5 Costume Creation Tips to Bring Your Costume to the Next Level

If you are like me, you are serious about Halloween. More specifically the costuming part of Halloween.

I adore dressing up. Maybe because I have been a dancer and an actor all of my life, all those fabulous costumes just get to me. Or maybe it is the dressing up that enthralls me. All I know is that I now own a small children’s theatre company for which I make all of the costumes and it is my absolute favorite part of the year (next to Halloween of course).

Costume design has been my obsession from a young age. Here is a picture of me in first grade as a witch but not just any witch, Kiki from Kiki’s Delivery Service.

You know, that obscure anime movie from the 90’s they used to play on Disney Channel every year? I had a bow but my mom insisted I wear a witch’s hat so people knew what I was. Another year, with two feet of snow on the ground, I was a Genie. I cried for an hour because mom made me wear a white turtleneck and winter boots. Looking back two things are clear to me, that my mother was not on the same creative wavelength as I was, and that Halloween is a very emotional time for me.  

I remember one year when I was in 10th grade, I was ecstatic because I finally had money saved up from my summer job. Finally, I was in control of Halloween. I waltzed into my high school Halloween dance absolutely glowing. Literally glowing because I just had purchased a Tinkerbell costume that lit up. I LOVED it. My friends had dressed up in the Peter Pan theme and we were ready to rock it. And that’s when it happened… four other girls were wearing MY costume! Blue fairies, pink fairies, another green fairy just like me! Honestly, I was once again close to tears on a Halloween.

As an adult, my love for costuming has not waned. But I also have learned my lesson about buying store bought- generic costumes. It has been homemade costumes for me ever since. I know what you are thinking, “Kyla, I could never make my own costume, I don’t know how to use a sewing machine!” Don’t fret, here’s where I tell you, neither do I!

So if you are sick of the cliche nature of store-bought Halloween costumes but don’t know what a sewing pattern is, this list is for you. Five clever ways to up your Halloween costume game. Go next level with some clever crafting, and minimal sewing!

Wigs: Nothing helps transform your costume like a good wig. For this, I challenge you to think outside of Party City and look elsewhere for a high-quality affordable wig. I find that Amazon has a lot of really nice wigs for minimal dollars (and also free shipping with prime). My other suggestion is to Google “___ wig cosplay” and see what you get. I have found a lot of great wigs this way. If you can’t find one that is just right, remember you can always style a wig. Here is a fun curling tutorial with Jaymes Mansfield a professional drag queen.

Makeup: A quick Pinterest search can reveal all sorts of great makeup tips for your costumes. There are also a million youtube tutorials out there. I personally love Promise Tamang on youtube. She has tons of tips and characters to watch for inspiration. My biggest personal tip is a white concealer. It was suggested to me during my professional dance days as a great way to get your stage makeup to be brighter and last longer. I can attest. Apply it anywhere you are planning on putting eyeshadow to see the color pop.

Base: You don’t have to buy a $200 dollar costume to look the part. I usually can find the base of my costume for $25 dollars or less in a few secret places (they aren’t that secret). My two go-to’s are Goodwill for when I want more vintage looking clothes or Milanoo for more modern styles and corsets. Remember you aren’t looking for the completed costume, rather you are looking for a base that 1. Mostly fits and 2. You don’t mind cutting, gluing, painting, and semi destroying.

For example, when I made a Cruella Deville Costume I found a simple black contour dress with lace and then an 80’s checkered blazer; I then sewed faux black fur on. My newest obsession with Halloween costumes is corsets. Many people like to look sexy on Halloween but the results of “sexy ___” can be, frankly, trashy. Nothing is sexier or classier than a corset my friend. This year I am doing a genderbent Hercules from the Disney Movie with this Leather Corset. It is very sexy and flattering but it also somehow looks authentic. Win, win, win if you ask me.

Borrow: This is a great way to save a little money. You can borrow from previous Halloween Costumes: I have reused my Marilyn Monroe Wig at least twice! You can borrow from your friends: my friend was a hippy one year and I borrowed the peasant shirt to use as Guinevere. You can borrow from your own closet: my Avril Lavigne costume was one 100 % from my closet and I am not edgy in real life! Or you can borrow from your parents' clothes (this is my personal favorite).  I have sported everything from one of my mother’s prom dresses from the 80’s (Pageant Queen) to my father’s flannel (Scarecrow).

Accessorize: Lastly, finish your costume off with some key accessories that bring it all together. For example, with Cruella Deville, I bought long red gloves. Or for Tinker Bell, I purchased beautiful blue wings. It may be as simple as jewelry or a prop. For my Hercules costume, I am adding a Tolmee Greek Golden Waves Bracelet.

Do you think you are ready to start costuming? I made a handy list of tools I use to help me. Find my Costume Tool Kit Material List here.

Do one of my costumes speak to you? Here is a list of materials I used for each of these Costumes. Feel free to email me at kyla@tolmee.com with more costume ideas and construction questions!

Happy Costuming and Happy Halloween!

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