Last Minute DIY Costume Ideas from Recycled Materials - Leaf'd

Last Minute DIY Costume Ideas from Recycled Materials

by Eli Mann
For some of us Halloween is the most exciting time of the year, we get super serious about making or assembling the perfect costume. Others (like me) wait until the absolute last minute to decide and then hastily assemble items that can be construed as a costume. Don’t get overwhelmed, even if you’re not a hobbyist or an amateur costume designer, even if you have just an hour or two before that big Halloween party, some of the simplest household items and recyclables can add an impressive accent to an almost perfect ensemble. Whether you think of yourself the crafty type or not, consider fabricating some parts of your epic costume out of household materials or recyclables you may already have. We’ve created some of our own simple DIY Halloween costume projects you can get started on right away.

Aluminum cans

Though it’s frail and easy to cut through, if you begin with a pattern and then fold the edges over, you’re left with a perfectly moldable metal material that’s ideal for primitive armor, superhero accessories, or a regal headpiece. Add pieces of fabric or foam for extra comfort that will make you forget you’re wearing these attractive conversation pieces into the witching hour.

How to make your own aluminum can Wonder Woman armor:

Using shears and pliers, cut the top and bottom off of your cans and make a single cut along the length of the sleeve. Using needle nose pliers, fold the sharp edges over and smooth them down, bending the main sheet into a curve as you do so. Hot glue the pieces together to make the gauntlets and the knee guards. To make the headpiece, you will need to fold and cut pieces multiple times to fashion the headband. Then fold additional shapes to create the separate pieces that make the star and bars on either side. Then just hot glue them together. For this one, I used adhesive backed velcro to size the headpiece and hot glued elastic to the other pieces with velcro clasps in the center of the elastic. I spray painted everything gold and then created the highlights using paint markers and poster paint.          


This takes a bit more patience, but cutting strips of cardboard and glueing them together to create geometric contour really lends an unmistakeable artful flair to any costume. Whether it’s an entirely wearable suit, or simply a hard-to-find accessory that trademarks your character’s identity, these light, dexterous items are sure to catch the attention of everyone with an eye for detail and an appreciation for craft.

cardboard carnival masks

I took the cardboard aluminum can carton and flattened it out. First I drew my design in pencil and cut out the necessary eye and nose shapes. With a permanent marker I outlined all the major parts of the face. I used colored markers and white-out to create highlights and depth. Then I hot glued elastic straps to the back to fit them to my face. If you don’t want to wear it, just glue popsicle or chop sticks to the bottom for a classy mask you hold up to your face.


Many of us have some experience with paper mache, whether it be from a childhood school project or a more ambitious endeavor as an adult, it requires minimal materials and even less preparation. Check out this tutorial for a spooky pumpkin mask using the same jack-o-lantern you’ll set on your porch.

Paper mache headless horseman helmet

Before you carve your pumpkin, coat the outside in vaseline so that the finished shell will separate easily. Combine heated water with baking flour and fabric or craft starch at a ratio of 3:1 and stir it until mixed thoroughly. Cut short, narrow strips of newspaper and let them soak completely in the mixture. Lay newspaper strips across the surface of the pumpkin in an even coat and allow them to dry leaving the bottom open. Build up at least two coats of newspaper for stability(my mask has three). When dry, cut carefully from the open bottom up to the edge of the stem, if it won’t slide off easily, make an identical cut on the opposite side. Slide the papier mache cover off the pumpkin. Secure the cut edges with tape from the inside and papier mache over the cuts. When dry, remove the tape and do the same to the inside seams. Draw your jack-o-lantern face and cut it out carefully(some areas with fewer layers of newspaper may be weak, too much pressure will crack it). Now you’re ready for paint! I tried a little orange glitter paint and some glow-in-the-dark orange spray paint, and painted the stem green with poster paint. To make it glow, I hot glued battery powered tea lights to the inside, and for comfort hot glued an old baseball cap to the inside top. Voila! You’re now a walking jack or jill-o-lantern!
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