Thrift-O-Ween: Let Creativity Run Wild with a Thrifted Halloween Costume

October 18, 2023 | Published by Julie Buchanan

The Halloween rack at Rumors Boutique goes on display in September.

Spending on Halloween costumes in the U.S. is expected to reach $4.1 billion this year, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation. That’s more than any other year in the survey’s history.

Discount stores remain the top source for costumes, followed by specialty Halloween stores and online retailers.

While those places may offer convenience, there are downsides.

  • Fast fashion. Much of what’s sold in discount and big-box stores is made from cheap, non-recyclable plastic or synthetic material (also plastic). Come Nov. 1, many costumes and accessories are in the trash. They’re doomed to eternity in a landfill.
  • Cookie cutter costumes. Because all the stores sell the same merchandise, chances are someone will have the same costume as you. It’s no fun arriving to the party as the second or third Western Barbie or cliché Ghostbuster.

Luckily, Central Virginia is home to frightfully good thrift, vintage and resell shops offering unlimited costume possibilities.

By buying secondhand, we can:

  • Save money.
  • Sport a one-of-a-kind costume.
  • Avoid packaging waste.
  • Contribute to the circular economy.
  • Support local businesses.

By mid-September, many thrift and vintage shops have costume-appropriate gear on display.

Accessories at Ashby RVA.

“People do get excited when the Halloween rack goes up,” said Michelle Pastor, general manager of Rumors Boutique. “The week right before Halloween tends to be busy.”

If creativity isn’t sparked right away, Rumors staff is available to help customers put together their perfect costume.

“Our staff loves to help people find outfits,” Pastor said. “We have a ton of stuff, and it can be overwhelming.”

Ashby RVA is another store getting into the Halloween spirit. Costume-clad mannequins offer inspiration from the windows, and the shop is full of spooky accessories and jewelry. There’s also the Buy-by-the-Pound tub.

“All the profits from our Buy-by-the-Pound tub go to local nonprofits,” said Sydney Wise, a sales associate at Ashby. “There’s a little bit of everything in there.”

Michelle Pastor of Rumors Boutique, a buy-sell-trade clothing shop on West Broad Street.

At Uptown Cheapskate in Midlothian, Jasmine Ross shopped for backup costumes. With three nights of Halloween festivities coming up, she feared the costumes she ordered online wouldn’t arrive in time (Freddy Kreuger and a pirate).

A student at James Madison University, Ross shops secondhand frequently because of cost and changing styles.

“Even if I don’t need these for a costume, I can get some use out of them,” she said, referring to the items she held.

An estimated 35 million Halloween costumes in the U.S. are thrown in the trash each year. See if you can make yours last.

Tips for Successful Halloween Thrifting:

  • Start early. Halloween racks go up in September, but most people wait until the last minute. Go early to find the best stuff.
  • Shop multiple stores. Don’t limit yourself to a single shop. Make a day of it and hit a few stores. You never know what you’ll find.
  • Scour social media. See what your favorite shops are posting. Find new shops to explore.
  • Learn some basic sewing skills. You can mend or alter pieces if necessary.
  • Have fun.
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