Make your own Halloween costumes


CREATIVITY There are plenty of options for sustainable Hallowe’en costumes. Pic: istock

Green Living
McKinley Neal

When I was a child, I was a ‘witch’ for Halloween at least four years running. I have two older cousins and my aunt is a talented seamstress (she also made my wedding dress), so I got to wear whatever was handed down, with a little creative face paint to mix it up each year. Now the stakes seem to be a bit higher, with a lot more costume options on sale each year.
These mainstream costumes are a lot scarier that any of us imagined. Research conducted by Hubbub, an environmental charity in the UK, in 2019 found that 90 percent of families in the UK buy new costumes each year, out of the over 39 million that dress up for Halloween. Horrifyingly, two in five of these costumes are worn only once before being thrown away. Of these, 69 percent of the costumes were made predominantly of polyester, which is a synthetic fabric created from plastic (derived from petroleum), not to mention the additional plastic and synthetic rubber masks and accessories that go along with the actual garment. That’s an incredible amount of waste associated with one holiday, before we even mention the home decorations, individually-wrapped treats and single-use partyware!
There are plenty of options for more sustainable Halloween costumes (and any other fancy-dress occasion).
Fancy dress is all about creativity, so making something yourself is the best way to ensure uniqueness. There are endless ideas and tutorials online to spark an idea. See what you already have at home; most families have a dress-up box or a cupboard full of older clothes that can be refashioned. As anything goes for Halloween, the garments don’t have to be perfect to start with, as they can be ripped apart and refashioned, dyed or painted or written on with wax fabric crayons, usually with minimal sewing. Many times, you can make masks, wings or robot limbs out of other materials, like cardboard, wire, string, etc. If you start now, you’ll have time to work on them a few hours here and there until they are ready.
If you need something a bit more ready-made, ask your friends, family or a local swap group first. Loads of people have costumes sitting around, and they’d be more than happy to pass them along. Charity shops may have some, or might have the perfect elements that just need to be combined for the effect you want.
If you are painting your face or body, and especially those of children, be sure that the paint you are using is really safe for the purpose. Many brands are not non-toxic or allergen-safe, so seek out ones that are, or find tutorials online (there are loads) to make your own using common ingredients. Similarly, glitter is usually made from plastic, and as you walk around the microplastics are shed on the ground or washed down the drain when you shower off all the decoration. Opt instead for a biodegradable plant-based glitter, or some plastic-free sparkly eyeshadow applied around the face.

McKinley Neal co-runs PAX Whole Foods & Eco Goods, a minimal-waste shop in Westport offering bulk organic foods, reusable goods, household products, eco-friendly personal care items and gifts.