Cheap Challenge: Halloween Costumes Under $30

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Just like many things that made cool kids cool back in the day, the rules are different once you're all grown. That pre-packaged Belle costume might have scored Mean Andrea a king-size Twix bar during the third-grade costume contest, but her sexy nurse get-up doesn't quite have the same verve these days. Unless you spend a lot of money on a one-of-a-kind outfit, a homemade costume is almost always better than something that came in a bag (even if you constantly have to pull up a Google image search to explain who you are).

All you need to pull it off? Enthusiasm, creativity, and a little time spent trawling stores not known for selling costumes. We sent our editors to drugstores, hardware stores, discount shops, and more to see how they'd make out with just $30.

CheapChallenge_halloween_annie_annaPhotographed by Nicolas Bloise.
Annie Georgia Greenberg, senior style editor
"I take both halloween and Cheap Challenges very seriously. That said, this was a bit more difficult to nail down than I'd anticipated because it had to be just right. I wanted something a bit recognizable but not too recognizable. Weird is better. So, I put two greats together for one big WTF. First, I got the mustache and the cowgirl hat, easy peezy. Then, I decided to make a surrealist clock and label it with Dolly's great hit '9 to 5.' I wish I could have hung this from a necklace, but alas. Finally, the most difficult part was finding something to enhance my bust size. Green brain molds had to do the trick. I think it all worked in the end."
CheapChallenge_halloween_PIERA_annaPhotographed by Nicolas Bloise.
Piera Gelardi, executive creative director
"The Richard Avedon cover for the April 1965 issue of Harper's Bazaar is iconic! Or at least, so I thought. I've learned that this costume is for fashion and photo nerds only and that there is a slight risk of being misunderstood. That being said, if you ARE into it, it's incredibly easy to pull together without spending too much money at all. Cut a big pink circle out of your poster board and then cut a smaller circle for your face. Sign Avedon's signature onto the top portion, apply lashes and lipstick, and you're good to go! Just remember to use a tight crop for all your photos."
CheapChallenge_halloween_NAOMI_annaPhotographed by Nicolas Bloise.
Naomi Nevitt, shopping and market director
"I walked into KMart not really knowing what I would find or what I wanted my costume to be. I immediately spotted the cotton balls, and while perusing the tall section, I noticed a series of sky-blue mock turtlenecks. At last, inspiration struck: I could dress like a clear day! I quickly found a shirt that was oversized enough to act as a dress (I looked for matching bottoms, but light blue sweatpants aren't big this season, so I had to make do with this 'tunic'). I wanted to find glasses to mimic the 'sun wearing glasses' archetype you see in little kids' drawings. Surprisingly, the sunglasses were almost the most expensive item on the list! I finally tracked down this men's pair that had cool, yellow reflective lenses; perfect for looking like a star! I nabbed some glue to tack down the cotton balls in a Mario-inspired fashion, and added a construction-paper crown of sun rays. I'm ready to shine!"
CheapChallenge_halloween_chloe_annaPhotographed by Nicolas Bloise.
Chloe Daley, associate home editor
"Recently, Piera told me that from a distance she had mistaken me for an 80-year-old woman (based on my outfit). Yes, it was basically the highest compliment! I've been a longtime fan of the impeccably and fearlessly dressed women on the blog Advanced Style. And, with the documentary just coming out, I thought it was high time I paid my homage. Of course, I knew it had to be all about the accessories. I spray painted a white drop cloth (fashioned into a turban), PVC pipes (bangles), nuts and bolts (statement rings), clear tubing (necklace) and chair-foot covers (embellishment for the glasses). The result was not too far-fetched from what I actually wear (I have a penchant for turbans), but the look did make me feel fabulous! I hope Ilona and Iris would be proud."
CheapChallenge_halloween_CONNIE_annaPhotographed by Nicolas Bloise.
Connie Wang, style director
"Naomi and I actually bumped into each other in the hallway while we were both wearing our costumes, and now I'm 100% convinced that we're spending way too much time together. What can we say? Working on the 23rd floor has made us more tuned in to the sky.

"Back to the costume... One of my favorite pastimes is getting lost in bargain stores (to the chagrin of anyone who's ever gone with me), and I spent close to two hours walking the aisles of Lot-Less in the financial district. At first, I filled up my bag with all the things I found interesting (a mug the shape and size of a basketball, a pocket wine decanter, toilet paper with $100 bills printed on it), and then I came across a huge selection of dust-mop refills. The rest of the costume fell into place after that. A baby-blue umbrella would be the sky. A matching shower curtain for raindrops. A sturdy length of floss would help me affix everything. I wore my favorite PJs and slippers, and accessorized with a box of Kleenex to really make the pun pop. I typically feel 'under the weather' the day after Halloween, but this time I'll get a head start."