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Seven tips for a last-minute World Book Day costume

With World Book Day nearly upon us, we asked a wardrobe expert from London's West End to offer tips to any teachers that have yet to create a costume

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It’s not your fault. You’re busy.

Admittedly, the email probably did arrive and, yes, you did see the letters to parents talking about it. Maybe the children have been discussing it constantly and, ok, it is the only topic of conversation in the staffroom, too.

But the fact remains: you have no costume for World Book Day. And you only have a few hours to rectify this situation. What do you do?

Fear not! Anita Pearce, London's West End wardrobe wonder extraordinaire, is here to help. She’s worked on everything from The Lion King to Les Miserables and below, she gives her tips for the construction of a last-minute World Book Day costume.

1. Abstract is awesome

“If you are going to try and be Peter Rabbit, you need to have a bloody good costume or you will look ridiculous and just confuse people (within minutes you will be asked if you are a rat, a dog or Timothy Spall). You haven’t got time to make a darn good costume.

"So go abstract. This gets you points for creativity, it’s a talking point and, best of all, it's a cinch. For example, why not go as the cauldron in George’s Marvellous Medicine – buy cheap black leggings/pants and top and glue gun a load of the ‘ingredients’ to it.”


2. Don’t try to make the ‘base’ layer

“You could make a t-shirt, or pants, or a hat, but you have to ask yourself why you would want to do that at this late stage? You can get these items at rock-bottom prices new or even cheaper at charity shops. You then simply adorn this base layer with your creative ideas.”


3. Choose your materials wisely

“If you want to make some animal ears or a tail, look no further than a wire coat hanger bent into shape and covered with felt you have glued to it using a glue gun. If the glue gun has gone walkies, opt for pipe cleaners instead.

“Craft foam is also essential. This is thin so you can cut it easily, comes in numerous colors and you can cut it into any shape you like. It also has the benefit that you can staple it, which saves on messy gluing sessions at 1am. You can get craft foam in the kid's section of most large supermarkets.

Finally, aluminium foil is perfect for any shiny costumes. Don’t mess around with silver fabrics or the like, they are more hassle than they are worth.”


4. Be clever with your adhesives to avoid malfunctions

“Stitching is great when you have time to do it properly, but you don’t have that time and if you try sewing two things are likely to happen: you’ll leave a pin in somewhere and stab yourself in the middle of a phonics class; or your thread will unravel into a horrendous wardrobe malfunction just as parents are dropping their students off for the day.

“Staples and glue guns are your friend. Also of use is duct tape. If you are cutting any material, use Velcro adhesives, or even better Wonderweb tape – this means there are no frayed edges for young students to pull on, unravelling your costume both literally and figuratively.”


5. Avoid building upwards

“Yes an extra-large hat or a massive giraffe neck will have that wow factor, but your back won’t thank you. Those amazing animal costumes that extend above the performers on The Lion King are anchored around the actors’ waists – in the time left, you don’t have time to construct such a device. An elaborate tree design that extends up to 2 m is not worth three days unable to move on the sofa.”

6. Don’t be ripped off with dyes

“If you want to dye something a different color, then there are plenty of washing machine dyes available. Here’s a tip though – do not buy the branded salt they claim has to go with it. Table salt works just as well and is a lot cheaper.”

7. Tacks are your friends

“Tacks – loose, looped, hand sewn stitches – are a save-all. For my son’s last fancy dress party I made him a parrot costume in next to no time by doing the following: buying a body suit and cap; cutting the peak off the cap for a beak, tacking feathers all over the costume. That was it. People thought it had taken me ages. I did not put them right…”


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