*Or, how to avoid sending your child to school dressed as Elsa from Frozen, who is not in fact a character from a book.
**Or worse again, how to avoid sending your child to school dressed as Christian Grey of 50 Shades of Grey and inadvertently cause them to receive detention.
This coming Thursday the 1st of March is World Book Day, one of my favourite bookish celebrations of the year. Back in my happy days as children’s section manager of Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop, I hosted a week long celebration of books including author events, school visits and huge storytime sessions. I always found it an extremely busy, but extremely enjoyable week. Despite this, I know that the words “World Book Day” and “Fancy-Dress” can often strike fear into the heart of even the most creative parent or teacher. Never fear, I am here to help. Whatever your situation, for children and adults alike, simply read on for your guide to some easy, yet effective costume ideas that have been organized into handy levels of difficulty. I hope these help you to stand out but also save precious time!
Harry Potter Costume Options:
Dementors are the new ghosts. Like the classic ghost costume consisting of a white sheet thrown over the child’s entire body, a Dementor costume simply involves throwing a BLACK sheet over the child’s entire body and encouraging them to emanate an air of misery and sadness for the entire day. You really can’t get easier than this one!
This would be particularly cute with smaller children or babies. Simply cut a head hole and arm holes into an old pillow case, or, for bigger children wrap a sheet around the child in a toga style. If you have more time, cut out large cardboard ears and attach to a flesh coloured swimming cap to cover the entire head – if you’re a real perfectionist, you can actually buy bald head hats in joke shops! For accessories, make sure you also give the child one sock to symbolize their freedom from wizard oppression and as a lovely nod to the hard work Hermione did for Elfish Welfare with her organization SPEW.
Hard: Professor Umbridge
By far the most loathsome villain of all time, Professor Umbridge is an excellent scary option. Simply dress the child from head to toe in pink of varying shades. If possible make the outfit style as classic old-ladyish as possible with matching twin-sets, tweed and wooly tights. If your child has longer hair, style it in a bun, or, if you have time an old lady style perm. For accessories you could add pearls, a large locket/Horcrux, a short wand, a long list of rules and of course, a fun-killing attitude.
Classic Children’s Literature Costume Options:
Easy: Pippi Longstocking of Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
Pippi Longstocking is a very easy look to throw together. Pippi mainly wears a blue dress with red patches, if your child already has a plain blue or denim dress, simply safety pin red squares to the outfit. Add colourful striped tights and crucially, extra-extra-large shoes (maybe borrowed from Dad) If your child has long hair, add long plaits and draw on some freckles. For bonus points, if your child has one, have them carry a monkey teddy as Mr Nielsen. This outfit is also easily adjusted to Anne of Green Gables by adding a brown dress and a straw hat instead and carrying a beautiful bunch of flowers.
Medium: The Mad Hatter of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
I have personally thrown this look together as you will see in the above picture and it can be very effective. All you need is a large hat, preferably a top hat, but really any other insane looking hat will do. Add a suit jacket, bright coloured shirt with either a snazzy waistcoat or braces, colourful pants tucked into patterned socks and a lovely bow tie around your neck to tie the look together. For those with long hair, the night before I plaited my damp hair in small plaits and back-combed it in the morning to make it look extra crazy. For those with short hair, simply spiking the hair will look great. As a finishing touch, you could add lots of blusher for rosy cheeks and some drawn on freckles. Accessorize with a tea cup or a pot of tea and don’t forget to practice your riddles.
Hard:The Queen of Hearts of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
As modeled in the above image by my good friend, the beautiful Michaela. The skirt of this outfit was made by tying strips of black red and white tulle onto some elastic making a very easy no sew skirt, you will of course need something for underneath this. Add a white high collared shirt or blouse, heart patterned tights and a long cape. For accessories, add a tiara and make sure to have some crazy eye make up and the perfect heart shaped pout.
Modern Costume Options:
Easy: Wally of Where’s Wally
Where’s Wally is the easiest look to recreate. For this your child can simply wear a red and white striped top, jeans and converse or runners. If you haven’t got much time, Wally’s signature glasses can be mad from cardboard and any type of bobble hat can be worn. Alternatively, if you do have time, the glasses and bobble hat are usually easily found in any costume shop, joke shop and occasionally, Dealz. This one is fun because your child can hide from his or her teacher all day long and claim to be keeping in character!
