The beauty of dressing up for Halloween is that you can be absolutely anything you want. A ghost, a dragon, a zombie, your favorite musical artist, a crayon, existential dread personified, the list goes on and on! But one option that you might not have considered is a knock-off version of one of your favorite characters from a film, novel or TV series. Forget Stranger Things; this year you can be a character from “Unusual Events”! Or if you think Game of Thrones characters are overdone Halloween costumes, maybe you want to try being someone from “Kingdom of Battles”?

Below, we’ve gathered some of the most hilarious and creative examples of knock-off Halloween costumes that are so bad they might just give you nightmares, as well as an interview we were lucky enough to receive from Kristen Stafford, host of the Halloween Art and Travel Podcast. Be sure to upvote the costumes that impress you with their creative names and methods of skirting around legal trouble, and let us know in the comments if you would ever wear any of these silly knock-offs. Then if you’re interested in viewing even more of these, perhaps to provide inspiration for what you should wear this weekend, you can find Bored Panda’s last article on the same topic right here.

#1

Halloween Karen

Halloween Karen

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When it comes to how accurate Halloween costumes need to be, I’m of the opinion that it’s totally up to the person wearing the look. If they feel like going all out and purchasing the exact same shirt that a character wears and getting a wig to have every detail, including hair color, perfect, that’s awesome. But if you’re looking for a more affordable option and your goal is to simply capture the essence of whoever you’re embodying, there is nothing wrong with being a little less accurate. It’s only one night, after all, and we can suspend our disbelief. If you have brown hair, but you’re dressed as a blonde character, I’ll let it slide.

And clearly, Halloween stores know that not everyone is concerned about being picture perfect with their costumes. If they can’t afford the licensing required to sell name brand costumes, or they want to offer a cheaper option for shoppers on a budget, what’s wrong with providing versions of our favorite characters that look like they came from a parallel universe? Personally, my favorite aspect of all of these costumes is the creative naming. Guy Fieri has become “Governor of Tasteville”, The Witcher has become “Witch Hunter Gary”, and Spiderman has become “Web Slinger Boy”. Eh, close enough!

#2

"Plastic Man" Halloween Mask

"Plastic Man" Halloween Mask

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To gain some insight on Halloween costumes from an expert, we reached out to Kristen Stafford, self-proclaimed Halloweenist and host of the Halloween Art and Travel Podcast. First, we asked Kristen what the importance of a great Halloween costume is. "For most of us, Halloween is the one time of year we can wear crazy clothes out in public and try out being someone or something else," she shared. "All humans are creative in some way. You don't need to be an artist or DIY person to express yourself. The best costumes are ones that tell a story. Learn from cosplayers - either learn about the character you are dressing up as or if it's something you invent, create a backstory for it."

We also asked Kristen if it's possible to get a great costume without breaking the bank. "Great costumes run the gamut of budgets," she told Bored Panda. "Budgets can run from zero to thousands of dollars for artisan made theater worthy looks. The most budget friendly way to dress up is to use things you already own. One of my favorite budget friendly costume ideas is a classic witch. Many women already own a black dress. Grab that and pair it with a simple low-cost black witch hat. To jazz it up, make a flower wreath of real or artificial flowers and place it around the band of the hat," Kristen explained. "Bonus points if it smells nice (try including eucalyptus or lavender)."

#3

My All-Time Favorite Book Character: Missing Boy

My All-Time Favorite Book Character: Missing Boy

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"A classy look is to pair dressy clothes you already have with an elegant Venetian or creepy masquerade mask," Kristen noted. "When you purchase or make costume items, think ahead - can you use the item for another look? For example, capes are great pieces to have - go from a vampire one year to a grim reaper the next. They also keep you warm!"

We were also curious about some of the best costumes Kristen has ever seen. "Hands down, the best costumes I've ever seen were at Theatre Bizarre, a Halloween masquerade held annually in Detroit, MI," she told Bored Panda. "People fly in from around the world to attend and spend months planning their best Halloween looks. The costumes that stuck out to me were astronauts wearing clear space helmets, ones that incorporate lighting, and big headdresses and hats. If you aren't wearing a mask, be sure to have some sort of makeup on."

