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Pulling together a last-minute Halloween costume

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Improvise for Halloween success

Every mom has had to do it at least once. No matter your terrific plan-ahead intentions, you have to pull together a Halloween costume for your child at the very last minute. It’s time to dig deep, Mom, and crack up your imagination. This is your "make it work" moment!

Whether your initial costume idea just isn't going to work or procrastination got the better of you, Halloween is here, the neighborhood children are gathering for trick-or-treating in an hour and your child still doesn't have a costume. Don't panic. OK, maybe panic a little. Then get to work.

Throw open the closets

At this late moment, the perfect, finished costume of any sort just isn't going to happen. Apologize to your child if you have to, then demonstrate what it means to move on — and offer up some of your own attire as a measure of good will. Do you have an old bridesmaid dress that can be pinned into a princess ball gown for your daughter? Does your husband have an old sport coat and tie so your child can dress up like a Wall Street banker? Do you have some flowy skirts that can be construed as "hippie" with an extra scarf or two? Are there old ski boots in the back of your coat closet?

Check the dress-up chest

If your kids already have a dress-up chest, you may be in luck! There is likely a favorite dress-up item in there to use, or at least start with. Go there first and see what you can do. If the lion costume isn't quite the right fit anymore, deconstruct it to create a new lion costume from the hood, paws and tail. Dance recital costumes can easily be resurrected into Halloween costumes, as can flower girl dresses from the past. Have a pirate sword in your dress-up bin? Add a striped shirt, cut off the bottoms of some jeans that are nearly too short for him, draw a fake skull tattoo on his bicep and head out the door.

Raid the craft bins

Crafty moms, you are further ahead than you think! With some glue and cut-outs, you can turn old clothes into a "pile of leaves" or make a crown to go with that princess ball gown. You don't have to be precise in your crafting — it's going to be evening during the annual neighborhood candy crawl, right? Have some feathers and glitter? Make up a costume! Instead of lingering on trying to re-create an identifiable character, get your kids involved in the process and go wild, developing the costume from their wildest imagination.

Grab your makeup bag

Time to pat yourself on the back for not cleaning out your makeup bag last week. Your older mascara will do very nicely for creating a "beard" on your son and what princess or hippie getup is complete without a little blue eye shadow? Eyeliner makes very nice whiskers and a little red lipstick goes a long way for just about anything.

Simply because you were a little later getting the Halloween costumes together doesn't mean that Halloween is a disaster — not by any stretch! With just a few minutes and a willingness to put what you have on the option block (remembering that clothes can be cleaned!), you and your child can create some fun last-minute costumes — and have lots of fun while doing it.

More on Halloween costumes

Classic movie character Halloween costumes for kids
How to make a Where's Waldo Halloween costume
Top 10 Halloween costumes of all time

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