Scary Good: Halloween Shoppers Offer Tricks, Treats Of Costume-Hunting at Goodwill

Each year, millions of people save money while assembling one-of-a-kind, do-it-yourself Halloween costumes from items they purchase from Goodwill. Below are the stories of three costume shoppers in Middle Tennessee.

Andria Goodrow had sinister plans for the white pajama outfit, vintage nightgowns and dress she purchased from Goodwill.

First, she dyed them with tea bags to give them a dingy appearance — as if they had been mildewing in an old trunk in an attic for decades. Then, she rubbed coffee grounds into them to make them look dirty. For the finishing touch, she spattered them with stage blood.

Combined with messy wigs and cheap plastic masks, they gave just the impression she was hoping for  — that of an escaped asylum inmate right out of a Hollywood horror flick.

“I got most of what I needed for four different Halloween costumes from Goodwill for about $30,” Andria said. “The Halloween costume stores sell stuff for so much money. It seems silly to buy something in a plastic package when you can find five or 10 times the number of costumes at Goodwill for the same amount.”

The 32-year-old Nashville resident is not a special effects pro or costume designer (she’s a VIP program manager for music artists), but you would never know it looking at photos of her Halloween creations. She said it’s more of a hobby, although she does have plans to assist in production of a haunted attraction for an outdoor music venue.

“I just like using my imagination and thinking outside the box,” she said. “I get on the Internet to see what other people are doing to make costumes. The fact that I can put on a mask and some basic clothing items and just get a little crafty to transform them into something horrifying — to me that’s really cool.”

There’s another reason Andria likes using items purchased at Goodwill for Halloween costumes: She doesn’t have to feel wasteful.

“I don’t like the idea of purchasing something that was manufactured to be used just once,” she said. “But when I get an item from Goodwill, I know that someone else already got some use out of it. I love the idea of repurposing items.”

Andria’s advice for other costume-hunters is to go to Goodwill with an idea in mind. Potential pieces are abundant, but you may have to do some searching. She suggests setting some time aside and going to more than one Goodwill store if necessary.

“Look in sections that may not be your size. If — like me — you can’t sew, you can always use safety pins or cut sleeves or collars off to make outfits look like they are from a different time period. Most of all, just use your imagination” she said. “You can find just about anything at Goodwill.”

Imagination Takes Flight

Myka Bertrand wanted to look like Peter Pan, but not for a trip to Never Never Land. She was headed to her workplace on Nashville’s Music Row, where they were having a Halloween party for employees.

“Since I had to wear it to work, I thought of it more as an outfit than as a costume,” Myka explained.  

She had a hat, shoes and pants she thought would suffice, but she needed a green sweater and T-shirt and a belt to make her ensemble fly. She headed to her favorite Goodwill store near Rivergate Mall in Madison.

Because Goodwill separates clothes by size and color and has “an abundance of simple pieces,” Myka felt confident.

“I knew I’d be able to find (the items) fairly cheap in the color I needed,” she said.

And because she shopped on the first Saturday of the month, everything in the store was half off the regular price. She said she spent $10 for everything she needed to complete her costume. It wasn’t her greatest Goodwill find ever — that was a pair of Seven brand designer jeans she got for $7 — but it came close.

Her co-workers loved her outfit, and they were even more impressed when she told them she got a lot of it at Goodwill.

“It was like, “Are you serious? I would have just gone to (another retailer) and paid a million dollars for a costume.”

That was last year. This year, Myka just got braces on her teeth, so she plans to go to the Halloween party dressed as Darla, the dentist’s  rambunctious niece from the movie “Finding Nemo.” She will be returning to Goodwill to search for a plaid schoolgirl skirt.

She advises others who are going to shop Goodwill for Halloween to go in with a plan, shop on sales days such as the first Saturday of the month and to think of their costumes as outfits. That way, they can re-wear them, and like Peter Pan, they will never have to say goodbye.

“I still wear my green sweater to work,” Myka said, “and I’m actually wearing my belt right now!”

Give Mom Props

Frequent Goodwill shopper Rebecca Wright keeps an eye out for Halloween props year-round. With two boys at home who love to play dress-up, she often buys plastic masks and swords, etc., from the toy section.

“It never fails that once Halloween comes around we find the entire costume to match the props,” Rebecca said. “Then you’ve got a costume with props for under $10.”

Last year, she found a Disney Store Hercules costume for her now 5-year-old son Wyatt. It was “a steal at $2.99,” she said.

The costume appeared to have barely been worn, and a little research revealed a similar costume was priced at nearly $50 online. The sword to match was a previous Goodwill purchase for just 99 cents.

Rebecca’s Halloween shopping doesn’t end with her children. The award for the best Halloween find goes to her husband Jason who found a heavy, silk Superman cape for just $2. The tag revealed it originated from an expensive costume company with a price of $300.

This year, she already has one costume out of the way. Her 8-year-old Tyler expressed his desire to be a Power Ranger. Their stockpile of costumes for play time at home made his request easy to fulfill with a Power Ranger costume purchased from Goodwill last year. It matched perfectly with a plastic mask and sword from separate shopping trips.

With Halloween coming up, Rebecca suggests that Goodwill costume hunters be creative and have an open mind.

“Just because it looks like it’s supposed to be one thing doesn’t mean you can’t turn it into something else,” she said.


Take a peek at our Halloween 2017 DIY Costume Guide above and visit your local Goodwill to craft a one-of-a kind costume this year.


If you’re brave enough, take a peek at our scary Halloween costume gallery above. All photos at: Amulet Farms (@AmuletFarm) in Gallatin, TN, Photos by: Lindsey Bathke @letlifemakeyougiggle, Costume/Character: Andria Goodrow @andria_goodrow.

Find the perfect Halloween costume at a Goodwill store near you  

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