Unveiling the Mystery: Affordable Costume Ideas for Your Themed Murder Mystery Party

With summer fast approaching what better way to celebrate than by hosting a fantastic murder mystery party? At Masters of Mystery there are so many amazing, themed games to choose from and you can browse our collection here!  However, one of the challenges many people face whether they’re hosting or attending a themed party is what to do about costume.  How can you create compelling and authentic costumes without overspending? Not to worry, because in this guide, we’ll explore various strategies to help you and your guests find affordable costumes that will bring your murder mystery to life. Whether your theme is a roaring 1920s speakeasy, a spooky haunted mansion, or a swashbuckling pirate ship, we’ve got you covered. From raiding your own closet and scouring thrift stores to DIY projects and smart accessorising, wr’ll discuss some practical tips and tricks to ensure you look the part without breaking the bank.


Why Costumes Matter

Costumes play a crucial role in setting the scene and enhancing the overall experience of a themed murder mystery party. They allow guests to step into their characters’ shoes and understand them better. When everyone is dressed appropriately, it helps to create a more immersive and engaging atmosphere, making the mystery more believable and enjoyable.

However, costumes don’t have to be elaborate or expensive to be effective. Often, simple, well-thought-out pieces can have just as much impact as high-end outfits. The key is to focus on creativity and resourcefulness, using what you have and thinking outside the box to achieve the desired look.


The Benefits of Affordable Costuming

Choosing affordable costume options offers several benefits beyond saving money:

  1. Inclusivity: Not everyone has the budget to splurge on costumes. By focusing on affordable options, you make your event accessible to all guests, ensuring everyone can participate fully.
  2. Sustainability: Reusing and repurposing items for costumes is an eco-friendly choice that reduces waste and promotes sustainability.
  3. Creativity: Working within a budget often sparks creativity. It encourages you to think innovatively and come up with unique solutions that you might not have considered otherwise.

In this blog, we will take a look at various methods to source affordable costumes. We’ll begin with the easiest and most obvious options, like utilising items you already own and exploring second-hand shops. Then, we’ll move on to more creative solutions such as DIY projects and borrowing from friends. We’ll also provide tips on how to make the most of discount stores and online marketplaces and we’ll discuss the importance of accessories and small details that can transform basic outfits into convincing costumes.


 Start with the Theme

Before diving into costume ideas, it's essential to nail down your party's theme. Whether it's a 1920s speakeasy, a haunted mansion, or a pirate ship adventure, knowing your theme will guide your costume choices and make your search more efficient. As a host, clearly communicate the theme to your guests well in advance. This not only sets the stage for a more immersive experience but also gives everyone time to think about it and gather their costumes. With the theme firmly in place, you can begin exploring creative and budget-friendly costume options tailored to your specific scenario.


Raid Your Own Closet

You'd be surprised what treasures you can find in your own wardrobe. A simple black dress, for example, can be transformed into a glamorous flapper outfit with the addition of a few key accessories such as a string of pearls, a feathered headband, and a pair of vintage-style heels. Similarly, a white shirt can become part of a detective's ensemble when paired with dark trousers, a trench coat, and a fedora. Look for versatile basics that can be repurposed with a bit of creativity. A pair of black trousers can serve as the foundation for numerous costumes, from a pirate to a mobster. Accessories like scarves, belts, and jewellery can dramatically alter the look of an outfit, making it suitable for different characters. Don't overlook items like boots, hats, and gloves, which can add a distinctive flair to your costume. By mixing and matching pieces, you already own, you can create a unique and convincing costume without spending any extra money. This approach not only saves money but also encourages you to think outside the box and experiment with new styles and combinations.

Thrift Stores and Charity Shops

These are excellent sources for affordable costume pieces as they often carry a wide range of items, from vintage dresses and suits to unique accessories that can perfectly match your theme. Shopping at thrift stores allows you to find hidden gems, such as a  beaded dress for a 1920s theme or a Victorian-style jacket for a sherlock Holmes style party, these shops can be a treasure trove for budget-conscious party planners.

In addition to clothing, thrift stores and charity shops will have a lot of accessories that can complete your costume. Look for hats, gloves, scarves, and jewellery that can add an authentic touch to your outfit. For example, a wide-brimmed hat and a pair of lace gloves can enhance a 1920s flapper look, while a pocket watch and a bowler hat can transform you into a classic detective. By exploring these stores, you can find high-quality, unique pieces that will make your costume stand out, all while keeping your budget intact. Plus, shopping second-hand is an eco-friendly option that supports sustainable fashion practices.


DIY Costumes

Why not get crafty and create your own costume pieces? With a bit of imagination, simple sewing projects, and hot glue, you can transform everyday items into unique and memorable costumes. DIY costumes not only allow you to save money but also give you the freedom to customize your outfit exactly as you envision it, whether you’re aiming for historical accuracy or adding a personal touch to your character.

