If you're thinking of making this year's Halloween costume yourself, you can stick with simple or go Hollywood pro. Neither has to take much time or money, and either can create a convincing costume, whether you're looking to draw guffaws, shrieks or admiring nods.
Brenda K.B. Anderson, who builds creatures and costumes for the touring "Sesame Street Live" show at VEE Corp. in Minneapolis, says some of the same theories she uses there also apply to making Halloween costumes. A good costume blurs the line between reality and fantasy, she says; even simple subterfuge, such as donning a wig or wearing thick-rimmed glasses, can suffice.
"When people can't see what you really look like beneath the makeup, hair and clothes, you are much more believable," says Anderson, author of "Beastly Crochet" (Interweave, 2013).
For instance, she suggests padding a costume — such as around the middle for a clown or bear — to disguise your own shape and make it more authentic.
Start pulling your costume together by visiting a thrift shop, Anderson advises.
"Thrift stores are kind of a gold mine for the beginnings of Halloween costumes," she says. "For very little money you can get a whole bridal gown — something that looks more authentic."
Kim Conner, of Burlington, Vt., writes about thrifty craftiness at her "seven thirty three" blog.
"I try to utilize things that I have, and what I have to buy is inexpensive," says Conner.
For instance, her simple pig costume: Felt ears attached to a pink headband, a plastic bottle cap wrapped in felt and topped with a pink button to resemble a pig's snout. Her mermaid costume, a little more complicated, involves sewing.
An added challenge is trying to keep her children warm on Halloween night without having to cover up with coats. Some tricks: Incorporate a hat, wig, hooded cloak or long gloves into the costume. On bare arms, wear nylons. Legs stay warm in thick-cotton stockings, leggings or tall boots.
The editors at Real Simple magazine also focus on scrounging around the house for supplies, such as brown paper bags and cereal boxes, or buying the bare minimum to fashion costumes for kids and adults. For a flapper, for instance, attach horizontal rows of fringed pink Post-it notes with red metallic tape to cover a simple dress; glue two mini cupcake liners, with gold-dot stickers in their centers, as flower decorations.
"It's tailored toward having fun with the kids and getting them into it," says Krissy Tiglias, deputy editor of Real Simple's website, which offers more than 50 costume ideas.
Many of the magazine's adult costumes can be assembled moments before a Halloween party. The outfit often hinges on a pun. For example, wear a white chef's hat and apron, and carry an iron (real or toy) to be an "iron chef."
The creative types at Martha Stewart Living have turned out another Halloween Special Issue magazine full of costumes, some of which can be had in a flash: Glue blue and green craft-store feathers and a beak cut from yellow paper to green plastic glasses and wear a matching boa. Presto! You're a parrot.
What's really enchanting in the magazine this year? The plethora of faux lashes, contact lenses, lip appliques and gruesome tattoos — evidence that Hollywood's professional makeup secrets at long last can be ours.
"Special-effects makeup is really making its way into the marketplace. We wanted to show people what they could get themselves," says Marcie McGoldrick, editorial director of holiday and crafts for Martha Stewart Living.
These items aren't cheap — the featured snake-eye contact lenses cost $70 — and require planning ahead. But the effect can be haunting. For example, the "snake charmer" costume includes contact lenses, faux lashes, snakeskin-patterned lip tattoos, ample eyeliner and a rubber snake worn around the neck like a choker.
Other makeup effects include 3D scars and the latest in tattoos that mimic bruises, cuts and scars — all easy to apply, McGoldrick says.
She recommends buying one or two items, such as $10 Latex elf ears or a big wig, to add "that little extra bit" to a homemade costume.
The October issue of Martha Stewart Living includes instructions on making temporary tattoos and offers spooky clip art — spiders, vultures, skulls and owls — designed by tattoo artist Stephanie Tamez of Brooklyn, N.Y.