31 Simple, Last-Minute Halloween Costumes That Don't Require a Trip to the Costume Store

Last-minute Halloween costume, ideas - easy Halloween costumes, DIY Halloween costumes for any age (ceiling fan)
Photo: James Wojcik

It happens—Halloween sneaks up on you, and there you are, the night before the big day, staring down an empty Halloween costume aisle at your local store.

Not to worry! You can come up with some very cool last-minute Halloween costumes using stuff you probably already have in your closet—with a quick trip to your craft stash for a few basic supplies.

Bonus: Waiting until the last minute could get you a cheap Halloween costume idea that's still incredibly cute—and may still net you a top prize at your Halloween party.

01 of 31

Throwback Thursday Costume

Easy last-minute Halloween costumes - Throwback Thursday
Philip Friedman; Soft styling: Mai Tran

Can't tear yourself away from Instagram? Give #TBT a life beyond the screen (in the most literal fashion) by using adhesive letters—masking tape or cardboard cutouts will work, too—to spell "Thursday" on the backside of a T-shirt. Then, wrap a bandage around yourself. Top it off with moans about your aching back.

02 of 31

A Rose by Any Other Name Costume

Easy last-minute Halloween costumes, ideas - A Rose by Any Other Name
Philip Friedman; Soft styling: Mai Tran

Even if your RSVP to the Halloween bash doesn't include a forbidden love interest, a nod to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet in your last-minute Halloween costume will please any lit-loving friends.

Simply wear a rose-hued shirt, give yourself a name tag that displays any name but "Rose" (we're partial to "Violet" or even "Lily"), and tote a few roses along for the night. Don't want to carry a bouquet around at the party? (We don't blame you!) Iron on a rose patch or two, instead.

03 of 31

Catcher in the Rye Costume

Easy last-minute Halloween costumes, ideas - Catcher in the Rye costume
Philip Friedman; Soft styling: Mai Tran

No matter how hard you may try, you can't have a do-over of your teenage years (for better or worse). You can spend the entirety of Halloween night reliving those glory days, though—if only for just a few hours. All you need is a catcher's mitt and a couple of pieces of rye bread. A name tag with "Holden" written on it ensures that even those who might not have done their required high school reading know exactly what you are. An air of existential angst is optional.

04 of 31

Beat Around the Bush Costume

Easy last-minute Halloween costumes, ideas - Beat Around the Bush
Philip Friedman; Soft styling: Mai Tran

So you're headed to a party where you don't really know anyone? Or maybe you don't want to repeatedly answer the question "what are you dressed as?" all night long? Slip on a green T-shirt and use safety pins or hot glue to fasten artificial leaves and foliage around the collar (or all over if you're feeling bold). Then add a pair of headphones and, much to the dismay of your fellow partygoers, ask indirect, vague questions all night long. Consider it the perfect excuse for keeping awkward conversations to a minimum—you're welcome.

05 of 31

Breadwinner Costume

Easy last-minute Halloween costumes, ideas - Breadwinner
Philip Friedman; Soft styling: Mai Tran

Forget about what your salary actually is, because on Halloween it doesn't matter. You're the breadwinner tonight! Wear a T-shirt in a bold, primary color (yellow, blue, or red) and hang a gold medal around your neck. (You could also pin a first-place ribbon to the breast of your shirt.) Then, proudly carry around a loaf of bread (any variety will do). But, don't go buying rounds of drinks for all of your friends—unfortunately, you'll still have to face your real bank account once the party is over.

06 of 31

Chip on Your Shoulder Costume

Easy last-minute Halloween costumes, ideas - Chip on Your Shoulder
Philip Friedman; Soft styling: Mai Tran

If you're miffed about having to dress up for Halloween again, here's your chance to air any and all grievances...and pull together a last-minute costume at the same time. And, bonus: There's little-to-no effort involved in this one. Simply put on a T-shirt and tape a color-coordinated, snack-sized bag of potato chips onto the shoulder. One thing you will be happy about? With this costume, you'll have a snack ready to go whenever the hunger pangs strike.

