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.
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.
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?
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
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
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.
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.
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.