Last Minute World Book Day Costume Ideas for Families on a Budget

Anguished posts about fancy dress on social media by parents of elementary school students can only mean one thing: World Book Day is back.

Primarily aimed at promoting books and nurturing the love of reading, World Book Day is now seen by children as a day to ditch their uniforms and come to school in all sorts of wacky and wonderful outfits.

However, this often turns out to be the bane of many parents’ lives, as they scramble at the last minute to find a suitable costume, either spending loads on a ready-made costume or scratching with a needle and thread to try to find something that won’t totally embarrass their child the next day at school.

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All kidding aside, the pressure on mums and dads to find a costume – not to mention anxious kids who don’t want to be laughed at by their peers – can be overwhelming at times, with many parents yearning for it to become a pretty much the books rather than the costumes.

Popular costumes include characters from Harry Potter, Roald Dahl stories, and superheroes from the Marvel comics universe, but they are often not easy to replicate without resorting to significant expense.

So if you’re stuck for a costume your child can wear tomorrow that can be easily assembled from things already at home, here are some ideas from us. Otherwise, just let them wear their uniforms and say they’re from cartoonist Ronald Searle’s St Trinian’s.

Where is Wally

Most people have a red and white striped shirt in their wardrobe. Pair it with blue jeans and a pair of round specs — just draw them on their face if you don’t have a pair handy — and viola, the eponymous character from the puzzle books is reborn.



Most girls have a fairy costume in their costume box, but if they don’t, you can create one with a normal skirt or a dress with swirling or chiffon sashes pinned around it. Cover a stick with glitter material or tinsel, cut wings out of cardboard, and make a headpiece out of more tinsel or flowers, and abracadabra!

Footballers or other sports heroes

Really, all you need here is some shorts or tracksuit bottoms and a football shirt. Most football fans already have one of their favorite teams, but if they don’t, use a colored t-shirt and cut out the name and number from white paper to glue a goal into one.

Roald Dahl characters

Many of the questionable characters in his books such as The Twits simply require disheveled hair, dirty clothes, and a mustache and beard drawn or made out of paper and worn as a mask over the chin. The George’s Marvelous Medicine character just needs a red top, blue jeans, and a brightly colored water bottle with food coloring.

Beatrice Potter

You may think recreating an animal character is a lot of work or financial outlay, but you can ruin a really decent costume with a pair of animal ears – either already in the dress-up box, or out of paper and stuck on a headband – and clothes that fit the character, so Peter Rabbit would wear a blue cardigan or coat. Give them a carrot to complete the costume.

Paddington Bear

If you already have a duffle coat, this costume is perfect. Stick on a pair of rubber boots, a big floppy hat, and some marmalade sandwiches and you’re done.


A friend of mine once came to a fancy dress party with a postage stamp stuck on his forehead and said he was a second class man…

Romans and ghosts

What did the Romans ever do for us? Well, it made party fancy dress a whole lot easier, that’s for sure. Wrap a blank sheet creatively around your child for a Roman toga from the Roman Mysteries book series, or for the ghost of George and the Little Ghost or any number of others, cut a few holes in a sheet for a completely believable ghost.

Mister Men’s Books

Grab some bandages or, failing that, roll to the toilet, and wrap yourself around your kids who are dressed head to toe in blue for Mr Bump. Or dress them up in yellow clothes and stick a big smiley face on their bellies for Mr Happy.

David Williams books

Gangsta Granny can be recreated with a blue top, black skirt, and black paper or cloth eye mask. Don’t forget the swag bag over her shoulder. Mr Stink is similar to The Twits, with scruffy clothes, a coat tied with string, and really messy hair.

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About Catharine C. Bean

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