En español | Gale Salvador knew her two granddaughters, ages 4 and 7, had been learning Spanish in school. When she offered to make Frida Kahlo costumes for Halloween, they loved the idea of pretending to be the famous Mexican folk artist.
The girls — one in a colorful dress, one in a black turtleneck and gauzy skirt — each wore costume jewelry and a crown of fresh flowers stapled to a hairband. Black eyebrow pencil helped replicate Kahlo's characteristic unibrow. “It was really very simple,” says Salvador, 66, from Eugene, Oregon.
Halloween costumes don't have to be complicated or pricey. With a little ingenuity — and help mostly from household items, with a little stitching here and there — you can whip up one for your grandkids in no time.
Need some inspiration? Here are seven other ideas — or more, depending on whether you want to tweak a bit — for creating crafty costumes that excel without a lot of effort.
1. A pile of leaves
Linda Halpin, 68, remembers one trick-or-treater who paid homage to the season once she answered her door.
It was a twist on the common ghost costume. A young boy wore a sheet — covering him head to toe, with two eye holes cut out — covered with red, gold and brown leaves affixed with a glue gun.
"When he arrived at the house, he squatted down so the circle spread out on the ground and looked exactly like a pile of leaves,” says Halpin, who lives in Boscobel, Wisconsin. “It was so darn clever. Wish I had thought of it."
2. Knight in shining armor
Jennifer McGrew, owner of production design company McGrew Studios in Salt Lake City, oversees costume orders and, as a result, has some insight into making light work of heavy armor.
On a cardboard or foam breast plate, for example, make scale mail — an early form of armor resembling dragon or fish scales — by gluing overlapping layers of spade-shaped cardboard pieces. Next, apply silver or metallic spray paint in hodgepodge fashion with a dry brush for a wear-and-tear effect.
Have some extra hours to give your creation? “I've also seen really interesting chain mail made by people who knit,” McGrew says. “And then it's breathable, lightweight and washable."
3. Cosplay characters
With the rise of cosplay — dressing up as a character from a movie, book or video game, especially from the Japanese genres of manga and anime — “the world of commercial patterns has exploded like you wouldn't believe over the past decade,” says McGrew. “And all you'd need are basic sewing skills."
Some of the more popular characters include Himiko Toga or Shoto Todoroki from the series My Hero Academia, and Zuko or Katara from Avatar: The Last Airbender. (You can score points with your grandchildren by being familiar with these characters.)
Pictures from popular television series and movies are also easy to find, though search for look-alike silhouettes because exact designs, program titles and character names are trademarked.
4. Spaghetti with red sauce
Raising four children while working outside the home, Diana Short of Columbus, Ohio, says she “didn't spend a great deal of time or money on costumes."
For this Italian dish, pair a red sweatshirt with red sweatpants. You'll also need white yarn, a colander and Styrofoam balls painted to look like meatballs.
"The yarn can come out of the colander, which can be worn as a hat, and also be pinned and draped over the sweatshirt so it looks like a mess — like it's been dumped out,” says Short, 64. “Then pin or glue on the meatballs."
Another option for a red sweatshirt is to use it as a base for a campfire. Paint paper towel tubes an even darker shade of brown, and “working around the waist, they could be pinned or glued onto the sweatshirt,” says Short.
Then cut orange, red and yellow flames out of felt to rise up from the waist. Again, use pins or glue. Adds Short: “The kiddo could carry a stick with a marshmallow on it."
Toddlers tend to have onesie pajamas, so take advantage of them as a starting point.
"I always found that was the perfect base for any costume,” says Brenda Crimi, 55, from Phoenix.
When her daughter was that age, Crimi dressed her up as a clown. She stitched on pom-poms, made a paper cone hat, and painted her daughter's nose red.
A side perk? “Onesies are easy on and easy off,” she says.
Don't recycle that Amazon box just yet. It could come in handy for a budding astronaut.
"Cut out a space for the face, cover it in white duct tape, and there's your helmet for a space suit,” says Crimi.
Wear white clothing accented with colored duct tape for reflectors or an American flag.
"The beauty of making costumes with duct tape is that you don't have to be a creative genius, you just have to be a taper,” notes Crimi. “All you need is your imagination."