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Posted by Rhianan Strangways

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I don’t mean to worry all you parents out there, but it’s already August which means the Book Week parade is just around the corner!

Love it or loathe it, Book Week is a well-established tradition in primary schools around Australia, and just quietly, the kids adore all the book loving activities.

As a child, I fondly remember planning my outfit in the weeks leading up to the parade, proudly flaunting my selection for a single lap around the school gym in front of an audience of doting parents and peers. Ahh, good times.

Now as an adult, the idea of the Book Week parade used to fill me with dread, but dressing your children in character-based costumes doesn’t need to be an expensive exercise. For starters, you could make your costume from scratch, although if you’re time-poor and creatively challenged like me, consider these budget-friendly solutions:

Opportunity knocks.

When my daughter was six, she wanted to dress as Billy B Brown for her Book Week parade, Now, if you’re familiar with the Billy B Brown books, you’ll know the character doesn’t wear a particularly identifiable outfit. So I let my daughter be creative and encouraged her to come up with her own outfit that she thought Billy would wear. After about 30 minutes of trawling through her entire wardrobe, she announced ‘Billy wouldn’t wear any of this stuff!’. ‘Well, what would she wear?’ I replied. ‘Funky stuff’ she retorted. So we raced down to our local op shop to find ‘funky Billy clothes’. It was a raging success. We walked out with an outfit that was practical, didn’t cost the earth and could be worn again. We also snuck in a few additional outfits for the coming season and change from a $20 note. Bargain!

Swap, hock or borrow.

There have been plenty of parents and children that have blazed the Book Week parade trail before you. Could you leverage off their previous experience? Put a word out to your network of friends or family to see if anyone is willing to swap, sell or lend an outfit to your child. Who knows, they could be sitting on a gold mine of outgrown outfits that would suit your child’s interest.

Revamp it.

You don’t need to completely reinvent the wheel each year. Imagine your son went to the Book Week parade last year as Peter Pan. Why not reuse the same green outfit, re-accessorise it and turn the costume into Robin Hood? Or that blue gingham dress that once served as Alice in Wonderland could be paired with a pair of ruby shoes for a Dorothy from Wizard of Oz outfit? And have you ever noticed that there’s something uncannily similar about the Cat in the Hat and Wally from Where’s Wally? Could the stripes be leveraged into a new costume?

Buy second-hand.

Put on your bargain hunter hat and check out garage sales in your area or jump online. There are plenty of trading sites you can look at like MarketPlace through Facebook, Gumtree or eBay. Your school may even have a second-hand shop or Facebook group that sells costumes around this time of year.

If all else fails, use what you’ve got. There are a lot of favourite books that don’t need elaborate costumes. Think Specky Magee (football outfit), Red Riding Hood (red cape), Diary of a Wimpy Kid (head cut out of cardboard) or Captain Underpants (undies and a cape, although it might be a bit chilly for that!).

At the end of the day, so long as your child has a vested interest in the character they are dressing as, they’ll wear the outfit with pride. It doesn’t matter if it cost the moon or only a few dollars, you’re doing your bit to build the same happy memories that many of us parents remember so fondly.

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