. Don’t forget to over-do your make-up with bright rosy cheeks! Black stockings and heels finish the outfit. Carry a print of an old movie placard and you’ve got the look!

Zombie Tax Auditor

You’re sure to be the only Zombie Tax Auditor at the party! Find a vintage suit at a thrift store – complete with tie, white shirt, and maybe an old briefcase. Add an old Texas Instrument calculator, a pen and a clipboard, and you’re all set. Stuff paper money into and overflowing from your pockets (think old Monopoly money) and you’re ready to live and die by the numbers. A little zombie make-up such as an ashen face, black rimmed eyes, and a scar or two are the finishing touches. Add a few fake blood stains (red food coloring) to your clothes here and there and you’ll be the life of the party.

Tippi Hedren Meets Alfred Hitchcock

Straight out of the movie “The Birds”… Find a woman’s suit from the 1960s (thrift store) along with heels and matching purse (bonus) and poof up your hair into a well coiffed updo. Purchase several fake black ravens from a thrift store, dollar store, party store, or Etsy and attach them to your outfit and in your hair. Apply a few well positioned drops of fake blood (food coloring) on your face, hands, and outfit and tell your friends you feel a little peckish. 

And when all else fails… there are still those vintage costumes with the masks available…

What is your all-time favorite Halloween costume that you’ve worn? Share in a comment below!

JayDee / ThirdShiftVintage.com

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  1. My older sister was a flower girl in a posh wedding in the early 1950s and got to wear a pink tulle gown. I think 3 or 4 of us younger sisters got to wear it over the years until it was in tatters! I think that and the beatnik outfit (white man’s shirt,black tights and beret worn with eye makeup) were my favorite ones in the 1950s. I got to trick or treat a few more years than my older sisters because I was so tiny that people often thought i was younger! Great Post JayDee!

  2. Do I ever remember them? We didn’t have much money to spend on costumes, but I drooled over them every year and tried to make my own based on these. Thanks for the flashback!

  3. Great ideas, JD. We never had store bought costumes as kids. Ours were always homemade. We were usually clowns or hobos. Like Betty, that was a trip down Memory Lane.

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