Kristen is also pretty serious about her own Halloween costumes. "I start planning my costumes months in advance," she says. "One year I was Marie Antoinette. I purchased a period dress from a seamstress and wore a beautiful beaded choker with red beads hanging from it. It was so fun to experience wearing one of those crazy wide dresses. This year I was a poison witch. I wore a green brocade dress, with an elaborate beaded necklace, topped with a custom witch hat by artist Karen Steinkraus. The green hat features a glass poison bottle, artificial poisonous plants including calla lily and hemlock, and a real turkey skull. Oddly, I feel my most beautiful and unique when I'm in costume."

#5

When You Don't Own The Licensing Rights

When You Don't Own The Licensing Rights

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But when it comes to the most important factor to consider when choosing a costume, Kristen says not to count out comfort. "If you don't feel good, you won't have fun," she explained. "Some of the most uncomfortable costumes I've seen were made of cardboard. There's so many options for costumes that look awesome and are wearable. Find a costume that allows you to still use a restroom without helpers. Ideally the costume should reflect an interest - have fun with it! Make a dream come true for an evening. Figure out if you can repurpose or incorporate something you already have on hand."

If you'd like to embrace spooky season to the fullest extent, be sure to check out Kristen's podcast Halloween Art and Travel right here.

The history of why we wear Halloween costumes in the first place traces back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, a pagan religious festival where people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts, according to History.com. Over the years, All Saints Day, or November 1st, was combined with some of the traditions of Samhain, and the evening before, All Hallows Eve, evolved into Halloween as we know it today, celebrated by wearing costumes, carving jack-o-lanterns, trick or treating and throwing parties.

However, the original costumes that Celts wore many years ago were likely quite different than what we wear today. Their costumes often consisted of animal heads and skins, and they would attempt to tell one another’s fortunes while wearing them. When the celebration of Halloween finally found its way to North America, new traditions emerged, as various cultures and customs merged. Native Americans celebrated “play parties”, or public events to celebrate the harvest, where they would share stories of the dead, tell one another’s fortunes, dance and sing. Colonial Halloween festivals also included telling ghost stories and making mischief.   

#8

I Found This "Girls Fantasy" Halloween Costume

I Found This "Girls Fantasy" Halloween Costume

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Trick-or-treating came about when Americans started dressing up and going from house to house requesting food or money. Tricks and witchcraft were also an important part of Halloween, as it was believed that young women could divine the name or appearance of their future husband by doing tricks with yarn, apple parings or mirrors. But in the late 1800s, there was a push in the United States to move Halloween away from a focus on pranks, ghosts and witchcraft and to turn the day into a holiday about community and neighborly gathering.

Over time, trick-or-treating became less about any tricks and simply became a wholesome way for kids to gain some treats and show off their costumes. And the more frightening or grotesque aspects of Halloween became less prominent. Between the 1920s and 1950s, families began passing out candy to prevent tricks from being played on them, and the tradition has been going strong ever since. One quarter of all of the candy sold in the United States annually is sold during spooky season, and Americans spend about $6 billion on the holiday each year.  

#9

Frendo Blaggins

Frendo Blaggins

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Deborah Harris2
Community Member
3 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Frendo 😆 who the hell is downvoting everyone ? How sad

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If you’re interested in being a real person for Halloween, whether they are a political figure, an actor or a famous musician, one thing I would not recommend would be getting a mask that is supposed to look like their face. You can always focus on the clothing, makeup, props and mannerisms if you don't bear a striking resemblance to them. If a mask is actually accurate, it might be funny and might take the pressure off of the rest of your costume. But if it’s not accurate, it is likely going to be terrifying. (Although, maybe that’s what you’re going for!) Also, those masks seem incredibly uncomfortable to wear. If you’re going to be in a crowded club or party during Halloweekend, I would advise against anything that might make it hard to breathe or might make you super sweaty. Unless you live in a cold climate and are looking for a Halloween costume that will keep you extra warm, you might want to avoid the mask route.   

