How To Make A Ghost Costume (It’s Harder Than You’d Think!)

When does your family start thinking about Halloween? Me, I start hounding my kids for costume ideas over the summer. I love DIY costumes; having them take forever to make, not so much. Hence I was thrilled this past August when Essie announced she’d be a ghost for Halloween. How hard can it be to make a ghost costume?

Then Kimmie decided she’d be a ghost, too. Bonus! Make a ghost costume times two. How lucky am I? Can’t get any simpler than that. Two white bedsheets, here we come.

Originally published October 21, 2016; last updated September 2020.

September: Get ready to make a ghost costume x2

1. Acquire white fabric

Our corner of Suburbia U.S.A. has not one, but two thrift stores within a mile of our house. My mission one September morning, after getting girls off to school: Find two white sheets.

Of course I found every color of sheet except plain white. I suspect a cartoon-character-printed ghost costume isn’t going to cut it.

But even better, I found an entire bolt of white fabric! Since it was Half-Off Day, $7.50 later (surely the $15 original price means there’s plenty of fabric for two ghost costumes, right?) I was on my way. That was almost too easy.

2. Consider logistical challenges

One reason I like lots of lead time for making costumes is so I can stick them on the mental back burner, until I figure out a good way to accomplish the desired effect.

But the more I pondered the bedsheet-with-two-eye-holes-cut-out scenario, the more I realized it was going to be harder to make a ghost costume than I’d imagined.

Think about it: How do you know where to cut the eye holes? And once you’ve got them cut, how do you get them to stay in place on the kiddo’s head while the kid is walking around?

3. Do some research

So I began hunting online for instructions on how to make a ghost costume. This site has the best step-by-step directions I found for Ye Olde Basic Sheet-Based Ghost Costume That Won’t Fall Off. (The secret is attaching a light-colored hat inside the head part of the sheet; the hat is what holds the costume in place and keeps the holes where they belong.)

By now it was mid-September. Figuring I had this problem solved, I stashed the bolt of fabric in a closet.

But I still needed to find white hats. I briefly contemplated crocheting some with bulky white yarn while waiting in school drop-off and pick-up lines. Instead, I found a couple of pastel plaid fleece caps at the tail end of this fall’s Baby Consignment Sale event. Cost: about 25 cents each. Score again!

I also stumbled across some black cheesecloth at Secondhand Crafting Supply Store. One of the websites I’d consulted on how to make a ghost costume suggested sewing black mesh behind the eye holes, so that the costume gives the appearance of black holes without having to paint big black circles around one’s eyes.

To me, sewing on black mesh sounds way easier than trying to apply (and then remove) eye-area black grease paint on a 4-year-old and a 6-year-old. Even though the bundle contained lots more fabric than I needed, at $2.25 it was still a bargain.

Second Week of October: Try to make a ghost costume x2

1. Make time, collect goods

With three weekends remaining until October 31, I decided I’d better make the costumes already. So Sunday afternoon I cleared off the dining-room table and gathered my supplies, including some narrow white elastic; I figured I’d add some wrist straps to help hold the fabric in place. Then I cut the tape off the bolt of fabric, and unrolled it to see how much fabric I had.

My 54-inch-wide bolt of fabric contained approximately two yards (72 inches). That’s it.

Enough to make a ghost costume, but not enough to make two ghost costumes.

2. Make first attempt anyway

But this was my Chunk Of Time To Make A Ghost Costume x2, darn it! So I folded the hunk of fabric in quarters, marked the center, and hunted down Essie, who was playing in the living room.

First attempt: too much fabric for Essie’s costume

Turns out, the optimal fabric size for a 40-inch-tall child’s ghost costume is less than [54 inches x 72 inches]. At its current size, the fabric would definitely drag on the ground at the corners. Yes, I could just trim off the corners – but in theory, good uber-thrifty type that I am, I’m going to repurpose each costume into linings for baskets or tote bags or something. So the less I cut the fabric, the better.

Next I hunted down Kimmie, who was in the basement indulging in Screen Hypnosis. She was not happy to have her Mulan/Mulan II binge-watching marathon interrupted by being asked to stand up and having a piece of opaque white fabric draped over her eyes.

