World Book Day 2016 (costume tips)

astrid how to train your dragon costume

It’s the last World Book Day dressing-up opportunity for Middle daughter. Next September, she’ll move up to Secondary, where it becomes major uncool to dress up, until 6th form, it seems. She wanted to make the most of today. She chose Astrid from How to Train your dragons, although she doesn’t appear in the books. She is based on the book character called Camicazi, which is good enough for us.

As we put her and her brother’s outfits together, I couldn’t help thinking how often we had done this activity. AND I still love it. After three children and numerous plays and dressing-up days you’d think I’d be fed up of it, but I’m not. I love it.

We always make an outfit. Partly as I recognize that my strength is making rather than shopping. (Don’t mention the camel costume. Euw!) So I thought this time I would write about my top tips on surviving the run up to dressing-up day.

Kili in the Hobbit costume

1.Let the children choose and be involved.

This was the hardest one for me to learn. I had to let go, which is difficult when I get into a creative mode. (Don’t mention the Lyra outfit. Mistake!) Bear in mind they may have to sit at a desk or on the floor during the day, but really, let them be what ever they want.

The most important part is that they need to be able to stride into school on the day, full of confidence and be happy.

2. Add a simple prop to identify the character

This is the best and easiest costume in the world. The request can come in the day before and you can still do it. One year, we added a tin foil, over-sized, cardboard safety pin and a huge cardboard button, to ordinary clothes and an instant Arietty from the Borrowers was created. Yes! A win.

3. Reuse

This is my top tip. Are you ready? I’m going to let you into a secret. No, I don’t sneak out at the eleventh hour and buy an outfit. As if! No, this is how you manage all the plays and dressing-up days with three children, with ease and not busting the bank. Girls and boys. For all their primary school years. I kid you not. Want to know?

Kili the dwarf in the Hobbit costume

The answer is to have a capsule dressing-up collection. Pieces that you reuse over and over and over again, adding their own clothes and accessories when needed. If you judge this right in the first few years, then the selected pieces will last from Reception class to year 6. Take care with sizing and colour, and you have it in the bag.

I built my collection by luck mostly. Some bits just didn’t work, but others are very flexible, so stayed the course. Would you like to know my capsule dressing-up pieces? OK.

First: The Purple Cloak


Do you recognize this from the Astrid costume? Used by Eldest for a Shakespeare play. It’s also been used as a King for a Nativity play, as a Celt and probably more.

Each time the cloak works. Not only does it add drama and a general cover-up, but it provides a bit of optional warmth. Also it is one size so it will last as they move through the classes. Plus it works for boys and girls, which is important when you have both.

A cloak is my number one dress up. It’s so easy to make (instructions here), or buy. I guess.

Second. The Tunic

celtic costume ks2 history project

Not sure I’ve shared the celtic costume here before. By adding it, and the cloak, to a charity shop tartan skirt, it works as a celtic tunic. Add accessories such as the belt and blue woad face paint for a full effect.

The colour is an earthy burgundy. It seems to work particularly well for historical dressing up. Looking at the new UK primary school history curriculum, there looks like plenty of opportunity for dressing up days.

Today, Youngest is using it as part of his costume as Kili, a dwarf from The Hobbit. This tunic has been used for a peasant, king, shepherd, shop keeper and … no I’ve lost track. Too many times. I originally made it as a dressing gown for eldest. She was 5 at the time. It came out too big and has been used for dressing up ever since.

Third. The White dress

the ghost

This was a Halloween costume. Lots of stage make-up. Using one of her white long sleeved tops and the charity shop spaghetti strapped dress, she got the effect she needed. If you look at one of the previous photos, you’ll see Eldest used it in the Shakespeare play too. I have two versions of the white dress. The other one is a big white men’s shirt. Perfect for mad scientist costumes.

4. Accessorize

I have belts, scarves and costume jewellery that change the outfits. All bits and pieces that are around the house. They get used over and over again.

And that is it. OK it doesn’t work for every outfit.

rabbit dancing 7

Not here, or here.


I’m not claiming my capsule dressing-up collection works all the time. It does provide a start. Do the children mind? No. They don’t seem to. Quite often they suggest pieces themselves.

It does mean that I don’t splash out for a new outfit every dressing-up day. With three children going to primary for 7 years each that could easily be 42 outfits. Gulp! Even if I sourced from charity and craft shops, that would add up.

I’d love to know if you have a staple dressing-up collection, that you reuse.

Bubbablue and me school days linky

10 thoughts on “World Book Day 2016 (costume tips)

  • Saturday 5 March, 2016 at 12:05 am

    What fantastic costumes! My children’s primary school never took part in the World Book Day dressing up so I’ve not really had to worry about it until this year. Why this year? Because now I work in a school and all staff are expected to dress up for it too. I copped out and just borrowed my daughters witch costume (also perfect for Halloween, Macbeth and the like!).

    • Saturday 5 March, 2016 at 7:26 am

      Oh, how funny! Caught up with you at last. Witches outfits are handy as they fit so many themes. Hope you had a good time.

  • Saturday 5 March, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    My children are not big fans of dressing up. I have made a couple of costumes but they haven’t been worn much so far 🙁

    • Saturday 5 March, 2016 at 2:37 pm

      I don’t know if mine are inspired by all the dressing up days at school. They do like role play games. I don’t mean dungeon and dragons, but their own made up games. Even the dogs join in. I hope yours find fun in dressing up in the costumes you’ve made, in the near future.

  • Saturday 5 March, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    Oh my goodness! Your kids are so lucky to have you as a mum! I wish I had the same energ/creativity and imagination to dress up little T in any of your costumes 😉

    • Saturday 5 March, 2016 at 6:55 pm

      Ha! Thank you. I’m sure you could. As for the energy and creativity, when we reuse the costumes it takes less time, and the limited choice means less umming and ahhing. So all in all, I think it actually is the easier route.

  • Monday 7 March, 2016 at 1:04 am

    We’ve not yet got to the stage of needing to come up with costumes for things but the idea of a having a capsule dressing up collection is a really good one – I’ll certainly be taking it on board and making sure I have a few staple items that will be a good basis for other costumes.

    • Wednesday 9 March, 2016 at 3:17 pm

      You won’t regret it. Especially when you find the costume request at the bottom of their school bag, the night before it’s due.

  • Monday 7 March, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    I love these ideas – very creative and you’re obviously much better on the making side (I’m better on the creative shopping!) Some great tips for planning world book day outfits too. Will go an pin for next year. Thanks for linking up to #schooldays

    • Wednesday 9 March, 2016 at 3:15 pm

      Thanks, Emma. My past experience of buying costumes has not always worked out, so I have to be creative. Hope you give it a go.

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