How to Reuse Everyday Items for a Costume Party

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There is something delicious about deciding go to a party on the spur of the moment. Deciding to host a party on a whim is even better. But attending a costume party on a whim can be a challenge; how to put together a great costume without any time to shop? It turns out there are lots of ways to use everyday objects to make costumes and even party decorations. Home-made costumes are more expressive than store-bought costumes, and a lot more variety is possible. Nobody else at the party can have the same one. And home-made, improvised costumes are less expensive. Often, the items used to make the costume can simply be returned to regular use after the party, so there is no waste. Some information of how to reuse everyday items for a costume party may inspire readers to make their own costumes or party decorations.

Reusing Everyday Items for Costume Parties

The first thing any costume party needs is a costume for each guest. While buying a ready-made costume is easy enough, making a costume at home is more fun, and often both cheaper and faster, too. Let whatever ordinary objects are on hand suggest ideas for unique costumes and props.

Reusing Clothing for Costumes

Some costumes can obviously be created from old clothes; the party-goer simply dresses like somebody else. Dressing like a member of the opposite sex, or adopting the distinctive clothing style of a friend or associate are popular and effective costumes. More creative options involve using articles of clothing in ways never intended by their manufacturers. The cloth belt of a bathrobe, perhaps stiffened by wire taken from a coat hanger, makes an excellent tail for a cat or a possum. Trousers a few sizes too big can be cut down to make knee pants for a pirate. Fold and pin up the bottom of a long, oversized T-shirt to make the pouch of a kangaroo; a stuffed animal in the pouch completes the effect.

Making Costumes from Objects

Everyone knows an old bed sheet makes a good ghost costume, but there are a lot of other ways to use objects to make costumes, too. The trick is to see the object for its shape, size, and material, not its function. For example, gauze, nylon stockings, or even window screen, can be stretched over bent wire frames to make fairy wings. Metal foil, plastic sheeting, feathers from a pillow, wrapping paper, or sheet metal fragments from soft-drink cans all make excellent raw materials for costumes. Scraps of foil are great for giving a princess dress extra sparkle. A few meters of bubble wrap could bell out a full skirt, in place of petticoats.

Making Props from Everyday Objects

The same kinds of materials that make great costumes can also make great props and accessories. For example, a section of broom handle, cut, painted, and securely mounted to a mask, makes a great unicorn horn. The main challenge here is to make sure the accessories or props are both safe and functional enough for fun. For example, metal discs cut from soft-drink cans could work for costume jewellery, except that the edges are likely to be very sharp. Sharp costume jewellery might be acceptable for an adult's costume, but not for a child's outfit. Conversely, a cardboard cut-out sword is not dangerous, but is likely to crumple if someone tries to fence with it; a party-goer who wants to play with the costume, instead of just wearing it, needs a more durable sword. The cardboard tube from a roll of wrapping paper, covered with shiny foil, makes a safe sword that is strong enough for some light fencing.

Reusing Everyday Items for Party Decorations

The guests of the costume party might have their costumes well in hand, but the hosts have their own responsibilities to consider. The venue has to be decorated, for one thing. Everyday objects can be made into interesting and quirky decorations, even on short notice, either used alone or alongside store-bought decorations. With a touch of creativity, ordinary objects can even be used to create extraordinary fantasy settings to help everyone get into the mood of a themed costume party.

Looking to Everyday Objects for Raw Materials

Many everyday objects can be repurposed as party decorations. Again, the key is to see the object for its form, not its function. Do not think of a magazine as a thing to read but rather as a group of coloured, flexible sheets suitable for folding into flowers or cutting into confetti. Do not see a large, empty jam jar only as a container, but also as a glass globe; some coloured tissue paper and a small LED torch convert that jar into a glowing party light. Some of these projects involve some skill at making things, while others require only the ability to see the potential in an ordinary object and turn it upside down for an evening.

This table lists several common household objects together with their possible uses. Note that, with the exception of coat hangers and duct tape, all of these can be returned to their original purpose after the party. These are offered simply as hints for what is possible.


Possible Uses

Broom or mop handle Sword, lance, wizard staff, hobby horse frame
Wire coat hangers Unbend the wire to stiffen tails, wings, ears
Bed sheets Drapes, backdrops, togas, capes, cloaks
Duct tape Adhesive, but also makes fabric and rope
Belts Harnesses for wings
There are two ways to use objects for costumes or decorations. One option is to start with an idea and then look for items that can be adapted to make the idea reality. The other option is to start with a collection of objects and let them inspire an idea.

Using Everyday Objects to Develop a Theme for the Party

Some of the best costume parties do not stop with asking the participants to dress up but actually involve dressing up the venue as well. Just for the evening, the hosts' flat might become an American speakeasy, a posh nightclub, a surf shop, or a dusty outback cattle station. Obviously, nobody wants to spend a lot of money on decorations that are only needed for one night, nor is a great deal of realism really necessary, but setting the mood properly by developing the theme is still important.

Using everyday items in unusual ways, either by themselves or in addition to store-bought party supplies is the ideal way to create an affordable but fun fantasy. Coloured lighting made with tissue paper or even pillowcases over the lamps, a couple of improvised props, and a sense of humour can do wonders. For a surf-shop theme, for example, pin a large blue bed sheet to the wall, tape paper sharks to it, and then explain that this is the ocean. Every good surf-shop needs a nearby ocean.

How to Buy Craft Supplies and Party Decorations on eBay

Using everyday items creatively is all well and good, but sometimes paint, glue, or other supplies expand the possibilities dramatically. eBay carries a wide selection of art, craft, and sew supplies, as well as party decorations. The site is fairly straightforward to use.

If you want to browse around first, do a simple search with a general search term, like 'craft supplies' or ' party decorations'. To search for something specific, use the Advanced Search feature. Or, try your luck at eBay Deals, where the best prices of the day are listed. If you have any questions about a listed item, just ask the seller. Use the seller's profile page to look up his or her contact link, feedback score, and policies. Some offer free shipping.


Whether hosting a costume party or attending one as a guest, there is no need to feel limited to the costumes and decorations available commercially. Everyday items can be used to either create complete costumes and decorations from scratch, or to supplement store-bought items. All it takes is the ability to see the potential in an object. Sometimes items that might otherwise be thrown away or recycled can be saved from the waste bin and given a new purpose. Other times, household items can be borrowed from their normal use for a night and then returned, none the worse for their night as part of a costume. Costumes and decorations do not need to be realistic or professional-looking. All they need to do is grab some attention. There is no reason not to improvise a little and have some fun.
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