But good news: the rectangle in question works much better on a 48-inch-tall child than a 40-inch-tall one.

Given the girls’ level of engrossment in their various activities and my own inertia, I decided that investing the rest of the afternoon in a trip to the nearest fabric store was not the best choice. So I packed everything away and got out a piece of paper.

3. Do some math

Next thing I know, I’m sketching out rectangles of fabric and trying to remember the Pythagorean Theorem (you know, the formula used to figure out the long side of a right triangle) so I can figure out how much fabric I need to make Essie’s costume.

Several calculations later, I had a rough sense of what to aim for. (In case you’re curious: for a 40-inch-tall child, I figured I’d need either 1.75 yards of 45-inch-wide fabric, or 1.25 yards of 54-inch-wide fabric.)

Third week of October: Try again to make a ghost costume x2

1. Acquire more fabric

First stop after preschool drop-off on Monday: the thrift store a half-mile from home. They had several bundles of white fabric for a few dollars each. But the bundles were all taped up, the store doesn’t allow returns, and they also don’t generally allow you to un-tape bundled items before you buy them.

Second attempt: too long in front and back, too short on the sides.

I convinced a salesperson to make an exception under the circumstances. After opening several bundles, I found one that looked workable. It even came with already-somewhat-uneven edges.

Brought the piece home to find it’s actually about 40 inches x 80 inches – not really wide enough, and too long. Cutting off some of the length and adding it onto the sides seems a better bet than having a big seam right down the middle of the thing, but still…

Guess I’ll be hauling out the sewing machine after all. I actually love to sew; I find it soothing and relaxing. But finding the unencumbered time in which to do it, without staying up half the night, is the challenging part.

2. Success, at long last

So much for this being a fast-and-easy process. I eventually got Kimmie’s costume done in an afternoon, and Essie’s done the following afternoon.

2a. The actual steps to make a ghost costume

The basic steps go like this:

  1. Mark center of fabric. (I did this by folding it into quarters and ironing in creases.)
  2. Put hat on child, center fabric on child’s head, and secure center of fabric to top of child’s head with safety pins. Use additional pins to secure fabric around the edges of the hat.
  3. With hat on child, locate and trace where you want the eye holes and mouth hole to go, using kiddo’s eye sockets and mouth as a guide.
  4. Cut out said holes.
  5. Cut mesh (black cheesecloth) to go behind the holes, and secure to the inside of the fabric.
  6. Sew elastic wrist-straps at the side creases to help keep the costume in place.

2b. Final tips and tricks

  • Putting hat on child/safety-pinning fabric to hat is easier said than done. After that step, tracing and cutting the face holes was easy-peasy.
  • Since I had the sewing machine out anyway, I did a quick zigzag stitch around the edge of the fabric, and a basic satin stitch around the cutouts, to avoid fraying.
  • Easy as it sounds, the satin-stitching around the holes actually proved tricky for Kimmie’s costume. So before I cut the holes in Essie’s, I fused some scraps of stabilizer to the inside of the fabric.
  • I also cut a single piece of cheesecloth, large enough to cover all three holes, and then folded up one corner before folding and stitching a basic hem around the edges. Hemming kept loose threads from tickling the girls’ faces; doubling up one corner made the mouth hole extra-dark, while still maximizing visibility through the eye holes.
  • I used fusible interfacing to attach the cheesecloth to the inside of the ghost costume, rather than trying to sew it on. This both avoided visible stitches on the costume face, and minimized the amount of sewing through hard-to-manage cheesecloth.
  • The girls agreed that adding elastic wrist-straps inside was a useful addition.
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Are you making costumes for your kiddos this year? What was your most challenging DIY costume to date (especially if you didn’t peg it as such at the outset)? Let us know in the comments!

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153 thoughts on “How To Make A Ghost Costume (It’s Harder Than You’d Think!)”

  1. My daughter has a Halloween birthday and needless to say, this year it was a bit different with social distancing and everything. We did follow your guide for the ghost costume though, and it helped us feel like normal times just making costumes, making a birthday cake, and enjoying the special day. Thank you. Your writing is delightful btw!

