The Last Book Week

Here in Australia, it’s Children’s Book Week. Primary schools across the country are reading, visiting libraries, doing book activities, and arriving at school for one day dressed as their favourite book character. Or whatever character can be conveniently tacked together from available costumes at home.

I understand that some parents loathe the dress ups part, but I don’t – Book Week is where I shine! This year is my very last one.

Being “The Last Book Week”, much discussion was had on a suitable costume.

Talks started at least six weeks earlier, which should have been ample time to come up with an actionable idea, but I spent the first four weeks trying to dissuade her from going as a peacock (with actual feathers, Mum) which was never going to happen.

In the end, funnily, it was a book which provided the solution. I had borrowed a book from the library on Disney costumes (it’s this one – it’s got fabulous photos) which included costumes from 101 Dalmatians.

Spotlight happened to have dalmatian fur, so I ordered some online, and while I was there I bought a wig too.

We were worried it wouldn’t get here in time, but by some miracle both arrived last Friday, and I sewed the coat on the weekend, with the costume being required on Monday morning. (Note if you’re a school principal reading this: parents prefer a Book Week dress-ups day later in the week, to give them more time to get their act together.)

We had some sequin-y clothes in the dress-ups box, so she wore those over black leggings and top. The leggings date back to when I was a junior cutter at Jem Leotards, circa early 1990s!

Fake fur. I know. Not really in line with the “sustainable sewing” code I’m trying to live by. The quality is shockingly poor too. Buying online, I didn’t get to see it first and for the $$ I thought I’d be getting something a bit thicker and fluffier. However, it ended up looking better in a coat than it did just as fabric.

The Cruella wig is on the same level. Although proclaiming Deluxe Quality! it comes with the convenient disclaimer on the bag “Actual product may vary from photo”.

Still, I tried to be responsible with what we had. I made the coat in an adult size, since my child will no doubt have a growth spurt in the next year and if it’s an adult size it can go into the family dress-ups box and be used/loaned to others. I thought I would have to tack up the sleeves for Book Week, but they look OK.

Here is is on moi. A new look?

I also used a zero/minimal waste pattern. Luckily, with sewing fur, simple shapes are best. I used the modular jacket pattern from the March zine with a few little changes. I hadn’t realised how versatile this pattern is.

I “cut my cote after my cloth” and adjusted the pieces to fit the fabric. All I had left was two narrow strips from straightening the ends, and two small pieces which could be use for patch pockets (but they were requisitioned to cover a journal with).

I cut a size E (14″ ease). The centre front panels I made 3″ wider, the coat’s length got as long as I could make it (45″), and I cut the collar at 20″ wide to make it deep and lush.
The fur’s nap on the front facings and sleeve gussets run in the opposite direction but you can’t tell from looking at it.

The inseam pocket bags are cut zero waste – I used the pocket layout from the (free to download) January zine.

The lining is gorgeous. It’s old – I bought it from the op shop a while back, and it’s the sort of heavy, lustrous satin one sees in handbag linings from the 1950s. You know the type I’m talking about. It sews and presses like a dream, and the quality is so good I could easily make a dress from it.

Unfortunately the lining has tiny pinholes in it, which you can only see when you hold it up to the light, but I don’t think anyone except me will ever notice!

She was very happy with her costume, although there was the usual anxiety in the car on the way there – what if Mum got the day wrong and I’m the only one dressed up?????

But all turned out fine.

For the record, here’s a recap of every book week…

Book Week 2015
2015: First book week ever, with Rapunzel and Captain Underpants.
Book Week 2106
2016: From memory they were both Queen Susan of Narnia, and carried a bow and arrows set each (one of which later got used for Katniss Everdeen). Their capes are the ones in the free cape pattern post on this website.
Book Week 2017
2017: Book Week took place in a little house, somewhere on a prairie.
The floral Queen Susan dress got repurposed here and we already had the other dress.
Book Week 2018
2018: An easy year; we already had these costumes.
Miraculous Ladybug wore the costume I made for this fancy dress party.
The green Queen Susan dress was used for this unidentified princess (was it Elsa?).
Ninja vs Incredibles book week costumes
2019: my favourite year for dress ups. Violet Incredible and Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja, which you can read about in this blog post.
The Miraculous Ladybug catsuit was de-spotted and used for Violet.
Book Week 2020 Carmen Santiego and Katniss Everdeen
2020: Book week got postponed but eventually happened. They went as Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games and Carmen Sandiego, which is in this blog post.
2021: Hester Shaw from Mortal Engines. Another easy one – coat and scarf from the op shop.

And if any long-time blog readers are interested, the rubber boots I spray painted for the doomed Lucky Prescott costume back in 2019 are finally dry. “Touch-dry in 30 minutes” turned out to be 3 years. Meanwhile, children’s feet have grown and taste in books have too, so maybe a younger cousin will wear them.



  1. Rachel on August 22, 2022 at 4:22 pm

    Some great costumes there, and the Cruella coat may well be the best. That red lining is glorious. If you make things nicely, they’re much more likely to be re-worn, which makes the time, effort, and environmental impact of the materials much more acceptable.

    I too love Book Week. Rectangular construction really comes into its own, making the most of the fabric, being relatively quick and easy to sew, and usually unfitted enough to go into the general costume pool afterwards, for re-use or just dressing up. One year I made FOUR variations on the good old gores & gussets medieval tunic: tunics for Prince Corín and Shasta (from The Horse and His Boy), a blouse for Lobelia Sackville-Baggins, and a shirt for Inigo Montoya. Other favourites have been Smaug, Éowyn and Frodo, Hiccup the Viking, Robin Hood, the Elephant’s Child, and Tiffany Aching and Death from Discworld. My daughter still wears some of her costume pieces as everyday wardrobe items.

    • lizhaywood on August 22, 2022 at 4:59 pm

      Thank you Rachel. You are so right – costumes made nicely will keep on giving for years and years. Cool to hear that some of your costumes have become everyday clothes!

  2. Helen on August 22, 2022 at 5:08 pm

    What a great, illustrated, inspiring story. I made dragon wings for my granddaughter last year. I used bamboo to give the wings structure.

    • lizhaywood on August 22, 2022 at 5:21 pm

      That sounds great Helen – every granddaughter needs dragon wings. And much more fun to make than sewing ordinary clothes!

  3. Ineke on August 24, 2022 at 8:07 pm

    We have dress ups with spring carnaval in The Netherlands. My son doesn’t like dressing up, so I made a soft sweater with soft wings and ‘spikes’. Just as comfortabel as normal clothes and he still looks like a cool dragon. A size to big, for 2 years of fun. If he was into it, I would create lots of outfits! 😉 Groetjes Ineke

    • lizhaywood on August 25, 2022 at 11:47 am

      That sounds like a good dress-ups compromise. If he ever becomes a dresser-upper, I know you would make him some impressive costumes 🙂

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