Part 1 - Identify the key pieces of your costume, and modify if necessary.
For this costume, I knew I wanted a black shirt with sheer sleeves, a long black skirt, and a red and black corset. So, off to ebay I went! The basic ensemble set me back about $55.00, but both the skirt and the shirt are actually nicely made and I can wear them again, even to work. The corset I can wear again at... other times. The trick here is to buy clothing that you might be able to re-purpose for other costumes or are just wearable as-is.
If you can find the exact piece you are looking for, see if you can find something similar that you can easily modify. If you can't find the right color, can you dye it? If the sleeves are wrong, can you alter them? Can you iron-on a design to make it right? As long as the piece your are buying is inexpensive enough that you don't mind messing it up, go for it.
|Mooby's Apron - Not Available In Stores|
If your chosen character has a distinctive accessory or two, you had better recreate them in some fashion. For example, you can easily find a Dracula Trophy at the Halloween store, or a pair of oversized peace sign earrings to go with that awesome vintage dress you found. You may end up having to make a certain accessory, or try to find someone to make it for you, if it's not a typical item.
|"F" is for "Forrester"|
Part 3 - Have ONE really outstanding feature of your costume.
Whether it's perfect makeup of the beautiful or creepy variety, a really nice weapon, or a sparkling tiara, make one aspect of your costume really stands out. This year it was the Meat Pies that I made and passed around the party. It clarified the costume (for those who actually knew who Mrs. Lovett was, at least), and who doesn't love a good meat pie? It also gave me a great opportunity to be creepy ("Vicar or priest? I mean... chicken or beef?"). Easiest recipe for meat pies - HERE.
Part 4 - Preparation is IMPORTANT.
If you are just trying on your costume on for the first time on the day of the party, you are DOING IT WRONG. You need to make sure things fit, are comfortable, don't have holes, and work together. If you have tricky bits such as facial hair or very specific hair or makeup, you need to practice before the actual day of the event, so that you can make adjustments as necessary. Avoid last-minute craziness and wardrobe malfunctions with just a teensy bit of prep work!
Part 5 - If you go obscure, be prepared to explain.
One of the best parts of making your own costume is that you can become a character that just isn't available as a pre-made costume. But the downside to that is that if you are a big old geek like myself, you may go over some people's heads. That's OK. Just have a short bio of your character ready to rattle off when people ask what you're supposed to be. And it's a great test to see who you actually want to talk to at the party.
And that's it. Stick to these rules, and you 'll have a fun and non-embarrassing holiday party!