If you’re anything like me, your heart sinks when the kids come home with yet another letter about World Book Day, Halloween or some other occasion which demands a dressing up costume. All large supermarkets sell dressing up, but at around £15 for a basic outfit, it can get very expensive shelling out several times a year, and more so if you have more than one child.

Cool and unusual outfits don’t have to be expensive or complex, and many can be made with items you have lying around the house.


OK, zombies maybe aren’t the ideal subject for World Book Day, but are perfect for Halloween and other party occasions. A zombie outfit is very easy to pull together using old jeans with rips in the knees or shirts with ragged edges. Just cut up things that your children have almost grown out of, or buy cheap items from the supermarket or a charity shop.

Mess their hair up using backcombing, gel or hairspray, and then use white or pale green face paint to give them a half-dead appearance. Teach them to walk in a zombie style, and they’re ready to go.


Another really easy costume to put together is a cowboy or cowgirl. All you need is a pair of jeans and a checked shirt or top. If you don’t have a checked shirt that would do, these are cheaply bought in many high street stores. Check out the pound stores or party supplies stores for cowboy hats, and if you’re dressing a cow girl, it doesn’t really matter if your cowboy hat is pink and sparkly.

For children who don’t like make up, this outfit has the added advantage of not needing any face painting.


Kids love everything piratey and it’s a popular theme for a kids’ party as well as for dressing up. If you are cobbling together your own pirate outfit, go to town sewing or sticking patches of fabric after making the hems of the trousers ragged and torn, paint a skull and crossbones on a plain black t-shirt or wear a bandanna over a stripey t-shirt.

Paint on scars and tattoos using your face paints for Halloween set, or get some temporary tattoos to complete the look. Make your own pirate hat out of black carboard, or use any sort of fabric to make a head scarf.

1980s Style

Rather than going for a particular character, dress up in your best retro gear and go back to the 1980s. Kids love the bright, colourful look of this decade and you can really go to town with neon leggings, tutus, ripped tights, denim and lots and lots of beads around your neck.

Use your face paints for Halloween set to go all out with the blue eye shadow, lots of blusher or if you’re going for the Adam Ant look, paint the distinctive stripes across your nose. Face paints work better than standard make up as they are designed for children and are very easily removed with baby wipes or soap and water.

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Morag Peers is a busy mother who has some great tips for keeping kids happy without spending a fortune.