20 Last-Minute Halloween Costume Ideas That Take Barely Any Effort

updated Oct 4, 2023
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Everyone’s done it before: You had every intention to scheme up the ultimate Halloween costume, just to realize the day before that you never actually came up with one. While your home may be decorated to the nines with stylish Halloween decor and your candy selection is the envy of the neighborhood, deciding on a costume can often fall to the wayside. Fortunately, it’s never too late to DIY a last-minute Halloween costume. 

Before you head to the costume shop or local rental service, consider what’s already waiting in your closet. After all, reusing items you already have can help you out in a hurry and save you a few extra bucks along the way. From clever wordplays to iconic TV and film characters, you’ll be amazed by the creative costumes you can come up with in minutes. For once, procrastination just might have actually paid off!

1. Barbie

It’s no secret that the Barbie movie was a smashing success this year, so take cues from the film and create a costume. Pull everything pink in your closet and make a creative outfit, or go for another iconic look, such as her black and white striped bathing suit with white-rimmed sunglasses. Bold colors and an open button-down shirt will suffice for Ken if you want to go as a couple. Or, if you’re really daring, a brightly patterned outfit with roller skates is a fun twist if you already own a pair.

2. Cat’s Pajamas

Love a play on words? This one’s for you. Use a headband and black paper or felt to make cat ears. Wear comfy pajamas and slippers and see if anyone gets the pun. Not only may folks be stumped by your costume, but you’ll also be wearing one of the most comfortable Halloween outfits around. 

Credit: Ralf Liebhold for Shutterstock

3. Holly Golightly

Audrey Hepburn obsessives, this one’s for you. We love this take on Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Marie McGrath. Simply pull out your favorite LBD, a string of pearls, black sunnies, and your favorite red lipstick to transform into this iconic movie character. Plus, you’re sure to be one of the best-dressed people in the room.

4. Error Code

You know that dreaded “404” that comes up when a webpage is broken? If your perfect Halloween ensemble is also missing, go as a 404 error. This “costume” is as simple as wearing black pants or jeans and topping it off with a white t-shirt with “404” written on it. Make the numbers out of electrical tape, felt, or permanent marker if you’re not precious about the T-shirt, and tell everyone your Halloween costume was nowhere to be found. 

5. Dust Bunny

No one likes balls of lint and dirt rolling around their floor, but there’s no need to get filthy when being a dust bunny. Make a pair of bunny ears with heavy paper and a headband. Next, grab a feather duster or dusting spray and a cloth. You can wear whatever clothes you’d like, and voila! You’re a dust bunny. Halloween is the one time everyone will consider dust bunnies cute and not bothersome, as you look adorable in your punny costume.

Credit: John Medina / Stringer for Getty Image

6. Swiftie

Even if you didn’t score tickets to the popular Eras tour, you can still dress like you’re heading to a Taylor Swift concert. If you have anything with sparkles, feathers, sequins, and shine, Halloween is the time to pull out all the stops and blend them together for the perfect fan ensemble. Flawless bold makeup and hairstyles combined with shimmery details will help you top off the look with finesse. Being a gaggle of Swifties also makes a fun group group if you’re headed somewhere with friends, as everyone can plan their own style.

7. Nail Polish

Whether you’re a hardcore Essie, OPI, or Tenoverten devotee, dressing as your favorite nail polish is a breeze. This cute costume idea from Clever Crafted allows you to dress however you’d like while still looking like you put in the effort to make a thoughtful costume. 

8. A Milkshake

Who doesn’t love a fully loaded milkshake with whipped cream, cherries, and maybe a few sprinkles? This costume idea from Studio DIY simply requires a dress in your favorite ice cream color, a headband, and a few household items to create the toppings for a brilliantly simple and effective costume.

9. Bubble Bath

If you have a plethora of pastel balloons on hand from a recent party, you’re in luck! Wear a light-colored outfit underneath, and use safety pins to attach blown-up balloons at their base. To top it off, affix full balloons to a hat or headband. Then, carry a loofah, rubber duckie, or body brush to have a complete bubble bath look.

