Sustainable halloween costumes – dressing up capsule tips!

Are you in the mood for dressing up for halloween? Even if your area is in lockdown and trick or treating isn’t really advised, it can be fun to have a dressing up party this time of year nonetheless! 

Sustainability and dressing up

By now we are all more or less aware of the true cost of fast fashion. Many of us are making an effort to shop sustainably. We shop small, ethically made or second hand, and support slow fashion and organic materials in our every day wardrobes. lf you can’t afford to shop small you can be more sustainable by making things last, and not discard of clothes after only a few wears even if they were cheap.

Still, what about dressing up clothes that by definition get a lot less wear? It’s so tempting to buy a cheap synthetic costume and to think that for such few wears, quality is less important. You don’t want to overspend on what is after all not your kids’ main wardrobe!

However, if you do only wear a costume a few times, for impact per wear we should actually be extra mindful of the materials and resources we use! So, how to prevent a costumed event from having a big environmental footprint? For years I have been making my children’s costumes myself. Since we live somewhere where just buying off the peg (costume or not) isn’t really a guaranteed option I have had to be creative with a lot of the items we already own and use them to create many different costumes.

Cue the…

dressing up capsule

Items we use over and over again are:

Plain coloured matching base layers

Black or brown are great for super heros and animals respectively, as are rust, camel or yellow).  Think plain pyjamas, or tops with leggings or tights. Don’t forget to shop from their siblings’ wardrobes too (and your own!).

A white dress

When I went through our dressing up photos on instagram it struck me how many of our costumes have a white dress as their base: mushrooms, fairies, angels, snowflakes, a swan… A simple shift dress can even be used as a crusader knight costume when you belt it! Whereas my kids hardly wear white in daily life, white dresses have always been a staple in our dressing up box. Get one from a charity shop, or buy a classic cotton nightie that can double up!


Every dressing up box needs a pair of wings, preferably some that are undetermined enough so they can be both angel and fairy and dragon ánd bird (good luck!) 

A reversible hooded cloak or cape

This is the one item I think that takes you the furthest. I made a red one, lined with green satin which has dressed red riding hood, a fairies, a super heroes, queens, kings and knights, you name it. The hood can be worn on or off, and tucked in behind the back to create different looks. I already have the fabric in to make a longer one in a darker colour. (The red cape is decidedly more of a capelet for the kids by now!). It will be lined in gold to create witches and wizards and grim reapers, knights and any sort of historical costume!


Felt can be used to make super hero badges, and to fashion animal ears and beaks to headbands. Sew it on, or use double sized tape like I did in Fergus’ batman costume above.  (Note we wear undies over leggings to suggest superheros!) 


A simple fabric crown, a straw hat, a pirate hat and headbands help give the finishing touch for many costumes. Decorating a headband with feathers and a glue gun, felt ears or adding pipe cleaners for antennae can add just the right level of definition to take your plain base layers from abstract to detailed if you want to create an animal costume.

Bonus tips for sustainable costumes

use what you have

upcycle charity shop finds

choose natural materials

As an added benefit, it is a lot easier to add layers to a handmade costume than to a shop bought costume and still keep the magic alive. Rather, a woolen knit or scarf adds to the charm instead which helps when the dressing up takes place outside in cold weather.

Remember it’s all about the power of suggestion and going with the child’s imagination instead of getting everything just so. Although it’s true that there is a certain age where Elsa must be The Disney Elsa and nothing else, most younger children as well as (pre)teens are totally fine with the creative and slightly more suggestive approach. After all whose child hasn’t ever worn a tea towel or play silk and declared himself royalty?! (I’m looking at you Wilkie!)

x Nomi

PS Some last minute halloween dressing up ideas here and here!


Comments (1)

October 24, 2020

Thanks Nomi for your sustainable ideas, my daughter has a superhero birthday party to attend & she’ll be wearing the cloak you made us & your suggestions to make the outfit. Always love to see your creative dressing up outfit ideas through the years, a true inspiration….

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