Rediscovering the 'Me' in 'Mumeeeeeee'

'I have always thought that there is no more fruitful source of family discontent than a housewife’s badly-cooked dinners and untidy ways'. (Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1861)

October 24, 2011

Fancy dress: to buy, or to DIY?

My son will be dressing up as Harry Potter for his birthday party this weekend. When we first discussed it, he thought this wasn't going to be possible because, as he pointed out, "Well mummy, I would really like to dress up as Harry Potter, but we don't have a Harry Potter dress-up suit."


I proceeded to explain that dressing up doesn't just have to mean buying a ready-made costume from a shop and that you can actually make a costume up from things you have around the house and in the dressing up box. He looked at me dubiously. "Erm, well, OK mummy. If you're sure."

"I'm sure," I said and started rooting around to find anything which might result in him vaguely resembling Harry Potter.

Five minutes and a ridiculous amount of mess later, he was running around the house shouting 'expelliarmus' to his younger brother, as he pointed his 'wand' (aka 'mast from a toy pirate ship') at him. With a pair of black trousers, a plain black jumper, an inside-out cape from a batman suit (OK, we cheated a little there) a pair of old black-rimmed specs with the lenses taken out and my old school tie, Harry Potter was born. With the addition of a Hogwarts school crest printed off the web and a quick face-painted lightening bolt across his forehead, the transformation was complete. And I was actually quite pleased with my creation - far from looking 'home-made' he looked great!

I remember dressing up as Mr Bump for a village fancy dress parade for the Queen's Silver Jubilee (yes, I am that old). My 'costume' was made out of a chicken-wire frame onto which the long blue tail off my dad's stunt kite was wrapped. Add in a few bandages from the first aid box and I made quite a reasonable Mr Bump. I didn't win a prize, but hey, we tried and I'm sure, like me with my home-made Harry, my mum was as pleased as punch as she led her Mr Bump down the village.

Coming up to Halloween, the issue of fancy dress always crops up - the shops are rammed full of perfectly made, often quite affordable dress up costumes which make it difficult to justify going to the bother of trying to lash something together yourself, which obviously won't look as professional. But where's the fun in picking something up 'off-the-shelf'? Much better to make something out of the odds and sods you have lying around the house, don't you think?

Or do you disagree? Are shop-bought costumes just more convenient? Are they an easy-option for busy parents or do you still enjoy making up your own costumes for your kids - cardboard boxes covered in silver foil and all that, or would they be mortified at the thought?!

I'm also ranting about Halloween in general over at Ready For Ten this week - why not pop over and see why it makes my blood boil. Boo humbug, as you might say.

Now 'expelliarmus' - I have a halo to polish.



  1. As a child my mum also always made my costumes, I too remember the Queen’s Jubilee (only just, of course) my Mum dressed me up as an ice cube…
    I wore white tights, a white long sleeved leotard, a white balaclava, and slipped over the top of my head was a great big cardboard box painted white, I bloody detested it! My mother, of course, thought I looked fantastic…

    No-one knew what I was, as I trudged through the streets of our estate, alongside the fairy Queens, Looby-Loo’s and Penelope Pit-stops, I was greeted by quizzical stares and “Oh look Mam, there’s a robot or is it a cloud?” or more often than not, “What’s that supposed to be Mam?”

    I couldn’t wait to rip the bloody thing off, and scramble back into my kilt, favorite Buzby t-shirt and red patent sandals, the following year my mother coughed up and hired me a costume, I was Looby-Loo.

    Now, as a parent myself, I have been lured into the DIY option and get quite excited about whipping up something creative and fantastic up for my 3 children.

    But what I think I can achieve and what I actually frantically half sew, half pin together last minute, are sadly very different.

    We live in Gran Canaria, the Canarian people go full-out at Carnival time, it’s HUGE! They make elaborate costumes, spend fortunes and also buy great ready-made costumes.

    Last year it was a pirate theme here; I bought lovely retro polka dot fabric and made three adorable Pirate costumes.

    Unfortunately when I arrived at the school carnival parade, my children, though undeniably cute, looked completely underdressed, and stood out dramatically from the crowd!

    I felt deflated, my daughter was crying cause all her friends were ‘pretty girl pirates’ and she had a mustache, and my sons skull & crossbones had dropped off his waistcoat.

    I didn’t learn…the following Christmas the tail I’d scrabbled together out of a blue dishcloth fell off my sons Smurf outfit; he was devastated, cried for an hour and missed the sheep shearing display!

    So this year I gave in, I coughed up and let the Disney Store take over… I think I saw my 2 year old breathe a sigh of relief as we all departed the store. Humph!

  2. Sure it's nice to have a personal touch on your little one's costume but if you don't have enough time to make a costume, it's better to buy a ready made costume for your kid's dress up party.


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