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No-sew costumes for World Book Day

Little red riding hood costume for World Book Day
As the children get excited over book week, it can leave us parents feeling more than a little stressed! Time-poor and not at all sewing-savvy Phoebe Doyle has some simple suggestions for effective World Book Day costumes that won’t break the bank.

While it may seem that World Book Day dressing up was an invention devised purely to send parents into a frenzy, kids really do adore the chance to don a costume and take a more detailed look at their favourite book characters. The key is to see it through their eyes – as sheer fun! Remember that you’re not doing a GCSE in Making the Most Enviable Costume, you’re helping your child enjoy this fun day with their classmates. Here are some ideas for much-loved storybook characters….


Get some yellow wool and make two very long plaits by cutting about 20 pieces of wool very long and dividing into two, then plaiting by tying each with a bobble at the top. Tie the bottom of each plait with a bobble and a ribbon. Attach to your child’s own hair or a white maid-style hat. Have your child wear a blue dress, white socks and some traditional T-bar shoes.

Little Red Riding Hood

Cut a large semicircle of red fabric and fasten it over your child’s head with a safety pin (you could also go one step further and make a Little Red Riding Hood cape with a tie). Have your child wear a plain dress, high socks and traditional shoes. Complete the look by arranging a basket full of goodies (cookies and cakes etc.) for them to carry.

One of the Three Little Pigs

Use a takeaway coffee cup for the snout; paint it pink with two circles at the front for nostrils. Create a hole in each side with scissors and fasten elastic so it fits around your child’s head. Make pink ears with pink card triangles also fastened to elastic, and then strapped onto their head. Paint your child’s face pink using face paints, and dress them in a pink top, denim dungarees and black plimsolls.

The Pied Piper

Have your child wear normal trousers and shirt, and carry a tin whistle. Fasten toy rats onto a piece of string and tie this to their waist band or belt. Add a hat if you have a suitable one.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Have your child wear green leggings and a green t-shirt. Stuff pairs of green tights, and attach them down the back of their T-shirt and leggings, to represent caterpillar legs. Attach antennae onto a headband. Draw pictures of different foodstuffs, make a hole through them with a hole punch and hang them on a ribbon for your child to wear. For a pre-made tabard body and pictures of food download Book Aid's Very Hungry Caterpillar costume templates.

Mary Poppins

Have your child wear a black skirt with a white blouse tucked in. They’ll also need a little white maid-type apron and an umbrella for extra effect!

Cheshire Cat

The huge smile is the characteristic feature here. Draw a massive, oversized grin on card and attach it to the top of your child's T-shirt, so it covers the whole of the bottom of their face. Add a pair of cardboard cat ears on a headband and you're done!

(We also love all the V&A's brilliant DIY Alice in Wonderland costume video tutorials, from Alice herself to the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts.)

The Cat in the Hat

Black tracksuit bottoms and white T-shirt, with a black cardigan (and white gloves if you have them). Make a red bow out of ribbon and construct a mini top hat (you'll find step-by-step instructions on the Party Delights website). Paint your child's face white and add whiskers.

Rainbow Fairy

Start off with a dressing-up fairy costume – if you don’t have one, ask around. Then, top this off with a wand and some wings, which can usually be picked up from your nearest pound shop.

Peter Rabbit

Have your child wear all brown with a pale blue cardigan. Make a fluffy white tail to strap onto the brown trousers by sticking cotton wool onto a large circle. Make rabbit ears from brown triangles fastened to elastic, so you child can wear them as a headband.

Mr Twit

Make a ‘revolting’ beard with brown wool of various lengths knotted onto elastic that can fasten around your child’s head. Get your child to draw different food stuffs onto paper, cut them out and stick them onto the beard. They need to look dirty and dishevelled, so have them wear old clothes with splodges of brown paint that looks like dirt. You can even paint their finger and toenails yellow, and have them wear sandals!

Willy Wonka

Dye your child’s dressing gown purple, or buy a cheap one to do this if you don’t want to ruin their own. Get a top hat (or make one; Book Aid International has a free Willy Wonka hat template) and stick sweets, chocolates, candy sticks (or just the wrappers) all over it. Make a golden ticket using gold card and have them carry a tub of sweets around (if you ask their teacher, they may even be able to hand them out at the end of the day!).

Harry Potter

This is the easiest costume you can put together! Have your child wear very smart school uniform and circular glasses, and draw a lightning scar on their forehead using face paint or make-up. Give them additional props if you like such as a black robe or cape, a wand, a Gryffindor-colour scarf or a toy owl.

The Gruffalo

Start with a brown polo neck and trousers. Add a felt or cardboard Gruffalo mask (find a free Gruffalo template on the Party Delights website) or some face paint and use purple felt to make 'purple prickles' to staple / attach onto the top. Draw some grey 'knobbly knees' to stick onto the trousers' knees and you're done!

Where’s Wally

Have your child wear jeans and a white long sleeve top. You can paint red stripes onto the top using fabric pens or fabric paint. Then, have them wear a white bobble hat, again using fabric pens or paint for the stripes. Finish the look with a pair of glasses or add some Wally- or Wenda-ish hair with Book Aid's Where's Wally costume templates.

Want more no-fuss, no-sew costume ideas? Have a look at our dress-up hints and tips for Nativity plays, Halloween, historical dressing up and Roald Dahl costumes.

We also recommend Book Aid International's step-by-step costume-making guides (some with videos!):

If you'd rather buy a pre-made costume for World Book Day, look through our round-up of the best. And if you're really pressed for time (because you're reading this 12 hours before WBD!) we have some almost-instant Book Day costumes to suggest!

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