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Lady Gaga? The Situation from Jersey Shore? Both are shaping up to be two of this year's most popular costumes—and they're not so hard to build yourself from store-bought items and what you might have in your own closet (wig, gloves, bikini or vintage dress, and outrageous shoes or boots pretty much do it for Lady G). Such creations often make the most interesting costumes, says Susan Baustian, of Once Upon A Child (onceuponachild.com), a purveyor of gently used children's clothing.
Teens don't need much help concocting wild costumes, but younger kids might. Start by going through your child's closet to find accessories you can use to tweak a costume, says Baustian: "Add your own flair! If your child wants to be a pirate, the typical store-bought costume includes a white shirt or vest, eye patch, and a basic 'boot' that is essentially a flap that your child would wear over his or her shoes. To jazz it up, find a white or striped shirt and black pants or a skirt that you feel okay putting holes in. Adding rips to the garments transforms them into tattered pirate clothing." Or, you could take a sweet store-bought costume in a completely different direction, she says. "Instead of your daughter going as a pretty princess, she could go as an evil princess with dark eye makeup, fangs, and blood."
Keep the weather in mind when you're planning costumes, says Nina Sutton, mother of two and author of The Chic Mom's Guide to Feeling Fabulous: "Create costumes so they can be layered with thermal undershirts, turtlenecks, and tights." Have rain ponchos on hand that can be incorporated into costumes, if necessary.