World Book Day Costume - Burglar Bill

9 World Book Day Costumes on a Budget

World Book Day is coming up in the UK on 5th March, one of my kids’ favourite days of the year. They have been planning what to wear for months. However, World Book Day has been known to cause many a parent a bit of a headache – not everyone is inclined to spend hours making hand crafted costumes, or wants to spend cash on buying ready made costumes. But fear not, we are here to help! Last year, we shared some tips for ‘5 Last Minute World Book Day Costumes‘, and we’re back this year with another round of easy-peasy suggestions. We’ll show you how to take three simple wardrobe staples and turn them in to nine different costumes! Absolute minimal crafting involved. You’ll need a few props, but most of these you’ll have around the house, and literally the only thing we bought for these was a pair of Harry Potter glasses which cost us £1 last Hallowe’en, and which we have re-appropriated for two other different costumes. Oh, and a red and white hat, which I bought from a charity shop, also for £1. So a grand total of £2 for nine different costumes – not bad. Watch our one minute long video to see the transformations, then scroll down for further details and some bonus suggestions.

Wardrobe Staple #1: Jeans & T-shirt

This is by far the easiest category. We’ve said jeans & T-shirt, but other trousers or even shorts would also do. Basically just everyday clothes. Then all you have to do is add some props.

World Book Day Costume - Charlie Bucket from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Book Character: Charlie Bucket, from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Props: Golden Ticket – All you need is gold paper (or yellow, if you can’t find gold) and a black marker.

World Book Day Costume - Harry and the Bucketful of Dinosaurs

Book Character: Harry, from Harry and the Bucketful of Dinosaurs by Ian Whybrow & Adrian Reynolds

Props: A small bucket (we used the one we take to the beach in summer) plus a couple of plastic dinosaurs.

World Book Day Costume - George's Marvellous Medicine

Book Character: George, from George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl

Props: A large spoon and an empty bottle. Add a label that says ‘medicine’.

Other books featuring characters that wear every day clothes include Horrid Henry by Francesca Simon & Tony Ross; Dirty Bertie by Alan MacDonald; Flying Fergus by Chris Hoy, Joanna Nadin & Clare Elsom (add a cycling helmet); Matilda by Roald Dahl (add a pile of books); Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene (add a notebook, pen and magnifying glass if you have one); The Boy in the Dress, by David Walliams.

Wardrobe Staple #2: A Stripey Top

For the next round of costumes, you will need a stripey top, e.g. a long sleeved T-shirt or a sweatshirt. Oskar, my older boy, actually borrowed one from me with the sleeves turned up. We didn’t worry too much about the bottom half of the costumes, the boys just wore their school trousers.

World Book Day Costume - Wheres Wally or Wheres Waldo

Book Character: Wally (or Waldo, for any North American followers), from Where’s Wally? by Martin Handford

Props: Red and white stripey top; round glasses (aka our ‘Harry Potter glasses’); red and white hat. Our hat was a lucky find from a charity shop, but you could also use a white hat and put some red tape round it, or just a red hat, or leave the hat out altogether. The top + glasses already scream Wally.

World Book Day Costume - the boy and penguin from Lost and Found

Book Character: The boy from Lost and Found, by Oliver Jeffers

Props: Red and white stripey top; bobble hat; toy penguin

World Book Day Costume - Burglar Bill

Book Character: Burglar Bill, from Burglar Bill by Janet & Allan Ahlberg

Props: Black and white stripey top; eye mask made from black paper and wool or string; a ‘swag bag’ – we just turned an old tote bag inside out and pinned a label that says ‘SWAG’ to the outside. If you know someone you can borrow a flat cap from, even better, but the costume works fine without the hat.

Other books featuring characters that wear stripey tops include Wenda (red & white) and Odlaw (yellow & black), both also from ‘Where’s Wally?’; Dennis the Menace (red & black) from the Beano; and Ralfy from ‘Wanted! Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar’ by Emily MacKenzie – check out our tutorial for easy-peasy bunny ears to complete the look!

Wardrobe Staple #3: PJs or Nightie

Oskar has been really getting in to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy recently, and walking around the house as Arthur Dent half of the time, which prompted this category. If your child feels comfortable going to nursery or school in their PJs, this is a super easy one to pull off, because almost everyone has PJs or a Nightie. Also, kudos to Oskar for dressing up as a female character for this post, because that’s what dressing up is all about – transforming yourself in to different characters, and it doesn’t matter if your favourite characters are boys or girls.

