During this past Halloween I did what I always do; overextended myself in every direction because I just can’t do simple. As I said, this is nothing new. This is a pattern of behavor for me. I obviously get something out of it or I wouldn’t continue the cycle of stressful insanity.
I obviously love Halloween. I love creating and I love making great memories for my kids (I’m sure one day they’ll forget about my disorganization, nightly microwave meals and only remember their kick ass costumes). Because I have three kids, a big, messy house, and a fledgling career, I have had to find ways to trim time without trimming away at my grand vision.
I love cosplay. If you don’t know much about it, you should look it up. It comes down to the basic ideas of fans creating replica costumes of characters they love. Some are very detailed, some simple, and some are complete hybrids of ideas. There are tons of competitions for these cosplayers to compete in for money and fame among the convention crowds.
If you want to win, you better plan on making at least 95% of your costume from scratch. Some people spend thousands of dollars on these costumes and convert their garages into FX studios where they can use complicated methods and pricey material. The results are amazing, but what if you don’t have the time, money and/or the skill to pull off such masterpieces? Just because you can’t sew a leather corset or sculpt and mold foam appliances shouldn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the fun of cosplay.
What I’ve found over my years of costume making for myself, kids and theatre productions is that I get almost as big a thrill out of figuring out how cheaply I can make something as I do in the actual creation. I’m pretty damn resourceful and creative when it comes down to fabrication. The perfectionist in me wants it to look as amazing as possible, but the cheap-ass wants to see exactly how thrifty I can be. And as the years and projects have gone by, I’ve realized that I’m good at it.
What I’ve come up with is what I’m calling “thrift-play”. It won’t tyoically stand up to the nit-picky standards of close-up cosplay judging (or will it?), but I guarantee that these costumes will grab attention on a convention floor or among a crowd of trick-or-treaters. And when you tell them you made the entire thing for $15–watch their jaws drop and envy ooze from their pores.
I’m going to start sharing my projects and break down how I did them and what they cost. I won’t stick with just costumes, either. Sometimes I make props or decorate a school bookfair on a $10 budget. I’ll share it all and hope that it will inspire you to try some thrift-play for your next project.
I knew that I wanted my kids to go as classic characters last Halloween and they didn’t disappoint me with their choices. My middle son played with the idea of Jack Skellington, but ultimately chose Beetlejuice. He watched the movie, got down his walk and mannerisms, and I got to work.
I am admittedly a crappy seamstress. I can sort of sew a straight line and it involves a lot of cursing, drinking and tangled threads. Because of this, I improvise as much as possible. In this case I knew I needed pants, jacket, dress shirt and a tie; all items I have no desire to sewing. The easiest solution was to buy them. I headed down to what has become my biggest ally–my local thrift store. This place saved me when I made Jack Sparrow and Ace Ventura for the same child (I’ll feature those in another post).
The secondhand gods smiled upon me. In the women’s department I found a white H&M jacket with the tags still on it. Then I found a pair of white Gap size 4 pants that were similar enough to the material and color of the jacket that only the pickiest a-hole would notice the difference. I grabbed a clip-on black tie and headed back home.
I removed the belt and cut the buttons, belt loops and pocket flaps off the jacket. I then put the pants on my son and cut the legs to the right length. He’s a skinny kid so I took in the waist with safety pins. Next was figuring out the stripes. I toyed with the idea of painting them but quickly realized that “ain’t nobody got time for that”. The solution–black Duck Tape. I used a photo of Beetlejuice for reference and got to taping. It was all done in about an hour.
I paired his new suit and tie with a white dress shirt he had and my NineWest combat boots (fancy). The costume was complete. That left the makeup which can make or break the overall look. I used cheap grocery store Halloween makeup for most of it with the exception of some liquid latex to add texture to the mossy/moldy areas and two colors of tooth stain I bought at our local costume store (Rose Costumes in Denton, TX). A lot of teasing and spraying went into getting the hair right. He hated that part. but a full can of white spray color and a splash of green made it look great.
As you can see, the final result was fantastic. Once he had it on and started walking and talking like Beetlejuice, he was a hit.
It went over so well that we decided to revive the look a few months later and take it to Dallas Comic Con. He felt like a celebrity with the amount of photos being taken. He decided to enter the kids cosplay contest. I really thought either the kid dressed like Sharknado or the one dressed like Foxy from Five Nights at Freddy’s would take it, but Max put on a great show and… WON!!!
His first place win is proof that you don’t have to spend a ton of money to make an impression in the cosplay world. I spent right around $15 counting the jacket, pants, tie, tape, hairspray and tooth stain. You just need some ingenuity, elbow grease, and a willingness to get into character.
Score 1 for thrift play!!!