One of the best mediums for creating recycled, handmade Halloween costumes is an old cardboard box. When my son was 5 years old, we went all-out cardboard for Halloween, constructing an indoor cardboard cave that took over 3/4 of our small apartment. I was a cardboard construction worker, my wife was a cardboard viking and after many hours of consultation and construction my son was a cardboard knight – for about 15 minutes. Once his friends arrived in their store-bought costumes he quickly succumbed to the idea that his handcrafted labor of love was inferior. Bummer. To save you this dismay I’ve outlined a few DIY cardboard box costumes that are fun to make and fun to wear, fully able to stand up to even the most caustic kiddie criticism.

Boxy Minimates

The popularity of Marvel Minimates, miniature angular replicas of well-loved superheroes and their evil nemeses, makes it a whole lot easier for parents to create superhero costumes from cardboard. Grouped together the suits pictured here seem to be intricately crafted. But closer inspection reveals that each creation is a simple exoskeleton of cardboard boxes held together with fasteners. The real work is in the detailed painting. Stephen Larkworthy, aka “Cap” of the Box Heroes, built all of the box superheroes pictured here plus many more.

+ More images at nikejerk’s Flickr

Biodegradable Ball Gown

Wouldn’t your little planet protecting princess look absolutely fabulous in an evening gown made of strips of cardboard? Simply use one of her existing dresses as a measurement guide and fashion a waistband out of sturdy cardboard. Once done, get to cutting, curling and fastening thinner strips to the band. You may choose to go ‘natural’ by utilizing unadorned cardboard (as is pictured) or you may choose to add a bit of fairytale pizazz by incorporating more colorful food cartons such as cereal boxes into your design. Either way, by the time you’re done she’ll be ready for the Monster’s Ball. Recycled-glass slippers not included.

Cardboard Race Car

VAROOM! Nicole Fravel’s and gonediesel’s speedy cardboard cars will have kids doing donuts. As with customizing life-sized hot rods, simple, sturdy construction and an eye for detailing is required. A great option for families with multiple kids, as simple color alterations are enough to differentiate Halloween costumes, creating a whole fleet of race cars and race car drivers. Mom and Dad can don overalls, and grab a few socket wrenches from the garage in order to fit in as the pit crew.

+ Pictorial at gonediesel’s Flickr

Really Awesome Robot

“First off, I need to thank my wife for being patient with me as I transformed our apartment into an utter mess of cardboard pieces,” says Instructables member Incrxtc. That’s some indication as to the level of dedication you’ll need to invest in creating a cardboard costume this detailed. His materials list for the Soundwave costume includes varied household items that usually make it to the trash, including cardboard boxes and paper towel tubes. But there are also many non-traditional supplies (a construction helmet, a reading light, and “Bandaids for when you burn yourself with the glue gun”) that are required.

+ Instructions and Pictorial

Dy-no-mite Dino

Creating Barbwong’s yellow-eyed, pointy-toothed, papier mache dino head will take you back to the Cretaceous period (and if not that far, at least to kindergarten). Uncertain where to begin, her initial research led her to a recipe for fail safe papier mache paste: 2 cups water, 1/2 cup flour, 2 Tbsp. sugar. And while to the layperson the final product seems a daunting task, this crafty mom confesses that her creation is “loads of fun to make, cheap (nearly free!) and it’s something the kid will play with for a while.”

+ Instructions at Make It Bake It Grow It Sew It

Cardboard Clone

A costume for older kids, the ‘big head’ self-portrait is 2 parts creepy and 10 parts cute. Intended to mimic the big-head option in video games, Eric Testroete first created a digitized version of himself using 3ds Max software. He then went to work gluing together a maddening puzzle of 3-D polygon paper pieces before his mask was complete. A similar, if less wowing, effect can be achieved for younger kids by taking 5 high-resolution photos of your child’s head (face, left and right side, back and top), outputting these at 25% larger than true life and then gluing the sheets to an appropriately sized box. Voilà! Almost instant big-head.

+ Instructions and Pictorial for the difficult version at Testroete

Killer Cardboard Kraken

More inspirational than instructional (actually, there are no instructions for this one), one Strode College student given the task of creating “fashion by recycling cardboard packaging” instead designed this wonderfully monstrous cardboard Kraken. Though obviously a combination of unpainted papier mache and rolled, segmented cardboard, the creepy cephalopod exudes an eerie realism due to its intricate detailing.

Box-Made Lego Brick

Legos are a favorite here at Inhabitots, and Halloween wouldn’t be the same if one of our kids didn’t dress up as a LEGO piece. While attempting to recreate the rounded features of a Lego minifig would requires days of sculpting, constructing a LEGO brick costume is as easy as 1-2-3 (4). Country Living magazine’s instructions are to cut off the bottom flaps of a box; create head and arm holes; affix eight round 2″H x 4″diameter craft boxes; paint the entire piece glossy red (or yellow, or blue). That’s it!

+ Instructions