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How-To: DIY Halloween Costumes

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Let’s face it: Every college student wants to have the best Halloween costume. Whether it’s the scariest, sexiest, funniest, most creative or most authentic, Halloween is a time to create a look that people will notice and remember. Especially in college, Halloween is a highly anticipated event. Multiple parties are thrown throughout the span of the entire weekend and it’s key to be able to attend each party looking fabulous and memorable. According to Barnes and Noble College, 62 percent of college students attend at least one Halloween party; and 62 percent wear a Halloween costume. But unfortunately, these looks come at a very high price. Stores like Party City sell costumes for up to $136.00. That’s before hair, makeup and add-on accessories. A UAlbany senior, Helena Cosenza, said, “I love Halloween; it’s my favorite time of the year! But I hate spending so much money on things I know I’ll never wear again.” Well, thankfully, DIY costumes exist! And the best part? Many of the items and materials used to make these costumes are already in your closet, or can be purchased for a very low price. The power of measly bandanas, Sharpie markers, poster paper, cardboard boxes or the old t-shirt you never thought you’d wear again is endless. Whether you’re a college student who’s short on cash or a creative fashion-junkie who strives to be different, here’s how to make Halloween a fashion statement at home for less.

Rosie the Riveter:

Rosie the Riveter is a timeless cultural icon. For decades, women have been dressing up as Rosie the Riveter to represent strength, equality and feminism. Here’s how to become your very own ‘Rosie’ for less:

  • Wear a blue button-up shirt and roll up the sleeves up to your forearm.
  • Find a red bandana.
  • Curl your hair (including the front pieces) then tie it into a bun high on your head, leaving out the front curls. Wrap the bandana around the top of your head, and twirl the leftover pieces into a 1940’s wave to create the authentic look.
  • Wear any dark-colored pants (navy blue or black) and pair with black boots or dark sneakers and red socks.
  • Top off the look with black winged eyeliner, blood-red lipstick and mascara.
  • If you feel like going the extra mile, create a “We Can Do It!” sign using poster board, a dark blue Sharpie and a yellow Sharpie marker. Cut out the middle of the poster board (like a frame) and color the outside of the frame with the yellow marker. The top of the frame should read “We Can Do It!” in white, outlined in dark blue.
  • Hold your “frame” around your face and voilà, you’re finished!


Instagram is the most popular social media app for college students. As many college students say, “do it for the gram,” meaning whatever cool thing you’re doing must be posted on Instagram for everyone to see (or there is no proof it really happened). Both men and women can wear this costume! Here’s how to bring your Instagram page to life:

  • Grab a piece of cardboard, blue paint and white paint.
  • Paint the top three inches of the board blue, and write “Instagram” in white cursive letters.
  • Use a small wallet-sized photo of yourself on the left side below the blue paint with your Instagram name written in larger blue letters next to it
    • ex) LauraMuller95
  • Directly across from your name on the right side in gray marker, write (insert any #) m, to show how many minutes your photo has been posted.
  • Cut out the center square of the board like a window for your face.
  • Below the window, draw a small gray heart with the words (insert any #) likes and below that, write your caption (#HalloweenSelfie).
  • Below the caption, draw a small gray rectangular button that says “Like” and another that says “Comment”.
  • Your Instagram costume is finished!

Starbucks Coffee:

Ahhhh, the sweet first sip of Starbucks coffee. Whether you’re male or female, everyone loves a good frappuccino, pumpkin spiced latte or just plain coffee from Starbucks. Become your favorite drink in these easy steps:

  • Print out a large Starbucks logo in color from Google.
  • Find a large, white, flexible poster board and wrap it around you in a circle, fastening with staples or tape.
  • Paste the logo on the front of the board. On the back of the poster, write your name first spelled incorrectly in black, cross it out, and then write it correctly.
    • Ex) LORA  LAURA
  • Cut out a long, narrow strip of poster board and wrap around the top of your “coffee cup” to represent the lid.
  • You can also wear any tan or brown colored dress or shirt and paste the Starbucks logo in the front of your outfit.
  • Wear a white feather boa around your neck to represent whipped cream.
  • You can go to Starbucks and grab a long, green straw and attach it to the top of your head, either in a ponytail or taped to a headband or barrette.

Three Hole Punch Jim:

Anyone who watches the beloved comedy The Office knows Jim Halpert, played by John Krasinski. His simple yet clever Halloween costume from season two was iconic. Guys, this outfit is strictly for you!

  • Wear a plain, white button-down collared shirt.
  • Pair the shirt with a dark tie, black pants, a black belt, and black dress shoes.
  • Cut out three, medium sized circles on black construction paper.
  • Tape the three circles vertically on the right side of your body.
  • Top the look off with a white coffee cup. If you want to go the extra mile, print a “Dunder Mifflin” logo from Google, and tape it to the coffee cup.

Classic Sexy Cat:

Halloween comes and goes, and each and every year, we see at least 100 sexy cat costumes. This idea is timeless, and somehow always works! There are many ways to take on this look; here’s one:

  • Wear all one color, preferably black. This could mean a black skirt with a black shirt or tank top, a black dress, or my favorite-black leather leggings and a black bodysuit to go on top. If you choose to show your legs, make sure you wear black fishnet stockings; they are super sexy!
  • Hair should be down and sexy, either big curls or blown out with lots of volume (use hairspray or dry shampoo if your hair lacks body)
  • Purchase a set of cat ears- they are sold at every costume or drug store around Halloween time. They come in many forms, just plain black or sometimes glitter ears work.
  • Eye makeup should be dark and smoky looking, with winged eyeliner to create the “cat-eye” look. You should also extend your eyeliner to the inner corner of your eye. Use dark gray or black eyeshadow and blend in the corners.
  • Now it’s time for your whiskers-first, draw an upside down triangle at the bridge of your nose in black. Then, in the space between your lips and your nose, draw four horizontal lines on each side to create your whiskers. You can also add a few dots on your upper lip in black, pink or white.
  • Light pink lips are usually good, but some choose to go with red lips or even black.
  • Any black sexy shoe will do with this outfit. Many opt to wear black pumps, but tall black boots also work.

Well, there you have it:  five step-by-step costumes you can make at home, in your apartment or your dorm room. There are many, many more costumes you can make at home for less. It doesn’t take a whole lot of cash to create the perfect witch, Barbie, nerd or cowboy. With a little bit of imagination and creativity (and access to the internet) you can accomplish anything! With Halloween just over two weeks away, it’s time to get crafting!

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