Halloween is coming up, so maybe that means it's time to dress up. You might have a party to go to, kids to take around the block, or an office to cheer up. But you don't feel like spending $100 on store-bought costume or a rental, and you can't sew. What now?
Can you do better?
One great website I found for ideas is Costumezee. Click on costume how-tos and you can find a lot of relatively simple costume ideas proposed: things you can make with ordinary materials and a little preparation. However, I would avoid ordering costumes and props from them, or anyone else, if you can help it.
Instead, think about what resources you have on hand and what you can get on the cheap. Take a look through the junk in your closet, including anything unfashionable or stupid you've ever been given as a gift. If you need some materials, don't just think about costume stores and theatre stores. What about thrift stores that sell used clothing? What about toy stores? Can you use your costume as an excuse to buy some clothing you wanted or needed anyway? Savers/Value Village is a great source.
Maybe you can buy an old leather jacket and hat and become India Jones, and then keep them to wear after. Or borrow a toy doctor's kit from some kid in the neighbourhood, and pair it with the chemistry lab-coat you still have from school. Will torn-up old clothes help? Do you have tools or stuffed animals you can use as props? Sometimes a little prop will put your costume over the top.
Having trouble coming up with ideas? Try this: dress up as something that is FUN to you. It's that easy. Find a role you can get into and really ham it up. A character you know a lot about or can play up for laughs. Be cheesy, or take role overly seriously, or be over the top wild. It will help you impress kids and it will help you flirt at parties. This is your chance to be a totally different person for the night. It's a holiday!
Sometimes you can adapt a prop or costume piece marketed to one type of costume to another. Monster props can be exchangeable, sometimes vampires and fancily dressed historical characters can share clothing, pirates costumes can be adapted to other historical characters, etc.
Another important piece of advice is to think through what you are going to be doing and choose a costume that will suit it. If you are going to be moving around a lot, like walking kids or going through a crowded party, do not get a big and bulky costume. You don't want a costume that's going to leave you hot, sweaty, clumsy, and bumping into things all night. Also watch out for very stupid or offensive costumes (usually male) or overly sexy (usually female costumes) if you're going somewhere that can't handle it.
If you are manning the house to hand out candy to trick-or-treaters, can you do anything to spook or surprise them? Maybe you can pair some light or sound with a simple prop or mask and spook them once; that's plenty and you don't need a full costume.
One last trick: if you have the space, consider buying props you can save for a year and adapt towards a second costume next year.