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COSTUME SERIES: Cutest Halloween Costumes on a College Student’s Budget

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

Let Goodwill, the craft store & your closet be your BFFs.


Double as a way to get dressed up with your squad while also sharing to limit money spent.

Bad Blood Squad

“Band-Aids don’t fix bullet holes.”

An easy but fun costume for you and your squad. Mix black & leather pieces with tights & metallic accessories. Feel free to make your own weaponry from cardboard, wooden rods, foam & black tape or paint. Top off the look with some fierce makeup—cat-eyes encouraged!

Bridesmaids Ladies

“Help me, I’m poor.”

An “oldie” but goodie. This is one you’ll probably want to look at Goodwill for. Find an old wedding dress or borrow one from a mom or aunt if she’ll let you, or a friend might have an old homecoming dress. Give yourself time to go to different Goodwill stores to look for short pink dresses. 

The Four Seasons & Holidays

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

These ideas are both so different from typical Halloween costumes and give a lot of creative reign. If you’re going for the seasons, wear the colors you associate with each season and add any accessories you deem necessary (example: cotton on a blue shirt to create a summer sky). Find fake leaves and flowers at a craft store to top off each look. For holidays, you can choose to dress like you would on that holiday or dress as something associated with the holiday. A Santa hat is good for Christmas, bunny ears for Easter or an old Irish dance costume for St. Patrick’s Day.

Inside Out Emotions

“Come on, group hug! You too, Anger.”

Inspired by one the cutest movies of the summer, these are super fun. Joy could have a yellow or green floral dress. Sadness can be done with a cream-colored sweater, blue jeans, round glasses and a perpetual frown. Anger just needs a lot of red—the point will get across! Fear will need a rad sweater vest. Disgust obviously needs lots of green (preferably sparkly), a purple scarf and lots of mascara. There are different levels of intensity for these costumes; you could get colored hairsprays, wigs or paint your bodies to match the colors for each emotion.

The Spice Girls

“Yo, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want!”

This ever-classic costume is surprisingly easy to do. Someone in your friend group is bound to have leopard print, cute athletic wear, girly pieces or a LBD if you don’t. The most difficult piece to do would be the British flag dress (not necessary if you happen to have a ginger in your squad). This can be DIY’ed by covering a blue dress with red and white tape. The cool thing about this costume is you’ll be inspired to jam to the Spice Girls while getting ready with your gal pals!


These can be done with a S.O. or your BFF—both are great options!

Ariel & Eric from The Little Mermaid

“Wish I could be part of your world.”

This version of The Little Mermaid costume is different from the typical one—and easier! Simply find a white sheet (feel free to cut it up if you want the rougher look Ariel has in the movie) and get some rope or thick string from the craft store. Get your partner to wear dress pants and a white shirt (simple enough!) and use a red scarf or cummerbund to complete the look. Props if you have red hair, but if you don’t, there are colored hair sprays you can buy to get that mermaid hair.

Buzz & Woody from Toy Story

“You’ve got a friend in me!”

These friends are easy costumes to accomplish. Woody needs a cowboy hat, yellow shirt, white vest (which can be made by cutting up a white t-shirt and coloring on the black spots), jeans or jean shorts and cowboy boots (or even your cute tan fall boots if you don’t own cowboy boots). Buzz has a few more complicated pieces. Wear purple pants or leggings with a green skirt or shorts. Buy a simple white tank top and add the green panel with buttons with fabric paint or markers. The wings can be made creatively with cardboard and tape or paint. Have fun being creative “to infinity and beyond!”

Carl and Ellie from Up

“Adventure is out there!”

The award for cutest movie love story goes to these two! Attain Ellie’s look by wearing a yellow shirt with short overalls. The shoes you wear don’t matter much as Ellie was not wearing any in this part of the movie. Carl needs a short sleeve button-up or polo with a sweater vest over it and any neutral color pants rolled up or shorts. Make sure the socks are long that they stick out of whatever shoes you choose.

Cosmo and Wanda from The Fairly Oddparents

“His magic little fish who grant his every wish.”

