World Book Day drama: have you got competitive costume syndrome?

·Deputy Editor, Yahoo Life UK
·4-min read
Mum-of-three Emma Elms's daughters rock their World Book Day costumes – despite some behind-the-scenes stress
Mum-of-three Emma Elms's daughters rock their World Book Day costumes – despite some behind-the-scenes stress

Today I got up at 6am, downed a cup of tea and went for a walk on the common, otherwise I might not leave my desk all day, then flew into a panic. It’s World Book Day… the one day of the year that working full-time fills me with dread.

It’s the day when the divide between stay-at-home-mums and working mums suddenly feels like a giant chasm. And I should know – I’ve been both.

Now as a busy working mum of three girls, aged four, 10 and 13, I’ve gone from being the perfect Alpha mum (when I was on one of my many maternity leaves or freelancing part-time from home) to a slacker mum who cheats, blags and muddles her way through the maze of parenting challenges.

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Trying to cobble together a clever costume when you work full-time is no easy feat, especially as it’s meant to be handmade. My eldest daughter Amelie* used to be surprisingly business-like about her detailed audit of which pupils had WON her primary school’s World Book Day costume competition in previous years.

Her analysis had one aim: to increase her chances of winning each year – a little entrepreneur in the making. And her verdict? All the winners had carefully, hand-sewn, hand-glued costumes – so throwing money at the problem won’t help and ordering a quick outfit on Amazon is a no-no.

Emma's 10-year-old daughter Fifi* channels David Bowie, while four-year-old Belle* is less than impressed with being an owl for World Book Day
Emma's 10-year-old daughter Fifi* channels David Bowie, while four-year-old Belle* is less than impressed with being an owl for World Book Day

The costume planning began for my 10-year-old several weeks ago (thank God my teenager is too old for WBD).

The theme our primary school specified was ‘choose a character for the Little People, Big Dreams book series’ which features inspiring role models from fields as varied as sport and music to activism.

As huge fans of these books, I breathed a sigh of relief. Fifi*, my middle daughter has the entire collection, so we went for David Bowie, as her icon of choice. Genius!

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We found an old red Bowie wig in a box under her bed, a charity shop hot pink jumper with a fabulous lightning bolt across it (with three kids, I love to shop second-hand).

And as someone with a penchant for face-painting, I knew I could do a quick lightning streak across her face to match!

Meanwhile, my daughter Belle*, being number three, tends to draw the short straw. At about 10pm last night, I found myself thinking, ‘S***! What about Belle’s costume?’

Full-time working mum Emma Elms and four-year-old daughter Belle* in calmer times
Full-time working mum Emma Elms and four-year-old daughter Belle* in calmer times

So, I did what any self-respecting, disorganised working mum would do – flung open our overflowing wardrobe, tripping over a few Barbie dolls and pieces of pink plastic tat on the way and yanked out a few old costumes. But inside, readers, I found a total gem…

Yes, I stumbled across the holy grail – a bright yellow sweatshirt with masses of HAND-STITCHED brown felt leaves all over the arms. I’d hit jackpot! And no one need know it was 10 years old and in fact made by the girls’ loving uncle who happens to be a fashion designer.

They say it takes a village to raise a child – well thank you Uncle Paul for saving the day!

Only one small hitch, Belle decides over breakfast she definitely does NOT want to be an owl. She may only be two feet high but believe me, you wouldn’t want to mess with her.

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With my phone in one hand, checking for ideas for our morning news conference and a piece of toast in the other, I felt the panic rising again.

With 30 minutes until they exit the house with their dad – who thankfully works flexi hours so is on school run duty – even for an experienced mum like me, there is simply NO TIME for a costume change at this late stage.

To my relief, middle daughter Fifi aka Surrogate Parent, saves the day and convinces Belle to be the owl from The Gruffalo. Lovely!

Well, fellow working mums, I think I nailed it! (Check out these pics above.) It’s only 8.45am and I feel like I’ve done a day’s work already.

*Names have been changed to avoid further playground embarrassment.

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