OPINION | Dress up without the stress

When I was a kid, we had an old travelling trunk stuffed full of costumes.

I don't mean the Snow White or Spiderman costumes you buy from the department store. I mean homemade or hand-me-down bits and pieces that were transformed, with a little imagination, into whatever we needed that day.

There was a flouncy, princessy dress that did for Cinderella or Glinda the good witch, or even - at a stretch - Jo from Little Women.

There were some old nighties that could transform into the robes of ancient Greeks, and a red cape that was as good for a nurse as it was for Little Red Riding Hood.

The less specific the item, the more flexible its application. The trick is to never Google how others have interpreted the character (the standards will be too high).

So with Book Week upon us, and its attendant costuming dilemmas (usually announced the night before parade day to the disorganised and panicked parents of disorganised and panicked children), I present the five most useful dress-up box items...

A house cloak: This is a multipurpose cloak that belongs to everyone and no one. It can be used for a vampire, Harry Potter, a witch or one of the Three Musketeers. Black is the best choice but I can see some uses for brown (monks, swashbuckling adventurers) or green (Peter Pan, or Captain Environment*).

A white sheet: Oh, the things you can do with a white sheet. There's a ghost, Julius Caesar or - ripped to shreds - an Egyptian mummy. You decide.

A leather vest: Whether you're a cowgirl or Indiana Jones, a leather vest from an op shop will give you the right look.

A full skirt: Pop it over tulle and you're the Belle of the ball, or wear it with white sandshoes and a ponytail for Sandy from Grease.

A wide-brimmed hat: Pinch the sides up to make a pirate's tricorn, or tie a scarf around it for any number of posh ladies.

Take the stress and expense out of Book Week, and have fun.

*Not a real superhero, but why let that stop you?