10. Formal Apology

If you love an excuse to dress up but you also want a simple costume, go as a formal apology. Dress your best — a suit or cocktail attire will do — and use cardboard, poster board, or a sticker to make a sign that says “I’m sorry.” You may have to explain the play on words, but you’ll get a few laughs throughout the night for your brilliantly easy costume.

Credit: Stephanie Loo

11. Deviled Egg

Deviled eggs appear all over restaurant menus, so it’s time to jump on the trend and be one for Halloween. If you have yellow paper or felt around, cut out a circle and affix it to the front of a white shirt. Then, make devil horns from red paper and a headband to complete the costume. If you have the supplies, top it off with a red tail and makeshift pitchfork to pull off this pun-centric look.

12. Mime

Own a black and white striped shirt? Perfect! Navy and white would also suffice to pull off this simple yet crowd-pleasing look. Pair the shirt with dark bottoms, and use makeup or face paint to add exaggerated features to your face. Other accessories you can add include red suspenders, a colorful scarf, and a red or black beret, which are just a click away.

13. Pop Star

Scour your wardrobe for something with stars, or make a star out of construction paper, cardboard, or aluminum foil to carry with you. Hold a can of your favorite soda — often called pop in some areas of the U.S. — and you can be a pop star without perfecting your voice or dance skills. Plus, a little glitter never hurts.

14. Queen of Hearts

If your closet is full of red and you have a spare deck of cards at home, consider being one of the most popular characters from Alice in Wonderland. Start with a base of red, such as a dress, and tie your hair up into a bun. Create a makeshift crown out of yellow paper, and then add the final touch: an Elizabethan-style collar made of cards. Simply tape or glue the cards together to create a collar, and wear it to complete your royal costume.

15. Gumball Machine

Transform a red pair of pants and a white shirt in a hurry with a bit of creativity. Raid your craft stash for pom-poms, felt pieces, or construction paper to craft into small circles. Adhere the spheres to your T-shirt using safety pins or a hot glue gun, depending on whether or not you want to reuse the shirt. Make a small sign that says “5 cents” to affix on the shirt — using it as a name tag is a clever touch. You can even chew gum and blow bubbles for added effect. 

16. Chef

Display your culinary skills — or at least pretend you have them — by becoming a chef for the night. Don a black or white shirt and white apron, and carefully dab a bit of flour on your cheeks using your fingertips. If you only have a colorful apron, feel free to be an at-home chef. Place kitchen utensils in your pockets, and carry a cookbook to convince others you know your way around the kitchen.

17. Rosie the Riveter

A blue button-down with rolled-up sleeves and a red bandana are Rosie’s trademark accessories, so if you have those, you’re good to go! Cover your hair with the bandana, or wear it as a headband. The bottoms are up to you, although jeans work well. Once you are out and about, be sure to show everyone your bicep so they can get the full effect.

18. Scarecrow

You likely have jeans, boots, and cozy fall flannels on hand by this time of year, so why not use them to make an adorable costume? Top it off with a fedora or brown floppy hat for extra flair, use brown makeup to add a nose, and place hay or leaves in some of the pockets. Another plus to this outfit is that it works with denim shorts, overalls, and short-sleeved shirts, so you can still scare the birds away if you live in a warmer climate.

19. Minion

These yellow guys have taken the world by storm in the last decade or so, and dressing up as one of the them is still a relevant choice for your Halloween party. She Knows proves that a quick search through your closet and craft corner will take you far in creating a fun and comfy costume everyone will love.

20. “Stranger Things” Characters

Chances are, you have all the pieces needed to dress up as your favorite character from Netflix’s supernatural thriller Stranger Things. Check out this tutorial for dressing like Mike and Eleven from Shrimp Salad Circus to make the most out of your wardrobe. Everyone will think you’ve been planning your costume for ages.