#10

Now You, Too, Can Be The Governor Of Tasteville

Now You, Too, Can Be The Governor Of Tasteville

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#11

Thinking Of Going As This For Halloween

Thinking Of Going As This For Halloween

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#12

Halloween Stores Never Disappoint

Halloween Stores Never Disappoint

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TotallyNOTaFox
Community Member
3 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

That looks more like a costume from a cheap "knock off" movie on orange Youtube...

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A lousy knock-off Halloween costume may be painful to see, but there’s not anything ethically wrong with it. There are, however, certain costumes that nobody should be dressing up in ever. It should go without saying, but any costume that involves cultural appropriation, racist outfits or makeup, anything transphobic or xenophobic, or anything insensitive should be avoided. Just like with comedy, there are a million ways to make a funny joke without being offensive. There are also a million Halloween costumes that won’t offend anyone or make you look like a jerk, so it’s best to choose one of those. Jeffrey Dahmer might be a popular choice given the popularity of the recent Netflix series documenting his life, but do you really want to dress up as a serial killer who ruined countless people’s lives? People might feel tempted to make light of the Covid-19 pandemic as well, but just remember that it has also taken millions of people’s lives. If you want to dress as something scary, might I suggest a zombie or Freddy Kreuger instead?     

#13

It's The Putin Mask Woah

It's The Putin Mask Woah

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#14

Acute Little Costume I Found At A Store In Halloween

Acute Little Costume I Found At A Store In Halloween

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#15

Anybody Wanna Be A White Clam For Halloween?

Anybody Wanna Be A White Clam For Halloween?

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So what should we be dressing up as for Halloween? For a previous Bored Panda article, I spoke with Miranda Enzor of Spooky Little Halloween to hear her thoughts on the topic. She told me that she doesn’t have a lot of rules when it comes to choosing a costume, but comfort is key. “That doesn't mean taking the lazy route—it means finding ways to accomplish your look, no matter how simple or elaborate it might be, and making it comfortable to wear,” she explained. “Nothing is worse than having an uncomfortable costume you disassemble 20 mins after you put it on.” For me personally, comfort also means considering how challenging it will be to go to the bathroom while wearing the outfit...

#17

Last-Minute Halloween Costume

Last-Minute Halloween Costume

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If you’re having trouble deciding what to wear, Miranda shared a tip that might make things easier. “Don't underestimate what costumes might be hiding in your closet!” she told Bored Panda. “My favorite thing to do for myself is putting together costumes from clothing I already own. It's original, it's more affordable, and I'm always amazed at what I can create.” And when it comes to some of the best costumes she’s ever seen, Miranda said, “I LOVE costumes that take an idea and elevate it or put a unique spin on it. I have some friends who did a group costume of the Avengers, but they made 18th-century ball gowns inspired by their favorite characters. I just saw an idea the other day on TikTok where a group of girls made ice cream witch costumes—their hats were overturned ice cream cones with different flavors of ice cream, and their costumes coordinated with the ice cream colors. So clever and fun!”

#19

Halloween Is Great

Halloween Is Great

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#20

There Is A Bunch Of Stuff Like This In My Local Costume Shop

There Is A Bunch Of Stuff Like This In My Local Costume Shop

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#21

Do I Get My Wife The Exact Halloween Costume She Asked For Or The This Version And Deal With The Consequences?

Do I Get My Wife The Exact Halloween Costume She Asked For Or The This Version And Deal With The Consequences?

There comes a time in a married man’s life when he has to ask himself this question.

HadManySons Report

Phendrena
Community Member
3 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I'd just buy both, give her the sexy-time version first and when she goes mental, laugh it off as though you knew she would, and then give her the actual Luigi costume.

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See Also on Bored Panda

Miranda also shared one of the Halloween costumes that she was most proud of with Bored Panda. “My own favorite costume was my favorite because the creation process was so satisfying,” she said. “I dressed up as Janet from the beginning of Rocky Horror Picture Show, and I had the best time pulling together all the details. If you're not in a time crunch, it's so much more rewarding to put together a costume yourself than to buy one.” She's exactly right. And while the clock is certainly ticking, if you have time this week to rummage through second hand shops or dig through your friends' closets, I'm sure you too can come up with a killer costume.

