How do you DIY the perfect Halloween costume? |

How do you DIY the perfect Halloween costume?

Emily Kemme
For The Tribune

For some, Halloween tricks might entail tangling tree branches with toilet paper strands or involve cans of shaving cream, but for creative Greeley moms Katie Leigh Brown and Katie Perkins Diaz, the tricky part about the holiday is designing the perfect costume for their children and themselves.

Both agree it needn't take a lot of time or money to do it.

Brown and her husband Chase are members of the Rebel Legion, a costuming group endorsed by Lucasfilm and Disney to use screen accurate costumes while engaging in charity work. They're also the good guys. Dressed as Jedi Knight Vin Detta and Jedi Master Briginn, respectively, they are familiar with the rigors of creating flawless costumes.

The Browns regularly attend Comic Con, a multicultural convention where comic book lovers, video gamers, sci-fi, movie and other pop culture aficionados gather to showcase their arts.

The key is finding out what interests your child that year. Brown said most kids know what they want to dress up as for Halloween, whether it's a favorite book, movie or video game. Commercialization has made this easy — kids already have props for their favorite character because they've developed an affection for them.

"Part of the fun is the challenge of creating an illusion with odd materials," Diaz said. "It's also less fun to put on a professionally made costume."

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She knows this all too well. One year, Scholastic, the children's book publisher, sent her a Curious George costume for a book fair. She said her daughter had much more fun donning a purple, plaid bed sheet and pretending to be the greatest wizard of all, Professor Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series.

Incidentally, Diaz said, Harry Potter is a fantastic source from which to plumb materials. From making her own chocolate frogs with soap molds purchased at Hobby Lobby for a fifth-grade class Halloween party, Diaz also dressed her daughter as the famous Sorting Hat.

"Renata was inside a giant hat and recited the whole sorting hat song," Diaz recalled fondly.

Diaz and Brown recommend early and regular visits to ARC and Goodwill for resources. While it's best to begin planning before Oct. 30, if you shop with an open mind you never know what interesting artifacts you may happen upon. Last month, Brown stumbled upon a yellow sundress, which is slowly becoming her costume this year as a character from Game of Thrones.

"I found it for $4 and knew exactly what I wanted to do with it," Brown said this week as she worked on pieces of armbands for her and her mother's costumes.

To weatherize the dress, she first sprayed bleach to dull the color. Next she'll soak it in tea and then grind in coffee grounds.

You can also dig through your own closets. There might be just what you need hiding there among the skeletons.

"Don't buy clothing that makes a 'Halloween' statement," Diaz suggested. "It makes it too obvious. Keep it subtle and playful."

As an example, one year, Diaz's daughters decided to trick-or-treat as the sisters in the Broadway show, "Wicked." It was easy to find a black, traditional witch-like outfit for the purportedly bad sister, but the "good" sister was difficult. They found the perfect dress, notes Diaz.

"Lime green polka dots," she said. "Very perky, very Broadway."

Costuming can get even more creative, if you're up for the challenge. If you don't blanch at the sight of needle and thread, you're familiar with a bobbin and threading a sewing machine needle doesn't make you weak in the knees, Brown has plenty of ideas for costuming your kids.

She, too, is an ARC or Goodwill shopper, re-purposing finds such as yoga mats into armor. A little paint and glue does wonders. Lightweight and flexible, you can easily velcro it onto kids' clothes. Brown also will cut the shape of a shirt to match a character's look, sew on ribbon and add velcro to hold a costume closed.

And that's what Brown calls, "Doing the trick."

Costuming tips from experienced moms

» Use children toys as guides for costumes or search out pictures online, including accurate drawings of characters, but don’t be bound by them.

» Before you get started, stop and ask, “What is comfortable? What is disposable?” Costumes should allow a child to have fun while wearing them and not be held back by a bulky shape or cumbersome cut.

» Keep in mind that October nights are chilly, and in Colorado snow on Halloween isn’t unusual. Make sure children wear a costume that allows layers. Put the pizazz on the outside, while beneath it keep them warm and happy with long underwear.

» There is no need to buy costume-specific shoes. “Don’t expect any kid to wear boots or weird sandals, even for a while,” advises Greeley mom Katie Brown said. “Find something close in style and color, but it’s the least important accessory for the night.”

» Make regular visits to the thrift stores for inspiration and money saving.

» Buy cheap patterns of clothing and mooch their pieces to create your costume.

» Upholstery fabric holds up well to Halloween abuse, and it is easy to sew. Bonus. It also comes in great colors and patterns.


DIY Alternative

Colorado Costume Castle, on the Tigges Farm, 12425 Weld County Road 64½, has more than 1,000 costumes and accessories to borrow. Owner Kathy Rickart also can help by sharing ideas and providing recommendations for what is already own in your closet. Costumes are available for sizes infant to adult. Customers are asked to call ahead to ensure the shop is open. Costumes used for Halloween and torn will require full replacement at customer’s expense. Halloween costumes may be borrowed for Halloween must be returned by Nov. 7. Call or text her at (970) 576-8970 or email Peruse the collection at