Costumes on a budget

Connection staff writer Will Grubb takes you through how to find a cheap Halloween costume by searching through local thrift shops


Will Grubb

A various assortment of costume hats sold at the Goodwill on Florin Road.

If the prospect of an extended U.S. government shutdown causing the nation to default on its foreign loans isn’t scary enough, consider this: while government funds are essentially tied up by the ghouls in Congress, Americans are projected to spend $2.6 billion on Halloween costumes this October, according to the National Retail Federation.

Many people around the nation may have plenty of disposable income to spend on professionally made bearfaced leotards or maroon three piece suits a la Ron Burgundy, but chances are, if you’re a college student living on a tight budget, spending $40 or more on an outfit you will wear once a year isn’t in your best interests.

So why not make a costume yourself?

The Sacramento region has an abundance thrift stores, from the many Goodwills and Thrift Towns to smaller locations such as Deseret Industries Thrift Store or The Firefly Exchange, there is no shortage of potential secondhand costumes.

Heading to one of these locations and making your own costume offers several advantages. Aside from the low cost, thrifting a costume sets you apart. Rather than having a cookie cutter, mass produced costume, thrifting allows for a unique look that no one else will have.

Many major thrift shops have entire Halloween selections that not only rival stores such as Spirit Halloween in variety, but in price as well.

Racks of jackets, blazers, dress shirts, pants and vests lead to possibilities of scurvy ridden pirates, well dressed 1920’s mobsters or drunken ad men.

Ladies looking for a classier look can find an abundance of dresses, high heels and inexpensive jewelry or feathers that make looking like Audrey Hepburn, Jackie O or a flapper as simple as spending 30 minutes sifting through racks of clothes.

For those looking to wear less, dressing like Miley Cyrus or LMFAO’s Redfoo is as simple as finding a pair of white leggings, leopard print pants, a crop top or muscle shirt.

Perhaps you want to go for a more frightening look. Becoming a zombie for the night is as easy as buying the cheapest shirt and pants you can find, ripping them up and applying some face makeup and fake blood.

Because many thrift stores offer used Halloween costumes (or parts of costumes) during the month of October, finding clothes that look less like your grandma’s wardrobe and more like party going attire is not difficult.

A vampire can be achieved by getting one’s hands on a cape, black slacks, and a frilled shirt. Ladies can exchange the slacks and shirt for a simple black dress.

If you’re looking for a masked costume thrift stores provide options, and while they may not be as varied as the mask wall at Evangeline’s Costume Mansion, it is still possible to don a Darth Vader or Jason Voorhees mask.

Accessories are what make a costume truly stand out and thrift stores provide, as they are teeming with various hats, necklaces, bracelets, belts and oddball items that can make a costume truly unique.

For example, becoming Heisenberg requires only a porkpie hat, an old pair of reading glasses, fake mustache and a black jacket, no chemistry experience required. To complete the look head to a gas station and buy some rock candy, take out the blue pieces and place them in a plastic baggie.

When it comes to searching for a thrifty costume, go in knowing what look you’re going for and what items you will need to achieve that look. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t find what you want right away, as gems often take time to discover.