Dwight Schrute Halloween costume

Your killer Halloween costume—made climate-friendly

By Team ULLU

Is there a holiday that’s quite as much dang fun as Halloween? (No need to respond—the answer is obviously no.)

It’s that time of year when there are no limits to how ridiculous we might be, no matter our age—a time when we can step outside the humdrum of our lives to let loose, to laugh.

There is a dark side to this festive holiday, though. Halloween generates a tremendous amount of waste—and, with it, a large carbon footprint.

The National Retail Federation reports that Americans spent $3.2B on Halloween costumes last year. And, we all know that costumes are rarely made to last. Meaning, our Halloween frills often end up in landfills.

Compounding the issue, Halloween costumes are often manufactured with a lot of plastic. And, we’re not just talking about the plastic battle axes, wizards’ wands, stethoscopes, and fairy wings. Even the fabrics themselves—often made from polyester—are generated from plastic.

So, how do we go about creating “the” costume of the night—while making sure it’s also climate-smart?

We chatted with Ashleyn Przedwiecki, founder of sustainable fashion organization, THREADED, for some direction—and we tossed in a few clever costume ideas from the folks at ULLU HQ, as well.

To begin, take a second look at your closet

With a little creativity, you can pull together a laugh-out-loud funny costume with the clothing you already own. Often times, it’s just a matter of coming up with a creative idea and jazzing things up with a little make-up and a few accessories.

The key: Keep it simple.

For instance, Ashelyn once dressed in orange, wore a green hat, and donned gold necklaces to make her appearance as 24 Karat Gold. <stands, claps>

Some other ideas?

  • Wire a tie to point upward and gel-up your hair to go as Falling Down Guy
  • Tack psychoanalytical phrases onto your sleepwear and go as a Freudian Slip
  • Give your wedding gown new life as Bridezilla or Corpse Bride
  • Dress in green, tack on short pieces of green yarn, and—with a few red or yellow flowers in your hair—go as a cactus
  • Don a sharp suit, carry a fashionable bag, take no sass, and go as A Strong Independent Woman (and, yes, one showed up at an ULLU staffer’s house last year)

Sometimes, it’s these simple, creative ideas that are the biggest winners of the night.

Nothing jumping out at you? See if you might shop a friend’s closet to expand your choices.

Consider recycling thrift shop clothing

Thrift shops are an absolute treasure trove of opportunity. Stores like Arc’s Value Village save unusual items for the Halloween season, knowing it’s when they often generate their greatest revenue. In short, they prepare accordingly.

What might you consider?

Ashleyn suggests giving iconic characters from movies and television a try. As many are often wearing fairly normal clothes, they can be pretty simple to pull off just by adopting the character’s bold persona:

  • Source a suit, short sleeve shirt, and tie—keeping in the taupe and mustard color palette, obviously—and go as Dwight Schrute from The Office
  • Nab some well-worn jeans, an old button-down shirt, and—with a little dirt and a lot of makeup—go as The Walking Dead
  • Find a stylish vintage coat and hat and make an appearance as Mary Poppins or The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
  • Hunt-up an outrageous black and white number, and an even more outrageous wig, and go as Schitt’s Creek’s Moira Rose

Of course, there are lots of other avenues to pursue.

Thrift shops are often well-stocked in retro clothing—so opting to go as someone from the 60s or 70s always presents an opportunity to make a fun fashion statement.

Alternately, if you find a few hand-me-down occupational pieces you could have some fun. Find a pair of scrubs and go as a doctor. Want to take it a step further? Fashion a simple eyepatch from recycled materials and your doctor becomes a one-eyed cardiac surgeon. Or, locate a chef’s hat in a thrift shop bin and, with a simple apron, play the part of a culinary artist. Want to kick it up a notch? With a little washable blood, your chef becomes Chef Blood-R-Dee.

The best part: After Halloween is over, you can wash the clothing and donate it back to the thrift shop so it can be well-loved again.

Buy new—but invest in clothing you’ll wear again

You may have a top-notch costume idea, but no way to execute it with the clothing you own or from your thrift shop options. That’s okay. If you’re going to buy new, first, consider what it’s made out of—and, then, invest in clothing you know you’ll wear again.

You might consider:

  • A simple striped shirt and stocking hat to pull off Where’s Waldo
  • An irresistible denim button-up shirt that—with a red bandana—allows you to flex your way to Rosie the Riveter
  • A sharp black suit, white shirt, black tie, and sunglasses to go as Men in Black (Not a MIB fan? No problem—call yourself a Reservoir Dog)

At the end of the day, it’s really about slowing down and being more conscious about our fashion decisions. Because when we do, we can collectively make a dent in our Halloween carbon footprint—while still holding onto all that makes the holiday special.