There are plenty of online tutorials for DIY costume ideas that require minimal materials and effort. For instance, a plain t-shirt can be turned into a pirate's tunic with some fabric dye and a few strategic cuts, while an old bedsheet can be fashioned into a toga for a Roman-themed party. Simple sewing skills can also go a long way; you can alter or embellish existing clothing items to better fit your character.

Example: Adding lace trim to a dress, creating a fringed hem for a western look, or sewing patches onto a jacket for a rugged explorer costume.

For those who are less experienced with sewing, hot glue can be a lifesaver. It’s perfect for attaching accessories like faux gems, feathers, or appliqués. Craft stores often carry a variety of inexpensive materials that can be used to enhance your costume. Think of foam sheets for armour pieces, felt for hats or masks, and fabric paint for custom designs.

By creating your own costume pieces, you not only save money but also ensure that your outfit is one-of-a-kind. The time and effort you put into crafting your costume will pay off when you see the final result and enjoy the compliments from fellow partygoers.


 Costume Swap with Friends

Organize a costume swap with friends or family to breathe new life into old outfits. Chances are, someone has a costume from a previous event that perfectly fits your theme. To organise a costume swap, set a date and invite friends and family who are willing to participate. Encourage everyone to bring a few costumes or accessories they no longer need. Reusing and recycling costumes reduces waste and promotes sustainable practices.


Online Marketplaces

Online marketplaces such as eBay and Facebook Marketplace are fantastic resources for finding costumes at lower prices. These platforms connect buyers with a vast array of sellers offering everything from pre-owned costumes to new, discounted items. By browsing through these sites, you can find a wide variety of costumes that fit any theme, often at a fraction of the cost of retail prices. These marketplaces often have accessories and props that can complete your look, making it easy to assemble a comprehensive costume without breaking the bank. With a little patience and savvy shopping, online marketplaces can be great for finding affordable and unique costume options.


Repurpose Old Costumes

Look through your collection of past Halloween costumes; see if there’s something you can use. Have you been to a party in the past? Do you still have things from them? Often you’ll find that they can be repurposed to fit your current theme perfectly. For example, a witch costume can become a Victorian ghost with a lace shawl and creative makeup, while a pirate outfit can transform into a steampunk explorer with goggles and a vest. Repurposing old costumes saves money and lets you be creative. By mixing elements from different costumes, you can create a unique look. A simple black cape, for instance, can be used for a vampire, a medieval knight, or a masked ball attendee with the right accessories. Updating old costumes can also be a fun DIY project. Adding new embellishments, changing the colour with fabric dye, or sewing on patches can give an old outfit a fresh new look. You can even cut and reassemble pieces to create entirely new designs.


Borrow from Theatre Groups or Costume Rentals

Local theatre groups will often have extensive costume collections, making them excellent resources for borrowing or renting pieces for your themed murder mystery party. Theatre groups typically have a diverse range of costumes spanning various eras, styles, and themes, ensuring that you can find the perfect outfit to suit your party's atmosphere. Reach out to nearby theatre companies and inquire about their costume rental policies and availability. Many groups are more than happy to accommodate community events and may offer affordable rental rates or even lend costumes free of charge for non-profit gatherings.

Additionally, dedicated costume rental shops are another valuable option for sourcing outfits for your event. These establishments specialise in providing costumes for various occasions, including parties, theatrical productions, and themed events. They offer a wide selection of high-quality costumes for rent, ranging from historical attire to fantasy and sci-fi costumes. While rental fees may vary depending on the complexity and quality of the costumes, they are generally reasonable, especially when compared to the cost of purchasing new outfits outright.


Accessorise Smartly

Accessories can make or break a costume. Investing in affordable accessories is a smart way to enhance various costumes as they can be reused for various things. Hats are versatile accessories that can instantly transform your look, whether you opt for a sleek fedora for a detective costume or a feathered headpiece for a glamorous flapper outfit. Scarves and gloves not only provide practical warmth but also add style and sophistication to your outfit. A silk scarf draped elegantly around your neck can give you a sense of old Hollywood glamour, while a pair of lace gloves can lend an air of mystery to your character. Costume jewellery is another essential component of any themed outfit. From sparkling statement necklaces to vintage brooches. Look for affordable options at thrift stores, flea markets, or online retailers to find unique pieces that suit your character.


Final Touches

Pay attention to the details, as hair and makeup can play a significant role in bringing your character to life at any murder mystery party. Look up era-specific hairstyles and makeup, whether it's the sleek finger waves of the 1920s or the bold cat-eye eyeliner of the 1950s, there are countless tutorials available online to guide you through achieving the perfect look. Experiment with different styles and techniques to find what works best for your character, and don't be afraid to get creative. You’ll find that with a bit of ingenuity and resourcefulness, you can create stunning and affordable costumes for your themed murder mystery party. Remember, the goal is to have fun and immerse yourself in the experience. Happy sleuthing, and may the best detective solve the case!