World Book Day 2024 is just a week away – it’s next Thursday, 7th March (seriously, how does it come around so quickly?). Here’s my guide to easy WBD costume ideas that can (and, in our case, often have been) rustled up at the last minute (children are so fickle!). Don’t forget to check our previous galleries of your amazing costumes for inspiration as well. And, if your child is dressing up, please do share a picture on BG Facebook, tag @bambinogoodies on Instagram or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to win a fab prize. Happy reading, everyone!
Little People, Big Dreams
So many options here. Most popular are Frida Kahlo (embroidered dress or top, flower headdress, paintbrush/palette and drawn on eyebrows), Audrey Hepburn (little black dress, pearls, pumps and dark glasses), Amelia Earhart (brown leather jacket, flying helmet and goggles) and Marie Curie (Victorian-style dress, X-rays, Nobel Prize rosette). Kitty went as Coco Chanel in 2019 (black and white outfit, ballet pumps + a charity shop jacket with pearl trim, a couple of printed out logos, chain-strap bag and, of course, huge dark glasses) and Emmeline Pankhurst before that, which was really simple. She wore a long black dress and I printed posters for her placard and made badges, then bought purple and green ribbon for her hair and to make a rosette (I put one of the badges in the centre). I did cheat and buy the sash – it was about £2, but really makes the costume.
Alfie has previously gone as Northern Lights, which was slightly leftfield, but we ran with it. We got a t-shirt printed with the Northern Lights and stuck on a city silhouette we cut from gold leatherette and fastened battery-operated LED lights behind, then added accessories: an aleithiometer Alfie made from a travel sweet tin and a clock mechanism, an amber spyglass from part of a wrapping paper roll covered in gold leatherette with amber film and a soft toy Pantalaimon. Other His Dark Materials costume ideas are Iorak Byrnison (polar bear suit, with armour) and Lyra, Kitty’s choice for last year. Luckily, the school pinafore from the previous year’s Daisy Wells costume still fitted, so she wore that with the blouse and beret thrifted for her school evacuee day, a toy Pantalaimon and the Alfie’s homemade aleithiometer.
A wealth of options available for Potterheads and you don’t really need to buy official costumes. Harry = robes (see our no-sew cloak tutorial for a simple make), glasses, lightning scar and wand (see Alfie’s party inspo for details on making your own). Hermione = robes, wand and big hair. Draco = slicked back hair and a sneer. For Luna (Kitty’s favourite), just add Spectrespecs and a copy of The Quibbler. Or you could recycle Halloween costumes for Hedwig (owl), Aragog (spider) or any of the staff witches. Professor Trelawney is another good costume: lots of floaty clothes, hippie necklaces, wild hair and thick glasses, plus a teacup or crystal ball.
Red and white stripy top, stripy hat and toy penguin and bingo, you’re The Boy from Lost & Found, Up & Down and The Way Back Home. Or a penguin suit to become the boy’s friend. We’ve also seen brilliant renditions of less prominent quirky characters like the star and the seagull from How to Catch a Star.
The Brothers Grimm
Soooo much choice here. You may even have a Disney dress knocking around that can be repurposed. Beauty and the Beast? Yellow dress and red rose for Belle. Or perhaps go more leftfield and create Cogsworth or Lumière from cardboard (Pinterest has lots of inspo). Long wig = Rapunzel. Rags = Cinderella. Or check out our no-sew cloak tutorial, add a basket and go for Little Red Riding Hood (if possible, get your friends involved and make it a team effort like Lola!)
Mr Stink: ask the kids to mess up some old clothes and find a coat in a charity shop. Add a beard and string for a belt.
The Boy in a Dress: borrow a pink dress.
Gangsta Granny: one of my favourites – children dressed as OAPs are always hilarious – grey wig, hand-knitted top, black skirt, robber’s mask and sack.
Billionaire Boy: school uniform with loads of money (and maybe loo roll) attached.
Demon Dentist: White coat, white hair and drill.
Or any of The World’s Worst Children would be fun to do.
One for the minibeast fans. For 2015’s Brighton Festival Children’s Parade, Alfie’s school was given The Very Hungry Caterpillar. We stuck green and yellow foam eyes and lilac pipe cleaners on red swimming caps which looked brilliant – you could team with green t-shirt and trousers for full effect. Or opt for colourful butterfly wings. Or recycle that Halloween costume for The Very Busy Spider.
Lots of options if you have a Donaldson fan in the house. Brown t-shirt and leggings, plus twigs stuck to a crown and cuffs = Stick Man. Black spots glued to a red tabard, plus black card crown with antennae (or deely boppers if you have them) = the Ladybird from What the Ladybird Heard. Adapt a pirate costume to look like a highwayman (think velvet, gold buttons, mask and swag bag) and facepaint whiskers = The Highway Rat. Woodland animal fancy dress = owl, fox or mouse from The Gruffalo. Got a witch costume in the dressing up box? You’re Room on the Broom. Dragon outfit? Zog. I also like the idea of cutting out and decorating a huge paper doll shape for The Paper Dolls.
A wealth of opportunities here as Wilson is such a prolific author. Kitty dressed up as Hetty Feather in 2021 (it was a bit easy as we were at home, so we could include the tea tray!), and many of the historic characters are relatively easy, especially if you’ve had a history topic day before – we reused the hat and apron from Victorian Day over my 70s bridesmaid dress, although any simple dress would do. Lots of Wilson’s books are set in modern times, so contemporary dress can work as well: matching outfits for Double Act or fake tattoos for The Illustrated Mum.