World Book Day Costume - the boy from The Polar Express

Book Character: The boy from The Polar Express, by Chris van Allsburg

Props: PJs with a dressing gown on top. That’s it!

World Book Day Costume - Arthur Dent from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

Book Character: Arthur Dent, from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Props: As above, plus a towel over your shoulder.

World Book Day Costume - Sophie from The BFG

Book Character: Sophie, from the BFG by Roald Dahl

Props: Nightie + a cardigan; then add some round glasses (there’s those ‘Harry Potter glasses’ again!) and a jar filled with scrunched up yellow tissue paper for a jar of dreams.

Other books featuring characters in PJs or a nightie include the boy from Penguin by Polly Dunbar (spotted PJs + toy penguin); I Am Not Going to Get Up Today! by Dr Seuss (PJs); Wendy from Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie (nightie); The Smartest Giant in Town by Julia Donaldson & Axel Sheffler (white nightie + sandals)

Bonus Ideas:

Not so much wardrobe staples, but if you have any Hallowe’en costumes stashed away, don’t forget there are plenty of book characters you could used these for. With a school uniform, a cape and a wand you can be any number of characters from the Harry Potter books. Here are a couple of other suggestions:

World Book Day Costume - repurposed Halloween costumes

Witch – Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler; The Little Witch by Otfried Preußler; The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy; Meg from Meg and Mog by Helen Nicoll and Jan Pienkowski; Winnie the Witch by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul, and lots more!

Vampire – The Little Vampire by Angela Sommer-Bodenburg; Dracula by Bram Stoker

Skeleton – Funny Bones by Janet & Allan Ahlberg

Ghost – The Little Ghost by Otfried Preußler; Sir Simon Super Scarer by Cale Atkinson; the ghost from The Scariest Book Ever by Bob Shea

Werewolf – A Werewolf Named Oliver James by Nicholas John Frith

Bat – I Am Bat by Morag Hood

Spider – The spider from Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White

Black Cat – Splat the Cat by Rob Scotton; Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat by Ursula Moray Williams; the Kitty books series by Paula Harrison & Jenny Løvlie

Pirate – Captain Hook from Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie; The Pirates Next Door by Jonny Duddle; Molly Rogers Pirate Girl by Cornelia Funke; Mrs Pirate by Nick Sharratt; Long John Silver from Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, and lots more!

Check out the UK World Book Day website for info on other related activities and events.

Comments: 14

  • reply
    21 February 2020

    Great ideas! I know a lot of parents struggle and end up spending money. My son needs to make a decision soon although I think he wants to be an anime character.

  • reply
    24 February 2020

    Great ideas! My eldest is going as a Tiger from The Tiger That Came To Tea because we happen to have a tiger onesie already

  • reply
    26 February 2020

    Oh i love the Sophie from BFG idea! Super sweet and really original I think! Caitylis x x

  • reply
    26 February 2020

    These are such lovely ideas. I am sad that this year my son won’t be dressing up in high school.

    Luckily I get to dress up working in a school. I might have to pinch one of these idea. I love the Sophie in particular.

    Claire x

  • reply
    26 February 2020

    These are really cool and so easy if you have forgotten like I usually do! We haven’t always had it with my eldest but one year she went as Burglar Bill!

  • reply
    26 February 2020

    I love that these won’t cost loads of money. Lovely ideas!

  • reply
    26 February 2020

    I’m missing it this year! Yay! My son will be at home recovering from an operation, so I won’t have to worry about costumes! Yay!

  • reply


    27 February 2020

    This is great and perfectly timed for me as I’ve been stressed about what to do for a world book day costume. I love the where’s wally idea as we have loads of striped tops so could easily do this xx

  • reply
    27 February 2020

    We did Matilda last year which was really easy, I do love the Burglar Bill costume

  • reply

    clare minall

    28 February 2020

    Those are great ideas, I am vrty sure my kids would lovebthose ideas

  • reply
    3 March 2020

    I love how creative you have been with these ideas. I always struggle with World Book Day ideas but these are brilliant

  • reply
    4 March 2020

    Great stuff Jenni, so many options there. I’m sure a a lot of mammies will be saved by this post x

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