Easy/Medium: Dr Noel Zone of Danger is Everywhere by David O’Doherty and Chris Judge
From one of my favourite books, this is also a fun look to recreate. If you have a boiler suit or a jump suit this is ideal. Alternatively, your child can wear all black or all denim clothing with the shirt tucked into his or her pants to look like a suit and simply add a high visibility waistcoat/jacket. Next they can simply throw on a helmet, some wellies and use face paint to create a beard. For accessories, make sure they carry a pet cabbage or stone. If you have extra time, you can easily create a TCOD or Tiny Cape of Danger using a square of yellow fabric secured with a safety pin or Velcro.
Medium: Dog Man of Dog Man by Dav Pilkey
This one is perfect if your child already has a Garda/Policeman costume. If not, Dog Man usually wears blue/navy pants and a matching long-sleeved navy top with a yellow symbol you could create with paper and attach with safety pins. Next add a blue coloured flat or peaked cap, if you have extra time, safety-pin on a brown pair of socks either side to look like floppy dog ears. If you’re talented with face paint, there are lots of YouTube tutorials for a doggy look, if not a doggy nose and whiskers will still look effective. For accessories, you can easily craft a pair of handcuffs from cardboard and tinfoil.
Easy/Medium: Ottoline of Ottoline and the Purple Fox by Chris Riddell
Your child can get quite creative with Ottoline’s look. Quirky items like old-fashioned dresses, large blazers, lots of layered clothing, colourful dungarees and striped tights or socks work well. Unusual accessories like hats, canes, scuba equipment, ear muffs and bows will also add to Ottoline’s unique sense of style, the crazier the better! Lastly, add two odd shoes of similar style but different colour – this is key! Bonus points (and please send me a picture) if you can persuade your other child to dress as hairy Mr. Monroe!
Easy: Winnie of Winnie the Witch by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul
Another look I have worn myself Winnie’s ensemble is a little different to your average witch but easy to recreate. Winnie normally wears a plain blue dress with a long purple cardigan, I got both of mine and a pair of orange striped tights easily enough in Penneys, but this is something some children will already have. For Winnie’s hat I covered a plain witch’s hat with blue felt and added on the details of Winnie’s hat with additional coloured felt. This was very easy to do using fabric glue, but if you can sew, this is also an option. Make sure your child’s hair looks extra fuzzy and crazy and don’t forget to add Winnie’s signature black heart-shaped lips. For accessories, a cat for Wilbur, a wand and a broomstick will finish off the look.
Hard: A Crayon from The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers
The secret to this outfit is to choose a crayon colour which is the same colour of a lot of clothing you already have. When I wore this costume, for example, I picked green, as I already had green jeans, a green long-sleeved top and a green cardigan. Using a large piece of card draw the black wavy patterns you would see at the top and bottom of a crayon cover. Make sure you add the Crayola logo and the name of the colour you are on the side. Use Velcro to secure this around your body in a tube shape making your crayon cover. Initially I used staples to secure my crayon tube, but this makes it impossible to sit down! Velcro is a better option as your child can remove this part of their outfit to sit for class but will still be the same colour as their crayon due to the clothing underneath. Lastly, paint or cover a birthday party hat to match your child’s chosen colour to make the crayon tip. For accessories, add a protest sign or a letter to Duncan outlining your crayon’s complaints!
What to do if your child HATES dressing up:
As you can see from the pictures in this post, I have always been someone who loves any excuse for a costume, my younger brother however, is not and would always insist on dressing as ‘a pedestrian’ for Halloween to avoid being in costume. If your child is shy or hates getting dressed up, occasions like this can be a bit of a hurdle due to peer pressure. In this instance, I give you full permission to adapt my brother’s idea for World Book Day. Let your child wear their own clothes and they can tell everyone they are dressed as a muggle from Harry Potter – no one will dare argue with them!
I hope you find this guide somewhat helpful, if in doubt, there are endless ideas on Pinterest, these were just some of the easiest options I could think of or have attempted myself. The important thing is to remember that this is supposed to be a fun and creative experience for your child, so if you have lots of time, let their imagination run wild! It’s also worth noting that a lot of the above costumes can be worn by boys or girls, all that matters is your child is comfortable and can enjoy spending the day as their favourite book character.
Don’t forget to pick up your World Book Day books at your local bookshop. Books are €1.50 or completely free if you have a book token making a fantastic opportunity for lots of children to have a book of their very own. There are lots of fantastic options to choose from from mini picturebooks up to YA reads.
Wishing everyone a very happy World Book Day, for more information on World Book Day itself click here.
Thank you to Michaela for letting me use her beautiful image and to my brother Luke for his always genius ideas.