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Buy Halloween Costumes Online—the Smart Way

by Nindo Mom on September 26, 2010

When it comes to buying a Halloween costume, our options are much greater than they were in years past.

In the 1980s, buying a Halloween costume meant choosing one square box from the dozen or so on the shelf at the local drug store . You’d get a flimsy molded plastic mask—often with some kind of hair as part of the mask—which would attach to your face with a flimsy gray rubber band, plus a thin plastic jumpsuit with an image of an outfit printed on it. You’d slip the jumpsuit over your street clothes and fasten the ties at the back of your neck. A pair of sneakers on your feet, and you were good to go.

These costumes are valuable collectibles now. But that’s not because the costumes were well-made (or even well-liked) at the time—it was because that was all we had.

Today, many stores have a selection of Halloween costumes available this time of year. In addition, you’ll see seasonal Halloween shops that move into town during September and October that sell nothing but costumes and accessories. And then there are the online stores—my personal favorite way to shop when it comes to shopping for a Halloween costume.

How my love affair (with buying Halloween costumes online) began:

For my son’s first Halloween—he was just over one year old at the time—I wanted to make sure I got a cozy costume. Something cute, but something that would make sure the baby wouldn’t get cold. The Halloween costumes in the “Big Box” stores were too flimsy (not to mention dweeby looking.) So I jumped on Ebay to see what I could find—and boy, was I glad I did!

The difference between the costumes in the stores and those available online was like night and day. Ebay had so many choices, it was just a matter of deciding what I wanted, then putting in the time to get the best price possible. Ultimately, I chose (and purchased) a thick Winnie the Pooh costume that cost me about $30 used (but like new.) I was quite happy with the purchase.

I’ve bought costumes from gift shops at the Disney World them park, The Disney Store at the mall, Halloween-themed shops, and Toys R Us, but I can honestly say that I’ve gotten better value and cooler costumes by shopping online.

When it comes to fining just the right costume online, there are lots of choices. Some places sell niche costumes, so where you shop depends on what kind of costume you’re looking for.

How to find the best price on the costume you want:

Often, I’ll do a general search on Ebay or Amazon to see what’s out there, then I’ll start checking elsewhere on the web.

One excellent resource for buying costumes online is the website BuyCostumes.com. This site specializes in costumes, so has a tremendous selection. Their prices are excellent, and a lot of the costumes they offer are hard to find elsewhere, so it’s a great place to check out. (Right now, they’re offering a special deal right now: Get 10% off $40 or more on your costume order on BuyCostumes.com.

If you find the costume you want at Ebay or on Amazon from one of their Marketplace sellers, try to search for the seller using Google or Bing to see if they have their own website. (Sometimes their user name on Amazon or Ebay will hint at their website name, so try using their username as a keyword when using the search engines.)

Other Things to Consider When Purchasing a Costume Online

Shipping and Handling charges

Check on the shipping and handling charges for your costume prior to deciding the best place to buy.  Shipping costs can vary dramatically depending on your location compared to where the costume is being held—and handling charges can be anything the seller decides.  The good news is, there are lots of vendors out there offering free shipping with a minimum purchase—or at least very reasonable rates.

How long will it take for your item to reach you?

Shipping time + order processing time

Depending on how the costume is being shipped and where it’s shipping from, the amount of time your purchase takes to reach you can vary more than you may realize. Costumes shipping from overseas may take a month or longer (depending on whether they are checked by customs). Even items shipping from within the United States can take extraordinary amounts of time: one site I visited recently reveals in its shipping table that two of their shipping methods actually take from 19-29 days to arrive: 5-7 days of processing time plus 14-21 days actual shipping time.  Yikes!

If you purchase an item from a seller on Ebay, be sure to review their processing time before you place your bid or commit to buy your costume, as well as the shipping methods the seller offers. Also be sure to review the seller’s feedback rating: many sellers offer excellent turnaround time when it comes to getting your order in the mail, but others mail just once a week. Also, some sellers are more limited in the shipping methods they offer–just be sure to check on this before placing your order to make sure you’ll receive your costume in time.

Some vendors (like Amazon) offer a variety of shipping methods when you go to check out. Be sure to select the shipping method that will deliver your costume in time. (Note that the Super Saver shipping that’s offered for free on purchases over $25 is slower than standard shipping. Free shipping is awesome—but not if it means getting your costume November 1.)

Return Policy

Understandably, many vendors have special return policies when it comes to Halloween costumes, and often won’t accept returns for any costume purchased around Halloween. But some vendors may refuse to accept returns, at all. To avoid headaches in the event there’s a problem, be sure to check the return policy before finalizing your purchase.

Seller Ratings and Reviews

You can often find ratings and reviews for many online retailers—especially the larger ones. Keep in mind that customers with a negative experience are more likely to give feedback ratings than customers who’ve had a perfect experience….but a store with numerous negative ratings may be a sign that you should consider ordering elsewhere. To find online reviews for a store, enter the company name into Google or Bing, followed by the word Ratings or Reviews.

For a seller offering costumes through a shopping site such as Amazon or Ebay, check the seller ratings prior to completing your order. This will give you a feeling for what other customers’ experiences have been with that seller—and what yours might be.

Shopping sites like Amazon are well-known for their excellent customer service when it comes to order fulfillment. Experiences with Ebay can vary widely, depending on the seller you’re purchasing from, so do your homework.

Costume Quality

When shopping for a specific costume, you may find several versions are offered by different online shops, and the different versions often differ in quality. Some costumes are one-piece printed jumpsuits, while others more closely emulate the actual clothing of the character by adding sashes, vests, belts, etc. When comparing prices of products sold online, be sure you’re comparing the same exact product. (Example–when looking on the web for Jedi Star Wars costumes for kids this year, I found a Deluxe and a Super Deluxe version of the cloak. Different quality, different prices.)

Costume Authenticity

If you are purchasing your costume (rather than pulling it together yourself/making it at home) and the costume is of a licensed character (a few examples include Star Wars, superheros, and anime characters), be aware if the costume you’re considering is officially licensed. An officially licensed costume will ensure the creators of the character (those holding the license) receive the payment they are due from the costume manufacturer. In addition, officially licensed costumes tend to be of higher quality. Officially licensed costumes should note this on their packaging.

Fun Factor

Do you really want to to purchase your costume from a store, or would it be more fun to create it yourself? The answer depends on you, your budget, and how much time you have before the holiday. Pulling together or making your own costume can take a few minutes (cutting holes in a sheet and throwing it over your head for a ghost costume) or several months (if you’re endeavoring to sew an intricate costume for yourself).

There’s other factors to consider, too—if the costume requires sewing, are you able to do that, or can you get someone to help you? Does the costume require the creation of mechanical-looking parts, such as a robotic-looking mask?

Many people decide to create their own costumes, and have loads of fun doing it. Plus, they come out with something that may be completely unique. The choice is up to you.

The following are three of the best sites to buy online costumes that I’ve found. I’ve included a few additional details on specials currently being offered, which I will try to keep updated each week. Know another great site? Let me know, and I’ll check it out to see if it should be included in this list. Thanks!

BuyCostumes.com

Amazon

  • free shipping for qualifying costumes $25 and up
  • excellent selection
  • fast, courteous service

Ebay

  • good source for pre-owned or hard-to-find costumes, including vintage costumes
  • costumes may be available from sellers all over the world
  • potential for having cheaper prices if costumes are pre-owned

Whatever you do, remember: Halloween can be a fun time of year for adults and children, alike.  Be careful not to get so bogged down in the details and stress of getting the PERFECT costume that you forget the most important rule of all—to have fun!

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