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Halloween Hunting: How To Thrift For Costumes

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Davidson chapter.

Y’all it’s fall and you know what that means. You need a costume, preferably cheap, funny, unique enough to have people at F come up to you and drunkenly and compliment it, and easy to throw together. Impossible, you say? Nay, nay.

For those of you unaware, a magical place called Goodwill exists where people donate their used furniture and clothes. In addition, Goodwill often provides jobs and training for low-income individuals. It’s a great organization and is definitely deserving of your business.

Goodwill, (the nearest one) boasts pretty much every kind of item of clothing, from roughly every decade imaginable (I’m talking major shoulder pad action here). I have spent many a Sunday perusing Goodwill’s across North Carolina, and frankly, it beats out every other overpriced brand stuffing “70s inspired” garbage into shmancy storefronts cough urban outfitters *cough*.

I’m a college student and I frankly don’t have the funds to drop 50 bucks on a sexy sailor costume, so Goodwill and I have become well-acquainted. Over the years, I’ve gotten my costumes exclusively from Goodwill, including a couple of very stylish oversized men’s sweaters (that frankly I make look expensive af). Now at first glance, Goodwill doesn’t exactly seem like a haven for creativity and fun. Its ascetic white walls are slightly reminiscent of a hospital and you get the distinct sense upon walking into one that a lot of the clothes may or may not have come straight off the bodies of the dead. (But hey, that’s what you’re going for on Halloween).

Now, you have to walk in with a couple of ideas in mind of what you might want to be. But sometimes I’ve walked in and just felt the magic of Goodwill thrifting occur, letting its racks of moth-ball infused taffeta prom dresses sweep me away. But to help those less experienced thrifters, I’ve listed a few things I’ve found to be super easy to concoct from items that I’ve found while browsing around. (But of course, every blue moon there’s a full-on wedding dress from the 80s in Goodwill and sometimes you just have to let it takes you where it takes you, as pictured below). 

1. Grandma Chic

There are A LOT of geriatric looking styles on Goodwill’s racks. Grab a crocheted Talbots jacket from the many lining the back walls, one of those dowdy pursues, a log, matronly skirt, and a pair of beat-up loafers. Sometimes they’re some old canes next to the golf clubs in the back as well. Throw some baby powder in your hair, pull it into a severe bun or fluff it up crazily. Add a little make-shift eyeliner on your face for those theater quality wrinkles and call yourself Gladdis!

2. The Hipster No One Likes

This costume is great because it’s current, relatable, and totally self-parodying for some of us @me. Literally, find anything that looks very 70’s in a bad way. I’m talking sweaters with holes, ponchos, flared bell bottoms, turtlenecks. The Works! It wouldn’t hurt to pair some denim on denim. Throw on a pair of wide-framed “prescription” glasses. (You can beat the lenses out). Finish the look off with a cardboard sign sporting your favorite hipster jabs and/or Portlandia quotes. I personally like “Whole Foods is Corporate.”

3. DAD

The whole “dad-bod” phase has come and gone, but nowhere on earth exists more dad-like clothes than Goodwill. All you really need is to grab some sensible slacks, a Hawaiian shirt, or a sweater vest, through on a penciled in pornstache, and one or two of the golf clubs in the back. You’ll look like a great “Daddy” which you should put on a name tag so people get uncomfortable. Also, make sure to make as many bad puns and tell as many going-nowhere anecdotes as possible. If you really want to be extra, walk around with a grill-spatula and ask people if they want their burgers well-done.

4. Breakfast At Tiffany’s

This is a classic go to. However, there’s no chance you’re finding pearls and presentable black alligator heels at a Goodwill (though never say never with that place). Instead, opt for the Holly Go-Lightly, just out of bed, oversized men’s white shirt! All you have to add is a DIY blindfold and voila! You look classy, cute, and totally not broke (unlike Holly).

5. Literally Anything

I’m serious. This isn’t me being lazy. You can literally find anything at Goodwill. Maybe not everything. But anything. It’s sort of like one of those Twilight Zone places where there’s a rip in the fabric of reality. Here are some random costumes I’ve seen plausibly at Goodwill just this last Sunday:

Lumberjack, creepy doll girl (there’s a lot of creepy dolls there), Velma from Scooby Doo, Jeffrey Dahmer, Jack from The Shining, Mia from Pulp Fiction, Ricky and Julian from Trailer Park Boys, couch monster, and so so so much more.