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A few years back for Halloween, I wanted to make my own costume that was both original and cost effective. By cost effective, I mean cheap. I was a little low on cash, yet bent on creating the most unique Harley Quinn costume imaginable (a super villainess from Batman).
Mind you, I am not a seamstress. In fact, if I have to sew anything at all, I either pay a tailor or beg my boyfriend to sew the item for me as he is much better at it than me. He also has much more patience. With that in mind, how did I end up creating my Harley Quinn costume?
Look for Old Clothes that can Resemble your Halloween character
Looking through my closet, I found a pair of old black spandex pants and a spaghetti top that could fit the style of Harley Quinn in the comic, as well as the hybrid Harley Quinn ideas I had swirling around in my head. Since these clothing items were already available to me, I decided to merely paint over them to get the color scheme I wanted for my costume and then only pay for or make my accessories.
Keep in mind that painting a costume over clothes you already own can be time consuming, so I would start early. This means you need to start painting 2-3 weeks ahead of time, depending on the paint needed to create the costume effects on the clothing items.
Designing Your Costume with Fabric Paint
The fabric paint I used was Jacquard fabric paint in the colors of Red, Black, Silver and White. If you are planning on creating a horror type costume, I recommend you mix water into the paint to get that bloody, messy look. I used it on my costume to get a look that didn’t seem deliberate for character purposes and it came out quite well.
If you plan on mixing water to the paint, you definitely need to use a sealant as the paint will bleed even more after water is added to it. The consistency becomes very watery. Remember NOT to add water if you want a solid color look.
Although I used pretty basic solid colors, Jacquard also offers shimmer, glossy and glittery fabric colors for those who want a more ethereal or otherworldly look.
Also, make sure they are clothes you won’t miss once you have changed them because although fabric dye can sometimes bleed, it is quite permanent for the most part.
To prevent fabric paint bleed, you may want to invest in a fabric paint sealant. I used Crafty Crafty Chica Glossy Gloss Varnish, which I found online at Amazon. You can easily find this sealant online at Amazon, Ebay, and online craft stores. It may be difficult to find in store so I recommend online.
Another Option: Second Hand Clothing Stores or Modify an Old Costume
If you prefer not to alter any clothing you own already, a good option is to get secondhand clothing or re-use and alter an old costume you may have from previous years. This is simple enough if you decide to take a costume from previous years and simply create an evil or twisted version of that costume, which can be fun.
If not, secondhand clothing is the way to go. The clothing prices vary, but you should be able to find your entire costume for under $20.
For accessories, you can find wands, weapons, etc. at your local costume store and if you are going for a comic book character, you may be able to get away with purchasing a cheap kid version of the item.
Also, if something is for decoration and it is possible to make it, it is almost always cheaper to do so.
Here is a picture of me on Halloween with friends in my Harley Quinn costume:
As you can see, the pants and shirt were both painted ½ red, ½ black and the colors were alternated to create a checkered look when the costume is worn.
I created my own accessories by cutting white felt into the shape of a jester’s choker, but exaggerated the size and length of it. I also made my own bracelets and anklets out of elastic band and attached small little sleigh bells. I wore ankle boots with the outfit, which I also would have painted, but I did not have time. It turns out even painting your clothing takes time!
On the left is another photo of just my make-up for the costume the day after, which I had altered for a different Halloween party to get a more twisted look, whereas the look above is more classic and true to the comic.
Good luck, and remember, have fun and be creative; it will definitely pay off when that yearly Halloween party comes around!