Sustainable Halloween Costumes

By: Katherine Christopher

Spooky Season is upon us, and the countdown to Halloween has officially begun. Every year, I begin the couples costume discussion with my partner at the beginning of October, only to find that by October 30 neither of us has come up with anything terribly clever to wear at parties or while greeting trick-or-treaters. However, as a self-identified environmentalist, I cannot bring myself to patronize—or even find—my local Spirit Halloween store.  

For anyone in a similar posture (down to party and procrastinate, but unwilling to be wasteful), I’ve brainstormed and polled family and friends to compile a list of the Top Ten* costumes that can be created with items from your closet or around your home.

  1. Superhero Alter Ego: Clark Kent (Superman), Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel), Diana Prince (Wonder Woman)—you get the picture. Bypass buying the plasticky, likely non-rewearable costume, and go as your favorite superhero’s alter ego in their normal human clothes. Fun fact: I went as Carol Danvers in 2019 and did not have to buy a single new item, right down to a Nine Inch Nails shirt. As a bonus, I also found out that I apparently have the same staples in my closet as Kurt Cobain.
  2. Magic Eight Ball: Wear all black items (shirt, pants, shoes; go wild and include gloves and a hat!). Cut a circle out of white paper, draw an “8” on it, and tape it to your stomach. Want to make friends at the party? Write the 8-Ball answers on slips of paper, carry them around in an envelope, and encourage people to ask you questions.
  3. Your Ghost: Dress as yourself (sprinkle some flour in your hair?), but tell people that you are your own ghost. This is a great costume for anyone who is also practicing the Method Acting technique. Don’t want to show your face? The “Bedsheet Ghost” is a fabulous alternative.  
  4. Compost Bin: Start with a neutral palette (black or brown pants and shirt) and affix greens, reds, yellows, browns, etc. to yourself. No need for any of the scraps to look like food, but if you’re going for realism, why not attach actual food scraps from your actual compost bin?** 
  5. Celebrity Who Is Out in Public and Trying Not to Be Seen By the Paparazzi: This is the ultimate excuse to wear your most comfy, baggiest sweats, biggest sunglasses, and a ball cap at a party. As a bonus, after a night of debauchery, you’re already dressed for bed!  
  6. Mid-00s Disney Channel Star: Camouflage! Bright patterns! Boas, Hair ties with fake hair on them! Wear them together! Clash, clash, clash!
  7. Princess Diana: If you’ve got a tiara and ball gown, great, but Princess Di’s real contribution to fashion was her fearless wearing of crew neck sweatshirts, bike shorts, mom jeans, turtle necks, high socks, and tennis shoes out in public. (Just Google her casual outfits.) Incredibly, this could also be a “generic Gen Z” costume.    
  8. Male Millennial White Collar Worker: Blue or white collared shirt; slacks; Patagonia (or other outdoor brand) vest; sneakers. The might-run-away-from-responsibility-and-go-camping look is the unofficial Official Look of financial and legal associates.
  9. Cowboy/cowgirl/cowthey: Keep in mind, there’s no uniform for bull riding. 
  10. Walking Advertisement: Got a “Just Do It” T-shirt? Maybe something with the Adidas branding? What about a bag with a designer logo? Wear it all and call yourself a “Walking Advertisement.” Admittedly, we may be scraping the bottom of the barrel here. 

You might also borrow pieces from friends or family to finish off your costume, or you may consider looking for costume swaps within DC or even hosting one of your own. 

And remember: For many of us, Halloween is really a Hallmark holiday. There are no rules, so wear (within reason) whatever makes you most comfortable!