Halloween How-To: Transforming Old Clothes Into New Costumes

Costuming is the Halloween DIY I have the most fun with.  My love of creating my own costumes was born of necessity combined with my natural creativity.

When I was growing up,  we were poor. Not dirt poor, more like we could not go out and buy whatever we wanted. Extras had to be budgeted in and planned for and if they weren't necessary they weren't happening. My mom worked 2 and 3 jobs to keep us afloat. But to make ends meet and dollars stretch many things were often DIY projects. 

Halloween costumes were one of those things. Which was fine by me. I hated the cheap plastic crap the stores sold. The costumes were hot, itchy, and usually fell apart before trick or treating was half way over and they never had what I wanted anyway.  

My imagination is big- especially when it comes to my things. I envision what I want my costumes to look like. So, of course, no one ever has something on the rack ready to go that even comes close to my vision.

I remember the first costume my mom made for me was a ghost. Basic white sheet and pillow case but somehow she made it look classy and thank goodness not like I was headed to a clansman meeting (yikes).

My next DIY was a witch costume. We found an old black dress, purchased a basic witch hat, and she made me a black cape with orange and yellow fringe, candy corn colors.

In middle school I made my own witch/sorceress costume from an old back dress. I cut the bottom into spiky strips and used silver fabric paint and glitter to glam and ghoul it up a bit.

In high school my mom made me the most gorgeous belly dancer/harem girl costume. Red pants, red and gold vest and gold bikini style top. I found gold sandals at Goodwill and accessories here and there. It was incredible. I still have it tucked away in my closet.

Unfortunately I do not have my mom's sewing skills and with her arthritis and two surgeries for carpal tunnel she's not sewing anything these days either. 

But I am clever and I improvise. Many of my costume creations are no sew. Some don't even require revamping. I just search resale stores, Etsy, eBay and online marketplaces for pieces that I can put together to make my "vision" a reality.

I have learned to remake old clothes into costumes with minimal sewing skills and a ton of creativity.

For the Witches Ball 2018 I reworked a skirt and an old dress into a ruffled bustle overskirt similar to my steampunk creation.

I started with a skirt I found on eBay and a dress I found at the Salvation Army.

The dress was perfect with it's asymmetrical hemline because when I turned it sideways I had a perfect ruffle bustle with a waterfall pointed shape. I cut it down the side seam, removed the zipper, cut the bust portion off the top, turned the fabric down to create a wide band and glued it with fabric glue.

I cut the red skirt down the seam, removed the zipper and glued on black hemline fabric to keep the fabric from fraying and falling apart. Then I glued black lace all along the edge.

I attached the two pieces together with buttons. I cut button holes and stitched on buttons. This was the only sewing I did on this costume. On my steampunk one I sewed everything- the lace trim, the bustle, all of it. Sewed by hand. But my hands were hurting and stiff from my Fibromyalgia and I just didn't have the time to even try sewing it all. So I used fabric glue which I had used on another skirt and it came out great. However I purchased a different brand this time and was not happy with the results.

Do not use any fabric glue other than Liquid Stitch. Everything else is crap. This garbage I used on this costume made everything hard as a rock and left white residue on everything. Dries clear, my ass. Liquid Stitch actually does dry clear. From now on I will make sure to keep Liquid Stitch on hand.

I sprayed the entire costume down with silver fabric glitter to try to hide some of the reside the glue left behind. 

This bustle/overskirt combo was worn over a black skirt I found at a local resale shop for $4. Score. I added buttons to the black skirt- two in front and one in the back, to attach the heavy overskirt. It worked beautifully.

I was a bit upset that the bustle/overskirt wasn't "perfect".

But when I put it on with all the other costume items it was absolutely stunning. I loved it.  All my effort paid off.

DIY Costume - Fortnite Skull Trooper

My youngest child waited until the last minute to decide he wanted to be Fortnite's Skull Trooper this past Halloween.

Skull Trooper Character in Fortnite

Of course Spirit Halloween was sold out and there was no way I was going to pay upwards of $100 for a cheaply made polyester and plastic costume on eBay that may or may not have been the actual licensed one that Spirit had been selling.

Spirit Halloween Costume

So I scrounged around to see what I could come up with for making a DIY Skull Trooper. 

Luckily we had an old skull mask in the Halloween boxes. 

