How to Make a Dress-Up Trunk

Morning routines in our home consist of waking up, drinking milk, brushing teeth, and looking for the best set of heels to wear in my closet. Actually, that’s my toddler’s routine, and she’s been doing it since about age one. Not even two yet, this girl has mastered a runway strut! After regularly watching The Wiggles, she’s also a fan of their song “Dressing Up in Style” where they sing “dressing up is so much fun, you can dress like anyone, you can use any clothes you find!” So for her birthday this year, I crafted a dress-up trunk that should get her through the next decade of imaginative costuming.

Dressing up let’s a kid live out their imagination by creating a costume to go along with a story they’ve created. I also love the art appeal of a dress-up trunk as it can be a catalyst for performance art, where the artist uses them-self in a live performance instead of traditional art mediums like painting or sculpture. Example, I’ve witnessed my kid put on a cool hat and flower lei, then proceed to play her toy piano with her feet and quietly scream with her eyes closed.  It was an amazing moment.

Read on to get some ideas for how to make and fill up your dress-up trunk!

Maggie Simpson mirror dance off!

First thing you’ll need is a large container of some sort, such as a footlocker, cedar chest, or even a large plastic storage box. To save some money, search for a sturdy trunk at a thrift store, or a garage sale. Sometimes you can get lucky on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or eBay.  I had a gut feeling that this would be a regularly used “toy” for years to come, with the potential of being used by the next generation, so I opted for the footlocker, and found a pretty decent sale on it at Target.

To add more storage options to the trunk, I put some baskets inside it to hold little things, acquired via a dollar store! I used an over the door shoe organizer to add a pocket feature to the lid. I cut it to fit the lid perfectly, and used mounting tape to put it up. It looked great, until my toddler tried to pull some glasses from the pocket and it fell off. So— add drops of superglue to the mounting tape and then secure the shoe organizer pockets to that.

You could tilt the footlocker so it sits up, and create a mini closet by adding a rod for hangers. I chose to go with the classic horizontal trunk style because I plan on filling it with more clothing and accessories over the next several years.

Now that you have your dress-up box set up, it’s time to fill it with all the things!!! But what things?

COSTUMES:

Halloween can be everyday with a box full of costumes! Save your kids Halloween costumes and keep them in the dress-up trunk. I even added some of my old costumes. Oversized? Put a belt on it!

Melissa & Doug have a whole set of dress-up costumes ranging from construction worker to pediatric nurse that can be a fun addition. I got a few of those from Toys’R’Us at their recent, unfortunate, closing sale.

You can find costumes on sale at party stores the day after Halloween to stock up too. And if you dabble with a sewing machine, here’s an opportune time to create a plethora of adorable costumes!

Need more costume ideas?

  • Superhero cape
  • Ballerina tutu
  • Cartoon Character (Maggie Simpson, Elmo, Moana, PJ Masks)
  • Doctor scrubs
  • Animal suit (Tiger, Panda, Monkey, Dog, Chicken)
  • Occupation (Chef, Fireman, Policeman, Artist)
  • Pirate
  • King or Queen

YOUR OWN WARDROBE:

Has your kid started pulling your clothes off of hangers in your closet? Cute, they want to be you! Could your closet use a little lightening? Maybe it’s a good time to clear out all some clothes for donation. While you are sifting through the clothing clutter, maybe you’ll find a few pieces that would be fun for your kid to play with. Shirts, dresses, shorts, skirts, jackets, vests, the size doesn’t matter. They’ll love it because they’ve seen you wear it.

A couple shirts that I’ve had for decades won’t fit me the way they magically used to pre-baby. But I’m not ready to fully part with them, so I added them to the dress-up trunk and perhaps someday she’ll rock them in her regular wardrobe.

My mom had a dress like that too. She wore it regularly back in the early 70’s, held onto it, it ended up in my dress-up drawer when I was a kid, and then in the mid 90’s, I wore it paired with Doc Martins. It’s still held up, so now it’s in my kid’s dress-up trunk, and maybe she’ll promote it to her official closet in high school. ;P

MASKS/GLASSES:

A variety of masks and funny glasses are always a good time in a dress-up trunk. They can transform a look, and take your kid’s imaginative play to a whole ‘nother level.

HATS/HEADBANDS:

Top off those dress up outfits with some fun hat options. Add a bunch from your own collection, dollar store, or even thrift stores. Cute headbands and tiaras are also classic dress-up items.

SHOES:

My kid loves wearing my shoes, so I added a few pairs that I really don’t wear anymore to her trunk. These are hands down, her most favorite part of the entire dress-up trunk (at the moment.) You could also find kid friendly dress-up heels at retailers. Funny slippers, like monster feet, are a great addition too!

BAGS:

Bags, bags, bags! Old purses, make-up bags, shopping bags, gift bags, briefcase, computer bag, etc. Any bag is a fashionable must have when completing a luxurious outfit for a night on the town with your best stuffed animal.

JEWELRY/SCARVES:

So glad I never got rid of all my costume jewelry, as they now belong exclusively to the dress-up trunk collection. Here’s another chance for you to clean up your own closet and add a variety of necklaces, rings, bracelets, and even scarves to add another level of accessories.

WIGS:

Honestly, my toddler isn’t into wigs, YET. I just happen to have several from my own past Halloween costumes, and I added them to the trunk so she has more options to play around with whenever she’d like. This is another accouterment you can pick up for a bit cheaper during post-Halloween sales.

EXTRAS:

More fun things you can add to the dress-up trunk to provide a variety of options:

  • Belt
  • Wallet with pretend credit/business cards
  • Pretend makeup kit
  • Gloves
  • Pretend doctor kit
  • Wings
  • Toy phone
  • Magic wand
  • Brush/comb
  • Hair accessories
  • Fake tattoos
Shoes… shoes… shoes… omg, shoes.

I hope this list was helpful in your quest for creating a dress-up trunk for your little ones.  What did you add to yours? What are some of your kids’ favorite costumes to wear? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!


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