Most of what you need is already in your closet

Inexpensive Storybook Costumes

by Susan Sundwall

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What character in your favorite childhood storybook did you always want to be? For me, it was Cinderella. These days it's quite possible to spend a small fortune outfitting a youngster for trick-or-treating and parties, but it doesn't have to be that way. Some of the most adorable costumes for Halloween or Fall Festivals can found right in your own closets and drawers as storybook character and imagination meet.

Keep It Simple

Create simple and memorable storybook costumes from clothing and accessories found right in the closet. Begin with a pad, pencil and a pile of your child's favorite storybooks or a treasured volume from your own childhood. Write down favorite characters as you go through the books, making mental notes of clothing items you know you already have. Ask your child to choose a favorite character and then fling open those closets and drawers!

Is the little boy on that book cover dressed as a fireman? Try using a pair of red pajamas, a yellow vest and winter boots for starters. Does your little girl love fashion doll stories? Perhaps she wants to be Snow White or Cinderella. Then maybe you can part with that old bridesmaids dress and fit it to your ten-year-old. It can be done easily enough with some simple tucks, folds and whipstitching. Talk up the process in a way that will make her feel special. If you've cut the hem, any leftover fabric from the skirt can be used as a shawl to add warmth and a touch of glamour.

Let the Story Help You

Look carefully through the stories that your child loves the most. Amelia Bedelia, for instance, is clad in a simple dress, apron, Mary Janes and a headscarf, all things to be found in the closet. The time honored Paul Bunyon (it could be that old volume of yours) and Babe, his blue ox, may not be a story your six-year-old is aware of. This would be an excellent time to tell him of the classic giant lumberjack and his animal sidekick. A long sleeve tee shirt under a plaid flannel shirt, jeans and a knit cap are items found in most little boy's wardrobes. Those boots would come in handy for this one too.

You may have a child who wants to do just what her best friend does and buy some polyester and plastic outfit at the discount store. While understandable and often done, convince her that it would be wildly more fun to do it your way. Try to involve the other child and a parent, too. Gather your forces and hang out by the closet. Make your enthusiasm an irresistible part of the process.

Once you have the basics down, go hog-wild with the accessories. If your son likes the fireman outfit, find him a long piece of hose or a coil of rope to carry and then add a couple of one-liter soda bottles that are spray painted and strapped together to look like oxygen tanks. A fireman frequently has a sooty face, so get out the burnt cork.

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Does your daughter have a Madeline doll and several Madeline books? How about Madeline and the Gypsies? Think layers. Scarves and colorful skirts make your little girl's gypsy costume simple and fun. Open your jewelry box and load on the bracelets and necklaces. Oh, and let her carry Madeline. After all, little dollies like Halloween, too!

If, in the end, it comes down to buying an accessory or two (like a 24 pack of yellow sponges to glue on poster board for Sponge Bob), you will still have saved a good amount on your basic costume. In the case of the sponges, you'll have them to clean with for years! The clothes your unique costumes are concocted from will be worn many times afterwards, not sitting in a closet being outgrown. The costume possibilities are as varied as the children's books themselves.

And don't be surprised if every October, your kids come to you clamoring for a trip to the closet. They may even pass on a tradition to their own children some day in the future. It can be that much fun. And think of what you'll have accomplished. Favorite storybooks will be re-visited, some of your long forgotten old clothes will have found new life, and you'll have given your child a chunk of your time and attention that they'll never forget! Priceless.

Take the Next Step:

  • For clever costume ideas on the cheap, check out the TDS Guide to a Frightfully Frugal Halloween.
  • It's tough raising kids today! You need every time and money saving idea you can find. That's why you'll want to get our free weekly Dollar Stretcher for Parents newsletter. You'll find great ideas designed just for parents that will help your family 'live better...for less'! Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE.

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