(Jeffrey Macmillan/For The Washington Post)

Enter Lisa Rowan. She blogs on area vintage finds at QuarterLife and describes herself as a “fashion freelancer and traveling vintage retailer by night.”

(Lisa Rowan of Quarterlife202.com)

Buzz Blog: What’s the cheapest way to put together a costume?

Lisa Rowan: The cheapest way to put together a costume is to look in your own closet. Unless you’re making some sort of large cardboard structure for your costume (looking at you, Rubik’s Cube), the odds are good that you can use at least one item from your own closet. Just because a piece of clothing doesn’t exactly emulate the time period or character you’re trying to re-create doesn’t mean it’s not usable. It just takes a critical eye to be able to mix and match pieces into a wallet-friendly costume.

If you’re not seeing anything in your own closet (sort of like me on a Monday morning), do head to your local thrift store. I recently visited a Goodwill location in Arlington that had Halloween stuff everywhere. At the front of the store, at the ends of the aisles, and even the regular items on the racks seemed a little more festive. Thrift stores are the best place to find regular clothing items that can make a great costume, as well as pre-made costumes like superhero costumes for kids. One thrifting trip is likely to outfit the whole family.

(Skittles! Sushi! Pizza! View our gallery of homemade kids costumes here.)

BB: For women, the number of ready-made Halloween costumes are outfits that many Washington women wouldn’t be caught dead in. How do you walk the fine line between sultry and too-sexy on Halloween? [Question inspired by this post at Capitol Hill Style.]

LR: When it comes to pre-made costumes for ladies, it’s as if you have to choose between too-sexy and not-sexy-at-all. (Can we get a happy medium, party stores?) Until manufacturers get the memo, your at-home trick is this: Layering. If you’re wearing a short skirt, do wear tights. Bring a sweater, jacket, or cape — you might get chilly, or you might start to feel modest after a walk down the block. What’s that quote about leaving something to the imagination? Seriously, put some more clothes on. You’ll still look sultry (and very awesome). And you’ll thank yourself when the photos hit Facebook.

BB: Where are some of your favorite places to get costume accessories, either for Halloween or just for a fun night out?

LR: I always start by looking in a thrift store or consignment shop, both for frugal and environmental issues. It’s always fun to give an item a new home and a new look, especially for Halloween. If I’m not sure what I’m looking for, the 14th and U corridor usually provides some inspiration. You can start at 16th and U, walk toward 14th Street, and take a right onto 14th for at least 10 options for shopping vintage, secondhand, or new clothing and accessories. It’s the closest you get to a one-stop-shop without hitting a mall.

BB: What was your favorite-ever Halloween costume?

LR: I am most proud of a nurse costume I made a few years ago. I hemmed a 1970s nurse uniform (which was a huge lesson in hemming — measure twice, cut once!) and grabbed an old white pillowcase to cut and press into a hat. I found navy and red bed sheets at a thrift store and used them to make a simple cape, with the red on the inside for flair. The whole project took up several evenings and most of my living room floor, but it’s a costume I still keep in my closet in case of an emergency. You never know when you’ll need to get dressed up!

About the blogger: Lisa Rowan is a freelance writer and editor who has been blogging about thrift and vintage shopping at www.quarterlife202.com for three years (and has been shopping in thrift stores for at least 10). In spring 2011, the Quarter Life blog expanded into a vintage resale operation via pop-up shops and a guest spot at Nana in Mt. Pleasant. You can follower her on Twitter here.