    1. Super Mom Hacks

      Aww, thank YOU! And so glad this post helped you find a bit of normalcy for your kiddo’s special day in these crazy times! 🙂

  2. I love this hilarious tutorial and your creativity! I’m only in the infancy stage of cutting two eye-holes and mouth for my 4-year old’s ghost costume, but I’m thinking I now need to find a light-coloured tuque or baseball cap and attach to the inside of the fabric. Did you leave the safety pins attached, or glue/adhere the hat in some other way and then removed the pins?

    Thanks so much!

    1. Super Mom Hacks

      Nope, just leave the safety pins in. You really can’t notice them And that way you can always rescue the hat if it’s one that’s regularly in use for other things 😉

  3. I totally agree with you. It’s not really easy but I would love to give this a try. I still do not have a costume for Halloween so, this is just perfect. Thank you for sharing these tips on how to make one.

    1. Super Mom Hacks

      You’re so welcome! My hubby is thinking I need to make a bigger one for him this year so he can dress as one to hand out candy! 🙂

  4. It doesn’t seem Like a ghost costume would be so hard to do lol good thing you started early you guys did a great job.

  5. My son wants to go as a ghost for Halloween too. I need to get moving on the costume. I was actually thinking an over sized t-shirt with the top sewed shut and black mesh eye and mouth holes. I love the hat idea. That will definitely keep the costume in place better.

  6. OMG this is amazing! I love the several attempts to make the costume throughout the weeks leading up to Halloween. That’s exactly how we are when we attempt to DIY with ours. Hilarious! Yours turned out so cute. I can totally picture my son wanting to be a ghost one year. He’s only a year now, so it’ll be a few years. So I’ll definitely have to save this for later.

  7. Enjoyed reading your post. I honestly never thought that making a ghost costume was so tricky to make. You did a great job regardless of the previous attempt. Thanks for sharing. I still have no idea what my daughter will go as.

  8. This is a really great post – well done for persevering. In the run up to Halloween we’ve posted our own guide to DIY fancy dress costumes and we took a lot of inspiration from yours. Check it out and let us know what you think… (link in the website form field).

    Thanks again

  9. I am jealous of all you crafty moms out there, I’m more of a buy it from the store kind of mom. I can’t craft to save my life. I have tried to mend a couple of things that my daughter has worn out, and it just didn’t work out… I don’t have the skills to make a costume.

  10. Thank you! My son wants to be a ghost this year so I’m starting early! Similar thing happened to me last year with making a mummy costume for my other son. I thought it would be pretty easy-get some white clothes, wrap some strips of white cloth around the shirt and pants, soak it in tea for the mummified look, done, right? Wrong! When I attached the strips to the clothes with fabric glue, I wrapped it too tight and then when it dried, it wouldn’t fit him! And I had already dyed it. Instead of doing the entire shirt over again, I had to cut the back open, and sew it to another white shirt, then add more strips (which I had to dye separately so they’d match). I admit it was totally cute when it was done. But it definitely fell into the “harder than it looks” category!

    1. Oh my goodness I guess so!!! Aack! (You totally hacked your way out of it, though – brava!) I’ve only been a mummy once, the year I had foot surgery the day before (so was already wrapped in Ace bandages post-op on one leg) – I figured since I was stuck at home on candy detail vs. taking my turn out with the girls, I might as well wrap myself up in my vast collection of Ace bandages to answer the door. Best costume (for me) ever!

  11. Could you help me understand where you sewed the elastic strips? Was is essentially on the “arm” part of the fabric from the shoulder to the wrist?

    1. Yes! (And sorry to take so long to reply!) Just have the kiddo hold their arms out to the side as in one of the pics, and sew at the place where the fabric meets their wrist.

    1. Super Mom Hacks

      It’s funny how you don’t, till the rubber meets the road and it’s time to actually pull the thing off…

  12. Kids are so funny about ghost costumes. I think it’s funny how they get such a kick out of them! It’s true, so many costumes you would think would be easy to make are not!

