Build a Dress-Up Collection on a Budget

September 7, 2017

“Costume Day:” a Golden Family Tradition

Stella has always loved to dress up. A couple years ago, I started a family tradition called “Costume Day.” In the early weeks of September, consignment stores (like Kid to Kid and Once Upon a Child) gear up for Halloween, putting their gently used kids’ costumes out on sale. My daughter and I love to go as soon as the store opens and score all our favorite costumes to enjoy for the entire year–all excellent quality and at a fantastic discount.

Stella’s outfits from Costume Day 2016 (as seen on my Instagram Story). I paid about $60 for all these awesome costumes. One year later, she still fits into them.

Costumes, not just for Halloween: 4 Benefits of Dress Up Play

Dress up clothing is a staple in Stella’s closet, and not just for play. With my goal of saying “YES!” as often as I can in my parenting, we have enjoyed many perfectly ordinary days in astronaut costumes and princess dresses. There’s lots of benefits of dress up and dramatic play for kids, but here’s four big ones:

1. Playing dress up stretches the imagination

First and foremost, dress up and dramatic play ignites children’s imaginations in a unique way. There is no limit who, where, or what kids can be when they engage in dramatic play, and dressing up is a wonderful way to ignite that spark. (In fact, even from an adult perspective, clothing has the power to transform us. Check out the Invisibilia podcast, The Secret Emotional Life Of Clothes.) Some researchers believe that pretend play in childhood is a predictor of creative thinking in adulthood, particularly divergent thinking. Even Einstein believed that imagination was more important than knowledge. Imaginative play is one of the ways  children learn about the world, and it fosters cognitive and social development.

At the start of their dress up play, you may notice they reenact what’s they’ve seen on tv, movies, at home or school. But soon they’ll be making up their own playful, imaginative storylines.

2. Kids develop social skills and empathy

When dressing up, kids are putting themselves in others’ shoes. They start to judge how another person might be feeling in both hypothetical and real world situations. They may work through their own feelings or the feelings of others. When taking part in dramatic play with their peers, they learn to take turns, cooperate, compromise, negotiate, and play by the rules. They learn about skills for different jobs, too, when pretending to be various career professionals.

3. Dress up play helps build strong communicators

When kids dress up and play pretend, they build on existing vocabulary. By playing with others, they learn to communicate effectively as they cultivate the social skills mentioned above. And dramatic play isn’t just about LEARNING new words–dress up makes those words come to life in new and exciting ways! Storytelling, inflection, and experimenting with accents and voice sounds are all important components of learning to communicate.

During dress up play, you may notice your child asking more questions. Always answer them to the best of your ability. Remember that saying “I don’t know” doesn’t help kids learn (no matter how many times they ask “why?”)

“I’m an astronaut–I’m with NASA. There are lots of other ladies on my rocket ship, wanna come see? Cookies are our favorite snack. We are going to Saturn.”
4. Children practice life skills and engage cognitively

Through role play, children can learn life skills they may use to navigate real life situations down the line. For younger children, even the simple act of dressing themselves can be developed during dress up play. Kids may try on jobs or imitate household chores and relationships. Some play, like tea parties, may encourage polite manners and social/table etiquette. Children solve scenario-based problems–either alone or with friends, when they dress up. They practice things they’ve learned as well, like colors, writing, and counting.

Fill Your Dress Up Box: The Best Basics

I’ve made a costume checklist to take shopping with you. These are great ideas that are often available at consignment and thrift stores. Take this list with you as you go on your own Costume Day adventure, or pin it to save for later!

What are your kids’ favorite costumes and characters to play when dressing up? Have you ever shopped consignment stores for awesome costumes in the fall? What from this list might you look for this year?

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By Kellie

Kellie is a redeemed woman pursuing vulnerability, color, and hygge. She loves to write, take photographs, play, and learn. She's a marketing specialist by day, a blogger at night... and a mom all the time. Kellie lives in Denton, Texas with her husband, Clay, and their young daughters.


  1. Reply

    Sindhuja aka Suja Dinesh

    I totally agree with all your points. My daughter loves to dress up like a princess and like a cop. Dress up play always gives them confidence and teaches them empathy. Love your post.

  2. Reply


    I used to play dress up all the time as a kid and this is a great reminder to build my son’s dress up collection!!

  3. Reply


    This post is so timely for Halloween is coming bear. Thanks for sharing the benefits.♥

  4. Reply

    The Unfiltered Momma

    Such a cute post and idea

  5. Reply

    Marissa ~ DIYtified

    What a great idea! I have 2 boys and never thought to have a dress-up bin. They would absolutely love astronauts and firefighters. I am a nurse and my oldest son loves to get my stethoscope and pretend he is a nurse like mom. I’ll definitely have to go check out those consignment shops this month!

  6. Reply


    This is such a great idea! My girls love to dress up and even my son loves dressing up as his favorite super heroes. I’m definitely doing this for my kiddos…they will get such a kick out of it! Thank you for this awesome idea!

  7. Reply


    Awe dress up is one of our favorites! We stock up every year after Thanksgiving at the big box stores and then a few weeks later at consignment and goodwill, it helps keep it affordable!

  8. Reply

    Christine SaltyMama

    I love this! You can also find super great deals online right after Halloween sometimes!

  9. Reply

    Yes, I'm That Mom

    Absolutely love this idea! My son loves to dress up as HULK, lol, just HULK though! But this will be a great way to introduce new costumes as well! Thank you!

  10. Reply


    What wonderful ideas.. though my daughter is just 3yo but I will encourage her in doing all this as she grows up.

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