World Book Day costume ideas 2024 – Teacher & pupil ideas

Girl dressed in cat costume for World Book Day

Do you or your students need inspiration for your character getup this year? Read this list of famous literary characters and pick your fave…

by Teachwire
World Book Day activities primary resource pack
DOWNLOAD A FREE RESOURCE! World Book Day activities – Story Express primary resource pack

Looking for World Book Day costume ideas for teachers or kids? We’ve got you covered…

We all love a bit of World Book Day dress-up (or do we?). But you did Harry Potter last year, Where’s Wally? the year before and you already used your witch costume at Halloween so you can’t just wear that and pass it off as a Meg and Mog outfit (plus, your cat won’t appreciate being roped in as a prop and dragged to class).

You don’t want to be the person who’s put in waaaaaaaaaay too much effort: this isn’t Comic Con.

But you also don’t want to be the teacher who came up with their idea five minutes ago in the staff room.


So, we’ve done the grunt work for you and your students with this huge list of famous books and characters that might make for good costume ideas.

We’ve split the ideas into categories and we’ve even found how-to guides for making some of the costumes. Just follow the links…

World Book Day costume ideas for teachers

Impress your students and give your colleagues a giggle with some of these ideas. Don’t forget to also check out our bumper round-up of World Book Day activities.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland


Aveline Jones

The Iron Man

Wizard of Oz

Harry Potter

Aliens Love Underpants

Where’s Wally?

Mr Messy

Randle McMurphy from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest


World Book Day costume ideas

Triangle by Jon Klassen

Kitchen Disco

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

More Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland ideas

  • The March Hare
  • Alice
  • The Queen of Hearts

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Julia Donaldson characters

Snail and the Whale

Captain Hook

More Peter Pan ideas

  • Peter Pan
  • Tinkerbell

The Little Mermaid

Rotten and Rascal

Roald Dahl costumes


More Roald Dahl ideas

  • The Twits
  • George from George’s Marvellous Medicine
  • Matilda
  • Fantastic Mr Fox
  • The BFG
  • Sophie
  • Augustus Gloop
  • Willy Wonka (how-to here)
  • Charlie Bucket
  • Grandpa Joe
  • Veruca Salt

These also work well for Roald Dahl Day!

Harley Quinn

The Harry Potter series


More Harry Potter costume ideas

  • Harry Potter
  • Hermione Granger (how-to here)
  • Dolores Umbridge
  • Professor Trelawney
  • Albus Dumbledore (how-to here)
  • Severus Snape (how-to here)
  • Draco Malfoy (how-to here)
  • Newt Scamander
  • Luna Lovegood
  • Voldemort
  • Sirius Black
  • Rita Skeeter
  • Moaning Myrtle

Mildred Hubble and Burglar Bill

Where’s Wally?

Harriet Manners from Geek Girl


Wednesday Addams

Lord of the Rings

More Lord of the Rings ideas

  • Gimli
  • Galadriel
  • Gollum
  • Aragorn
  • Legolas
  • Legolas

The A470

Sir Terry Pratchett

David Walliams characters

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Michael Rosen characters

How to Train Your Dragon

The Chronicles of Narnia

Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy (how-to here)

More Chronicles of Narnia costume ideas

  • Mr Tumnus
  • Aslan
  • Jadis (the White Queen)

Cat in the Hat

The Cat in the Hat

More Dr Seuss costume ideas

  • Sam-I-Am (from Green Eggs and Ham)
  • The Lorax
  • Fox in Socks

Cruella de Vil

Paddington bear

Class photos

More World Book Day costume ideas

For Early Years children

  • Horrid Henry
  • The Gruffalo
  • The Day the Crayons Quit
  • Little Red Riding Hood
  • Hansel and Gretel
  • Cinderella
  • Pinocchio
  • Cruella Deville from 101 Dalmations
  • Spot
  • The Worst Witch
  • Angelina Ballerina
  • Meg and Mog
  • Funnybones
  • Snow White
  • Rapunzel
  • The Little Mermaid
  • Mr Strong and Little Miss Sunshine
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar
  • Elmer
  • The Tiger Who Came To Tea
  • Gangsta Granny
  • Sleeping Beauty
  • Prince Charming
  • Aladdin

For KS1/KS2 children

  • Lyra Belacqua from His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman
  • Ratty, Mole, Ratty, Mr Toad and other The Wind in the Willows characters
  • Winnie-the-Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore and friends
  • Charlotte’s Web
  • The Super Zeroes from Kid Normal
  • Goth Girl
  • Charlie and Lola
  • Horrid Henry or Perfect Peter
  • Tracy Beaker
  • Paddington bear
  • Peter Rabbit, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle and other Beatrix Potter characters
  • Harriet the Spy
  • The Jungle Book
  • Mary Poppins
  • Percy Jackson
  • Kiki’s Delivery Service
  • Tin Tin
  • Asterix & Obelisk
  • Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer
  • Atticus Finch, Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events
  • Max or a Wild Thing from Where The Wild Things Are
  • Alex Rider
  • Coraline

Real life

  • Mo Farah – Ready Steady Mo
  • Floella Benjamin – Coming to England
  • Malala Yousafzai – How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World

For older children

  • Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson
  • Precious Ramotswe from The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency
  • Saleem Sinai from Midnight’s Children
  • Celie from The Colour Purple
  • Little Women
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  • Dr Frankenstein or The Monster from Frankenstein
  • Dracula

Charles Dickens costumes

  • Oliver
  • Bill Sykes
  • Artful Dodger
  • Fagin
  • Scrooge
  • Estella
  • Miss Havisham

Classic literature

Jane Austen costume ideas
  • Elizabeth Bennet
  • Mr Darcy
Brontë sisters characters
  • Charlotte Brontë: Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester
  • Emily Brontë: Catherine and Heathcliff
  • Anne Brontë: Agnes Grey

Should World Book Day involve dressing up at all?