  13. Every year when my kids tell us they don’t know what to be for Halloween we also joke around saying throw a sheet over your head and be a ghost! We think we’re getting off the hook by suggesting it:) Now that I see how much work you do need to put into it I may not suggest it as quickly. Great step by step instructions. Thanks!

    1. Super Mom Hacks

      You are so welcome! They have actually reused the costumes a few times since I wrote this post, so I’m in luck!

  14. You’re way more of a costume maker than I’ll ever be! When my eldest dressed as a ghost I just cut two eye holes in a sheet and sent her on her way {‘;’}

    Louise x

    1. Super Mom Hacks

      Haha! I trust she was older than mine, then, and better able to keep the sheet in place than my 4yo and 6yo were lol…

  15. I did a costume exactly like this when I was in school and about 10 years old. I still remember how funny and sometimes how scary all the process was. Not suggested to anyone who is afraid of ghosts, ha ha!

  16. I never would have come up with the hat trick! Thanks for this post which 1) gave me a good laugh, and 2) actually provides helpful advice for the ghost costume my son wants. (Yes Halloween is 5 days away. Procrastination is my thing.)

    1. Yeah, usually I’m months ahead in the thinking, but barely days ahead in the execution. Glad this post should save you a lot of headache and heartache!

  17. Adorable and the best old school costume in the history of dressing up for Halloween. Love it! I never thought about how hard it could really be. Great post! 🙂

    1. You’re welcome! Costumes like this are exactly why my kids’ deadline for figuring out their Halloween wish-costume is no later than the end of August, so I have time to figure out the details lol!

  18. My boy wore a ghost costume for last year’s halloween. It was a last minute thing so I just found a white piece of fabric, which I was lucky to have, then cut a hole to let only his face out hahaha.

    1. Me neither, til I sat down and tried to figure it out lol! You’re welcome! – and if you don’t have a white sheet handy, there are several other equally-simple, minimal-supplies costumes on the site that may work better 🙂

  19. Thank you so much for posting this! My wife and I were planning to make a ghost costume this year but decided against it because we didn’t really know how – this is the perfect post for us! And the costume looks so good!

  20. I’m seriously the least crafty, thrifty person in the world. The one costume I’ve had any hope that I could make, a ghost. Now I’m not sure I could even do that! LOL. Thank you for such a great tutorial! My kids would have looked like total weirdos without your tips!

    1. Aww, so glad you liked it! It’s really not that bad, IF you know the secrets included here (and if you just get a proper bedsheet for starters!)…

  21. Attaching the costume to a hat is such a great idea! I never would have thought about that. My dad used a bedsheet one time and just put it over himself and sat on the porch next to the candy bowl. He let all the kids come up, and the little ones would be polite and only grab one or two pieces. Then a group of older kids came and tried to take the entire bowl. My dad sat so still they didn’t realize a person was under the sheet. As they walked away he ran after them in the ghost costume and scared them so bad, they gave all the candy back!

    1. Oh my gosh that is TOO FUNNY!!! I bet they learned a lesson! And I suspect that getting to sit still was a big help in keeping the sheet in place!

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  23. The hat, wrist straps and black cheesecloth were all genius! My kids generally had costumes that just required hunting for items; like a hippy or rock star. Oh, those were fun years!

    1. Haha – the wrist straps are the only ones I can take full credit for. Yeah, compared to the year before when Kimmie scrounged a “clown” costume at a thrift store, ghosts were anything but easy!

    1. Aww, don’t sell yourself short – now that you know what NOT to do, should be easy peasy lol – glad you at least got some laughs out of my follies! 🙂

  24. Good for you! I always have the best intentions about making a unique costume, but end up falling short and buying one.

    1. Well, this is why I hound my kids all summer about their costumes – my goal is always to get a consistent answer by August, so that I still have 2+ months to execute it! ?

    1. Glad YOU thought it was simple at least, after reading my hacks on how to actually do it! This is the sort of tutorial I wish I’d had from the outset, that’s for sure!

  25. Kudos to you for putting in so much time and effort. I for sure would have just cut 3 holes in a sheet and called it a day. It turned out great.

    1. Aww, thanks Jenny! Believe me, at first I thought the 3 holes thing was all I was signing myself up for lol…live and learn ?

