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  • Writer's pictureFiona James

Waste-Free Halloween: Costumes

It is the beginning of October and that means that it is officially Halloween season! Halloween is notorious for being a very wasteful celebration. From costumes, to decorations and the individually wrapped treats, it's easy to put Halloween in the 'too hard' basket when you are trying to reduce your waste, but it doesn't have to be that way.

Is it possible to have a completely zero waste Halloween?

Yes, but it is pretty difficult, mostly because if you go trick or treating you have no control what your neighbours will give your children. The best way to be totally zero waste is to skip trick or treating and host a Halloween house party. If you invite your friends, family and neighbours to your home you can serve lots of delicious home-made, unpackaged treats that you wouldn't be able to hand out to strangers at your door and you can control what your children are receiving while still having a fantastic time. If a big house party is not your scene, perhaps consider inviting a small group of people over to watch a scary movie with lots of package free treats!

If you (or perhaps your kids) are set on a traditional Halloween with trick or treating, then 100% zero waste many not be possible, but low waste definitely is, and let's face it, just because we can't reach perfection doesn't mean we shouldn't try at all. Here at Waste Free Parties we are all about taking whatever small steps you can to reduce waste because every little bit makes a difference. Perfection is not required.

So, how do you make your Halloween as low waste are possible? Preparation is the key! Over the next few weeks I will be writing a number of posts detailing how my family are celebrating with lots and lots of tips so that hopefully you can find something that is achievable for you and helps you to reduce your waste. Today I'm going to focus on the first thing that I usually organise when planning Halloween - costumes.

Zero Waste Costumes

The totally waste-free option is to hire a costume, but the trade-off for that is usually money. When I go to a fancy dress party I will often hire a costume because it doesn't happen very often so it's not a regular expense and I want to make sure the costume looks as good as possible with as little effort as possible! Recently a friend had an 80's themed birthday party and I hired this dress for $20 from Janina's Costume Hire at Bracken Ridge (if you are local, check them out as the service was great!). I walked in the day before the party, they showed me some options, chose the dress, and dropped it back in on Monday. Totally hassle free and to be honest it was probably cheaper than raiding KMart for scrunchies, fishnets and fluoro that would never be worn again!

Rocking the purple taffeta!

For the kids on Halloween though, I do not want the expense of a hired costume, so handmade it is. The trade-off for this is time and effort. Low waste DIY takes a lot of time and planning which is why I always start on this first. Now, being the first week of October we are only just making a decision about what our costumes will be, so I thought I would show you what we did for costumes last year!

Last year we did a "Game of Thrones" family costume with me as Daenerys Targaryen, and the kids as my three baby dragons. Hubby was supposed to be Jon Snow but when it came time to make his costume he realised he had to work the night of Halloween…. how convenient!!!!!

Twin dragons yelling "where are you trick or treaters!" out of our front door

The twins were excited to be dragons and I liked this costume option because I could make tails, wings and dragon hats separately and the tails and wings could be added to their costume box and double as dinosaur tails and bird wings for general play and possibly used again in future costumes. Separate pieces, or costumes where you can use regular clothes with accessories, will typically be more versatile and less waste that a very specific all-in-one outfit, so consider than when deciding on your costume.


Mr 2.5 wanted to be a red dragon which was perfect as I had the red and white polka dot fabric left over from the previous year's Minnie Mouse costume. Miss 2.5 wanted to be a pink dragon. I didn't have any pink fabric, but before hitting Spotlight I popped into my local thrift store. Thrift stores often have fabric and other craft supplies available but as their stock changes day to day, sometimes it can take a while to find something that will work, which is one reason why it is good to start early. I got lucky and found the pink and white swirly fabric as well as a few other pieces of contrasting fabric for the wings on my first visit.

The tails were fairly straight forward to make. I followed these instructions from Running with Scissors:

Dinosaur Tails from "Running with Scissors"

The only change I made was with the stuffing. I didn't want to purchase poly-fill to stuff these tails so I had to think outside the box and decided to use some of hubby's old work shirts. I'd originally rescued these shirts when hubby tried to bin them because I needed some cleaning rags, but that was a huge fail because his work shirts are moisture resistant sports shirts so they did not absorb liquid at all making them totally useless as rags. So these shirts had been sitting in a pile in my office for some time while I tried to think of something else to do with them and this was the perfect solution! I cut them into strips and stuffed the tails until I got the look I was after. They are a bit lumpier than if I'd used poly-fill and they are a bit heavier (which is why I didn't stuff them completely) but the kids loved them and they are still going strong now nearly 12 months later!

The wings were great for using up all the small scraps of fabric I had from other projects. They weren't hard to make, but sooooo time consuming cutting out all the little rows of feathers. I followed these instructions to make the wings:

Bird Wings from "Llevo el Invierno"

The only change I made was that I didn't connect the two wings together with bias tape. I wanted to make sure the wings would still "fit" as the twins got older so I just used safety pins to attach the wings to their shirts and a little loop of ribbon to hook over their thumbs.

For the dragon hats we kept a couple of egg cartons and toilet rolls from the recycling and asked my parents to keep a couple of ice cream containers and then just used the craft supplies we had on hand. I got the kids to help paint these since they couldn't really help much with the sewing and I think they turned out pretty well! Since the hats were mostly made of recyclable materials I had planned to just remove the non-recyclable bits (googly eyes and elastic) and recycle it afterwards but the kids wanted to play with it for a long time after Halloween and we still have them in the cupboard now! I'm actually considering repainting one for this year as Mr 3.5 is currently set on being a crocodile!

Finished dragon costumes!

Unfortunately I did not get a photo of me wearing my costume last year (with 3 kids under three and hubby at work it was kind of hectic and no time for selfies!) but I bought a Daenerys inspired dress from Lifeline for $8 (which I donated back to Lifeline afterwards), and made myself a wig from wool. I managed to find 3 skeins of white wool for a few dollars on the same trip as the fabric for the kids costumes and used a white beanie I already owned (and never wore) as the base. I took my inspiration for the wig from this post:

Yarn Wigs from "Made Everyday"

So all up for four costumes (three dragons and Daenerys) we used no new materials so there was no packaging on anything that I used, the kids gained multi-purpose dress-ups, the dragon hats will eventually be recycled, my dress was donated back to Lifeline and the wool from my wig has been kept to be reused in future craft projects. The only landfill waste created in these costumes were the googly eyes in the dragon hats, the cotton wool balls for the dragon eye balls and the elastic to hold the hats on. All up it would have cost less than $20 so I think that was a pretty good effort!

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