07 of 31

Self-Absorbed Costume

Easy last-minute Halloween costumes, ideas - Self-Absorbed
Philip Friedman; Soft styling: Mai Tran

It's generally not proper party etiquette to monopolize the small talk by telling stories about yourself all night long. (We know you're excited about your kid's latest report card, but do you think everyone else at the event is, too? Debatable.) But if it's Halloween and you have some unused kitchen sponges glued all over your T-shirt, you might (might) just get a pass. Starting all sentences with "I" is a required part of the getup—just don't blame us when people start to back away slowly.

08 of 31

Letterhead Costume

Easy last-minute Halloween costumes, ideas - Letterhead
Philip Friedman; Soft styling: Mai Tran

This costume is for the person who absolutely can't stand to dress up but has a costume party they have to attend (read: work party and no more personal days left to use). It's such an easy costume that you can wear whatever you want and still consider yourself dressed up and ready to go to the monster mash. Simply spell out "letter" with adhesive alphabet stickers (iron-on letters or cardboard cutouts attached with hot glue also work) and place them on a plain baseball cap. Bonus points for anyone who scribbles a faux memo onto a white T-shirt and wears that too.

09 of 31

Copycat Costume

Easy last-minute Halloween costumes, ideas - Copycat
Philip Friedman; Soft styling: Mai Tran

If your go-to costume (year after year...after year) is a ghost or a witch, stray out of your comfort zone just a little bit and try this quick—and equally easy—cat costume. Spell out "copy" with adhesive alphabet stickers (in a pinch, you could also cut out cardboard letters and use hot glue to attach them) and place them on a white T-shirt (or opt for a black T-shirt with white letters). Don't forget to finish the look with your old stand-by ears and tail. Can a DIY Halloween costume get any easier?

10 of 31

Countryside Costume

Easy last-minute Halloween costumes, ideas - Countryside
Philip Friedman; Soft styling: Mai Tran

Satisfy your wanderlust (if only for one night) with a costume that comes together quicker than you could travel, well, just about anywhere. Simply purchase an accordion map—or better yet, use one you already have on hand (because you have your smartphone for that now)—and lay a blue T-shirt, folded in half, on top of the map. Trace out the outline and cut. Safety pin the half-map to one side of your body. If you'll be dancing the night away or running from house to house, use hot glue for a more secure costume.

11 of 31

Ghostwriter Costume

Easy last-minute Halloween costumes, ideas - Ghostwriter costume
Philip Friedman; Soft styling: Mai Tran

Breathe new life into a classic Halloween costume with this super simple upgrade. First, you'll need an old white sheet you can spare (or grab a new one from the clearance section at your local store). You'll still need to cut eyes and a mouth out of the white sheet, but two props—a pen and a writer's notebook—ensure the costume is different from the other friendly ghosts trick-or-treating with their kids. And because the costume wouldn't be complete without a solid pun, don't forget to tell everyone about all the buzz your forthcoming boo-ography is getting.

12 of 31

Pickpocket

Easy last-minute Halloween costumes, ideas - Pickpocket
Philip Friedman; Soft styling: Mai Tran

Pretend to be an ordinary thief by gluing a multitude of colorful guitar picks to the front and back pockets of an old pair of jeans—the grungier the better! Upgrade this last-minute Halloween costume with a black and white striped shirt, a mask, and a tote bag disguised as a money bag. Your Halloween party hosts need not worry about whether or not they should have invited you over, though—this costume only sounds mischievous. In fact, the only thing we condone stealing may be an extra cupcake (or two) from the dessert buffet.

13 of 31

Ceiling Fan Costume

Easy last-minute Halloween costumes, ideas - Ceiling fan
James Wojcik

Ready? OK! H-A-L-L-O-W-E-E-N! Go Halloween! Use adhesive letters (masking tape or a printout that's stapled or glued on will also work, in a pinch) to spell out "Go Ceiling!" across a plain T-shirt of any color.

