The keys to an inoffensive last-minute Halloween costume are straightforward: People need to be able to tell what you are, and it has to be something you can pull together quickly using what’s already lying around the house. Googling “last minute DIY costume” will serve you up a bunch of blog posts that assume you have sewing skills, a closet full of feather boas, and access to a generous supply of craft materials.
I am making no such assumptions, because I’m a realist — and not just on Oct. 31. Here are 10 costumes you can toss together just whenever. (Actually 11 — go as the ghost in the header image, but tell everyone it’s an A24 reference; they’ll either appreciate it or punch you in the stomach for being an elitist snob, and either means your costume was a success!)
What you need: An umbrella, some ribbon or strips of fabric or paper, adhesive
A super simple costume that takes about fiveminutes to craft together, your transformation into a jellyfish starts with an umbrella. A clear plastic one is ideal, but not necessary. Attach strips of fabric or ribbon or even paper to the edges, making them long enough to reach the floor if you carry the umbrella. Ta-da! A jellyfish. Don’t look at that picture to the left of this paragraph. That’s a good jellyfish costume. Yours is going to look terrible.
Cereal killer (GET IT? …You get it.)
What you need: Cereal (box optional), knife or other murder-y weapon
Glue a bunch of cereal boxes a shirt. Dab them with red paint. Carry a knife or other weapon. You are a cereal killer. Get it? Of course you do, because this joke is one million years old. So embrace it: Tell people you’re actually going as an unfunny joke. They’ll get it.
QR Code Anything
What you need: A T-shirt and the ability to print a QR code
What’s great about this DIY costume is the interactivity: Print out a QR code and slap it on your shirt. The points you lose due to the very obvious low-effort nature of this costume are made up for when people whip out their phones to try it out. You can make your QR code link to anything, so I suggest picking a plausible phishing scam website. If anyone is dumb enough to fall for it, you can tell them “I guess it turns out you were dressed as an easy mark!” Then run away.
What you need: A large cardboard box, some Solo cups, glue
Find a box large enough to fit over your torso, and at least six plastic Solo cups. Paint your box to match your cups, then cut the tops off the cups. Glue the cup bottoms to the front of your box, cut some arm holes in that sucker, and voila — you are a LEGO brick. Are you also the coolest person at your Halloween party? No, but at least you have a costume.
Bag of ice
What you need: A large clear plastic bag, a bunch of clear plastic sandwich bags, some markers or a printer
If you’re headed to a party, someone’s going to be bringing bags of ice in to cool those adult beverages. But what if the ice was you? Take a large clear plastic bag and either draw or print and paste the logo from a bag of ice onto the front. Cut out some arm and leg holes so you can wear it like a onesie. Inflate and fill your bag with clear balloons, if you happen to have a bunch lying around like a weirdo, or use sandwich bags. For the entire evening, you are only allowed to speak in ice puns cribbed from Batman & Robin. (“Cool party!”)
What you need: A t-shirt, a marker, and a bunch of lemons
Is it dumb? Yes. In fact, this one crosses the line from merely stupid to ingeniously, terribly, irresistibly dumb. Print the word LIFE on a T-shirt. Carry around a bag of lemons. When people ask you what you’re supposed to be, hand them a lemon. That’s it, that’s the costume. I’m not sure how you’re going to explain it once you are covered in bruises after so many people have whipped the lemons directly at your face. You figure it out.
A 40-year-old movie reference
What you need: A white dress shirt, tighty-whities, socks, a candlestick, sunglasses
Pop culture costumes are risky in the streaming age because there’s no longer a monoculture guaranteeing everyone will know what you’re supposed to be. So go as something really old, like Tom Cruise dancing in his underwear in the film Risky Business. (I initially referred to this movie as being 30 years old, but sorry, it’s actually nearly four decades old.) Plus, it’s the easiest costume in the universe: Just take off your pants, put on a pair of socks, white underpants, and a dress shirt, and be prepared to dance on command. Sunglasses are optional: Cruise doesn’t actually wear his iconic Wayfarers in the underwear dancing scene.
A 20-year-old movie reference
What you need: A suit, a red necktie, an ax, a rain poncho, fake blood
If Risky Business is too dated for you or you just don’t feel comfortable leaving the house dressed as Tom Cruise not wearing pants, go as Patrick Bateman from the film American Psycho instead. It’s much newer. (Wait, American Psycho is 20 years old? Fuck.)
Anyway all it takes is a suit, a red tie, and a rain poncho — ideally one of clear plastic, but work with what you’ve got. While I wouldn’t recommend carrying around a real axe, it does sort of complete the look. Finish with a smear of fake blood to the face, and load the Wikipedia page for Huey Lewis and the News on your phone so you can read it to everyone you meet.
What you need: A white T-shirt, a fabric marker or a printer
Find a white T-shirt and either draw or print a variation on the WWW 404 error page (the Google 404 is a classic), except instead of “page not found” you write “costume not found.” Isn’t that hilarious? Everyone who sees you will be laughing so hard. More like “404: Bad costume idea not found!”
What you need: A roommate or close friend
The concept is simple: You wear a friend’s clothes and adopt their mannerisms. They do the same for you. You’re a matched set: Two friends dressing up as each other. Except this isn’t actually a friend costume, it’s a #humblebrag costume. “Look at me, I’m an adult with a friend willing to dress up as me, and apparently enough other friends who know us both and will appreciate the joke!” Brag, why don’t you.
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