What to be for Halloween? That is the question. Our easy and affordable ideas will inspire your all-important costume decisions.

By Leigh-Ann Jackson

Your neighbors have studded their front yards with plastic skeletons and faux headstones. Retail shelves are overflowing with jumbo bags of candy. Eager trick-or-treaters have plotted the most bountiful routes for the big night. Yet, in the face of all this Halloween pregame prep, your kid has only just gotten around to thinking about this year's costume.

Fear not! There's still time to pull together frightfully fierce looks inspired by some of Pinterest’s top Halloween trends. And the best part is, you can do it all while avoiding the long lines and mayhem of crowded party supply stores and costume emporiums. (Google also has a cool feature called Frightgeist 2017, a localized list of costume searches.)

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Your kids can transform into superheroes, sci-fi stars and magical beasts after a quick mall trip or a few mouse clicks. We've found items that are both affordable and dress code compliant (Halloween does fall on a school day, after all). Plus, some pieces are so practical, your kids can wear them long after the last fun-sized bar's been munched. Speaking of candy, have you seen Taco Bell's new Kit Kat quesadilla? It's... something.

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Keep reading for some of our favorite popular DIY costume ideas.

Eleven from 'Stranger Things'

What you'll need:

  • Cheap blonde wig
  • Navy boys' jacket
  • Striped tube socks
  • Simple dress with a Peter Pan collar beneath
  • A box of Eggo waffles (optional)

Brave young binge-watchers who tuned into Netflix's Emmy-nominated throwback thriller got a glimpse of how you and your classmates dressed in the early '80s. Which do you think frightened them more — the Upside Down monster or all the feathered hair?

Season 2 debuts a few days before Halloween, but fans can get Eleven's first-season look—see pic above—with a blonde wig (the cheaper and faker looking, the better), a navy boys' jacket, a pair of striped tube socks, a dribble of fake blood below the nose and, of course, a box of Eggo frozen waffles. As for the spooky little psychic's peach baby doll dress, well … it may not the easiest frock to find, but you can improvise. Find a simple dress that gets the color right — like this or this — then add a Peter Pan collar beneath it.

Dustin from 'Stranger Things'

What you'll need:

  • Trucker hat
  • Graphic T-shirt
  • Khaki cargo pants
  • Green hoodie
  • Converse or other retro sneakers
  • Curly brown wig (optional)

For a costume that's a little easier to perfect, there's always lovable lisping sidekick Dustin (check out photos). Start with his must-have trucker hat, then work your way down to a slightly oversized vintage-looking graphic T-shirt, which you can easily find at a thrift store. Pull on a pair of khaki cargos, zip up a green hoodie, lace up some Converse or other retro kicks and you're ready for a monster hunt. (Bonus points for stuffing a curly brown wig under that hat.)

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Wonder Woman

What you'll need:

  • Red tank top
  • Denim mini or navy skater skirt
  • Tall brown boots
  • Rope or cord
  • Homemade accessories
  • Tiara and gold guff bracelets

Diana's skimpy Amazonian skirts and bustier tops are probably out of the question at most schools. Opt, instead, for a dark red tank top and a denim mini or navy blue skater skirt. This costume's more about the accessories, anyway.

Heroines-in-training can stomp out evil in a pair of tall brown boots and fend off attacks with a lasso (aka, a rope or length of cord) and a homemade shield crafted out of cardboard (strap it on using a brown leather belt). If you're crafty, make Wonder Woman's accessories with the help of a few DIY templates, or just a roll of handy-dandy gold duct tape. Otherwise, you can go the retail route for the tiara and gold cuff bracelets.

As for makeup, achieving a Wonder Woman look doesn't require a lot of work or unusual products. Check out our video tutorial that uses common products you likely have in your makeup bag:


Belle from 'Beauty and the Beast'

What you'll need:

  • Cheap yellow evening gown
  • Satin gloves
  • Necklace
  • Artificial rose

Whether your "Beauty and the Beast" fan prefers the classic cartoon or Emma Watson's live-action version, an enchanting Belle costume can be achieved with just a few key pieces. Master these, and your fairy tale fanatic will be floating through the gymnasium costume party like it's a ball worthy of a princess.

It's all about the dress. If you act fast, you can nab one of these yellow evening gowns online for under $25 and have it delivered on time. Of course, you can always try your luck at thrift shops, where you might get lucky and find a gently-worn bridesmaid's dress or prom gown that's the right shade of canary. Add a pair of long satin gloves and Belle's signature necklace. All that's left is an effortlessly elegant 'do and a single (artificial) red rose, which can be found at any craft store.

From medieval times to the mid-80s to modern-day mainstream, our hearts still skip a beat over these fantastic beasts. So, it's no surprise they're a favorite this Halloween. As last-minute costumes go, this one wins for easiest and most magical. Kids can head to school dressed like it's any old day of the year. Then, when it's time to get in the spirit, they can pull a few goodies out of their backpacks.


What you'll need:

  • Headband
  • Wig or spray hair dye
  • Yarn or string
  • Glitter!

We saw unicorn everything this year—from Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino to unicorn bagels—so it's no surprise that unicorn costumes are popular. You can buy a horn headband—ranging from inexpensive to more splurge-worthy—or make one without much fuss. Place it on top of a whimsical wig or spray temporary hair dye onto natural hair. To streamline things, go for a horn-wig combo that's brightwhite or outta sight. For the tail, snip a few strands from your wig to pin on the backside, or get crafty with some yarn and string. To make the look even more fanciful, dab on glitter gloss and sparkly eye makeup and go for head-to-toe pastel separates.

Russell from 'Up'

What you'll need:

  • Yellow ball cap
  • Polo shirt
  • Cargo shorts or pants
  • Web belt
  • Homemade (or real) Boy Scout badges

Maybe your kid's a Pixar lover who wants to go as loyal little Russell from "Up." Or maybe your daughter wants to keep it topical and go as a Boy Scout. Either way, you'll be prepared with these essentials.

For everyone's favorite animated Wilderness Scout, start with a yellow ball cap and a polo shirt to match, then add a pair of brown cargo shorts, and a scrap of orange fabric to tie around your neck. Fashion a scout's sash out of brown felt, then go to town loading it up with colorful pins. Kids can carry a knapsack in place of the traditional trick-or-treat bag. And don't forget the balloons!

The official BSA uniform has variations galore, but the overall look consists of a khaki twill shirt with a scarf tied neatly under the collar, a pair of cargo pants or shorts, a web belt, and an assortment of badges. Get creative with it! Maybe whip up an "Algebra Acing" badge or a "Mario Kart 8 High Score" badge.


Leigh-Ann Jackson is a work-at-home-mother and writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Austin American-Statesman and several other digital and print publications.