Halloween is the perfect day to be expressive. Costume options are endless: a dog, a witch, a cartoon character, a superhero. But at some point, costumes can become overdone, or worse — overpriced. This is why DIY costumes have become more popular.
Rachel Zsarnay, co-owner of the Instagram thrift store Lotus & Poppy and a habitual thrifter, has been making her own costumes for two years. She said thrifting has been an important part of her life.
Zsarnay has been thrift shopping for over eight years, and making Halloween costumes is just one part of her love for originality in clothing and style.
“Thrifting means cutting down on the stuff that I have, consuming clothing that won’t fall apart after a few uses and spending less money on clothes,” Zsarnay said. “It’s also great for the environment.”
Her favorite homemade costume thus far was the classic cartoon character Velma from “Scooby-Doo.” Velma was Zsarnay’s first homemade Halloween look and was completed for a Halloween party she attended.
Zsarnay purchased an orange turtleneck, a red skirt, fake glasses and knee socks. She already owned the signature red heels to complete this time-honored look. All of her purchases were made at Goodwill.
“I think it’s important to create your own costumes, as it displays your own creativity and originality,” Zsarnay said. “I will never not make my own costume. I get to make it my own this way.”
Rebekah Savona is a mother and Instagram blogger with a passion for fashion. She began thrifting a long time ago after her mother introduced the idea. Thrifting gave her the opportunity to save money and express herself in a new way.
“I wanted to find unique pieces and couldn’t always afford to shop brand new,” Savona said. “I shop secondhand most of the time now for sustainable reasons and to show that being fashionable doesn’t have to cost a ton of money.”
Savona has always created her own costumes out of her thrift finds and said she has little to no appreciation for premade costumes.
Creating original looks from secondhand pieces is also important to her because she enjoys practicing sustainable and ethical habits while being a consumer in current times.
“The premade costumes are garbage,” Savona said. “Unfortunately, they end up in there too, because the quality is so poor. They are single-use. The impact fast fashion has on the environment is immense, and people around the world are being paid and treated unfairly.”
The sustainable and ethical practices behind thrift and secondhand shopping are varied. Creating costumes allows shoppers to get innovative with their clothing choices, much like Savona has done with her own costumes for Halloween.
Inspired by Margot Tenenbaum played by Gwyneth Paltrow in “The Royal Tenenbaums,” Savona created a mime look that is perfect for the Halloween season. The outfit does not take long to complete and can be pulled together in a variety of ways. She said she had the pieces already in her closet.
To create the mime, Savona put on a red and white striped long-sleeve shirt under a black, flowing romper and completed it with mid-gray socks, chunky black heels and a gray beret. She wore red lipstick and heavy eyeliner to accomplish that vintage, Anderson look. This can be repeated several different ways, as long as there is some extra eyeliner or face paint laying around. A beret helps, too.
Dorothy Nelson, a lecturer in the School of Communication at NAU, has been making her own costumes since she was a college student.
“I feel like creating my own costume makes my look more authentic or unique than just buying a printed costume in a bag,” Nelson said. “Even if there are multiple people dressed up as the same character as me, my look will still be unique. People can tell that I put time into creating my vision.”
Nelson has made her own costume, as well as costumes for her toddler and husband. Her pieces are completed with craft supplies, thrift items and even household cleaning supplies.
It can take one day or several depending on how deep the creator wants to go.
“I could typically complete a costume in a day’s time ... if working all day,” Nelson said. “Sometimes, things like paint and paper mache may take several hours or overnight to dry before I can move on to the next step.”
Some of her past looks include Jack and Sally from “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” Boo from “Monsters, Inc.,” and Elle Woods and Bruiser from “Legally Blonde 2.”
Nelson said her favorite look was Elle Woods from “Legally Blonde 2,” because she was able to incorporate her dog, and everyone knew exactly who they were. Nelson purchased a pink sweater from Target, created her own pillbox hat, painted her shoes to match and found a dog purse to put her own dog, Noah, in.
Another favorite created by Nelson was one for a Tim Burton themed Halloween party. This look was completed with paper mache and selective thrift shopping. Nelson and her husband made the Jack Skellington costume from a paper mache headpiece that they molded around a balloon, a black suit and a bowtie made of cardboard.
Nelson’s 2-year-old daughter’s costume was based on the scene from “Monsters, Inc.” when Mike and Sully created Boo’s costume to blend in with the monster crowd in the factory.
Nelson purchased a purple puffer vest with a hood for the body and head, used a mophead for hair and combined felt, paint, pipe cleaners and styrofoam balls for facial features. Some tools used included a sewing machine, needles, thread and glue.
Whether taking pieces that are already owned and transforming them into something wicked and wild, or crafting classic characters from items found at a local thrift store, creating costumes is cost-efficient, fun and a great way to be expressive.