5 Reasons to Loathe School Dress Up Days

I’m two thirds the way through my son’s first school year and so far we have had the Halloween Disco complete with a fancy dress competition, “Wear Spotty Clothes For Children In Need” day, “Christmas Jumper Day”, the school nativity and obligatory costume, “World Book Day”, “Dress Up as a Sports Person for Sport Relief” day, and an Easter Bonnet competition.

All have resulted in a significant amount of swearing on my part. I know these events are a good way of raising money for charity, but my son is only in reception and I’m already reaching the point where I would happily donate half my wages to ensure I didn’t have to source yet another novelty costume or item. It would certainly save me from spending it on gin to drown my sorrows after another disastrous crafting session.

1. They Have a Tendency to Be a Bit Last Minute

Dressed up children in colorful costumes and happy kindergarten teacher

I get a text message at 7pm on Monday. “This Thursday we will be remembering the end of World War 2 by having all the children dress up in 1940s style clothing.” I sometimes think that schools are under the impression that we are all still in the 1940s with all families comprising of a Dad who works and a Mum who stays at home all day sewing clothing for her children. Meanwhile, in the real world, we have work and other stuff far more exciting than sewing to be getting on with. A little more notice would mean we would at least have time to get Amazon to deliver something.

Of course, you may have an amazing school who sends out the notice several weeks in advance. Unfortunately, you still won’t find out 8am on the day, when your child casually asks where their costume is and it transpires that the newsletter has been buried amongst a pile of junk modelling. There is no feeling of panic that compares to the knowledge that you have exactly 20-minutes to find a way of making your child look like a Julia Donaldson character.

2. They Usually Involve a Tidal Wave of Mess


“Oh, you want a sparkly shield as part of your costume? No problem, here’s the glitter.” Four months later and I’m still finding sparkles in my clothes, in the kitchen cupboards, and in my younger daughter’s nappy. Then there was the time that a costume required me to chop up a long black wig. Wig hair has been making an appearance around the house for several weeks now and showing no signs of abating. The latest event involved papier-mâché. There is no way of doing papier-mâché with children without at least one child requiring hosing off in the garden.

3. And a Fair Amount of Tantrums

a little boy in a rabbit costume about to eat a carrot.

Your child has chosen their character or theme and you have spent a small fortune on costumes or crafty bits. Then they turn around with just two days left to go and announce that they have changed their mind and want something completely different. No amount of begging, pleading, or offers of bribes can help change their mind. Either the child has a tantrum because they are being forced to wear something they no longer want to, or you have a tantrum over all the wasted effort, time, and money spent.

4. They Cost a Small Fortune


Because even if you try and keep things simple, inevitably, there will be an event that requires your child to wear something in the only colour of clothing you don’t own, like the time my son had to wear something spotty for Children in Need. After a lot of rummaging, we came to the conclusion that the only item of spotty material in the house was an old, glitter-glue coated oilcloth tablecloth. This wasn’t really ideal for costume making so it was off to the shops we went.

Then there is the ongoing replenishment of PVA glue, card, and glitter all required to make the various props and accessories. Of course, all of this is on top of all the other things the school asks for throughout the year that require some sort of financial contribution. These include school trips, in-school activities by external organisations, entrance fees to the termly disco, additional snack money, donations to Children in Need / Red Nose Day / Sport Relief, etc., the purchase of items to donate to a raffle that will be used to raise school funds, and the purchase of raffle tickets to win back the items that you paid for and donated.

5. It’s Really Competitive

Portrait of little boy dressed as senior teacher in front of blackboard

There’s always that one Mum who lives and breathes Pinterest whose children turn up with beautifully crafted, unique costumes with not a piece of nylon or an ASDA label in sight. She loudly announces how she threw the costume together last night in between her session at the gym and her Pilates class. Meanwhile, the rest of us are just thankful that ASDA has late night and early morning opening and that we managed to get something in time.

On the other hand, if you do go all out on World Book Day and create a costume from scratch based on a character that you know no one else will choose, I can guarantee (somewhat bitterly from experience) that your child won’t win the best costume award. That accolade will go to James who has come in a supermarket Buzz Lightyear costume from that great literary classic, Toy Story.