If your kids are like mine, their costume plans have changed multiple times -- probably beginning with the conclusion of last Halloween. I'm always hesitant to buy a costume too early, but it's also risky to wait until the last minute. Whatever your strategy, be prepared to improvise with some basic costume styling tips.
1. Copy Known Characters: Take a good look at popular costume characters, and you'll find that most of their looks are basic and easy to recreate. The details don't have to be exact. As long as you have the key components together, your kid will get the point across.
2. Be Generic: There is no need to be specific with princesses, fairies, knights or ninjas.
3. Think Outside of the Box: Create your own character. For a circus themed costume party this weekend, I wore a white turtleneck, leggings and shoes, used pink hair paint to color cotton batting, and pinned the batting all over my head. Voila, Cotton Candy!
4. Use What You Have: Need a sash but don't have one? Try ribbon, a neck tie, a robe tie or a scarf. Pipe cleaners can be fashioned into wands, crowns and swords. Look in all the closets, the kitchen drawers and the craft bins. Turn shirts inside out and backward, or tie a men's button down around a girl's waist as a skirt.
Want more tips? Find specific how-tos in my article on DIY Halloween Costumes. Let me know if you have any to add!