Challenge: I Tried to Thrift My Halloween Costume ($10 - $40)

I absolutely love to thrift. I used to work at Value Village and spent one season working as a costume consultant. It was so much fun! The other execs at Her Campus Carleton are well aware of my passion for thrifting and challenged me to a thrifted costume challenge. I, in turn, went to one of my best friends to accompany me on this mission. 

The mission was clear: Get three different looks for both of us. It’s okay if they were basic, but we wanted to have some costumes other than the typical ones you might think of. No using any of the new Halloween items Value Village has, as this defeats the purpose (my friend tried to push this one though). Stick as closely as you can to a $30 budget. Don’t go in with any preconceived ideas of what you want to find. Only go to one location. And only wear what you find, other than socks and shoes. 

We wanted to exercise to act as if someone really was looking for a last-minute costume and had just enough time to run into a thrift shop. If we found stuff we found stuff and if not we didn’t.

Overall I think we learned that even with just a small bit of patience you can pull together a last-minute costume from the thrift store. For our challenge, we didn’t want to add anything else from home or new items, other than footwear and what was in our hair, but feel free to use your wardrobe at home to your advantage. It might also help to bring a friend for that extra opinion and to bounce ideas off of each other.

Here are our top finds from the day. 

  1. 1. Where’s Waldo?

    Striped red and white top and solid bottoms and you’re all set for a Where’s Waldo costume. Throw in a red hair accessory if you feel like it or throw your hair up in a bun like Sarah did. Honestly this costume is a classic, and maybe a bit overdone, but definitely something that would pop up in the thrift store. It also came in under budget with pieces that can be used in everyday life after.

    Top ($8.49)

    Skirt ($7.99)

    Total: $16.48


  2. 2. Hippie

    Okay, I know after saying we were trying to be original, we go and do this, but this is another classic that can be pulled together with pieces from any thrift store. It also maybe not the most hippie-ish but you get the overall idea we were going for.

    My mom called this one worker-hippie-chic. All this to say, hippie, rock and roll, grunge and disco if you find a general theme you can throw together stuff from home and thrifted pieces to make a recognizable and quick costume.

    Top ($9.99)

    Vest ($9.99)

    Flared jeans ($14.99)

    Total: $39.52

  3. 3. Crazy Cat Grandma

    If you want to be super comfy this Halloween then this would be your go-to costume. And trust me, thrift stores have an abundance of sleeping gowns and dresses that would be perfect for this look. Cheap and cozy and easy to pair with different accessories.

    Dressing gown ($5.99)

    Cat purse ($3.99)


  4. 4. Steve from Blue's Clues

    This is an example of a way to make a costume stretch. The sweater I’m wearing here isn’t exactly the one that Steve wears, however, it gives the idea with stripes and colour. Also the stuffy of Blue doesn’t hurt in getting the point across.

    Tip: Go to the stuffed animal section to see if you can pick up a companion for your costume. It can really help make you recognizable and is a cheap way to boost your costume.

    Button-up ($8.99)

    Sweater ($9.99)

    Khaki pants ($8.99)

    Stuffy ($3.99)

    Total: $37.24

  5. 5. Josh from Blue's Clues

    Not necessarily the Blue’s Clues character that I remember from my childhood, but this sweater provides a closer match to the one that Josh wears in the show. Again, Blue is helpful in demonstrating the character I’m dressing up as, even if you don’t recognize the blue sweater automatically. Plus the costume ended up being cheaper because there isn’t a need for the collared undershirt.

    Sweater ($9.99)

    Khaki pants ($8.99)

    Stuffy ($3.99)

    Total: $25.96

  6. 6. Velma from Scooby Doo

    As soon as I saw this orange sweater Velma popped into my head and it just so happened Sarah had already found the red skirt for her Where’s Waldo outfit. At a thrift store finding solid colour clothing will be great for Halloween and piecing together a character costume. If you find a sweater of any colour you can almost certainly think of a character who wore it—the same goes for t-shirts. This played into the idea not to go in with a preconceived idea of what you want to be; it makes it much harder to find a costume. There’s always a huge chance you won’t find a particular piece for a character you’re after, so coming up with ideas after finding a key piece is the way to go.

    Sweater ($6.49)

    Skirt ($7.99)

    Total: $16.36

  7. 7. Dark Alice in Wonderland

    This one might be a bit of a stretch but with some big hair, a hair bow and dark smokey make-up this dress screamed dark Alice in Wonderland to me (you’ll have to look beyond the photo of me at Value Village for this one).

    Really, it’s an example that sometimes just a simple dress can be turned into a Halloween look. This is the look I ended up purchasing from the day because I felt the most confident in it and I absolutely love Alice in Wonderland. If I’m being honest with myself this is probably more of a spooky doll look, but it seemed Halloween-y to me and I love Alice, so it was exactly the kind of costume I would go for. 

    Dress ($19.99)

    Total: $22.59

It’s awesome to be able to thrift a costume or use an item of clothing from your wardrobe already. Cheaply made costumes you only wear once are not very sustainable and can sometimes break after one use. This way, maybe you find a few items that you would actually want to keep from your costume and wear in your everyday, or if not just donate them back to a store when Halloween is over. 

Tag @hccarleton on Twitter and Instagram if you thrift your costume this year!

Happy Halloween thrift hunting!