Homemade Halloween costumes are taken pretty seriously in our family (as you may have noticed from my previous posts) but last year was much more challenging than prior years. I blame my six-year-old for that. Seriously.
Charlie had finally reached that age where he actually had an opinion of his own, which resulted in costume theme decisions becoming a round table discussion. The theme that particular year changed FOUR TIMES before settling on one that was “too awesome” (in Charlie’s words) to drop: The Hobbit. Still, the initial decision is always the easy part of the process. Costuming three kids on NO budget takes a lot of work (and not just on my part) which you’ll see firsthand because I’m about to walk you through my costuming process.
After the costume theme decision was finally agreed upon, a supply list was written. To cut costs, I try to think of specific clothing items that could be altered or alternative sources of fabric (eg: Finding a used curtain to repurpose instead of buying expensive fabric by the yard) to use. The list is then shared with close friends and family so I have several eyes watching thrift shops, garage sales and fabric stores for the materials and items that I need.
Sometimes I get lucky and someone has one of the list materials sitting around that they donate to the project. For example, a close friend gave us three items this year when I posted a desperate plee on Facebook. I can’t begin to tell you what a relief that was.
Once the materials have been acquired, the assembly process begins. This is always a mixed bag of projects for me, depending on what needs to be done to minimize making additional purchases. Below is a complete list of the cost of materials and explanations of the process involved to create each costume:
Supplies for the Gandalf Costume:
○ $0. Gray queen size bedsheet set, donated by friend.
○ $4. Two yards gray fleece, purchased on sale and with a coupon.
○ $3. Notions: Gray nylon strap and D-rings (used for belt) and clasp for cape.
○ $1. Witch hat from the dollar store.
○ $1. Gray gloves from the dollar store.
○ $4. Gray beard costume accessory.
Gandalf Total Cost: $13
The Gandalf costume process
This costume involved an incredible amount of sewing. I couldn’t afford sewing patterns though, so I hit the internet for resources. For the hooded cape, I did an altered version of the Fast Hooded Cape tutorial and free pattern I found on FleeceFun.com. I used the rounded hood from their free pattern for the Red Riding Hood Cape though, but without the liner. I also left the bottom of the cape squared instead of rounding the edges.
I couldn’t find a free pattern for the robe but I did find this YouTube video with a tutorial for making fast no-sew biblical robes. I used the same technique but I actually sewed the seams and finished the hems on the one I made. I made it extra wide too, so the gandalf robe would have a gathered effect at the waist once the belt was put on. Ironically, I made it so big that my husband wore it as a shirt for a pre-Halloween event at his work, along with the beard, hat and cape. He got a lot of laughs.
I had to kinda “wing it” for the hat. I bought a basic witch hat at the dollar store and spent about 45 minutes tracing it to create a cover from the same fleece I used for the hooded cape. I free-handed the point of the hat and over-sized the cone base to get a bit of a wrinkle in hopes of better resembling Gandalf’s hat instead of a witch hat.
For Gandalf’s accessories, I bought a short length of gray nylon strap and a couple D-rings at the fabric store, singed the cut ends with a match and sewed them together to make a belt. I ended up buying the beard because I found one cheaper than the price of the yarn or gray long plush fur that I would otherwise need to make one. I also considered scouting for a branch to use as Gandalf’s wood staff but then realized A) I would end up carrying it the entire time we’re trick-or-treating, and B) At some point it would probably be used as a weapon against (or by) the younger siblings. So yeah, I noped out of that idea pretty fast!
Supplies for the Bilbo Baggins Costume:
○ $0.50 Khaki pants at garage sale.
○ $2. Yellow dye.
○ $0.50 White collared shirt from thrift shop.
○ $0. Hand-me-down vest from friend.
○ $1. Burgundy craft paint.
○ $0. Jacket leftover from his brother’s Halloween 2012 “Once-ler” costume.
○ $0. My brown hair scarf.
○ $3. Costume accessory elf ears (applied with eyelash glue).
○ $4. Costume accessory Hobbit shoe covers
Bilbo Baggins Total Cost: $11
The Bilbo Baggins costume process
The nice part about this costume is that it didn’t take much sewing. It did, however, require unusual alterations of common clothing items which ended up taking significantly more work than the entire Gandalf costume.
I found a basic button-front collared shirt, for example, but I had to remove the collar:
We had been given a tan colored vest by a friend whose son had outgrown it. Originally I had just planned to use it as a pattern to make a new vest once I found the right fabric but the right fabric turned out to be too pricey. I was forced to improvise.
Changing the vest color was an experimental process. I couldn’t afford replacement fabric. I couldn’t dye it because the fabric was a synthetic nylon. So I did the logical thing: I bought a $1 bottle of acrylic paint… and prayed.
By some act of God it actually worked. Even though I used a matte paint, the end result was still a little on the shiny side. Nobody seemed to notice or care though.
I got lucky with the coat too since big brother Charlie had dressed as the Once-ler for our Lorax themed Halloween a few years prior. So I had already sewn a long green corduroy jacket in exactly the size JD then wore. SCORE!
The rest of the costume was a snap. I altered the khakis into capris, hemmed them and dyed them yellow. Everything else I purchased. I was lucky to find the shoe covers and hobbit ears on Amazon for a quarter of the price in-store. The prices actually went up a week later!
The sword in the picture was tossed last minute, and for the same reasons I voted against giving Gandalf a staff. Kids + toy weapons = No bueno.
Supplies for the Smaug Costume:
○ $0. Onesie donated by a friend.
○ $0. Leggings donated by a friend.
○ $0. Hoodie that we already owned.
○ $1. Ribbon for tutu.
○ $3. Two spools of tulle for tutu.
○ $3. 1/2 yard red sparkle fabric with coupon at Joann Fabrics.
○ $1. 1/2 yard black fleece at Walmart.
○ $1. Dollar store fairy wings.
Smaug Total Cost: $9
This costume was a challenge because Smaug is a big terrifying dragon… but I still wanted my baby girl to wear a costume she would actually love. And Evie is a princess among princesses, to say the least. The solution was to make a “cute-ified” version of Smaug and nothing is cuter than a tutu! Unfortunately tutus are incredibly expensive. Luckily I fould this free tutorial for making no-sew tutus online. I found clearance ribbon at Walmart and super cheap rolls of tulle on Ebay for the materials. In the end, it looks adorable… but the process was tedious. Next time I’ll just sew a tutu!!!
To cut costs, we altered a hoodie that Evie already owned. I tried to find an affordable red hoodie but when my search proved fruitless I decided to alter the black one we already had and use the flashiest red fabric I could find. I was very happy with the results.
For the wings, I found Halloween themed angel wings -or should I say bat wings?- at the dollar store.
I made the tail with a bit of discount fleece I found at Walmart and made it attach with velcro so the wings could go right under the tail on the back of the hoodie.
Other than that, she wore a red long sleeved onesie (in case the hoodie got too hot) and black leggings. Easy peasy!