How to make costumes out of recycled materials

Updated April 17, 2017

If you are dressing up for a theme party or to go trick-or-treating at Halloween, it can be tempting to simply buy a costume from a store. However, a less expensive and often more satisfying alternative is to make a costume using recycled materials. Unleash your creative talents to produce a unique costume while doing your bit to help save the planet.

Make a robot costume using large cardboard boxes. Use the box from a large household appliance to cover your body, cutting arm and head holes from the top and sides. Use a smaller box to cover your head. Use egg cartons, rigid foam food packaging, bottle tops, tin cans, springs, nuts, bolts, screws and foil trays to glue on as attachments and controls. Use lengths of old clothes dryer hose to cover arms. When the costume is finished, spray it completely with silver spray paint.

Use a large cardboard box as a base for a simple costume based on a child's toy, such as a piece of Lego block. Cut arm and head holes in the box. Fasten raised circles of card to form the Lego pattern. Paint the whole thing in a primary colour, such as red or yellow. Wear a hoodie in the corresponding colour underneath.

Wear a swimming costume as the base for a mermaid outfit. Use chicken wire to make a frame for a tail, then cover it in recycled bubble wrap. Spray paint the finished shape. Hold it in place around the waist by threading strong tape through the top and tying it on. Glue on shells as decorations. Make a wig from long strips of bubble wrap, sprayed to match the tail.

Create a period dress using old newspapers or strips of thin cardboard. Add pleats, frills and ruffles, or use other materials such as cardboard rolls to create decorative touches. Use masking tape to hold the dress together. Look online for inspiration from artists and designers who have created newspaper dresses. Add accessories, such as a newspaper hat or fan.

For a Frankenstein monster costume, use recyled green rubbish bags to make long trousers and a shirt. Cut the hems of the bags to look ragged. Use a lighter-coloured bag as a cape. Use a cardboard box or paper bag to make a mask. Spray-paint it green and draw or paint a Frankenstein face on the mask.

Things You'll Need

  • Large cardboard boxes
  • Scissors
  • White glue or hot glue gun
  • Egg cartons
  • Styrofoam food packaging
  • Bottle-tops
  • Tin cans
  • Springs
  • Nuts, bolts, screws
  • Foil trays
  • Dryer hose
  • Silver spray paint
  • Acrylic craft paint
  • Chicken wire
  • Bubble wrap
  • Shells
  • Newspaper
  • Card packaging
  • Cardboard rolls
  • Masking tape
  • Green rubbish bag
  • Large paper bag
  • Green spray paint
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About the Author

Based in East Sussex, Caroline Repchuk has been writing and editing children's books and art and craft features since 1990. Her classic Christmas book, "The Snow Tree," is published by Dutton and her features have appeared in "Art Attack" and "SpongeBob SquarePants." Caroline holds a Bachelor of Arts in fine art from Leeds University.