How To Make Your Crappy Halloween Costume Look Amazing

How To Make Your Crappy Halloween Costume Look Amazing
Image: Getty Images

Did you order a Halloween costume online, only for it to turn up looking somewhat less inspiring than the photo on the website suggested? Or do you just need that little bit extra to push you over the edge in your favourite bar’s costume competition? Here’s how to make your costume look way better in no time at all.

Costuming, once you have the main pieces down, is all in the details. It’s these little details that can make or break a costume, and even make a satin Halloween confection look like it came out of the HBO costume department. Here’s what you can do to improve your simple costume, ordered from least to most effort.


Makeup is the easiest way to make yourself look amazing in your costume – and yes, this goes for men too. Go all out on a gothy look to match your vampire outfit, or apply as much glitter as you can to complete your fairy queen look.

If you’re being a grungy character like a battle-worn warrior or post-apocalyptic survivor, fake some dirt smudges across your face, chest, arms, basically anywhere with skin showing. Just make sure you use makeup for this, not real dirt, for everybody else’s sake.

For gory costumes, there’s literally no such thing as too much blood. Splash that on! Scars and cuts can be faked easily with a line of red lipstick pencil, some light red/pink eyeshadow shaded around the edge for realism, then a thin line of fake blood applied along the cut.

If you can pick up any prosthetic pieces from a costume or craft store, these always make a splash: think noses, ears, horns or grisly scars.

Remember, makeup isn’t just for your face – you can also paint markings on your body to add more visual interest to a viking costume or a tribal warrior, or just use bronzer to better define abs and cleavage in more revealing costumes.

Hell, if you’re good enough at makeup it can basically become your whole costume:


Unless you’re buying super deluxe versions, Halloween costumes are usually pretty scanty on the accessories. Don’t be afraid to add your own, however!

If you’re doing a fantasy or medieval type character, go crazy with leather belts, or any other accessories in leather you might have: high boots, cuffs, gloves, whatever you have lying around. Add jewelery sparsely, and in gold rather than silver. Anything with big inset gems (or ‘gems’) is ideal for a ye olde look.

Finish off exotic or glamourous costumes with piles of jewellery – pearls, gold bangles, diamantes, whatever you have. A trip for some cheap costume jewellery never goes awry.

Check around your house for decor that could be used as accessories – a sword-shaped letter opener as your belt dagger, perhaps, or a fancy antique-looking jug for Cleopatra to poison her enemies with.

If your arms or legs look too ‘bare’ when you try on the whole costume, try adding easy arm/leg wraps. Ribbons work for fancy/pretty characters, while you can wrap pressure bandages or coarse cloth for fighters or rogues.


Halloween costumes don’t always fit like they’re made for you, and sometimes they don’t even fit like the size they’re meant to be. Fixing the fit will make it look 100% better, however.

If you have a sewing machine, take the time to pull the seams in to be tight on your waist and anywhere else it should be tight (no one likes a baggy Catwoman, after all). If you need a bit of extra length or girth, take out the seam as far as you can.

If you don’t have a sewing machine, or the knowledge to operate one, it’s fine! Safety pins will do you just as good for this one night, or you can use a strategic belt to make sure your waist is pulled in nicely.

Heels or platform shoes are basically a must for leggy costumes. You want your legs to look nice and elongated, which heels easily fake.


If you really want to make sure your costume looks the best, it’s time for some DIY.

Simple costumes can be jazzed up with the addition of store-bought trim at strategic places, usually around hems and cuffs. Pick sequins for more modern costumes, and fringe, embroidery or ribbon on more traditional looks. You can either glue or sew these on, depending on your skill level and how much you can be bothered to do things properly.

To add depth and detail to flat-looking costumes, try drybrushing some paint around the seams and edges to make it look more lived-in and 3D. You can also use paint to add dirt and grime.


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