    1. My thought exactly! (And even though I spent way more on those costumes than most of my DIY attempts, it still came out to just under $10/costume, which is my target whenever I DIY a costume ?)

  26. Oh my gosh, I would never have thought it would be so complicated to make this fancy dress outfit! But you did a great job and have shared some helpful tips.

    1. Thanks so much, Jean! I am not sure I would have been brave enough to try it if I’d fully realized what I was getting myself into – but in the end, I’m pleased with how they turned out, and the girls absolutely loved them ?

  27. I applaud your efforts! I can barely sew a button. I was completely thrilled when my child announced she was making her own costume this year from the dress up bin! Yes!

    1. Ooh, I LOVE that! I tried really hard to convince mine pthat they were gonna do the same (dress up bin) this year, but alas, no go…

  28. Reesa Lewandowski

    I have to just laugh at this. Who would have thought something as simple as a ghost would end up being so difficult!

  29. This brings back such happy memories. One year my daughter wanted to be a glamorous ghost. I bought yards and yards of tulle and the night of Halloween, spent hours tying it on all over her arms and legs. She looked great!

    1. Aww, *thanks* AnnMarie! I retrospect, I was definitely nuts for taking on this challenge, it at least I allotted enough time so that I got it pulled together eventually, and in time for the big night!

  30. It looks great! I love DIY costumes. I am awful at these types of things ya so I’m sure I would totally mess this up!

  31. I totally understand the struggle of making costumes. I am in charge of them every year for the Christmas play and it doesn’t get easier but I would not give it up for anything. Your little ghosts look fantastic and I’m sure it was worth it for all of you.

    1. Aww, *thanks* Cecil! You are absolutely right – challenging though this particular costume was, it’s definitely a labor of love on my part! ?

  32. Charlie Brown fibbed! I always thought a ghost costume was easy peasy…you mentioned math and my brain exploded! (my tongue is firmly in my cheek!)

  33. I for sure won’t be trying this one haha I am probably one of the least craft mom’s out there, so making costumes is not my thing. Like, my husband got me a sewing machine a few years go b/c I wanted to learn…. I still ( like 4 years later) can’t figure out how to thread it.

    1. I totally know what you mean! IF you can find the time, maybe when your little guy is a few years older, maybe the place where the machine is from has some beginner’s classes? That’s what I did when I got a sewing machine a few years ago, and it totally helped!

  34. My husband went as a ghost when he took the boys out trick or treating last year and we just cut 2 eye holes and he was good to go. Took about 5 seconds flat 🙂

    1. Wow – I am super impressed! Maybe b/c he was a grownup, he was able to hold it in place better than a kiddo would?

  35. I love the picture of your daughter pointing to wear her eye holes should be! I had it far easier when my son was growing up. For three years in a row all he wanted to be for Halloween was Indiana Jones.

    1. Oh my goodness – Indiana Jones for 3 years straight? That rocks! (My mother LOVES those movies b/c of Harrison Ford – I do too, but I don’t have as big a crush on him as she does!)

    1. Aww, *thanks* – so glad you enjoyed my hellish journey 😉 and so glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t exactly get things all Pinterest-beautiful in no time flat (if ever!)…As for secondhand craft stores, don’t beat yourself up; I’ve lived and worked in a half-dozen states plus Canada, and this is the first time I’ve EVER lived in an area with anything like this. There’s an online directory I found that I’ve bookmarked so every time I’m visiting family in a different state, I can see if there will be any near my destination – sadly, I’ve yet to manage this. But anyway, if you want to check to see if there’s one anywhere near you (also has some out-of-US listings), go to http://www.lancastercreativereuse.org/directory-creative-reuse-centers.html. Good luck finding one!

  36. Very cool! I think the simple idea made for really unique costumes! My mom never made our costumes, but I always scrounge up whatever I have around the house for my costumes these days. Maybe when I have kids I’ll get more creative, and who knows, maybe even learn to sew!

