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By Mary Lou Aguirre

RISMEDIA, Oct. 8, 2008-(MCT)-A glue gun, fabric, odds and ends plus a great imagination are all Tracy Bohren needs to create a photo-worthy Halloween costume. The Clovis, Calif., resident has been making homemade costumes for years.

The former craft-store employee says inspiration is as close as your closet. She shared her ideas on how to create inexpensive costumes as clever as those priced much higher in stores.

“The best advice I can give is start early,” Bohren says. “Start at home. Once you have an idea for a costume, start thinking about what you can use that you already have. You can do a lot with an old white T-shirt.”

This year, inspired by an idea at the Martha Stewart website,, Bohren is making a chicken costume for her daughter using feathers from a feather boa, a white baseball cap with red felt “comb” and yellow rubber gloves for feet. “I made my own little adjustments,” she says.

Last year, the stay-at-home mom made her toddler, Katie, a King Kong outfit for less than $5.

“I used a black-hooded sweatshirt that she already had, found some black pants on sale and used a pair of old socks. With the hood up, I used rubber bands to make ears and I hand-stitched toes in the socks that I stuffed with cotton balls. The only thing ruined were the old socks. The sweatshirt and pants were usable again.”

She also suggests checking out community websites for costumes for sale or trade.

“You can also try asking for specific items that you may need, such as leggings, wings, old sports uniforms, all things that moms will gladly swap or lend,” Bohren says.

Clovis resident and day-care provider Carolynn Flores recalls making homemade costumes when her children, Brittany, Justin and Melanie, were little.

“It was a way to save money and be creative,” she says. “I made Justin a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume using a green sweat suit and felt for the shell,” she says. “That was really easy. He was really excited about not having the same look as the store-bought costumes.”

Flores, who enjoys decorating her home for Halloween, gets ideas from the Internet and Pack-O-Fun craft magazine.

One year, Flores made a not-so-perfect angel costume using a white cotton dress with a tilted halo. “It was a cute one,” she says. “Melanie had a devil tail on the back. She really fit that costume.”

Sara Kelly of Hanford, Calif., also recalls making her children, Conor and Devin, now 28 and 26, respectively, their Halloween costumes.

“It’s been many years since I’ve had to make a Halloween costume. I recall going to thrift stores for funky old clothes and bed sheets,” says Kelly, an award-winning quilter. “One year, the old clothes acquired cat’s ears and a tail. A bed sheet was adorned by a red cross to become a medieval crusader.”

Bohren says costumes are easier to create if they aren’t tied to a specific character.

“Think race-car driver, robot, witch, princess or pirate,” she says. “For teens or older kids, retro costumes for the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s are always easy. Think hippies, punk or new wave.”

Old formals or bridesmaids dresses, Bohren says, lend themselves to killer prom queens, vampire brides or beauty pageant misfits. “Lengths of fabric or old sheets are good for togas, mummies or the Statue of Liberty.”

Other costume ideas can be found at, and Among the ideas at FamilyFun magazine is a “windy day duo” costume for a boy and girl.

All it takes is 18-gauge wire to be slid into the front of a tie to make it look like it’s blowing to one side.

The same thing is done with the girl’s skirt hem and scarf. Hair gel is needed to give hair a wind-blown appearance. In addition, an old umbrella can be turned inside-out, with leaves stuck using double-stick tape.

The website has a photo gallery of costumes for pets, babies and couples.

Check out the family that was on the game show “The Price is Right”-including the big wheel, the Plinko game and the family dog with a sign reading “Spay or neuter your pets.”

In addition to thrift stores, many dollar stores have masks and accessories for sale to add to a basic costume. One of the easiest costume ideas can be found at All it requires is using packing tape to attach Smarties candy to your child’s pants for a “Smartie pants” costume.

Bohren has her own dirt-cheap costume. One year, she was static cling.

“I wore mismatched shirt and pants, used safety pins to add other articles of clothing, threw on used dryer sheets, teased out my hair and added a little lint it to it.”

Cost? Free.

© 2008, The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.).
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.