Do-It-Yourself Halloween in the Berkshires



Over the next two weekends, Halloween parties, costume contests and parades will creep up all over Berkshire County and beyond.

In all likelihood many of us will either be forced to conjure up a costume on a shoestring budget or end up making that last-minute decision about what to wear. Or, perhaps you're the creative type who just wants to dress up in something that sets you apart from store-bought, pre-bagged trends.

PHOTO GALLERY | DIY, last-minute Halloween costume ideas with Berkshire Costume Co.

In any case, to truly pull off a great costume, Kara Demler says you have to embrace it.

"You can learn it from a kid. You know how they can wear a bath towel on their shoulders and become a superhero in a cape? You've got to believe it yourself," she said.

Demler knows a lot about costumes. She's the owner of Berkshire Costume Co. on West Housatonic Street, and also manages Berkshire Children's Theater, so she's constantly creating characters through outfits, makeup and accessories.

The first step in organizing a costume is figuring out what you want to be.

For example, Eagle Features Editor Lindsey Hollenbaugh and Online Editor Laura Lofgren decided to man the Eagle's Third Thursday photo booth dressed as a "Lobster-in-a-Pot" and fisherman respectively.

If you can't figure out what you want to be yet, take some time to brainstorm about your favorite characters or celebrities. Browse the Internet. Browse a closet -- your own, your friend's or a family member's. Or hit up a costume shop and see what spellbinds you.

Personally, I'm a fan of costumes that play on words. For example, last year, my friend Kathie took on Mitt Romney's infamous "binders full of women" comment by dressing as Marilyn Monroe with a giant cardboard binder around her, and photos of woman taped to it. If anyone figures out how to dress as a "shutdown" this year, send me an Instagram.

The next step is gathering all the pieces and materials to assemble your ensemble.

"If you have one basic piece you can use -- a great mask, some wings, a really good makeup design -- the rest can fall together with things you have around the house," Demler said.

For Hollenbaugh's lobster headpiece, she bought a headband shaped in the likeness of an owl from a Five Below discount store. She cut away the owl parts leaving the white pom-poms that had plastic googly eye pupils stuck to them. She used a thick red fuzzy pipecleaner from a fabric store to cover the headband and form antennae -- instant lobster face.

Lofgren pitched in her cutting and pasting skills, as well as her hot glue gun, to help Hollenbaugh make lobster claws. Lofgren cut claw shapes from red felt, then glued them over a pair of cheap red knit gloves. Designed like oven mitts, Hollenbaugh soon had wearable claws.

To make the pot, Hollenbaugh covered posterboard with aluminum foil, then taped this into the shape of cylinder measured to go around her waist. To make the pot wearable, she taped wide red ribbon to the sides to make suspenders.

Our creative editor wore her own red long-sleeved shirt and black leggings. Paired with her three main accessories made in less than an hour, Hollenbaugh had a pretty great DIY costume to wear that cost less than $20 to make.

If you don't sew, Demler said a glue gun, costume tape, safety pins, staples and fabric paint are great enablers.

She said another costuming technique is repurposing clothing and accessories.

"For example, clothing from the ‘80s, which can be found anywhere, with the right shoes and hat can look 1940s," she said.

Other ideas:

n Add a hoop or a crinoline slip to an old prom dress, put your hair in an up-do and wear gloves to become a Southern belle.

n Some floral or earth-toned dresses and shirts can be layered and chopped at angles, worn with tank tops and wings for an instant fairy costume.

n A button-down shirt, vest, bandana and denim jeans or skirt create a cowboy look.

n Feather boas can be manifested into headdresses or bird wings.

n Depending on the color, a fedora can be used to create the look of a mobster, Indiana Jones, Michael Jackson or Freddy Krueger of "Nightmare on Elm Street" fame.

Makeup also offers a palette of possibilities. As seen in this month's annual Zombie Pub Crawl in Pittsfield, any persona can be "zombified" -- be it an ‘80s rock star, a Wall Street worker or a mall walker.

"That's what you have to love about zombies," said Demler. "With some dirt and the right makeup, you can be a dead punk rocker or a graveyard groom."

Want to share your own ideas? Post your photos at


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