Eletiofe How to Shop for Halloween Costumes in This Bizarre...

How to Shop for Halloween Costumes in This Bizarre Year

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I always dress up on Halloween, and no pandemic is going to stop me this year—even if all I do is sit on my couch and watch horror movies. We’ve rounded up the best costume buying advice so it won’t stop you either, including options for those who use wheelchairs or who want to make a costume themselves.

Not sure what to be? Perhaps you want to go as someone from the 1920s teetering on the edge of financial depression (too close to home?). Just please avoid (and I mean seriously, don’t do it) offensive stereotypes. Races and cultures are not costumes.

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Where to Find Simple All-In-One Costumes

Photograph: Party City 

Sometimes you just want to buy a costume in a bag with accessories included. If you’re not the biggest fan of Halloween, start here.

You can find costume retailers like Party City and Spirit across the country, and they have pretty good online selections. A lot of these costumes are pricey, but they’re easy if you’re dressing a child with high expectations of being a specific character. Party City does have some $10 kids costumes, if you’re not looking for anything in particular. Although fast fashion site Shein is often rightfully criticized, it has similar adult options as those stores usually at the price they’re actually worth given the quality.

Consider checking TJ Maxx for cheaper options, too. Target and Walmart have a small Halloween section to choose from, as does Amazon. If you just want A Costume, you can find one almost anywhere in October.

Where to Find Accessible Costumes

Photograph: Target

There are many kids who use wheelchairs or walkers, and have varying sensory or medical needs. None of them should feel left out on Halloween. Thankfully, a few stores, including Target, now offer adaptive costumes for all ages. (I maintain that you are never too old to dress up.)

Wheelchairs become part of the costume with kits like this rocket ship or flying witch from Target. The Disney Store has impressive options too, like Cinderella’s Coach and the Incredimobile. Spirit and Amazon also have wheelchair covers, but they’re much more expensive and not as nice.

Other adaptive costumes are designed to be easy to get in and out of and comfortable for the wearer, like this unicorn with accessories that can be removed as needed. The Disney Store has a Cinderella dress and Incredibles outfit to complete wheelchair sets, plus a Buzz Lightyear costume. All of them have discrete front openings for medical access, too.

You Can Also Do It Yourself

As easy as it is to buy a costume that comes with all the accessories, my favorite Halloween costumes are the ones I made myself.

Homemade costumes don’t need to be cosplay-level perfection. Throw on that flannel and long coat you already own for Bender from The Breakfast Club. Or if you are a perfectionist, go all out in a red gown (bonus points if you paint spirals on it) as the Martian Madame from Mars Attacks. I’m particularly proud of my light-up soda-bottle jet pack for my Space Cadet costume; I sewed space patches onto a military-style blazer I already owned but no longer wore, and then bought a cheap silver outfit. That costume cost me between $30 and $40, and I wore it two years in a row.

If you’re going to make something yourself but you’re not sure where to start, Google and Pinterest are your friend. If you’re thinking about it, there is probably already a blog about with a how-to.

When scouring Goodwill or local thrift stores, the key is to keep an eye out for unusual things that can work—I turned a faux fur collar into a Where the Wild Things Are monster tail, which was cheaper than buying fur from a craft store. I’m not a professional sewer either, I just use a needle and thread. If I can do it, so can you.

TJ Maxx, the Dollar Store, and Five Below are good for inexpensive bits and pieces. Amazon wigs tend to be better than Party City’s plasticky ones. You can also find great offerings at Etsy, like this DIY fox mask.

There are plenty of homemade possibilities for wheelchair costumes, like these incredible renditions of Beetlejuice and Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Halloween is my favorite holiday, but it’s a wasteful one. Costumes are typically made to be worn once and discarded. But with fashion being an environmental nightmare as it is, try to reuse anything you can for a one-night-a-year event.

If you have more than one child, switch costumes between them. They can pick new accessories to put their own spin on it. Same goes for yourself; reimagine old costumes or ask friends and relatives if you can switch with them.

Goodwill and Salvation Army typically have Halloween sections, too. Did you know you can shop Goodwill online? It and other thrift stores can be goldmines for decades-old clothes. You can always re-donate after the holiday if you’ve bought something you don’t think you’ll use again. Facebook’s Marketplace could be helpful depending on your area.

Hygiene is a concern when it comes to secondhand, especially now. Washing clothing at a hot temperature should alleviate any concerns. As WIRED writer Gregory Barber says in his article on Covid-19 and surfaces, “‘Enveloped’ viruses like SARS-CoV-2 do not fare well on porous surfaces like skin and clothing.”

Should Your Mask Match Your Costume?

Photograph: Disney

You might think a mask will cramp your style, but if you’re going trick or treating (or be around people at all), there’s no way around it. You can’t put others at risk for some candy.

You probably own a few masks by now anyway, so don’t worry about buying yet another one for one night. But if you do want it to all go together, look for masks that match whatever you’re wearing in color or pattern instead of trying to find costumes that need a mask. For example, get a black mask to match a black witch dress. If you’re going as a Disney character, you might find a matching character mask. Etsy has a ton of these too, like princesses or skeletons.

This has not been the ideal year, and this Halloween won’t be the ideal Halloween. But there’s still safe ways to celebrate (even if it’s just with those you live with) to break from the stress. If your costume doesn’t go as planned, you can always redo it next year.


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