Tips on creating the perfect fancy dress costume

As winter slowly approaches so too does the biggest season for fancy dress. It seems that as the nights draw in our inner child feels safe to come out (ear muffs and mittens anyone?) and the added excuse of Halloween parties, Christmas and New Year is just a bonus.

Even dogs don't escape fancy dress at halloween...

I love to create my fancy dress outfits from scratch (like I did for my Madonna look) so now is the time I start to think about a possible outfit for Halloween. But where do I get most of my inspiration from and where do I go to buy the pieces needed to build the outfit.

I generally get my ideas from film or TV and sometimes even computer games; the great thing about fancy dress is really anything goes. You can be as creative as you like and don’t worry if you’re not great at sewing as even the most unskilled seamstress can create something that looks great when worn, just don’t let anyone check the other side 😉

So here are my top tips for creating a great costume:


Do some digging around the internet for images. Take a look at other costumes that might be floating round the web and celebrities from the era or film you want to emulate.Tron Quorra Costume

Fancy Dress Shops

For a complete outfit you need to pick up clothes, make-up and possibly shoes and a wig (if your hair is too dramatically different from the look you want to achieve). My first stop is normally a good look through the fancy dress websites. From here you can get great ideas on what items you really need and pick up pointers on styling. I steer clear of buying anything from them unless it’s a wig (a black wig is surprising versatile for many looks) as I can find most things down the high street.Black WigYour Wardrobe

Next step is a good rummage through your wardrobe. It’s amazing to find clothes that you’ve never worn or pieces that can make the basis of a great outfit. Also (if you remember to ask first) take a look through your other half’s clothes and, if you can, your relatives too. I borrowed a cardigan that was perfect with a dead Cher look I created one year. Just remember that if you’re going to be using fake blood or lots of face paints to make sure that the clothes may get ruined in the process.

Second Hand

Then it’s onto the charity shops and ebay. They are both brilliant resources for accessories and materials that can be recycled and adapted. I’ve used fake leather jackets, huge velvet dresses, crazy looking 80s cocktail dresses and more to create outfits over the years. Also keep an eye out for hats and shoes that can be altered with scissors or paint.Pick up 80's accessories on ebay for a bargain

Ask Friends

Ask around your friends. I knew a guy who worked in a car factory who kindly gave me an off-cut of the material that goes on a dashboard. It made a pair of brilliantly authentic medieval shoes. Also as I got ready round a friend’s house she took one look at my outfit and grabbed one of her belts. It looked great and was the perfect finishing touch.

Get Creative

I spent many of my summer holidays surrounded by cereal boxes, yoghurt pots, egg cartons, Sellotape, paint and glue as I attempted to re-create what I had seen on Blue Peter or Why Don’t You. I drove my mum crazy with the requests to keep packaging. So when it came to the task of either buying a medieval helmet (very expensive), buying a plastic one (pretty rubbish looking) or making my own there was no contest. Armed with an old shoe box, a coat hanger, some Hammerite, feathers and paper fasteners I was ready.Cardboard Boba Fett Helmet

Shop Online

Go shopping online. Some of the best places I found for 80’s inspired clothes were actually fashion retailers. Places like Boohoo and ASOS had a vast array of ra ra skirts, cheap fashion jewellery and accessories which meant I didn’t have to search any further for my Madonna costume.Tutu Skirt from Boohoo

Look for Guides

Scour the internet for resource guides. You’ll be surprised at how many people have shared patterns, written their own how to guides or uploaded videos. There are some very talented people out there. I found videos on Youtube giving me step by step advice on how to curl my hair and how to create the ultimate 80’s make-up. Plus fake blood is surprisingly cheap and easy to make at home so long as you have a good recipe. One of the best make-up channels on Youtube I’ve found is MasqueradeMakeup.MasqueradeMakeup Sophia Loren look

Get Crafty

Don’t discount DIY or craft stores. Handy items like gardening wire can be used to create ears (like the bunny ears I made for a hen do) and tails or to make hats or hairpieces. Craft shops have ribbon, glitter as well as glue guns (great for those that hate sewing).Garden Wire

Once you have your supplies and some idea of how your outfit is going to look, start putting it together. Don’t get to hung up that it doesn’t match exactly so long as it has the same feel you can go always go wild with your make-up and hair. Over the years I’ve seen how great it is if everyone gets ready together, you end up helping each other out, swapping earrings and accessories in the end creating a brilliant group look.

So go on and have a go,  it’s just a bit of fun.

Some key pieces to keep in your fancy dress wardrobe:

  • Plain black ballerina pumps (will pretty much go with any costume)
  • A black body or corset style top can easily be the base of many outfits (witch, cat, Madonna, vampire etc)
  • Ditto fishnet tights
  • One tutu (80’s, ballerina, 50s rocker, neon)
  • Face paints (once you have them no more rushing around searching for a party shop last minute)

2 thoughts on “Tips on creating the perfect fancy dress costume

  1. Pingback: Outfit for Halloween 2012 | Kats Whispers

  2. Pingback: Outfit for Halloween 2012 | Kats Whispers

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