Carry pom-poms or even clean mopheads. Don a high ponytail and a short pleated skirt to complete the look. A peppy, can't-bring-me-down attitude is optional but highly encouraged. The only thing that could possibly make this last-minute Halloween costume even better? A few friends to help you form your very own (and very official) squad.

14 of 31

Fork in the Road Costume

Easy last-minute Halloween costumes, ideas - Fork in the road
james wojcik

So, you don't want to dress up for Halloween, and you've used every excuse in the book as to why you can't—you don't have time to buy a costume, costumes are so expensive these days—we've heard them all. But everyone (yes, even you) has a black shirt tucked away in their closet that can be turned into an instant costume. Use white duct tape to make a line of dashes (your lane lines) that begins at the bottom of your shirt and ends at your collar. Fasten a plastic fork along the route.

15 of 31

Split P Costume

Easy last-minute Halloween costumes, ideas - Split p
James Wojcik

Cut out a large p from a piece of green-colored construction paper, and then cut it in half. Tape each half to either side of a zippered hoodie, so the zipper appears to slice through the letter. And just so you don't have to field questions all night long, ensure everyone gets the joke by carrying a can of split pea soup with you during the evening.

16 of 31

Pumpkin Pi

Easy last-minute Halloween costumes, ideas - Pumpkin pi
James Wojcik

For a costume that's subtle enough to wear to the office but infinitely more festive than your standard work wear, throw on an orange collared shirt, then cut out a pi symbol from black paper (or print one out; just type option + p). Tape or safety pin the symbol onto your shirt.

17 of 31

Iron Chef Costume

Easy last-minute Halloween costumes, ideas - Iron chef
James Wojcik

All you need for a clever Halloween costume is a chef's hat and an iron. You probably already have an iron. (You could easily make a chef's hat out of white paper!) Bonus points for going all out and swapping the jeans and tee for baggy chef's pants and a white coat or an apron.

18 of 31

Self-Portrait Costume

Easy last-minute Halloween costumes, ideas - Large empty picture frame
Ryan McVay/Getty Images

Before the days of selfies, there were self-portraits (we know, it's hard to imagine a world without selfies). This Halloween, keep your phone in your pocket (you can do it!) and carry a large, empty picture frame (minus the glass, of course). If you don't have a picture frame that works, make one out of cardboard, paint it gold, and hold it in front of your face.

The best part? You can wear whatever you want. In fact, we encourage you to show off your most stylish ensemble—it is your self-portrait, after all.

19 of 31

Bottleneck Costume

Easy last-minute Halloween costumes, ideas - Bottleneck
James Wojcik

For some, dressing up for Halloween might feel just as torturous as a traffic bottleneck (maybe that's why you waited until the last minute?). But this costume is pretty painless—and you won't get heckled for not donning a costume. Simply grab an empty soda bottle from the recycling bin. Then, tie a string around its neck and loop the whole thing around yours. Complain all night about "traffic on the 501." The best part about this getup? It's easy to go straight from the office to the party, because you can pair the prop with whatever outfit you want.

20 of 31

Buccaneer Costume

Easy last-minute Halloween costumes, ideas - Dollar bill
Jamie Chung

It takes an adventurous person—a buccaneer, really—to venture out with a dollar bill taped to each ear. Now you've got a buck an ear. Love the idea but worried you're going to have to field a lot of questions about this particular costume? (What in the world are you?) Pirate-like clothing (raggedy black pants, a tucked-in white T-shirt, a big belt, excessive jewelry) and an eye patch are optional but will help people understand the look.

21 of 31

Tickled Pink Costume

Easy last-minute Halloween costumes, ideas - Pink feather boa
Steve Gorton/Getty Images

If your Halloween costume motto is "always glamorous, never scary" or "the simpler, the better," you'll love this fun, easy costume. Just wear your favorite pink dress and accessorize with a feather boa. Everyone will be, well, tickled pink when you show up dressed from head to toe in rose or fuchsia. Want to go all out? Buy a few bright pink boas and wrap them around a white dress borrowed from your closet. Secure with safety pins (or use hot glue if the dress is one you can part with). Now that's a fun costume that'll have people talking.

