They say that children love dressing up. This is not true.
It was not true of me, anyway. Personally I never saw the appeal in trying to look like someone else, even someone from a book. When I was at primary school, the phenomenon of World Book Day appeared to be coming into vogue, and if there was one thing I found more annoying that mufti days (on top of everything else, I had to make a decision about what to wear??), it was a mufti day with the added challenge of thinking up an idea and constructing a passable costume; an ordeal which my headteacher optimistically insisted in assembly every year would be ‘great fun’. Because nothing is more fun than wearing clothes that are slightly different from the clothes you wore the previous day.
Casually ignoring the fact that most book characters look like everyday people anyway, in year 5 I went in my own clothes and made up a complicated story about being a secret agent disguised as a little girl (clearly I’d made up this ‘book’ myself). I wore a smug smile all day, believing, as I frequently did as a small child, that I had once again successfully outsmarted The Establishment. The younger children looked on in awe as I retold this story again and again.
‘We all got to go to school today dressed up as a character from a book. I was a bit uncertain at first because I didn’t know who I was going to be. I just ended up in my own clothes. But then at school, I said that I was a secret agent disguised as a girl.’ – aged 10
In year 7 I pretended to have forgotten that it was World Book Day, and I came into school in my uniform. I hadn’t told my parents about the occasion, knowing that if I did they would force me to dress up. So I marched confidently into school that day in March in the same blue and white uniform as usual, hoping that my peers would be unreservedly impressed by this daring display of rebellious individuality (a pleasing irony, I thought). As was usual for all my forays into the world of sociability at secondary school, I was to be sadly disappointed.
My teacher in Drama, whose enthusiasm for the whole charade of World Book Day was predictably of gargantuan proportions, was genuinely devastated that I had ‘forgotten’; with a sad shake of the head and a sigh she simply murmured, “These things do happen.” Eventually I felt so awkward that I asked my friend (whom I believe had come as the eponymous character from The Lady Grace Mysteries) to borrow her red cape for the inevitable group photo, prior to which I moodily declared myself to be Little Red Riding Hood. The dream of Individuality in the face of the monstrosity that was World Book Day was finally over.