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October 24, 2012

Homemade Halloween costumes are thrifty and fun

By Sara Kandel
C & G Staff Writer

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Dave DeRonne, one of the owners of DeRonne Hardware in Eastpointe, poses with popular Halloween items — cheese paper for mummy costumes, lightweight plastic chains for zombie and other spooky costumes, a hard hat for construction worker costumes, flex tubing for robot arms — and other Halloween staples, such as caution tape, blacklights, solar lights and glow sticks that double as whistles.

Making homemade costumes for Halloween can be creative fun for the whole family, and it doesn’t take skill with a sewing machine to craft a one-of-a-kind costume.

Homemade costumes can range from pop culture icons and political figures to zombies and superheroes, and that’s just the beginning. People can create an ensemble look — one person dressed as bacon, in a red shirt and pants with white and pink fabric Velcroed vertically along it, along with someone dressed as a sunny-side up egg and someone dressed in cardboard made to look like a orange juice carton.

There’s no limit to what can be turned into a costume. Just look around the house. Want to be a couch? Just get some cardboard, chicken wire, fabric and duct tape, and create a love seat costume for two. Or watch a movie for inspiration — from “Office Space” to “Avatar,” almost any popular movie character can be turned into a fun homemade costume idea.

For GI Joe, Indiana Jones or Lara Croft costumes, the local army surplus store is a one-stop shop.

At Joe’s Army Navy Surplus, with locations in Royal Oak and Waterford, October has become their busiest month.

“We’ve had to expand hours before Halloween because it gets so busy with people creating their own costumes, and our goal at the store is to be able to use different items we have to create whole costumes,” said Jeff Goldsmith, owner.

“For instance — ‘The Walking Dead.’ We don’t have the sheriff’s costume, per say, but we have almost everything you need to make it. We have the brown pants, and we substitute the khaki Marine Corps shirt for the sheriff’s shirt. We have the belts and holsters and all of that, and one of the girls here even printed the sheriff’s star and badge on the sleeves for the display.”

Other customers come in for what Goldsmith refers to as more traditional costumes: soldiers, sailors and “SWAT and tactical guys.”

“We carry all of it anyway,” Goldsmith said. “All of the things needed to make a lot of these costumes are things Army Navy stores carry anyway.”

Another common costume is the upper and lower GI.

“Couples come in every year, and one of them will get the khaki pants and boots and the other will do the shirt,” Goldsmith said. “They always think it’s hilarious because for most of them, they just thought of it and it’s brand new. We see it every year, but it’s still funny.

“We see everything,” he added. “It all depends on how creative the customers are. Our staff can help too, especially if they are looking for something particular. We have everything you can imagine an Army Navy surplus store would have. In a way, we are like the last facet of politically incorrect toys in America. We have plastic guns and knives and things that aren’t really found in toy stores anymore.”

Local craft stores can be another source of costume supplies, from a beer can costume using chicken wire to a bumble bee costume using headbands and pipe cleaner to make the antennas.

Another craft store favorite is the Lego block costume. By removing the bottom flaps of a cardboard box, cutting leg and arm holes, affixing six round boxes or small Tupperware containers and painting the whole thing with a solid-color high-gloss spray paint, a Lego block costume can be made in a day.

The local hardware store is another great place to visit for homemade Halloween costume ideas. Dave DeRonne, one of the owners of DeRonne’s Hardware in Eastpointe, said hardware stores carry an assortment of small parts and pieces that can aid in making the perfect homemade costume.

“People have come in and purchased flexible dryer vent hoses for robot arms, glow-in-the-dark duct tapes for different costumes, trash cans, which they remove the bottom from, and a bunch of other smaller parts and pieces that aid in or accent costumes,” DeRonne said.

And with all the costumers coming in for costume parts, DeRonne added that the whole staff has gotten pretty good at helping people find just what they’re looking for to make just about any costume they can imagine.

“We have some pretty creative people here,” he said. “One of our guys last year decorated a yard waste bag with leaves and made a headband out of leaves for his personal costume. It was done really well.”

It doesn’t stop at costumes, though. DeRonne said parents have come in to purchase Halloween-themed solar stake lights for use other than in their yards.

“A lot of times, they pull their little ones in wagons and they use the solar stake lights around the wagon to light up the wagon as they’re towing their little ones along.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Sara Kandel at skandel@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1030.