Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.
The first thing to determine is your angle.
Are you an adult who, as part of a children’s TV character nostalgia event (or similar) is looking to dress up as a contemporary or yesteryear character?
Are you an adult looking to dress up as a popular children’s TV and/or book character for a children’s party?
Or are you looking for a children’s character costume for your offspring for a school dress-up, book event or party?
Whatever the event, chances are you might run into problems with copyright and licensing. Although we have produced a separate information sheet on this matter, here’s a résumé: The people who devise childrens’ characters have put a lot and time and effort into their creation and so, for the most part, do not like others making money from their ideas. To this end they will either allow a particular company to be the sole manufacturer of a licensed costume (from which they can receive royalties) or, unfortunately more often, they will not allow copying of the character whilst it is ‘current’, so as to retain control of their ‘property’ until it’s ceased to be in vogue. At this point costumes may be made available to help derive some extra revenue. It’s a little different with films where ideally licensed merchandise is made available in time for the film’s release, but this is not always the case with costumes, although kid’s costumes usually make it to the market quicker. However they are also made available in outlets far and wide, not just specialist shops such as Props n Frocks and therefore may not be subject to the same quality back-up (and money-back) service we provide.
The upshot is, although it seems a great idea to have your child’s favourite TV character turn up as Star Guest at their party, it’s not always possible for us to help for reasons beyond our control. There are sometimes ‘lookalikes’ and ‘relations’ of these stars available, but both you and we must avoid ‘passing off’ these tribute stars as the real thing – after all, we all know there’s only one real Santa Claus!
Right, having said that, here are a whole host of ideas for children’s characters – we are not saying we’ve got them all, but they will perhaps help give you ideas and obviously if we can assist in fulfilling your requirements, we will. Also, there are a few ‘couples costumes’ or pairs in the list. Naturally, this is of less interest where children are being costumed unless you are looking for related sibling outfits, in which case prepare for arguments as to who takes which role!
Starting in the nursery with Nursery Rhyme related outfits: Bo-Peep Costume (plus a sheep) is a good start. Interest in this character revived with Toy Story, although she had mysteriously gone missing (along with her sheep) in Toy Story 3. There’s also Little Miss Muffet (plus a spider prop or ‘escort’) and Little Jack Horner and Little Boy Blue. In the nursery rhyme context, The Queen of Hearts Costume and the The Knave of Hearts could be a good pair, whilst a Dish and a Spoon is more of a challenge (the spoon costume exists, the ‘dish’ can be someone suitably good-looking). Finally there are Cats everywhere, from the one that went to se the Queen (cue Buckingham Palace Guide Book!), the one that fell down the well and, for the musically inclined, the Cat that teamed up with a fiddle and shared a rhyme with laughing dogs and moon-jumping cows!
Comics offer another rich area for suggestion: Dennis the Menace first appeared in the Beano in 1938 and is still looking good, as is his compatriot from that comic, Desperate Dan. For females, although no official costumes exist, versions of Minnie the Minx and Beryl the Peril (a stalwart of The Beezer) should not be too difficult to improvise. Other classic comic characters of yesteryear such as The Bash Street Kids may be improvised in a similar manner, but for those looking for something more contemporary, there’s always a Bananaman costume.
Obviously Children’s Literature and Fairy Tales provide a good source of ideas, but there’s also something of a cross-over with the popular characters of Disney here, and sometimes the Disney version has rather taken over the popular image – Do you see Winnie the Pooh as a tatty teddy or a tubby ted in a red jacket? How about an Oompa Loompa costume, we stock a great costume that is ideal.
Alice in Wonderland has had a number of treatments and ‘re-imaginings’ over the years and costumes for Alice herself are available in ‘classic’, skimpy and ‘Malice’ Horror varieties. Other characters from the two Alice books, Wonderland and Looking Glass, such as The White Rabbit, The Mad Hatter and The Queen of Hearts (making her second appearance) are also available in various styles. Of course when it comes to other stories, one person’s Grimm Fairy Tale is another’s Pantomime character, so there are plenty of ideas here: Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Cinderella and Hansel & Gretel for a start. Rapunzel could be set to become popular as Disney are doing a reworking of her story in the near future and we could mention Sleeping Beauty, although she’s not much of a party animal! There’s also Aladdin (either ‘Chinese’ or ‘Arabian’ versions) and his princess, who could also double as ace Arabian Nights story-teller Scheherazade. Again, cats have great potential – quite apart from Dick Whittington and His Cat and Puss-in-Boots (both the panto version or the swords-cat from Shrek), there’s also Dr Seuss’ ‘The Cat In The Hat’. Costumes for Thing One and Thing Two are also available.
Mention of Shrek leads us to note that with Shrek being a book before becoming a film, Shrek himself, Princess Fiona and others appearing in the films (The Gingerbread Man, Pinocchio, the Three Blind Mice, etc) can also be chosen as Children’s Book Characters. One Hundred and One Dalmatians was also a much-loved book (and how about going to your fancy dress party in a Cruella costume - a much hated villainess) prior to its Disney films and there are doubtless other characters from books you read as a child which you might want to portray – Heidi, Anne of Green Gables, The Worst Witch, Matilda, Willie Wonka – and there’s always Harry Potter! You have even got Teenage Ninja turtles now starring in their own films, and of course, Props n Frocks stocks Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Costumes!
Perhaps you didn’t do that much reading and your influences were more Children’s TV No problem! With several manufacturers producing ‘retro’ costumes based on TV favourites of the past, there is plenty of choice, with many being the officially licensed versions of your heroes and heroines: From the days of Watch with Mother (or the more modern CITV CBBC and Cbeebie equivalents) we have Andy Pandy & Looby Loo and the Flower Pot Men & Little Weed. The Teletubbies, characters from ‘In The Night Garden’, Postman Pat (with Jess – another cat!) and Wallace & Gromit are always popular, as are Danger Mouse & Penfold and the Thunderbirds characters. And please, do not forget Popeye – a great costume is available complete with a tin of spinach!
The retro concept also works for Action Heroes of the Small Screen such as He-Man and She-Ra, Batman, Superman, Supergirl and Wonder Woman. There are even costumes for more contemporary superstars such as the Power-Rangers and Baugan. Props n Frocks stock a huge range of superhero costumes for men, women and children.
As we started warning about copyright and licensing, we know that Disney characters are some of the most popular requests when it comes to child-orientated costumes. They are also especially subject to some of the restrictions mentioned, but let’s not let that get in the way of a good idea. For example there are official versions of Mickey & Minnie Mouse available. They might not come with overhead masks (not always practical for parties anyway) but a little resourcefulness can overcome that if it’s a problem. Costumes for other ‘classic’ Disney characters such as Donald Duck and Goofy may be in the pipeline, but if there’s a particular character you require, here at Props n Frocks we can often come up with a ‘work-around solution’ to keep you happy.
Who wants to grow up – certainly not us!!!!!