This is another one that could or could not have the colored hair sprays. For Wanda, simply wear a yellow shirt with dark pants. Cosmo needs only a white shirt, dress pants and thin black tie. You’ll both need wans and small yellow crowns, which can easily be made from construction paper attached to a headband or secured with bobby pins.

Ed Sheeran Albums

“We keep this love in a photograph.”

Ed Sheeran’s album artwork is so simple that you can create this look with a t-shirt that you might just want to wear even after Halloween. For +, buy an orange t-shirt and add a big addition sign using white tape or fabric paint. The same can be done for X with a green t-shirt and black fabric paint or tape. 


“Wanna go to Starbs?”

Aren’t these just the cutest little drinks you ever did see? Accomplish this costume with white dresses & cardboard banded around the waist. Try your hand at drawing the Starbucks logo with Sharpies or make a printout and paste it on. Literally top of the look with lids and straws from Starbucks. Add cotton in a pile on your head if you choose to be a frappacino.

TJ and Spinelli from Recess

“Never kid a kid who hasn’t had his recess.”

Isn’t this a total throwback? TJ simply needs a white t-shirt, jeans, a green jacket and a red baseball cap—all easy enough to find or borrow. Make sure you get his freckles, too! Spinelli might be a little more difficult. Wear a red dress, black leather jacket, yellow hat, short black boots and red and orange striped socks. If you can’t find the right socks, find knee-highs of one of the colors and add the stripes with fabric paint or tape of the other color.


Just do your own thang!

Katniss from The Hunger Games

“May the odds be ever in your favor.”

This heroine will never go out of style. Pair olive pants with a black shirt and jacket (I happened to switch the colors of the pants and jacket because that’s just what I had). Wear black boots (short, combat style are best for the look). Make sure you’ve got that signature side braid. A Mockingjay pin could be useful as this outfit happens to be very similar to Kim Possible (another great idea if you have these items). Add a bow and arrow if you’re really dedicated! Bonus points if you’re as obsessed as me and have your own Peeta cardboard cutout.

Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation

“I am big enough to admit that I am often inspired by myself.”

Become your favorite politician by donning a red dress shirt with a blazer in any neutral color with matching dress pants. Curl your hair to get that signature Leslie look. Add a handmade or printout button stating you want Knope to be president in year 2016 (because isn’t she just the best candidate?).

Lilo & Stitch from Lilo & Stitch

“Ohana means family. Family means no one gets left behind.”

Lilo simply need a grass skirt and a red bandeau or tank top. Add an anklet made of fake leaves or fake flowers. Wear a headband of the same material. Use a stuffed Stitch as your companion, and don’t forget to be both sassy and kind.

Madeline from Madeline

“The smallest one was Madeline.”

This is such a fun and cute costume that brings a favorite childhood book character to life. Wear a blue dress with knee-high white stockings or socks and black flats. Add a big floppy yellow or tan hat with a black ribbon around it. Tie a red ribbon or scarf around your neck, and you’re ready to go to that “old house in Paris!”


“I want candy!”

Create this colorful outfit by gluing strips of colorful tissue paper to an old dress that is either neutral or matches one of the colors you are using. If you’d like a prop, cover a wooden rod from the craft store with the same tissue paper as the stick you use to get the candy. Traditional piñatas are donkeys, so if you’d like, you can add donkey ears on a headband. (S/O to my friend Brianna Chin at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for the pic!)

Russell from Up

“The wilderness must be explored! CA-CA! RAAWWRR!”

Shout out to whoever came up with the cutest Pixar character ever. You’ll need a yellow or tan shirt or polo with a baseball cap to match and rolled up brown pants or shorts. Wear long socks with tennis shoes or brown shoes. Use a brown backpack to carry your things and add an orange scarf or bandana around your neck. The sash can be made from brown fabric with round patches, or you can use the sash from your Brownie days if you were ever a Girl Scout.

Paige Netzel is a senior at the University of Iowa, studying English and Creative Writing with a Cinema minor. Coffee, creating playlists, and gratitude are essential to keeping her going. Check her out on Twitter for some hecka funny tweets or on Spotify for those dope playlists.
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