There are quite a few Dahl characters that are simple and quick to put together, but high impact. How about Mr or Mrs Twit? Messy clothes plus a wig or beard with various disgusting things attached. Or the gruesome children from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are relatively easy to emulate. George from George’s Marvellous Medicine just calls for blue trousers and a red top, when Alfie did this, we covered a wooden spoon with foil and he wore it, along with an over-sized brown plastic medicine bottle, round his neck. Fantastic Mr Fox is pretty simple – smart clothes teamed with a fox tail and mask, and you’re good to go. Try this mask tutorial – you need a cereal pack, glue and paint. Sophie from The BFG just requires a nightdress, pigtails and glasses.
Meg and Mog by Jan Pienkowski
Time to dig out the Halloween costumes. Add gold buckles to school shoes and you’re done. You can either use a toy cat as Mog, or, as Pienkowski’s characters are very simple, you could print off a large version of Mog and the owl and use as templates to make felt versions. This could be adapted for so many books – The Witches, The Worst Witch, the Winnie the Witch series – just add distinguishing details.
Mr Men by Roger Hargreaves
So easy. You just need two big sheets of card to make a tabard and then trousers/tights the right colour. There are some great tutorials out there, like this Mr Bump one. Just adapt to your favourite character.
Professor Astrocat’s Frontiers of Space by Dominic Walliman
This was Alfie’s choice at one point. Luckily, we already owned a spacesuit, so I just copied, enlarged and printed out the professor’s face, cut it out and stuck to card to make a mask, plus we made ID cards and a badge.
Funny Bones by Allan and Janet Ahlberg
Skeleton (costume) in the cupboard? Another great opportunity to get your money’s worth from that Halloween outfit.
Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens
Kitty’s choice for 2022 was Daisy Wells from Murder Most Unladylike. This is a super easy one if you already wear school uniform (we had to buy a pinafore, but she has actually worn it since!) Then all you need is a magnifying glass and bunches, plus we printed out a Deepdean School badge, mounted on card and added a safety pin.
Rosie Revere: Engineer by Andrea Beaty
This was Kitty’s choice a few years ago (see above) and reasonably simple. I added striped fabric to the bottom of a plain white dress (using Wonderweb, of course), which she wore with white knee socks and red ballet pumps, bought some red and white spotty fabric for a headscarf and covered a Hogwarts lunchbox we had with blackboard sticker sheets so we could write ROSIE on it. Getting her curls vaguely straight was probably the trickiest bit!
Peter Pan by JM Barrie
Recycle elf or Robin Hood costumes for Peter, or opt for a simple long blue dress and hair bow for Wendy. John is a great one – white nightshirt (one of Dad’s old work shirts?) with top hat and umbrella – and animal onesies work well for the lost boys. And we’ve got the perfect easy Tinkerbell costume tutorial for you – check out those fabulous pom pom shoes!
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
A white apron over a blue dress with an Alice band (naturally) for the eponymous character, top hat and crazy clothes for the Mad Hatter, bunny ears and pocket watch for the white rabbit, cover a princess dress with hearts and playing cards and bake jam tarts for the Queen of Hearts, or just make a massive Queen of Hearts playing card tabard.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
One for the older kids – still some of Alfie’s favourite books. We did buy a mockingjay pin, but other than that just a black t-shirt and bow and arrows, plus he printed out a District 12 badge and added a cape (our no-sew cloak tutorial is so versatile). Accessorise with angsty teen expression and you’re done.
The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
This is just ace and can be achieved in an evening. All you need is rainbow coloured felt, shiny fabric, an old tee, an alice band and your sewing kit (although I’d be tempted to hot glue). Check out the tutorial over at Here Come The Girls.
Paddington Bear by Michael Bond
Alfie has also been Paddington, as he happens to have a Gloverall duffle coat in the perfect shade of royal blue. You could go down the face paint route, or grab one of those bear hats and glove sets you see everywhere and stuff the glove bits down the arms of the coat. We bought a cheap red hat and cut holes for ears as we have a bear headband. You’ll also need wellies, a small suitcase and a luggage tag with ‘Please look after this bear’ written on. And, of course, marmalade sandwiches.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
Brown outfit. Blue jacket. Bunny tail. Bit of face paint. Team those with homemade ears on a headband (Martha Stewart has a super easy tutorial) or use a printable rabbit mask. Make a felt radish or carrot for extra points.
Greta and the Giants by Zoe Tucker
Probably my favourite of Kitty’s costumes and really easy (although we did have the advantage of already owning the coat. Plaits, yellow coat, beanie, placard, job done. Would also work for the Little People, Big Dreams: Greta Thunberg.
Mr Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown
An upgrade on The Tiger Who Came to Tea costume – just add top hat and tails.
Angelina Ballerina by Katherine Holabird
If you have a little ballet lover in your house, this is another easy costume. They need their ballet outfit, some mouse ears – just adapt the rabbit-ear tutorial above – and a long mouse-like tail. Check out our gallery to see this in action.
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Dawalt
Choose a colour. Wear relevant t-shirt and leggings, make a paper wrapper, pop on a pointy hat. Job done.
Beetle Boy by MG Leonard
Alfie’s choice in 2019 – blue top and trousers with white plimsoles + a whole load of beetles! Confession: we did buy a really cool metal rhinoceros beetle to act as Baxter, but the others were Halloween leftovers. Lucretia Cutter, Beetle Queen, would also be a great costume.
The Bear’s Song by Benjamin Chaud
Bear suits are the cutest and work well for Papa or Little Bear. Attach a bee on a pipe cleaner.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
A couple of years ago, Alfie went to school as Arthur Dent. It’s a pretty easy base costume – pyjamas and dressing gown – but the accessories make it. A mug, towel over the arm and, of course, copy of the guide. We also printed out a babel fish and Don’t Panic sign and mounted them on card.
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