#22

"Tiger King" Halloween Off-Brand Costume

"Tiger King" Halloween Off-Brand Costume

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#23

"What Are You Going To Be For Halloween?"

"What Are You Going To Be For Halloween?"

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#24

Found This In My Canadian Halloween Shop

Found This In My Canadian Halloween Shop

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Alex Boyd
Community Member
3 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I'm honestly not sure which end of the political spectrum is the target audience for this.

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If you’re anything like me, every Google search for “easy Halloween costumes” or “last-minute Halloween costumes” yields results that seem way too complicated for my skill set. I don’t want an art project; I just want a costume so I can say I participated and have fun hanging out with my friends. So as cringey as the costumes on this list may be, they can definitely come in handy in a pinch. Every costume does not need to be perfectly historically accurate or make people stop you on the street asking if you are Taylor Swift or Johnny Depp. A costume is something you wouldn’t normally wear, and I don’t think any of us dress up as “Hermany Grinder” from “Chogborts” every day. 

#25

Super Hero Costume

Super Hero Costume

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#26

This Incredibly Racist Wig I Found In A Halloween Costume Shop A Few Years Back

This Incredibly Racist Wig I Found In A Halloween Costume Shop A Few Years Back

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BoredPandaSucks
Community Member
3 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

well the actual wig isn't really necessarily racist, but the image on the packaging certainly is.

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#27

But Can I Get A "Mr. Metal Suit" Mask

But Can I Get A "Mr. Metal Suit" Mask

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We hope you’re enjoying these hilariously bad knock-off costumes that might be worthy of a spot in your nightmares. Keep upvoting the pics you find most ridiculous, and let us know in the comments if you would ever be one of these interesting parallel universe versions of one of your favorite characters for Halloween. Then, if you’re interested in checking out some people who went all out with their costumes, you can find a Bored Panda article with some of the best Halloween costumes right here

#29

Even Has Short Legs, Amazing

Even Has Short Legs, Amazing

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Auntie Bear
Community Member
3 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

You know what they say about a sergeant with short legs... he has to wear short pants.

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#30

I'm Sorry But That's Just A Poorly Made Costume

I'm Sorry But That's Just A Poorly Made Costume

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#31

Heh, This Gives Me Nightmares. Found It In Wall Mart Looking For A Pennywise Costume. Found Something Scarier. Never Gonna Sleep Again

Heh, This Gives Me Nightmares. Found It In Wall Mart Looking For A Pennywise Costume. Found Something Scarier. Never Gonna Sleep Again

annoyingchild23 Report

See Also on Bored Panda
#33

Ah Yes, Who Wouldn't Want To Be Aquahero For Halloween This Year. Not Even The Costume, Just The Temporary Tattoos

Ah Yes, Who Wouldn't Want To Be Aquahero For Halloween This Year. Not Even The Costume, Just The Temporary Tattoos

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#34

Found These Gems In My Local Halloween Store

Found These Gems In My Local Halloween Store

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#35

Daddy's Little Disaster From That Famous Movie

Daddy's Little Disaster From That Famous Movie

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Jordi Sharpe
Community Member
3 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

But none of the male psychopaths are referred to as "Mom's Little Disappointment". Feels kinda sexist.

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#36

Halloween Costume From My Local Discount Store

Halloween Costume From My Local Discount Store

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#37

A Stranger Things Knock-Off Halloween Costume

A Stranger Things Knock-Off Halloween Costume

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Erika
Community Member
3 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

10 is my fav unusual events character as well

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#38

Now Presenting The Sidekick Of Anime Man, A Manga Boy

Now Presenting The Sidekick Of Anime Man, A Manga Boy

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Erika
Community Member
3 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

The manga boy run is also super fun to do in this costume.

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#39

Aqua Walker

Aqua Walker

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TotallyNOTaFox
Community Member
3 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Jesus Christ!... was my first thought by reading Aqua Walker

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#40

This Children’s Maid Costume At The Thrift Store

This Children’s Maid Costume At The Thrift Store

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Note: this post originally had 124 images. It’s been shortened to the top 40 images based on user votes.