As Halloween approaches, the excitement of dressing up in unique and creative costumes fills the air. However, take a moment to consider the environmental impact of our choices. Each year, countless brand-new Halloween costumes made from non-sustainable fabrics like polyester are purchased, worn once, and then discarded. Here are some tips to not only help keep the cost down – but also the environmental impact.
According to a 2019 study conducted by Hubbub and Fairyland Trust, Halloween costumes generate about 2,000 tons of plastic waste every year, which is largely attributed to the fact that 83% of them are made using oil-based materials such as polyester.
Halloween didn’t used to be a ‘big’ thing in the UK. But as with most things, the appeal of dressing up in Halloween costumes and having fun is getting more popular every year and now it’s pretty hard not to get lured into buying brand-new outfits when they line the entrance of every supermarket we enter!
In fact, according to Greenly: “…plastic is the main culprit behind the monstrous carbon footprint of Halloween as nearly everything used for Halloween is made out of plastic or uses plastic in some way – such as traditional packaged Halloween sweets, indoor and outdoor Halloween decorations, trick-or-treating buckets, and the costumes purchased from retailers like Tesco, Sainsbury’s and ASDA.”
The issue with Halloween costumes primarily stems from their polyester composition. Being the world’s most produced synthetic fibre, polyester significantly exacerbates textile waste. For context, a staggering 60.53 million metric tonnes of polyester was produced globally in 2021 alone, and Halloween further amplifies this number. Another chilling statistic to consider: fancy dress costumes often have short lifespans. While most are worn only twice, a shocking 2 in 5 are donned just once. This results in an estimated 7 million costumes being discarded annually in the UK, intensifying the environmental concern.
So let’s be more mindful this year. Did you know that your wardrobe is a treasure trove of possibilities? Creating a costume from your wardrobe is far more economical than purchasing a new one. It’s essentially a cost-free option, and you might even find forgotten items you can use. Your wardrobe holds a wealth of possibilities waiting to be discovered all you need is a little time – and a sprinkle of inspiration.
By crafting your Halloween attire from existing items, you can save a significant amount of money. Many clothing pieces can be repurposed for Halloween costumes; that little black dress, old jeans, or retro shirt can become essential components of your costume. Homemade costumes allow for more creativity and personalisation. You can design a costume that reflects your personality and interests, standing out from the generic store-bought options.
Take this example from Instagram Influencers @Liberty.Mai of their Scooby Doo outfits created entirely from pre-loved vintage clothing!
Or even their Wednesday and Gomez Addams inspired look?
Mathilda and Liberty Mai are sisters from the UK who have become synonymous with a thrifty Halloween. Each year, a photo of them dressed as Scooby Doo characters Daphne and Velma emerges on social media feeds. They have attracted a following for their expertise on thrifting and creating spellbinding looks inspired by anything from fictional characters to the zodiac. In an interview with the BBC they said: “Our outfits are obviously vintage,” Liberty said. “So it’s great to know we’re advocates for vintage fashion each year. It’s lightyears more fun than clicking a button and having something arrive at your door.
Los Angeles-based British model turned TikTok sewing expert, Madeline White, is famous for creating unique pieces. She recreates designer outfits she couldn’t afford to purchase to look like pop culture icons. She said: “I started sewing my own clothes because I couldn’t afford to buy them,” she said. “I bought a $30 sewing machine and decided if I wanted new clothes to keep up with the trends, I was going to have to make them out of things I already had or could find at the thrift store. The way the fashion climate is right now, trend turnover is higher than ever. I think we all owe it to our wallets and the environment, to look at what we already have.”
This Halloween, as you consider your costume choices, remember the financial and environmental benefits of embracing sustainable options. Shopping your wardrobe for costume materials not only saves you money but also allows for creativity and personalisation. By choosing quality over quantity, you can invest in costumes that will last for many Halloweens to come.
Mother and daughter duo Janice Glimmer on TikTok are another pair of nifty thrifty costume creators! Based in the US they create incredible looks from clothes they either already own, or seek through the charity shops and online portals.
Some of the looks that they create – for almost nothing – are incredible.
Tips for Creating Fancy Dress from Charity Shop and Thrifty Finds
Don’t restrict yourself to ‘gender’. Think big blazers, shirts etc from the ‘men’s’ section in charity shops.
Think eras! If you’re on the hunt for some 80s-inspired accessories for your Stranger Things outfit, or some cute puff sleeved dresses as Wednesday Addams then you’ll come across some original pieces for a more authentic costume in your local charity shop!
On the same subject….raid you Mum or Grandmother’s wardrobe! Ok – you might not be seen dead in it usually…but this is Halloween and maybe that’s just the look you’re going for!
Don’t just looks for clothes. Look for crocheted blankets, sheets, tablecloths and lace mats and up-cycle them. Get making your own outfit using these preloved materials that would have otherwise gone to landfill. You could make yourself into a ghost or a Mummy with one bedsheet!
Think iconic looks such as faux fur jackets to channel Cruella. Wedding dresses for a dead bride. Prom queen with rips and blood stains, or a spooky ghost-granny using older and vintage clothing such as an a-line long skirt, frilly blouse, handbag, pearls and a silk headscarf! You can usually also pick up a walking frame from a local recycling centre!
For inspiration head to the internet – such as Pinterest. Here you’ll find an overwhelming list of ideas that utilise every day objects and quickly found fashion – from your own wardrobe or from the local charity shop.
Have a swap shop….if your costume go a lot of attention last year or your child wants to wear something different, contact friends and family and see if there is anyone that wants to swap with you. Don’t let that costume go to waste.