DIY thrift costumes: 3 Tacoma designers take on Halloween

Quick, what can you make with two pairs of khakis, a women’s blouse, a helmet and some stuffed animals? A Halloween costume, of course. That is, if you’re Tacoma fashion designer Jayme Lillie. Halloween is America’s third favorite holiday for under-50s, and according to a recent Goodwill poll, making your own costume is way more popular than buying a packaged one.

But you have less than a week now to make yours. To give you inspiration, we took three Tacoma fashion designers — Lillie, Lisa Fruichantie and J.D. Elquist — on a shopping trip to Goodwill to see what they could make on a $30 budget.


For three designers, a reporter and photographer plus Goodwill staff, we’re not attracting that much attention walking around the North Tacoma thrift store. After I’ve laid out the rules for the DIY Costume Story Expedition (the $30 budget, you can add a couple of personal items, 10-day deadline), the three designers immediately spread out. They’ve clearly got ideas about who they’re making a costume for, what it might be and where they’ll find the materials. And they’re all seasoned thrifters who’ve always made their own Halloween costumes. This isn’t random thrift browsing. It’s strategy.

Jaymie Lillie, who’s recently branched out from a children’s line into more women’s clothing, is hoping to make an outfit for her 8-year-old daughter.

“She wants to be a zoologist,” says Lillie, flicking through the women’s tops section. “So I’ll make her a vintage-y safari outfit, with a utility look and a pith helmet I can attach a mess of stuffed animals onto. It’s a good look for boys and girls.”

Lillie pulls out a flared beige women’s jacket with pockets — perfect for deconstructing — and goes on a pith helmet search.

Meanwhile, Fruichantie is scanning the racks of actual costumes that Goodwill brings out in the weeks before Halloween. A frequent costumer for local dance and circus performers, Fruichantie’s used to thinking out of the box, and she’s just gotten a request from her son to make a costume for Wario, the tubby, yellow-and-purple villain from the Mario Brothers video games. Referencing an image on her phone, she’s found a purple overall and yellow shirt and is looking for a wig.

But she’s also thinking about her own costume: This Halloween she’ll be busy, trick-or-treating with her kids, managing the Gritty City Sirens burlesque show and then heading out to parties.

“I’m thinking of doing something turn-of-the-century for myself, something vintage,” she says, pulling out a black Afro wig for Wario.

On the other side of the costume section, Elquist is sorting through boxes of hats.

“I’m going for the classic rock look,” says Elquist, who upcycles vintage shirts and jackets for his line Bad Luck Vintage. “Guns N’ Roses, Bon Jovi — maybe Slash (former Guns N’ Roses lead guitarist) if I can find a top hat.”

According to social media manager Christine Murphy, top hats are really hard to find in Goodwill, along with other truly vintage items.

“These days more and more people are shopping thrift and hanging onto their stuff,” she says.

DIY costume-making is also more popular. In Goodwill’s recent phone survey, more than half the respondents said they made their own costume, compared with 22 percent buying pre-packaged ones.

Then Murphy spots a white top hat, and Elquist grabs it — easy to spray-paint black. By now he’s also found a gray denim women’s vest, a black pirate wig, some ’70s gold-rimmed shades and a chain-link necklace.

“Slash?” asks Fruichante, passing by.

“Yeah,” says Elquist, heading to the jeans rack.

Fruichante’s now found some clown shoes to paint green, a yellow hat, a blue dress and a cushion to stuff into Wario’s belly — she just needs some gloves.

Lillie has been joined by her business partner Lija Silvers; they’re clutching an armful of stuffed animals, a couple of men’s utility pants (“We’ll convert one into a messenger bag,” says Lillie) and a perfect pith helmet. They’re also busy planning a Halloween party at Lillie’s house.

Elquist has found some acid-wash jeans he can trash up, and we take some item photographs before heading to the check-out. Now comes the challenge: Make an original costume before the photo-shoot deadline.

“Halloween is the best holiday,” says Lillie, who has always thrift-shopped for costumes. “You can be anything you want for a whole day. It’s so much fun!”

Rosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568



Lisa Fruichantie, 35

Her line: Transcendence Designs fashion and costume.

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Her look: “Eclectic, a little Goth, a little tribal.”

Her costume philosophy: “I wear costumes all the time, and I shop Goodwill a lot because I typically upcycle things and get really creative with sewing and stitching.”

What she did: Cut up the wig and reglued it inside the hat, which she reshaped from bowler to captain’s. Cut up blue dress into a W and glued it onto the hat. (”Not everyone has access to a sewing machine,” she says.”) Attached elastic to cushion to go around stomach, fixed a button on the overall and spray-painted the shoes first white, then bright green. Re-purposed own Mickey Mouse gloves for hands, cut out fake mustache and painted on cartoon eyebrows.

Final costume: Wario (Mario Brothers character), for her son.

Jayme Lillie, 39, and business partner Lija Silvers, 42

Her line: The Finery women’s and kids’ clothes.

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Her look: “Vintage-inspired, a bit whimsical, nothing too serious.”

Her costume philosophy: “We always cobble our own costumes — I’m not big on patterned ones, we just grab stuff from Goodwill, because my kids usually want to be something so random that nobody else makes them.”

What she did: Cut sleeves off jacket to make vest, kept kids’ utility pants intact, deconstructed adult pants into messenger bag for trick-or-treating, safety-pinned stuffed animals all over clothes and attached a monkey to the helmet.

Final costume: Zoologist, for her daughter.

J.D. Elquist, 28

His line: Bad Luck Vintage (online), previous brick-and-mortar stores include The Elquists and Feather&Oar, Tacoma.

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His look: “Classic rock, 1980s.”

His costume philosophy: “I’ve never bought a costume off the rack. I usually come up with an idea and traverse all the thrift stores til I find what I need. Usually it’s some pop culture reference that people are going to get, but sometimes I go really ironic, like when I went as “whatever floats your boat” with a toy ship on my shoulder – nobody gets it but it’s fun.”

What he did: Spray-painted a top hat black, turned jeans into shorts, added the vest, wig and vintage jewelry, plus his own Guns ‘n’ Roses T-shirt, and distressed everything.

Final costume: Slash (Guns ‘n’ Roses guitarist), for a female model (“A female model made more sense – when I tried it on myself I just looked stupid.”)