22 of 31

Cat Out of the Bag Costume

Easy last-minute Halloween costumes, ideas - Paper bag
Ryan McVay/Getty Images

Why dress up as a black cat when you can distinguish yourself from the other felines that are out and about in the neighborhood with this last-minute costume. The new variation on the old standby still requires a pit stop at the costume superstore to pick up cat ears and a tail (unless you already have a set at home). But the only other thing you'll need is an empty bag or a pillowcase. Bonus points for taking the time to master matching cat makeup for a look that's nothing but sheer purr-fection!

23 of 31

Witch Costume

Easy last-minute Halloween costumes, ideas - Witch
Emily Kinni

You probably have most of the fixings for this classic Halloween costume hanging around already—black or striped tights, black shoes, a dark dress and shawl, and your favorite broom. Stop at the store for a pointy hat, and you're golden.

24 of 31

Wrangler Costume

Easy last-minute Halloween costumes, ideas - Cowgirl
Emily Kinni

If you're a little bit country, pull out your boots and hat. Accessorize with a sharp plaid or gingham shirt and your favorite denim—horse not included.

25 of 31

Wednesday Addams Costume

Easy last-minute Halloween costumes, ideas - Wednesday Addams
Emily Kinni

If you're seriously running out of time, this easy Halloween costume may only require a change of hairstyle. Top a button-down white shirt with a black dress or black skirt and cardigan, pair it with black tights and shoes, and do your hair in two tight braids. (Add a headless doll as a bonus accessory!)

26 of 31

Flapper Costume

Easy last-minute Halloween costumes, ideas - Flapper
Emily Kinni

We're back in the Roaring '20s—so go ahead and give this last-minute Halloween costume a try. Pair your favorite sheath dress (extra points for fringe) with T-strap heels or Mary Janes. Add sparkle or feathers to a stretchy headband with hot glue, and throw on a few strings of pearls—real or fake!

27 of 31

Bad Sandy From Grease Costume

Easy last-minute Halloween costumes, ideas - Bad Sandy
Emily Kinni

Grease fans, this is the one you want—pair tight black pants and a wide belt with an off-the-shoulder or strapless black top and a black leather jacket. Accessorize this easy Halloween costume with red slides, hoop earrings, and a bad attitude.

28 of 31

'90s Grunge Rocker Costume

Easy last-minute Halloween costumes, ideas - Grunge Rocker
Emily Kinni

Relive your grunge years: Pair a T-shirt (bonus points for a vintage Nirvana tee) and jean shorts with black tights and Doc Martens, then tie a plaid flannel around your waist for good measure. (Carry around a worn-out CD of the Singles soundtrack for extra angst.)

29 of 31

Hippie Costume

Easy last-minute Halloween costumes, ideas - Hippie
Emily Kinni

Spread a little peace and love. Don your favorite floaty or tie-dyed shirt and a pair of jeans, and add sandals, a beaded headband or bandana, and some groovy beads.

30 of 31

Fortune Teller Costume

Easy last-minute Halloween costumes, ideas - Fortune Teller
Emily Kinni

We see lots of compliments on this last-minute Halloween costume in your future. A boho top and maxi skirt get blinged out with a head scarf or bandana, layers of jangly bracelets and necklaces, and your favorite hoop earrings. (Extra credit if you can add in a "crystal" ball or some tarot cards!)

31 of 31

Gwyneth Paltrow in The Royal Tenenbaums Costume

Easy last-minute Halloween costumes, ideas - Margot Tenenbaum
Emily Kinni

It's all about the attitude with this funky costume. Pair a striped polo dress and faux fur coat with a satchel bag and sensible shoes. Clip back bobbed hair, don plenty of eyeliner, and don't forget the cigarettes (as a prop only!).

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