    1. See, that’s totally what I did, too, Becca – back in my student days when I still went to costume parties lol – so maybe that’s where it started? (and no worries, I only figured out how to sew when my youngest was 2 or 3, so it’s still a new skill for me and definitely one that can be acquired as an adult! 🙂 …)

  37. You must be a Virgo. Because only us Virgo’s would spend as much time as you did to make a ghost costume 🙂 But then again you got the results you wanted.

    1. Haha, nope – not a Virgo, Diana, just incredibly stubborn. And yes, in the end it did all work out – so much so that Essie is now saying she wants to use her ghost costume again this year!…

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    1. Thank you so much, Kassi! Glad you like them; do please spread the word! As I mentioned in another response, they mostly really ARE quite easy, even though I’m mostly winging them as I figure them out – I’m just too stubborn to let go of an idea ’til I’ve figured it out lol 🙂

    1. Well, not necessarily a super mom, just a darn stubborn one who doesn’t give up! FWIW, *I* don’t have lots of experience, either – I just have a creative streak that won’t let go til I figure out how to do something! (even if I have to call in the reserves by researching the answers in the end, as with this crazy ghost costume!) 🙂 Many thanks for the kind words all around!

  39. Aww…. this costume turned out so super cute!!!! … and it’s totally not too early to start thinking about Halloween…. LOL my little boy and I freaked out excited because Hobby Lobby had out 5 aisles of xmas stuff today!!! 😉

    1. CHRISTMAS stuff in AUGUST??? That’s nuts – but I guess being stuck at home all summer (STILL!) with a broken foot has spared me from all that! Anyway, glad you liked the finished result; I sure did, but I also hope that this year they pick something a LOT easier to make! 🙂

    1. *me neither* – now at least you know what you’re getting into if your kids decide they want to be ghosts this year! 😉 Good luck figuring out costumes in your house – we still have a LONG way to go to reach a consensus 🙂 …

    1. *Thanks,* Renee! I STILL can’t believe how difficult this turned out to be, but am very pleased with how nicely they turned out after all – you’re right, totally worth it! 🙂

  40. Wow you are right! A ghost costume is much more difficult than it should be. Your look great!
    My teenager and I made costumes the last two years, but now she’s away at college so I guess I’m buying them this year. ??

    1. I know, isn’t it crazy? So fun that you and your “big girl” used to do this together 🙂 – what a sweet memory! No worries, though, there are several other DIY costume how-to’s on my site (and elsewhere, of course!) that are MUCH EASIER than this one, that might work better for you and Babystar 🙂

    1. Thanks, Angela! And now that you know all the pitfalls, it should in theory be as “easy” as one would think! 🙂

  41. haha I love your little math drawings 🙂 – I have never lived in a country where Halloween is big – it kinda fascinates me. My boy would love this ghost costume.

    1. Well, Julz, if you now ever need a ghost costume, you know where to find instructions, and what you’re getting into! (My husband the math teacher thought the drawings were pretty funny too, since he knows I haven’t taken a math class in a quarter-century 🙂 …)

  42. Flossie the end result turned out great. I enjoyed reading your process of making this! I have very limited skills with fabric haha so it makes sense that it turned out to be more challenging than first anticipated. That’s a great idea too to DIY them since they can get expensive year over year!

    1. Thanks so much, Hanna! We have SO much fun DIY-ing (and most years it’s SO easy compared to this one), I can’t imagine doing anything else! 🙂

    1. That is a hack I figured out ONLY when I had to do some research on how others had done it! It’s the only thing that seems to work, though 🙂

    1. *thanks* – I was pretty pleased with how they turned out in the end. And while they DID have a blast being out on Halloween (and practicing for Halloween by “scaring” Daddy every time I needed to do a costume fitting), Essie was a bit dismayed that she needed to come up with a backup costume for her preschool parade, since our preschool doesn’t allow faces to be covered. (She wore a pair of glow-in-the-dark skeleton-print PJs.)

  43. This gave me a good laugh because I lived through making a ghost costume five years ago. Yes, much more difficult than it looks! Your costume came out beautifully. Much better than mine. Ha!

    1. *Thanks* – I did a spider a few years ago for Essie, which turned out much EASIER than I’d imagined – this one was just plain HARD.

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