Child in shop-bought dinosaur costume

The familiar characters and man-made fibres will be out in force again on World Book Day. But maybe it’s time for a different approach, argues Jonathan Brough, headteacher of Hurlingham School in Putney

It’s no wonder that World Book Day celebrations have established themselves as mainstays of many schools’ annual calendars. Over the years, I believe that almost everything about the endeavour has gone from strength to strength.

Everything, that is, except for one key element – something that, way back at the turn of the century, was an absolutely brilliant thing to do across the school but over time seems to have deteriorated beyond measure – a school-wide Dress-Up-As-A-Book-Character Day

Indeed, in the school which I lead we’ve replaced it with a much better alternative.

Mass-produced costumes

Now, before you turn the page and convince yourself that my Ebenezer Scrooge costume must have dropped to bits and I’m too mean to replace it, bear with me.

When we used to ask the children to raid their wardrobes at home to find an outfit that might be worn by their favourite character from literature, I was as enthusiastic as anyone.

Particularly valuable, I thought, were the costumes that couldn’t be easily guessed: asking a child to explain who their character was and to articulate why they had made certain clothing decisions was entertaining (often hilarious), informative and educationally beneficial.

It was true comprehension in action, and a great catalyst for passionate oral debate!

But then, alas – and particularly regrettable as the whole World Book Day initiative was born out of the desire to give to children rather than take from them – the profiteers began to get involved and mass-produced costumes started to appear, expressly targeted (it was claimed) at “busy, hard-working parents” who – thanks to those dreadful teachers! – suddenly found themselves “required” to provide their child with an outfit for school themed around a character from literature.

Task for children

Forgive me, but the whole dressing-up endeavour should never have become a job for parents. Instead, it has always been an ideal task for children.

“The whole dressing-up endeavour should never have become a job for parents. Instead, it has always been an ideal task for children”

The contents of any young person’s wardrobe, combined with an active imagination, can be used for a perfect outfit for Charlie Bucket, Tracy Beaker, Paddington Bear, a Smed or a Smoo… the list is endless!

Children enjoy reading about personalities essentially like themselves, but with certain particular exaggerated character traits.

Dressing up to look like a fictional hero, therefore, should be a straightforward task: no particular amendments or embellishments are essential (and any individual parent’s desire to engage in a bit of one-upmanship should be firmly quashed).

The activity should provide much cause for creativity, personal expression and – ultimately – celebration.

Quick buck

However, the restricted range of costumes commercially available means conformity now risks becoming the norm.

The opportunity to make a quick buck has replaced one school uniform with another, albeit only for one day, and it’s a type of attire characterised by man-made fibres that are remarkably successful at being simultaneously skimpy, sweaty and “sponge clean only”: suddenly an outfit advertised as “only worn once” on eBay seems remarkably less attractive!

Prices are cheap – two discount supermarkets engaged in a price when outfits could be purchased for under a fiver – but there must be unseen costs underpinning these (ultimately pointless) clothes, much more significant than those on the price tag.

The ultimate irony, of course, is that the same supermarkets also stock new children’s fiction books at around the same price point.

These would be much better – and more appropriate – uses of the money concerned.

Building a new approach

And so, after several years of valiant, yet ultimately unsuccessful attempts to hold back the tide, the school I lead finally moved the goalposts a couple of years ago. It’s true: we no longer dress up for World Book Day.

Or we don’t dress ourselves up, anyway. We dress up our school buildings instead.

A couple of weeks prior to their voucher-spending bookshop excursion, each class decides on a title (through hustings and votes – it’s democracy in action) and they then work collaboratively on an alternative cover design which is produced at an appropriate scale to cover the classroom door.

The book selected is used as a stimulus for creative work over the next few weeks, and this is all displayed inside. The door/cover therefore becomes – quite literally – a portal into another world.

Each class works on a different title, and so our school becomes a living library.

Over the years, titles chosen have ranged from The Three Little Pigs in Reception, through Q Pootle 5, The Bolds and The Ice Monster, to Chasing Vermeer, Running Wild and Wonder in Y6.

Celebrating quality literature

We find that the project work initiated by this approach to celebrating quality literature is infinitely more valuable, impactful and longer lasting than the dressing-up activity which it replaced.

It involves every pupil, gives a book-centred focus for the entirety of the second half of the spring term each year, is both collaborative and creative, and makes our school environment a truly lovely place to be.

This approach […] is infinitely more valuable, impactful and longer lasting than the dressing-up activity which it replaced”

And, just in case you’re still reeling from the lack of costumes, we don’t actually ignore clothing completely. On World Book Day itself each child sports an accessory or element inspired by the particular fictional community created within each classroom – so it might be a motif, a design, a badge or something as simple as a colour – that all children integrate into their everyday school uniform.

We get the best of all worlds – and we love it!

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