Don’t know the first thing about post-apocalyptic costuming? This no-nonsense post is for you and anyone else who is looking for ideas and inspiration.

Basics of Post-Apocalyptic Costuming

  1. If you’re a beginner, you probably want to start with a bottom-up approach. Check your closet for the basics: tops, pants/skirts, boots, jackets. If there’s not enough, or it’s too nice to destroy, hit your local thrift and surplus shops. Find a base that fits, looks good on you, and is comfortable. Create an outfit with layers (hot days and cold nights) and comfortable footwear.
  2.  Once you have your basics, you can start with accessories. Practical accessories can include goggles, a cap, a shemagh, a canteen, a pouch or bag. After that, you can add armor, jewelry, gloves, ammo pouches, and more.
  3. Last but not least, your costume needs dirt, and lots of it. It should look like you’ve been wandering out in the desert for years. And while you’re at it, add texture and detail with things patches, can tabs, chain mail, bicycle chain links, fishing net, mountain bike tires and rubber floor mats.

It should be worn, tattered, dusty, grungy, and stained.

Once you’re all done, you should end up with a cool or interesting package, with realistic ageing, that shows off your unique personality, or at least a post-apocalyptic alter ego.

Costume Part Suggestion Lists

There are a lot of common parts used on post-apocalyptic costumes. You can start by combining some of the suggested items in these lists to make your own. Copy & paste the keywords to start your search on Pinterest, Google Images or eBay.


Hockey helmet, headband, military cold weather mask, military officers cap, military helmet, paintball mask, airsoft mask, gas mask, respirator, leather motorcycle mask, cloth mask, rag bandanna or head scarf, leather tanker helmet, leather aviator helmet, improvised helmet, coolie hat, umbrella hat.


Aviator sunglasses, military goggles, motorcycle goggles, lacrosse eye mask, repaired eye glasses, swimming goggles, eyepatch.


Spiked leather collar or choker, bandanna, necklaces with found objects or skull pendants.


Football pads, military overcoat, metal or chainmail bra, worn out t-shirt with holes, black or brown leather garment (especially with studs, spikes and buckles) such as jackets, dresses, bras, bustiers, vests, and armor, kidney belt, studded waist belt, custom garment made out of re-purposed rubber materials (eg. inner-tube, tires), motocross chest protector (aka roost deflector) or protective jacket, mesh shirt, improvised armor and/or shoulder armor made out of plastic parts, leather, tire tread.


Leather pants or chaps or leather skirt or hot pants, vintage motocross pants, torn fishnet stockings or tights, military pants, black, gray, or earth-tone pants, riding pants (aka jodhpurs), leather studded codpiece, baseball shin guards, knee pads.


Boots! Motorcycle (engineer), combat, motocross, Doc Martens, New Rock, Demonia, or others. Classic, punky Converse All-Stars can work too.


Elbow pads, leather studded bracelets, gauntlets and armbands, junk jewelry, baseball shin guards or other guards for the forearms, fur, car emblems, red-lens marker lights or reflectors, leather or sports gloves (motorcycle, police, paintball, lacrosse), leather ammo belt or bandolier, other ammo pouches and belts and military webbing, bullet belts. Think about tools or utensils you might need during the weekend. Can opener? Mountain bike tires are a great material to work with: easy to cut and they look like motorcycle tires.



Bald, mohawk, red, blue, pink, or purple-dyed hair, the “I haven’t gotten a haircut in a while” look, or the “I gave myself a haircut” look.


Bow, crossbow, baseball bat, hammer, glaive, mace, saw-blade ax.


Road sign, garbage can cover, pot lid, hubcap.


Stick with earth tones like army green, brown, and khaki. Black is a great color, too, as long as it’s faded and not right off the shelf. Use purple, red or silver (or other metallic colors) as accents.  Use bright yellows and blues sparingly, if at all (properly distressed vault suits can be an obvious exception).  To summon the spirit of the good guys in The Road Warrior, use faded yellows, off-whites, cocoa browns, and lavenders.


Don’t make the all too common mistake of having a costume that looks too new, freshly-laundered, or shiny! (And don’t expect to get all that dusty when you come out to the event.) Follow these tips to distress your costume:

Need more inspiration? Check out these notable costume makers work!

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