I also found a black scarf, white hoodie, skeleton gloves ($1 from Dollar Tree- I buy several pair of their Halloween skeleton gloves every year), a pouch for his side that he put on a belt he had in his drawer.

I also found some dog tags with skulls on them leftover from one of my daughter's birthday parties many years ago. So I spray painted those silver.

I kept checking Spirit Halloween for Skull Trooper items because my son was heart set on having the actual Skull Trooper mask.

Towards the middle of October they finally got more masks in. I ordered one. Then the order was cancelled because they ran out. Then they got in a half costume- mask and muscle shirt. But I didn't trust it would come in since I had already had 3 orders cancelled by Spirit because they ran out of items.

So I kept looking for alternatives.

I found the skeleton suit at Wal-Mart for $5.

Then we borrowed a pair of military boots from a friend.

He was all set to wear the skull mask we had with his skeleton suit and a white hoodie underneath for Halloween ( though he wasn't happy about it) but thank the gods, the Spirit Halloween Skull Trooper mask was finally delivered. Two days before Halloween.

So this was his finished costume. He was super happy. He got to be Skull Trooper and received many high fives and compliments while out trick or treating.

Was mom happy? Eh. Not happy about paying $30+ for that mask.

Remember the old masks from the 80s? Brittle plastic that was easily crushed and broken?

Yeah, that's what this mask is like just with a cloth hood attached instead of painful elastic that usually broke in 2.4 seconds. 

The eye holes were tiny. I had to cut the holes bigger so he could even see out of them before going trick or treating.

But the fact that he was happy made it all worth while.

Freaky Flint History with Joe Schipani - When the Cow’s Come Home December 12th, 1921

Flint is well known for its modern violent crimes but Flint's history is filled with little known stories that read stranger than fiction. Gruesome murders, weird accidents, and violent deaths. Join us every Thursday as Joe Schipani details some of the odd but true deaths he found in Flint's archives.

When the Cow’s Come Home December 12th, 1921

This story starts with an incident that happened just after Thanksgiving Day.

Two young men, Charles Austin and Clifford Thorpe worked for Paul De Lisle, a well-established cattle buyer. De Lisle was accused of shorting the two young men some of the pay they were owed.

A week later the two men, who still worked for Mr. DeLisle, decided to steal the money since the rich cattle buyer did not give them what he promised. After a couple days De Lisle realized the money was missing. He accused the two young men of stealing it.

The arguing and fighting went on for over a week. De Lisle threatened the young men with garnishing it out of their next pay. That only made the situation worse. He then threatened to have them arrested. That scared the Charles and Clifford enough to stop the arguing.
On Saturday December 12th, the two men came to De Lisle’s home on Twelfth Street to pick up their pay. De Lisle made good on his promise and garnished the stolen money. They left angry, but not before stealing De Lisle’s bottle of whiskey.

Charles and Clifford took the bottle of whiskey to the barn where they could enjoy the hooch when they noticed a bottle of carbonic acid. They drank the whiskey and replaced it with the acid. They took the bottle back to De Lisle’s home.

Walking in they found the older man was sitting alone at the kitchen table. They told him they wanted to bury the hatchet.

Charles went to the cupboard, grabbed a glass and poured the man a drink. De Lisle drank it down, got up, thanked the two men and went into the other room and sat on a rocking chair.

They turned to leave when another employee showed up at the house to collect his pay. Charles and Clifford continued on their way but the other employee came running out of the house screaming that their boss is dead.

Charles and Clifford didn’t know what to do so they stayed and pretended to be shocked by what happened. The other employee ran next door to get Paul De Lisle’s brother.

When the police arrived they first thought De Lisle had died from drinking illegal whisky that was bad. Then they found the cup that smelled like acid.

Charles and Clifford were brought down to the station for questioning and finally confessed after hours of interrogation. The men were tried and convicted of murder.

Lloyd Lash, who sold the whisky to De Lisle, was arrested and charged with violation of prohibition laws.

~ Joe Schipani is the Executive Director of the Flint Public Art Project and the FFAR Project Assistant at the Community Foundation of Greater Flint.  Find him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/HauntedFlint/ 

Valentine Gifts for Vampire Lovers

Are you looking for Valentine's Day gifts with bite?

Then look no further.

Here a few bloody good gifts your love can really sink their teeth into.

Just click the image and it'll take you to the Amazon listing.