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How to Make a Homemade Halloween Costume Without Ruining Your Clothes

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Photo: VGstockstudio (Shutterstock)

I believe fiercely in the value of homemade Halloween costumes. The idea of buying a pre-made costume is offensive to me personally. As I set out this week to put the finishing touches on my outfits for Halloweekend, I’m making a conscious effort not to ruin the pieces of clothing involved. When making a costume, some clothing will get ruined, but not all of it has to. Here are a few ways to keep your clothes in order and still look great for the big day(s) this year.

Protect your clothing’s edges

If you’re wearing face and body makeup, you run the risk of staining the edges of your clothes. Any staining that happens on the underside of a shirt is not really a big deal, but the collars and seams around the sleeves are another story. Grab some painter’s tape, preferably in the color of the shirt you’re wearing, and place it on these exposed edges, with the majority of it on the underside and just a hint peeking out around the edge. This will stop body paint from bleeding onto the collar and other visible parts of your shirt.

Make sure to apply all your paint before you put the clothes on and give it plenty of time to dry. Set it with translucent powder and makeup setting spray to reduce the likelihood of it transferring.

Don’t dye clothing directly

Some costumes may call for you to dye or rip your clothes, but if you’re going the standard route of simply bloodying yourself up, you don’t actually need to turn your shirts red. Lifehacker writer Allie Reinmann suggests “using red tape around an impaling object in an abstract way to show blood,” but you can also try making a sort-of blood patch.

Grab some wax paper and a hot glue gun. Lay the paper flat and squirt the hot glue onto it in the shape of dripping blood. Let it dry overnight, then paint it red. I’ve done this with nail polish in the past, but you can use spray paint. Peel it off once the paint has dried and attach it to your clothes by poking a safety pin through it from the back of the shirt and through the edge of the fake blood, securing the pin on the underside of the shirt.

Use safety pins where you’d normally sew

It might be tempting to sew every piece of your costume together, and I admit I’ve done it. Realistically, though, you’re only wearing this costume for a few hours; it doesn’t have to be perfect. You can use safety pins for most of the fastening you’d use sewing for. For instance, I have a light-up element to one of my costumes this year, but I’m not sewing the battery box into the skirt. I’m creating a pocket for it out of scrap fabric, then safety-pinning that pocket to the inside of the waistband.

Opt for stickers over painted-on designs

If you need a logo on your clothes for some reason, consider printing them onto label paper and making your own custom stickers instead of painting them directly onto the shirt or using an iron transfer method. Sticker glue is easy to remove from clothes (if there’s even any lingering residue at all) and label paper is pretty cheap.

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