Mine your closets, pantry and work bench for costume-crafting inspiration. You might need to make a quick trip to the everything's-a-dollar store for a couple items. But it doesn't take much to pull together a low-cost masquerade with moxie.
Here are a few ideas.
Years ago, I had an egg crate-style, foam, mattress pad I planned to discard. Instead, I cut it in the shape of a long tail and spray-painted it green. I dressed my son in a green sweatsuit, painted his face, tied on the tail with a string, and - roar! - a daunting dinosaur. The tail proved to be durable, holding up to numerous repeat performances over the years.
Got a history buff in the house? Think Abraham Lincoln. A friend of mine was given a beard and a top hat. She added a black jacket, pants and bow tie to create an honest Abe costume for her child. To accessorize, print off a copy of the Gettysburg Address. For a girl, land an Amelia Earhart costume. Don a bomber jacket, a long white scarf, a swim cap with a chin strap and safety goggles, and soar off into the night.
Be a grade-A nerd. Pull a pair of high-water pants up awkwardly high on the waist. Choose a button-down shirt and fasten every last button. Add white socks and grandpa's shoes. Over-gel the hair, and sport dollar-store, dark-rim glasses - taped at the bridge, of course. Carry a pocket protector with plenty of pens. If one is leaking, bonus. A book bag will be perfect for collecting treats.
To create a classic scarecrow, dig up an old pair of jeans and a flannel shirt. Add a rope belt, and tie extra pieces at the wrists and ankle cuffs. Shove some straw or corn stalks in at the seams. Sew on patches and paint on a brightly colored, triangle nose.
Have a taste for the sinister? Dress as a serial killer. Or rather, a "cereal" killer. Use safety pins to attach some individual serving size cereal boxes to a shirt. Gently puncture each box with a plastic knife. Leave the knives protruding from the boxes and reinforce with transparent tape, if necessary. Wrap hidden tips of plastic knives with 4 or 5 squares of duct tape to make them blunter. You probably won't elicit many shrieks of terror, but amused chuckles are guaranteed.
Trick-or-treat, mateys. For a fun, couples costume, round up bandanas to tie around your heads and scare up an eye patch. The woman can wear a ragged-bottom skirt. The guy can cut jagged pant bottoms or tuck loose pants into boots. Make a vest by cutting up an old shirt. Wrap fabric around the waist. Arrr! You're a pair of pirates.
If unique is what you seek, be a load of laundry. Choose a light, inexpensive laundry basket. Cut a circle in the bottom, just wide enough to fit your body through. Tie two pieces of clothesline to the basket like suspenders. The top of the basket should sit near your waist. Now throw some clothes in the basket. Use clothes pins to attach some to yourself and to the clothesline. For collecting candy, use a pillow case or an empty detergent box.
Other easy looks to throw together include a hippie, greaser, hobo, gypsy, baby, tourist, cowboy, construction worker and a gauze mummy. The Internet is rife with fun ideas. Search "Halloween costumes" at sites like inventorspot.com and mnn.com .
And happy trick-or-treating.
Alicia Notarianni is a reporter and feature writer for The Herald-Mail. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .