Sustainable Halloween Costumes You Can Make at Home (And Where to Go if You Can’t)

DIY Halloween Costumes

Halloween. The holiday that tends to creep up on us just as the back to school rush calms down.

Crap.

You may already be panicking. What do the kids want to be this year? I need to start decorating. What treats should I get? Where’s the pumpkin carving kit?

But here’s the scariest part of Halloween…

According to the Fairyland Trust and Hubbub, in 2017 94% of families planned on buying a Halloween costume. 4 in 10 of those costumes are worn only once and 7 million get thrown away. Each. Year.

Of those costumes 83% of the content is made of plastic contributing 2079 tonnes of plastic waste to landfills adding to the already ghastly 300 million tonnes of textile waste a year.

Now, some costumes do get donated to charity shops, but if the original tags are cut off, many shops won’t sell them because of issues with fire safety, so those end up in the bin, too.

Sadly only 14% of us make costumes anymore. The rest of us help spend £510 million on costumes in the UK alone.

(And that doesn’t include the plastic waste from candy wrappers and the money spent on cheap décor.)

But the spooky holiday doesn’t have to mean all doom and gloom. There are plenty of ways that you can enjoy the festivities, save money, and reduce your waste!

Some of the links may be affiliate links where I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Where to Get (or Buy) Sustainable Halloween Costumes

Resist the temptation to buy cheap costumes during your next food shop and try these tips for scoring great costumes that won’t harm the earth.

Swap

According to Hubbub, half of those surveyed weren’t sure about using costumes worn by strangers but 73% were perfectly happy to swap with family or friends, so get busy and organise a costume swap.

If you are feeling like a super-leader and want to organise something bigger start at your child’s school. See if you can get the school/PTA to host a swap. Parents and teachers can make it a crafting event, too and share ideas for face painting, making accessories for costumes-like wands and head pieces, and even repairing costumes that need a little TLC.

Second Hand

If you are part of the half that doesn’t mind purchasing preloved costumes than there are several places to snag just about anything you can think of!

Charity shops will be putting out there stock if you happen to pass by, but you can also order from the comforts of your home on Vinted.com or Depop.com. Both have people selling fancy dress costumes for kids (and adults) and it’s a good way to sell any costumes you can’t use anymore.

sustainable halloween, second hand halloween costumes

Easy Homemade Halloween Costumes

Avoiding character specific costumes allows you to be creative and have a truly unique costume. So many costumes can be made using shirts, dungarees, and leggings- clothing items likely to be in your wardrobe already and then all you need are accessories like scarves, tights, headbands or hats, and jewellry.

Many of the things you don’t have can easily be thrifted in your local charity shop or online second hand shops like Vinted.com and Depop.com.

Some ideas for Halloween costumes you can make at home:

A Pirate:

Easily made using a white peasant style top, leggings (if they are older you can do a large zig-zag cut to shorten them), a scarf for a belt, and a bandana for a headpiece. Items you might source could be a vest, striped socks or tights, jewellry and an eye patch.

A Fortune Teller:

Similar to the pirate but a long boho-styled skirt, big hoop earrings, and a crystal ball

A Minion:

A yellow shirt and some dungarees! Add some white gloves and a minion hat that can be used all winter!

A Zombie:

This is one of my favourites because it’s soooo easy and fun to make! Grab an old outfit to “destroy.” (I used a men’s shirt and trousers from a charity shop). Shred the shirt at the wrists and waist, and the trousers at the ankles. Then roll your outfit in the mud and let it dry. Some face makeup and sticks for your hair and you have an amazing zombie! I would wear a base layer under this though as it can be scratchy. When Halloween is over, hose the excess mud off, wash it and use the material for projects or bring it to H&M for their clothes recycling scheme.

A Ninja:

Another easy one. Black top and trackie bottoms for the base. Then get black material or scarves for a headband and waist sash. This is a pandemic-friendly costume as well since you can incorporate a black face mask.

A Cat:

Similar base as the ninja, a black top and black leggings. Then some black nail polish and face paint, source some ears on a headband, and use either a scarf or some maribou for a tail and to accessorise around your wrists. (The same costume with Mickey Mouse ears and you have a mouse).

A Fairy:

If you have a dancer then this is easy! A leotard and tights with ballet slippers. Then find or make a skirt, add wings a wand, and some eco-friendly face glitter and you are good to go.

A Princess:

Same base as the fairy but add a longer skirt and a crown instead of wings.

A Ghost:

A sheet?… Or you can find a light coloured nightgown, pasty face makeup and sprinkle corn flour in your hair to make it white/silvery without chemicals.

A Vampire:

A white shirt, black trousers and some face paint! You can make a simple cape using this cape pattern. The pattern is so versatile that there are 33 other variations you can make using the same pattern. Fancy dress costumes forever!

A Mummy:

Wear an all-white base layer and cut an old white sheet into strips to wrap your mummy with. You can “age” the strips by dipping them in tea to create a yellowy-brown colour. Then add some face makeup.

Animals:

Animals are easy homemade costumes. Face paint and head-to-toe in your chosen animals colour and you are set. If you want you can pick up a dance unitard in almost any colour as your base. Then add feather boas for wings and tails, or make a cape with this cape pattern that has an animal head as the hood. Some animals you can try- lions and tigers, flamingos, peacocks, owls, bats, and bears.

A Witch:

Using the same cape pattern from the animals and vampires, you can easily turn it into a cape for a witch. Wear a black dress or (top and skirt), tights and then grab a hat and a broom and you are set!

Other Ideas:

Have fun with makeup, biodegradable glitter, and colourful wigs to make some fun memorable, one-of-a-kind costumes like rock stars, robots, a person from the future, a person from the past (think decades 1920s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s), aliens, mermaids, wizards, elves, gnomes, trolls, other mythical creatures like unicorns.

If You Must Buy Something…

You may not be able to find what you want second-hand. And you may not have access to a sewing maching to make exactly what you want, but there is an alternative. Consider looking at Etsy for unique, handmade costumes and accessories. It may not be the most sustainable option, but it’s better than the cheap, mass-produced costumes you find in the shops. By shopping with Etsy, you support a small business and you get carbon-neutral shipping.

Don’t Be Part of the Scary Statistics

Halloween costumes don’t have to be a source of waste if we think about second-hand Halloween costumes and making them with items we already have.

If you use items you wear day to day, you won’t be throwing your costume away at the end of the evening.

If you use items like boas and other accessories, they can easily be added to a dressing up box when Halloween is over or repurposed for other costumes later (think nativity plays and World Book Day).

And if you purchased an item already that you don’t plan to keep, consider reselling them to someone that would use it again on apps like Vinted.com and Depop.com. Not only will you reduce your waste, but you can put a couple quid back in your pocket.

Have a Happy (and Safe) Halloween and let me know in the comments what cool ideas you came up with for DIY Halloween costumes.

The 10 Best Second-Hand Shops Online in the UK

online charity shops, second hand shops, online thrift shops

Helloooo #SecondHandSeptember!

Oxfam kicked off this campaign in 2019 as a way to get us to slooowww down and promote shopping second hand, first.

The UK alone buys more than 2 tonnes of clothing per minute which is a completely unsustainable use (and waste) of the planet’s resources given that people are only wearing their clothes an average of 7 times before getting rid of them!

Given that fast fashion is responsible for a huge carbon footprint worldwide and poor working conditions worldwide we need to break up with fast fashion-fast.

Whether you are buying clothing, electronics, or books, we have a responsibility to make better, more sustainable choices for the planet and we can start with shopping for pre-loved items first.

The list below will give you 10 reliable places to purchase second-hand items for you, your family, and your home.

Some of the links may be affiliate links in which I make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

The Best Places to Shop Second-Hand Online in the UK

1. Oxfam

About the shop: Oxfam is a charity based organisation that has been around over 70 years. They have more than 500 stores throughout the UK as well as an amazing online shop. They are also the creators of #SecondHandSeptember in an effort to fight fast fashion and get consumers to slow down.

You can use the search filters to sort by size, colours, brands, price, and even decade, so finding what you want is easy!

What You’ll Find: Oxfam’s online shop is full of clothes for men, women, and children. You can find cashmere jumpers for as little as £7 or spend £70 and end up with a Burberry suit!

You’ll also find shoes, accessories, as well as books, music, and memorabilia!

2. Pre-Loved UK

About the shop: Preloved UK is an online buying and selling site where you can find just about anything from clothing to cars, pets to furniture. Anyone can place an ad or buy without paying, but if you get a membership (as low as £5 for the year) you get a few more perks like being able to add more photos or video to your ads as well as browsing without advertisements. There’s also rewards like discounts on new products and free gifts, too! What You’ll Find: At this virtual car boot, you will find clothes, furniture and other things for your home, children’s items, cars, caravans, gardening supplies, and so much more!

3. Micolet.co.uk

About the shop: Micolet is a second-hand clothing shop for women that upon first glance looks like a legit shop for buying new! All of the items are checked for quality before being added to the shop and they have a 14-day return policy if you aren’t happy with your items.

What You’ll Find: Micolet offers all women’s clothes from high street and premium brands as well as bags and accessories.

You can filter your search by size colour and even look for specific brands, making for an easy shopping experience. Shipping is only £0.88!

4. Vinted.com (also an App)

About the shop: Vinted is an online shop and app where you can buy (and sell) clothes, shoes, bags, and accessories for men, women, and children.

It’s easy to search by size, colour, brand, price and even the condition of the clothes (new with tags is an option)!

What You’ll Find: While there is an abundance of fast fashion brands, you will also find some quality items. I find the app easy to use and have purchased from Vinted several times now. I really like that you can find children’s fancy dress items; in fact, their kids range is pretty amazing and includes not only clothing, but baby gear, toys, books, furniture, and school supplies!!

slow fashion, second hand shops online, online charity shops

5. Depop.com (also an App)

About the shop: Depop is a huge online second-hand market that not only sells clothes, shoes and accessories for men and women but kids as well. The search function isn’t as easy (in my opinion) compared to Vinted, but it hasn’t stopped me from finding good buys.

