DIY Family Costume: Become Your Own Circus


Sometimes life feels like a circus. We’re constantly trying to keep all of our balls in the area, maybe wrangle wild animals (aka. children), and still smile through it all. This Halloween, my family decided to embrace that theme and, quite literally, be our own circus. So, naturally, I somersaulted into Goodwill® for costume supplies!


Since Halloween is the next approaching holiday, right when I made my grand entrance through Goodwill’s doors I was greeted with a lively aisle of brand new accessories and necessities for a broad range of costumes. In the first minute of my visit I had already filled a cart with tiger ears and a tail (for our little animal), a fascinator (for this acrobat), bow tie, and fake mustache (for our ringmaster). With theatrical momentum, I then catapulted over to my next destination: the donated Halloween goods section.


Between those two aisles, in just one trip to Goodwill I had almost everything I needed! I kept pictures of the costumes I was recreating nearby as I shopped and in my mind I planned around what I knew we had at home to fill out the looks. Here’s a list of everything we needed when all was said and done:


For the ringmaster

– White dress shirt
– Bow tie
– Vest (red, gold, or yellow are ideal)
– Tail coat (black or red are ideal) – a regular jacket will do in a pinch
– Slacks (black or khaki are ideal)
– Black boots, the taller the better
– Top hat (read on for a DIY tutorial!)
– Statement mustache (yes, a statement mustache!)
– Hula hoop (optional)


For the acrobat

– Leotard or one piece bathing suit
– Tutu (optional)
– Fishnet or bright colored tights
– Ballet shoes
– Fascinator or feathery headpiece (I added extra feathers to mine)
– Sequins are always a great touch!
– Baton (optional)


For the tiny tiger

– Tiger tail and ears
– Yellow or orange long-sleeved top
– Black washi tape (Just trim this into stripes and stick on!)
– Yellow, orange, or black pants
– Yellow, orange, or black shoes
– Face makeup for nose, stripes, and whiskers (optional)


But there was just one very important piece of the wardrobe missing from my trips to Goodwill and my closet: a top hat. I had hoped to stumble upon one while shopping and since Goodwill has earned the trust and support of more than 86 million donors in the United States and Canada, it was very likely that I would! Alas, all of my neighbors must be holding on to theirs so I decided to make my own. Here’s what I needed:

– Black poster board
– Thick ribbon (black, red, or gold are ideal)
– Pencil
– Scissors
– Hot glue gun
– Transparent tape or black matte washi tape (this blends in better)
– Straight-edge (yardstick or ruler)
– Circular items to trace
– 2 clothespins

Note: My craft store had run out of black poster board so I made it work with thick black scrapbooking paper that happened to be sparkly on one side. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!


Step 1: Wrap the poster board around the ringmaster’s head until the edges of the paper overlap and it fits comfortably. Mark the overlap on the poster board then decide how tall the top hat should be (my husband requested “an incredibly tall top hat” so ours is a whopping 12.5” tall) and mark that with a little dash.

Step 2: Remove the poster board from the ringmaster’s head and lay it flat. Using a straight-edge, extend the little dash you made for the height of the hat over to the line you made designating the overlap of the hat. Double check that both lines are straight so you have a 90-degree angle.

Step 3: Cut out this section of the hat. Roll up the hat to size and pinch your clothespins at the top and bottom of the hat to hold it in place while you tape the inside and outside paper edges in place with one or two long strips.


Step 4: Once you’re taped up, remove the clothespins. Set the hat on some more poster board and carefully trace the circle opening. Cut out this circle (it may be easier to start the cut with an Exacto knife).

Step 5: Take the circle you just made and place it flat on the floor. Align the hat over the circle and use tape to attach the top of the hat (the circle you just cut) to the column. After you’ve placed tape every few inches around the inside of the hat, warm up your glue gun. On the inside, glue all the way around where the two pieces meet to secure them further into place. Be aware of any gaps between the two where glue may seep through. I had a couple of spots like this so I made sure I was working on a surface that I didn’t mind damaging and that the glue would easily pull off of. The glue actually worked really well for me to fill in the gaps securely.


Step 6: Decide how wide you’d like the brim to be (ours is about 3” from the edge of the brim to where it meets the column). Find something circular that is roughly that size (like a plate or bowl) and trace that on poster board with the circle you’ve already cut for the top of the hat in the exact center.


Step 7: Cut out your brim, turn your hat’s column upside down, and rest the brim on top. Tape the inside with tape strips every few inches all the way around the underside of the brim. Again use your hot glue gun to further secure these two pieces into place.


Step 8: Add a ribbon at the base of the column and any other embellishments you’d like!

Whatever spectacle you choose to make this Halloween, we know you’ll be a crowd-pleaser. Hats off to your unique costume efforts and to the help you’ve given your own community members simply by shopping at Goodwill. For more DIY ideas check out, be sure to check out Goodwill’s Halloween headquarters.  Happy Halloween!