How to Make a Traffic Barrier Costume for Halloween

Ahh, Halloween, that great time of year where you get to dress in silly clothes, and beg your neighbors for candy. At least, that’s how it is for kids! For many adults, October brings invitations to Halloween parties, and the pressure to not only show up, especially if the party is being thrown by your boss, but to have a great costume, even if it means blowing the budget. But, if you stop and think back to an earlier time, when children dressed as hobos, ghosts, and whatever else they could make with what they had around the house, you may find that a great costume for that special Halloween party doesn’t have to cost a fortune, and you can even have some fun putting it together instead of just ordering one complete ensemble. Explore your closet, and take a look around your local thrift shop for ideas, and make a point to think outside the box. Here’s one idea to get you started.

Traffic Barrier

You know those barriers they use for construction, the ones that are skinny, with a single light mounted on top. If your city is like many, constantly flooded by these barriers, rerouting traffic in confusing directions, so much the better! This costume takes about 2 hours to make, and costs very little. Your costs will vary depending on what items you already have in the house.

You will need:
1 piece of white posterboard
1 package of ribbon or bias tape (this will show, so pick a color you can live with)
1 bottle/tube of super-type glue, OR a glue gun with 1-2 glue sticks
1 translucent 8oz drinking cup, the kind they put in hotel bathrooms
2 flashing lights (such as the red ones sold as a Halloween safety product, or you can make an amber flashing light with electronics parts, if you have the skills)
8 sheets of orange paper OR a container of orange poster-type or craft paint
1 bottle of school-type glue for gluing paper to posterboard (only needed if you use sheets of orange paper)
1 paintbrush (only needed if you use orange paint)
any kind of tape


1. Cut the posterboard in half lengthwise, to make two boards that each resemble the shape of a traffic barrier.

2. Lay out the lines for bands of color on the posterboard. This is the hardest step. Take the first board, and measure one long side. Divide it into six equal sections. Work out the math with a calculator before you start making marks. Once you do that, make a small mark dividing each section. You’ll have 5 marks and 6 sections when you’re finished. Well call this Side A. On the other long edge of the board, Side B, make the same marks, at the same points. The marks you made, we’ll call Mark 1 through Mark 5, with Mark 1 being the first one up near the top. Using the ruler, draw a straight line from Side A Mark 1 to Side B Mark 2, to give it a nice downward angle. Repeat all the way down the board. Then, go back to Side B Mark 1, and draw a diagonal line upwards, connecting it to the dead center of the narrow top edge of the board. Go to Side A Mark 5 and do the same for the bottom. Do the same process on the second board, in a mirror image of the first. Put the second board next to the first, even, to help you make the marks at the same heights. Mark every other stripe O for orange, starting with one of the corner parts. It seems easy to remember, but mark it anyway, just in case.

3. If you’re using orange paper, cut strips of paper as wide as the stripes on your board. Glue them to the board using the school glue, being sure that the paper extends over the edges of the board at least an inch or two, and glue the stripes on the back side. If you’re using orange paint, cover your work space, and paint the stripes that are supposed to be orange.

4. Cut two strips of bias tape or ribbon about 12 inches long. Tape them to the top edge of one board, on the back side. Repeat on the other board, to make shoulder straps. Put the boards on like a sandwich board, and adjust the tape until the ribbon is just long enough for you on both sides. You want the boards to be low enough on your chest and back that they hang fairly evenly, not at a funny angle so that the bottom sticks out away from your body. Carefully take the boards off, and use the strong glue or glue gun to glue the ribbon down. You can peel the tape off, or leave it there.

5. Cut four strips of bias tape or ribbon, each about 18 inches long. Tape these about 3/4 of the way down the boards, on the sides, to make waist ties. Again, tape on the back side of the boards. Put the boards on again, adjusting the height to fit right, and check the level of your ties. You may prefer them to be hip ties, so they’re easier for you to reach. Once they’re all at the right height for you, take the boards off carefully, and glue them down as you glued the shoulder straps.

6. Now it’s time to make the light. If you have electrical experience, you may be able to design a better light, but this one is easy and cheap. Take the cup, and turn it upside-down on a flat surface. Many cups have ridges in the middle, so the top 1/3 or so of the cup is smooth, and the bottom 1/3 is smooth, and then there’s a ridged center band. If yours has this, that will make cutting easier. If not, you’ll have to estimate. Cut the bottom off of the cup, and set it aside. If it has ridges, cut right at the ridge that’s closest to the bottom of the cup. If it doesn’t, try to estimate and cut so that the top part of the cup is about an inch taller than the safety lights you’re going to install.

7. Take the bottom portion of the cup. Cut a 1/2″ “bracelet” of cup material off of it. Throw the rest of the bottom of the cup away; you won’t need it. Snip the bracelet so that it’s a strip of plastic. Cut the strip in half, to make two shorter strips. Now, what you want to do is fold the strips so that they have tabs at each end, and put them back to back so they form an I-beam shape. You want the center part of the I-beam to be long enough that it goes all the way across the cup, just a tad lower than the edge that you cut off. I did mine a half inch lower. You may need to hang yours at a different height, depending on the size of your lights that will hang on the beam. Glue the beam into the cup using your strong glue or glue gun. Don’t glue the two parts of the beam together. Just glue the folded tabs to the inside of the cup. When you’re done, you should have an upside-down cup that is missing its bottom, and has a beam running across near to the cut edge, to hang your safety lights on.

8. Cut two more strips of bias tape or ribbon, each about 18 inches long. Glue each of these, using your strong glue or glue gun, to the inside of the cup, near the drinking edge. Each one should be directly above (or below, depending on perspective) the center of your where I beam attaches to the cut edge of the cup.

9. For the final step, turn your two safety lights on. Slip them into the cup through the cut edge, hanging their belt clips onto the I beam. This is why you used two pieces to make the I beam. You can separate the two pieces with your fingernail, and clip one light to each one, so they hang exactly back-to-back.

Now that you’re done, put your posterboard on, and tie the waist straps so the boards don’t flap in the breeze. Put the cup on top of your head like a hat, and tie its straps under your chin. That’s it; you’re now a traffic barrier!

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