How to Make a Clown Costume

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Halloween costume trends have changed a lot over the decades, but DIY clown costumes are forever. Kids started to dress up as clowns as early as the 1920s, when trick-or-treating first gained popularity in the United States. Today, clowns are something of a love-them-or-hate-them entity, which means a clown costume is guaranteed to spark a reaction in everyone at a Halloween party or cosplay event. It's also a solid last-minute costume choice assuming you already have some colorful clothes in your closet and some face paint on hand.

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Assembling a clown costume

Will your costume make people laugh or send them screaming from the room? The difference between a scary clown costume and a silly clown costume largely comes down to hair and makeup. Whether you're veering more toward creepy clown or friendly clown, the basic rules for how to make a clown costume are the same: Wear eye-catching pieces in bright colors and patterns and mix them up in ways you probably wouldn't do in real life.

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For example, layer a striped tank top over a plaid shirt, paired with polka-dot pants. Use a hot glue gun to add mini pompoms, giant buttons and other notions to old T-shirts and other garments to make them more clownlike. (Don't glue anything that could be a choking hazard to young kids' clown costumes, though.) You can even make a paper ruffle collar out of coffee filters.

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Use accessories like rainbow tulle tutus, patterned suspenders, colorful tights, oversize bow ties and party hats or top hats to elevate the ensemble from "whimsically mismatched" to "obvious clown costume."

Choosing clown shoes

Typical clown shoes are oversized for maximum comedic effect. In real life, walking around in giant shoes is a recipe for a tripping injury. Either wear brightly colored shoes (like red or yellow Converse) or add some clownlike pizzazz to an old pair of shoes you already own. Glue colorful pompoms or sequins all over a pair of plain white sneakers. If you own a pair of Crocs, cover them with pompom charms in a variety of colors.

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Wear your clown shoes with striped or polka-dot socks pulled up over your ankles to add maximum color and visual interest to your costume.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery...right?

Creating a DIY clown costume might feel easier if you’re modeling it after a specific character. Here are some famous clown costumes you might use as inspiration:

  • Ronald McDonald wears a yellow jumpsuit over a red and white striped shirt with red boots. Copy the look by cutting the sleeves off a pair of yellow disposable coveralls and creating stripes on a long-sleeve white T-shirt with red masking tape.
  • Krusty the Clown from ‌The Simpsons‌ wears green pants, a purple short-sleeve shirt, a blue bow tie, red shoes and white gloves. His costume itself is easy to assemble from things you might find at home or in a thrift store. Krusty’s three tufts of green hair are harder to copy without a wig.
  • Pennywise from ‌It‌ wears a silver suit with gathered sleeves, three red pompoms on the front and white ruffles at the neck and wrists. His costume is more elaborate than a typical circus clown and harder to DIY, but you’ll find tutorials online if you’re willing to do some sewing.

Transforming with hair and makeup

With the basic components of your clown outfit assembled, it's time to decide what ‌kind‌ of clown you're going to be. Create a creepy clown face with allover white face makeup, using lots of black around the eyes and an overdrawn red mouth (a la the Joker). You could also be a cute clown with exaggerated eyebrows, a painted-on smile and red circles on your cheeks. Add a red nose and you're ready to go. (You'll also find plenty of easy DIY makeup tutorials online if there's a specific kind of clown face you want to emulate.)

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Egg-cellent clown face inspiration

You’re only clowning around for Halloween, but professional clowns take their costumes and makeup very seriously—so seriously, in fact, that these entertainers can register their individual clown makeup style with the Clowns International Egg Registry in England. Clowns who participate pay to have their unique look painted onto a hollow egg, which are all kept by the registry. The painted eggs function like a kind of copyright system for professional clowns. If you’re a pro and a competitor copies your distinctive style, you can point to the egg registry as proof that it was yours first.

As for hair, a rainbow wig is the standard choice for a clown costume, though any colorful wig will do. If you don't want to buy a new wig from Amazon or another retailer, make your own clown wig from a mesh produce bag and colorful yarn.

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