The Spooktacular Guide to Thrifting Your Halloween Costume

Tight budget making you scream? You can still have a spooky good time this Halloween. Just head to your local thrift store!

Thrift stores are treasure troves of odds and ends. Between the clothing, accessories, bedding, and decor, you can find all the elements you need to put together a DIY Halloween costume. Plus, hunting down hidden treasures to create a unique look makes Spooky Season even more fun!

Not much of a thrifter? No worries — we've got some tips on thrifted costume shopping and how you can put together a one-of-a-kind Halloween look for $20 or less. Keep reading to learn more!

Halloween costume thrifting tips

Before you head to that first secondhand shop, you need a clear idea of the look you want to create. Research costume ideas in advance so you can make a list of specific items you need. This will help you stay focused and avoid impulse purchases.

Here are some things to keep in mind when thrifting for Halloween costumes:

Start thrifting early

Thrift stores can be hit or miss, so give yourself plenty of time to search for the perfect pieces. The earlier in the season you can start shopping, the better your chances of finding what you need.

Think outside the box

Don't limit yourself to the clothing section. Explore every aisle and consider how you might utilize different items in unconventional ways. For example, a chipped vase from the home goods section makes an excellent treasure hunter prop. Just add some gold metallic craft paint!

Remember, a little creativity can turn unexpected items into the perfect addition to your costume.

Be flexible

While you want a clear idea of which items to look for, it's okay to have a few different costumes in mind. Flexibility is key when thrifting for your Halloween costume.

Let's say you walk into the store with a witch's costume in mind. You can't find a black dress that fits, but you spy a striped, red-and-white shirt. Add a thrifted tablecloth you can cut into a headscarf and a pair of black boots you already own, and you've got a pirate's costume!

Don't be afraid to ask for help

Thrift store employees see a lot of inventory come through and may be able to offer costume suggestions. If you're looking for a particular piece, they can point you in the right direction or even recommend an alternative item.

And don't hesitate to ask friends and family members to help you shop. Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes can spot a potential gem that you might have missed!

Challenge your friends and family

If you're throwing a Halloween party, challenge your guests to show up in DIY costumes made from thrifted items. You might go a step further and set a $20 limit to see who can be the most resourceful and creative!

5 thrift store costume ideas under $20

When you utilize pieces that you already own and thrift for the rest, you can easily put together an amazing costume for under $20. Need a little inspiration? Consider some of the following thrifted costume ideas for your next Halloween party:

1950s sock hop

The trendiest high school event of the 1950s was the sock hop. This iconic dance was often held in school cafeterias and gymnasiums, so to protect the flooring, teens were required to remove their shoes before dancing — hence the name sock hop.

To recreate the look, shop for retro-inspired items like a plaid knee-length skirt, plain knit top, white button-down blouse, or cardigan. Vintage accessories are key. Cat-eye glasses, lace-trimmed socks, and saddle shoes add an authentic touch that's unmistakable. And for the finishing touch, pin or sew a poodle appliqué onto your skirt to really embrace the sock hop theme.

For a masculine look, shop for high-waisted pants, penny loafers, and a button-down shirt. You might even opt for the greaser aesthetic with a white t-shirt, leather jacket, and Converse sneakers.

Disco king/queen

Thrift stores are where to shop if you want to create any kind of '70s look. Boho prints, fringe leather, and ripped denim are in ample supply, making it easy to put together a hippie costume. But there's another 1970s aesthetic that's perfect for a Halloween party: disco!

For a disco king, bell-bottom pants are a must. Pair them with a bold, button-up shirt (preferably one with sequins or a metallic hue). Accessories are key to completing this look, so search for oversized sunglasses and a flashy belt to add a touch of retro coolness.

Disco queens typically wore short, glittery dresses or jumpsuits that sparkled under the disco lights. Look for dresses in vibrant colors like purple or gold to really embrace the disco vibe. Complete the look with a pair of platform heels and you're ready for the dance floor!

Vintage Hollywood starlet

The Golden Age of Hollywood is a source of inspiration that will never go out of style. Think flowy satin gowns, double-breasted suits, and head-to-toe formalwear with all the glamorous accessories.

For example, you might emulate Audrey Hepburn with a classic black sheath dress, long gloves, pearls, and a tiara. If you prefer to create your own red-carpet look, thrift stores usually have a nice selection of prom dresses and wedding gowns.

Treasure hunter

Most secondhand shops have all the pieces you need to throw together an Indiana Jones-inspired treasure hunter outfit. Just sort through the selection of khaki shirts and pants, brown leather jackets, crossbody canvas bags, and belts. The key to this look is a well-worn fedora hat, but almost any brimmed hat will do in a pinch.

There are multiple options for creating the character's iconic leather whip. Look for a well-worn purse with a thin strap you can cut off and repurpose as the prop. If you can't find a suitable purse strap, try a jump rope. Simply cut off the handle at one end and paint the rope dark brown.

Tacky tourist

A comical twist on the stereotypical tourist, this costume can be a mismatch of prints and accessories. Hawaiian shirts are a great place to start, but you can also sort through all the discarded souvenir t-shirts from popular tourist destinations. You might add a pair of cargo shorts, knee-high socks, boat shoes, a bucket hat, a fanny pack, and a guidebook for the full effect.

If you're lucky, you might even score a pair of binoculars or an old camera with a neck strap!

Take the $20 thrift store costume challenge

Thrift stores are a sustainable way to find unique and affordable Halloween costumes. With a little planning and creativity, you can put together a one-of-a-kind costume for under $20.

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start thrifting! And check out our Money Tips blog for more tricks on balancing your family's finances this holiday season.

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