10 Most Popular Halloween Costumes — and How To Make Them on a Budget

David Harbour salary Stranger Things
Rob Latour / Shutterstock.com

The ghostly spirit of Halloween is in the air, and across the nation families are getting ready for the occasion by dressing up as their favorite ghouls and goblins — or, as a new Pinterest report shows, their most beloved pop culture characters and icons. 

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Pinterest assembled a list of this year’s top 10 Halloween looks. What are they and how can you make these costumes on a tight budget? 

‘Stranger Things’ 

“‘Stranger Things’ characters are typically pretty easy– just need to find some vintage pieces that look like they’re from the ’80s,” said Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst with DealNews.com. “Your best bet is to head to a local thrift store or raid the closet of a family member that may have items from the ’80s.

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“The good news is that with such a huge cast of characters you pretty much have your pick, so you could theoretically mix items you already have with vintage pieces you pick up at the thrift store. Consider looking for a Hawaiian shirt to be Hopper, a denim jacket to be Eddie Munson or a light blue zip up jacket paired with headphones to be Max.”

Elvis and Priscilla Presley

Thanks largely to the new Baz Luhrmann biopic “Elvis,” the king of rock ‘n’ roll and his dearly beloved Priscilla are majorly on trend.

Dressing up like these lovebirds is a smart choice because you can go in so many directions, based on the era. One cool and budget-friendly route to go is to riff on their wedding. The person going as Elvis really needs only to slick up hair and don a tux (you can nab one for cheap at Salvation Army), while Priscilla just needs a white dress, a gaudy veil and some creamy lipstick that you could probably get at the dollar store. 

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Patrick Bateman 

“Patrick Bateman [from ‘American Psycho’] is another costume that should be relatively easy,” Ramhold said. “You’ll need a suit and tie; and, if you don’t have them, I suggest looking at a thrift store, especially if you’ll be going the whole route with fake blood.

“Even if you build a suit from pieces, you’re looking at spending around $30 for a coat and potentially $40 for pants, so a thrift store really is your best option unless you have an old suit you don’t care about. Ties can run $15 to $20, too, so you’ll want to pick up a budget one of those as well. You’ll want a clear raincoat or poncho to wear over the suit, which can be found on Amazon for around $12 or Target for around $10, from brands like ShedRain.”

Top Gun

The box office smash “Top Gun: Maverick” revived interest in this classic. To pull off a Top Gun look for Halloween, you really need only a green jumpsuit (or some version thereof) that can look like a flight suit. If you can’t get one of those for cheap, just get a green or black bomber jacket and iron on some Air Force patches that you can get for around $9 on Amazon. 

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Anna Delvey 

“Anna Delvey is another easy one, especially if you have a black dress on hand already,” Ramhold said. “If not, Target has some for around $12, Charlotte Russe has some around $10, and of course a thrift store or consignment shop are also good options for finding a cheap one.

“Then you’ll just need to add black thick-frame glasses, which can be found at Spirit Halloween for as little as $6, a black choker — pick up a pack of five simple designs from Target for about $10 — and a pair of handcuffs — Spirit Halloween has some for around $13.” 

Harley Quinn 

It seems that every year Harley Quinn makes the list of top Halloween costumes — and for good reason: The character sports a range of highly unique looks that are fairly easy to replicate. You can go for the grunge glam look, which you could pull off with a pair of shredded tights, cut-off shorts and a crop top. Hair and makeup are key to this look, so get a cheap blond wig on Amazon or eBay and pile on the cherry red lipstick and white powder. 

Avril Lavigne 

“Avril Lavigne is going to involve hunting down items suitable for a punk rock princess,” Ramhold said. “You can find pieces like plaid skirts at Charlotte Russe for as little as $10, then pair it with fishnet tights — you can find them at Forever 21 for around $8 — a plain black T-shirt which Target has for around $5, long black socks which Target has for around $2.50 or so, and your favorite comfy runners — bonus points if they’re also black.

“Then it’s a matter of doing some heavy eye black eyeliner, maybe consider painting your nails black as well, and carry a mic around with you — Spirit has them for about $10.”

Dani from ‘Hocus Pocus’ 

“Since Dani is wearing a Halloween costume herself in the movie, all you’ll need is a witch’s hat, orange tights and some kind of orange and black shirt,” said Grace Baena, director of branded content at Kaiyo. “You can be creative with the shirt, either throwing together something yourself or finding an option at a thrift store.” 

Maddie and Cassie from ‘Euphoria’ 

This one definitely isn’t for the kiddos — and it’s a tad on the elaborate side. To show that you’re either Maddie or Cassie from “Euphoria,” you’ll need a cheerleader costume or something quite similar. You can find both pre-owned and new cheerleader costumes on eBay, as well as new on Amazon for as low as $16. 

‘Lord of the Rings’

“The trick is in finding the type of character you want to resemble and then putting together an outfit that hits the right notes, without necessarily having to be exact,” said Kirsten McKinley, the founder of Weddings & Brides who once planned an LOTR-themed wedding. “I’d recommend choosing between being a hobbit, a human or an elf. But you could also be a wizard if you’re up to it!” 

My tips for each of the mentioned:

Hobbit: Think cottagecore and old England. A long skirt or some brown pants, paired with a formal shirt and a waistcoat. You can also add a cloak. Color-wise you should go for greens and browns.

Human: This opens up many possibilities as there are many humans in LOTR. It gives you the freedom to find something more befitting your own style. I’d recommend formal wear that is medieval-inspired. 

Elf: The key to this is long, elegant clothing and headwear. For women, a long dress with oversized sleeves; and, for men, perhaps a tunic. As for the headwear, a statement circlet should do the trick. 

Wizard: A big tunic, a big hat and a big staff!

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About the Author

Nicole Spector is a writer, editor, and author based in Los Angeles by way of Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Vogue, the Atlantic, Vice, and The New Yorker. She's a frequent contributor to NBC News and Publishers Weekly. Her 2013 debut novel, "Fifty Shades of Dorian Gray" received laudatory blurbs from the likes of Fred Armisen and Ken Kalfus, and was published in the US, UK, France, and Russia — though nobody knows whatever happened with the Russian edition! She has an affinity for Twitter.
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