What You’ll Find: Along with hundreds of thousands of clothing and shoe items for sale, you can also find sports equipment, books, music and films, and totally random items in the “other” section. It’s very easy to lose an hour shopping here.

online charity shops, second hand shopping online

6. Thrift+ (also an App)

About the shop: Thrift+ was established in 2014 to create an online charity shop that is as easy to use as ASOS. The shop sells generously donated, high-end items and at least a third of the sale goes to charities chosen by the donor.

Thrift+ does all the work, as in quality checks, photos, and listings, so you don’t have to be weary of shady sellers the way you might on Vinted or Depop.

What You’ll Find: Thrift+ is a great place to make a tight budget go farther as they carry, not only high street brands, but premium brands to at prices that are quite affordable for men and women. (I found an Alexander McQueen top for £33 and that included shipping). They even offer a 30-day return policy if you are unhappy with your purchase.

7. Vestiaire Collective (also an App)

About the shop: Vestiaire specialises in designer brand clothing, shoes and accessories. Items that are over £500 will be shipped to Vestiaire first so they can check the authenticity of the item, which gives you peace of mind when you’re spending that kind of money. They also allow you to return items within 72 hours of receiving the items if you have any problem.

What You’ll Find: High end everything! Besides clothes and shoes for men, women and even children, you will also find accessories, jewellry, watches, vintage items, home décor, and let’s not forget designer clothing for your pets!

8. Loopster.co.uk (children’s clothes)

About the shop: Loopster was founded as a way to buy, sell, and donate gently used (or unused) children’s clothing. With babies and kids growing so fast, often parents find their kids have massive wardrobes but can’t wea fast enough before growing to the next size!

Loopster gives parents an easy way to pass on those hardly worn items to those that can use them and, of course, the option to shop nice quality clothing by size and gender without the unpredictability of a charity shop. (They have clothes for mum, too)!

If you want to sell, you send your clothes in a bag Loopster sends you, they will then check the quality of the clothes and pay you for them. Anything that doesn’t make the cut can either be sent back to you or donated to TRAID, an organisation with projects to stop child and forced labour, provide education for children and garment workers, and to drive transparency in the textile supply chain.

What You’ll Find: Hundreds of children clothing items from brands like Next, Gap, Dolce & Gabbana and Stella McCartney. The items are checked by Loopster so the quality will be nearly new.

9. AwesomeBooks.com

About the Shop: Fabulous online, used bookstore that offers free delivery to the UK and global shipping, too! You can search by title, author, ISBN number, or have a nosy by genre or browsing the bargain bin.

What You’ll Find: Just about any book you want to read including rare and collectable books as well as CDs, DVDs, and games for various platforms including PC and Mac games.

For every book you purchase through the site, they will also donate a book to schools worldwide. Since 2019, they’ve donated over 100,000 books! A sustainable company worth buying from.

10. WorldofBooks.com

About the shop: Amazing, online, used bookstore that works just like an online store for used books. They are a certified B Corporation and specifically address the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

World of Books get many of their books by purchasing them from charity shops that can’t sell them. This means charity shops still earn money from the donations and World of Books keeps millions of books from going to landfill. They have donated thousands of books to UK primary schools and have pledged to donate a million more by 2020.

The site is easy to shop as you can search by title and author and you will also find rare books, music, and DVDs. Shipping is free in the UK.

(If you aren’t ready to make a purchase you can even create a wishlist…mine is crazy long)!

What You’ll Find: Almost any book you can think of! Fiction, non-fiction, and children’s books are all here! You can find music on CDs and Vinyl as well as DVDs and Blu-Rays of popular films and lots of Disney!

The Other (Sort of Best) Place to Shop Second-Hand Online

Facebook Market Place.

I have such a love/hate relationship with Facebook.

I hate the time sucking vampire that it is, but I love the marketplace. You can join local buy and sell groups and easily sell your own items as well as buy items local that you can pick up the same day.

(It also helps when you can see a name and photo of who you are buying from).

Facebook doesn’t offer any protections or return/refund policies for the transactions, so if you are buying something big, like I bought a double jogging pram, use PayPal instead of a bank transfer or cash.

You use the part of the app for sending money to a non-friend or family member for a small fee. (Mine was £7 on a £240 purchase). If you are having an item shipped the fee protects you from any shady sellers that may send damaged items or fail to send them at all.

If you need to get rid of something quick, listing it free will likely have someone picking it up within the hour!

Pre Loved. Save the Planet and Your Pocketbook

Hopefully, you now have the confidence and desire to go forth and shop second-hand. It’s so easy to do and in many cases you are directly helping a person or a charity instead of a big corporation. (Not to mention helping the planet).

Do you know of any other online, pre loved shops? Let me know your faves in the comments below.