$20 Lady: Halloween costumes, without horrifying prices

Finding affordable costumes for three kids is not at all scary, writes consumer columnist Dara Squires.
These Halloween costumes for young children have very different looks for girls and boys. (Dara Squires)

There’s more than one reason why I always recommend against buying a costume at a Halloween store. There’s the price, of course. You won’t find much for less than $30. With three kids, taxes in (and no accessories as those are sold separately) you’re looking at over $100 just for their costumes.

But price, honestly, is my least concern.

What horrifies me about these stores is the horrendous selection of costumes for young girls. If your daughter is between the ages of six and 12, you have two choices: princess or prostitute.

For girls over 12, it’s even worse. One popular store has an army costume called “Major Flirt” for teen girls.

Teaghan's costume from last year used a clearance-from-last-year dress, a thrift-store tiara and a wig and gloves bought at a dollar store. (Dara Squires)
Granted, there are the occasional acceptable costumes. But when you look at the price that you’ll pay for 100 per cent polyester, poorly-stitched, ill-fitting clothing, it’s a no-brainer.

These costumes actually run — like cheap pantyhose — or tear, or need to be altered, so that you might as well have sewn it from scratch to begin with.

My strategy for Halloween costumes is simple: creativity and simplicity.

My daughter has a trunk full of dress-up clothes: costumes bought on clearance, hand-me-downs from other princesses, things I’ve picked up for free or cheap.

She picked a dress from that collection that’s black and orange. We’ve decided she’s going to be a pumpkin witch. We’re not quite sure what that is, but that’s the beauty of it.

With a little inventiveness we can make a nifty costume that’s both appropriate for her hemline and my budget.

For the boys, I made some suggestions. My eldest is a horror fan. I’m not sure why or how as I don’t let him watch it, but he absorbs it from somewhere.

I suggested Slender Man: a simple black suit, white gloves, white stocking over the face. Instead he said he wanted to be “that killer from The Shining!”

So he’s going to be Jack Torrance. At least he’s a writer …

An easy approach

Jack’s outfit is easy: jeans, plaid shirt, red jacket, axe, snow. We picked up a red jacket at Value Village. He needed a new light jacket anyway. The axe was at the dollar store. And the fake snow is already being sold at the dollar store as well.

My strategy for Halloween costumes is simple: creativity and simplicity.

My youngest was really disappointed that last year’s costume no longer fits. My friend’s son is going as a cat for the fourth year in the row. The younger they are, they more likely you’ll get away with a re-used costume. And if you can, why not?

This year, though, we needed something new. I suggested a bat (easy black clothes and a black umbrella for wings). He suggested a pea shooter from Plants vs Zombies. I suggested Batman (see “bat” above, add dollar store black cat mask).

We settled on minion. Don’t ask me how. So a yellow hoodie from Value Village, a pair of overalls handed down from a friend, black gloves from the winter gear pile and a couple of mason jar lids and electric tape.

All told, so far, I’ve spent $16.57. Even after I pick up the fake snow, I’ll be under the $20 limit for three costumes.

And along the way, in discussing the ideas and choices with others, I’ve also managed to loan out two costumes from my daughter’s dress-up box to other families, saving their budget too!


Dara Squires is a single mother of three, working, living, and scraping by in St. John’s.