Recycled Chameleon Costume for under $15



I had to create a costume for work using all the materials they gave me, including plastic plates, bowls and cups, a paper towel tube, a 6 inch plastic basket, napkins and a brown paper bag. So I got the idea that I could use the cups and plates to make a dress or skirt and use the napkins as a paper mache base for some sort of mask. I could cut up the basket and use it for eye holes and use the paper towel tubes to make horns or something. A chameleon costume came to mind when I saw the plastic bowls; they looked perfect for this reptiles bizarre eyes.


Fun fun!

Laying it all out

My roommate and I cut up all the cups ($1) into fourths and laid them out in a pattern I hoped might be reminiscent of scales. This was actually the hardest part because it was difficult to keep them all the same height and we had to use an x-acto knife to cut them because scissors ended up destroying the cups. We attached them all with plastic twist ties like you’d find on a bag of bread ($1).

I then cut the centers out of 6 or seven plates ($1) and glued them together end to end to form a plate corset to go above my cup skirt. I used a small circle of Velcro to keep the corset on.


My roommate being awesome by helping out

Head construction

I bought a hard hat at a thrift store ($2) and used that as a starting point for the chameleon mask. I asked at my local feed store if they had any spare baling wire and they were glad to give me some used wire for free. I formed the chameleon shape from this and used duct tape ($1.50) to keep it together. I also used some spare cup pieces as spacers to keep the shape I wanted.

I cut up the basket ($1) with wire cutters and used the bottom for the front view. I cut out the bottoms of two bowls ($1) and attached them with duct tape. It was starting to actually look like a chameleon!

I used the bottom of one bowl to measure the amount of basket I’d need to span the eye, cut that out with wire cutters and attached it with duct tape. It’s good to try on the mask and make sure you have the range of vision you’ll need when you’re actually wearing it.


Straight ahead…


…and in profile

Putting on the skin

I used the remainders of the basket to flesh out the under structure of the head. When I ran out of that I used aluminum foil ($1) to bridge the gap.

I started using the napkins ($1) to paper mache but found they weren’t very suitable. When they dry, (and it takes several days for them to dry), they are spongy and are difficult to get flat, like paper. So I switched to newspaper instead of napkins (-$1) and used the brown paper bag that I’d received the rest of my supplies in to finish it off, because I believe in using every part of the buffalo.

I cut open the paper towel tube and made three little cones which I attached with hot glue and then went over with a few layers of paper mache to make sure they stayed attached. I got some spray paint at a resale store ($1.75) and gave everything a good coat of green.


paper mache added

Details, then we’re done

I wanted it to have googly eyes and a tongue that I could blow in people’s ear if I wanted. So I went to the dollar store and got some pink party horns ($1) and springy eye glasses ($1). I removed the eye parts from the springy glasses and hot glued them to the center of my chameleon eyes.

The party horn wasn’t quite long enough to reach from my mouth to the edge of the mask, but my roommate had the idea to cut the end off of one and attach it to another. It worked perfectly! I curled a piece of wire around it and attached it to the inside of the mask. I used some of my roommate’s old tempera paints to paint the horns and little green scales around the head. I didn’t cover it in scales because it would’ve looked to busy, with nothing to focus on. Instead they draw your eye to the center of the mask.

I added a tie to give it a touch of class, and done!


Ta da!







  • Costume Ideas Brainstormer
    • the mean mama

      great costume! I was going to do this with my son, but he is a bit young for exacto knives, maybe in a few years!

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