10 London Characters To Dress Up As For World Book Day

The most famous fictional Londoner, Sherlock Holmes
The most famous fictional Londoner, Sherlock Holmes

World Book Day is just around the corner (3rd March 2022), so here are some ideas for London characters you can dress up as if it's crept up on you without warning this year! Although many of these characters have famous adaptations into visual media like film and TV, we're going to be sticking to the book descriptions and illustrations, and only using film and TV costumes when they don't contradict the books.

Although it's mostly schoolchildren who celebrate World Book Day, here at J. Draper London we consider it the best holiday of the year, and just as fun for adults as children. Dress up at your workplace. Go on!

And if you do dress up as any London characters, send us a photo on Instagram @jdraperlondon. We'd love to see your costumes!

1. Paddington Bear

The bear from 32 Windsor Gardens is a great candidate for a costume because of how recognisable his outfit is. If you can get your hands on a floppy red hat and a blue duffel coat, you're in. Add a "Please look after this bear" tag to one of the toggles for extra Paddington-ness. Wellington boots are never mentioned in the book, but were added to the stuffed toy to help him stand up on his own feet, and as such have been omitted from the most recent film adaptation. Marmalade sandwich under the hat optional.

2. Mary Poppins

The Banks children that Mary Poppins nannies for live at 17, Cherry Tree Lane, in an unspecified part of London. The author of the original books, P. L. Travers, lived in several locations around London, most notably Chelsea, where she has a blue plaque. The Disney film wasn't shot on location, but on sound stage in California, but the set is very clearly based on the white-pillared townhouses of Kensington and Chelsea.

The original books are not set in the Edwardian period of the Disney film, but are more contemporary with when Travers was writing in the 1930s and 40s, meaning the more recent Disney film with Emily Blunt is actually closer in time period to the books, if you'd rather use that movie for inspiration!

For this costume, you're going to want a smart, dark-coloured skirt, jacket and blouse, a small flat hat, your neatest updo, and of course, an umbrella.

The Artful Dodger from Charles Dickens' "Oliver Twist"
The Artful Dodger from Charles Dickens' "Oliver Twist"

3. Oliver Twist/ The Artful Dodger

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens is London's best-known rags-to-riches story (sorry, Dick Whittington), but although Oliver ends the book a happy, well-cared for, middle-class boy, he's most famous as a workhouse inmate and a member of a pickpocket gang. As such, you're going to want to go for Dickensian squalor. An off-white, grey or brown shirt, grey or brown trousers- bare feet if you're feeling brave!

Alternatively, you could go a bit more dashing with Twist's sly trickster friend, Jack Dawkins, better known as the Artful Dodger. Dodger is described in the book as wearing a grown-up's clothes that are too big for him, a top hat perched at a jaunty angle, and corduroy trousers. You'll want to add a big, bold coloured neckerchief to complete the look!

4. Sherlock Holmes

Holmes is surely London's best-known fictional character- so much so that visitors to London can sometimes be heard asking, "where is he buried?" True Sherlockians will know that in the books, Holmes is never described as wearing the deerstalker hat and calabash pipe that he's famous for, and that indeed, are depicted in the statue on Baker Street- that these were additions made by the first actor to portray Holmes, William Gillette, and sometimes in illustrations by Sidney Paget. But still, they've become such a staple of the Holmes silhouette that we can forgive you for them here. You can pick up a deerstalker from the hat stands in markets like Covent Garden. The game is afoot!

5. Peter Grant

The protagonist of Rivers of London by Ben Aaranovitch, Peter Grant is an unusual combination of Met Police detective and wizard-in-training, solving magic-related crimes across the capital. In the graphic novels (which definitely count as books, by the way), he's usually depicted in a black suit, with a white shirt and skinny white tie. That's a little non-descript, so you might want to mock up a police ID badge to pin to his lapel.

6. Hercule Poirot

The third London detective in the list (what is it about London that attracts them?), Hercule Poirot is fastidious about his appearance as well as exercising his "little grey cells". The most important aspects are the neat moustache (with curled up ends- you could draw this on with eyeliner), and patent leather (i.e. shiny) shoes, constantly getting specks of dust on them and causing him great suffering. A 1930s- style suit and a pocket watch will complete the look!

7. Mrs. Coulter

Marisa Coulter is the menacing mother-figure of Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, who whisks our protagonist, Lyra, away from her boring, studious world in Oxford and into a life of glamour and parties in London. The exact location of Mrs. Coulter's residence is never confirmed, but the excellent recent BBC adaptation puts it roughly where the Shell-Mex building stands today, on London's Embankment.

She doesn't have a single iconic costume, but she oozes old-school glamour. Think femme fatale. You want all the silk and fur you own. To replicate her golden monkey daemon, get your hands on a stuffed toy (ideally one of those ones with Velcro on the hands, so you can hang it off things) and spray-paint it gold.

8. Ebenezer Scrooge

Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol"
Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol"

Another iconic Dickensian character, the fabulously-named Scrooge is the protagonist (we shan't say hero) of A Christmas Carol. He spends most of the book in his nightgown, so that's the outfit we're going for- you want a long white nightie (M&S still do these) and a dressing gown, and a nightcap. You can make one of these quite easily by sewing two triangles together. If you've got a free hand, then a candle-holder would be a great prop.

9. Aziraphale/ Crowley

The angelic demon and demonic angel from Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens have had a round of publicity lately after the excellent TV adaptation with Michael Sheen and David Tennant, so their look is pretty recognisable. For Aziraphale, you want a pale-coloured suit, ideally cream, a plush waistcoat and a neat cravat. For Crowley, you're thinking aging rocker- black jacket and trousers, pointy boots, big chunky rings and dangly necklaces, and dark sunglasses. Bonus points for getting the cats-eye contact lenses.

10. Evey Hammond

We've already said that graphic novels definitely count as books, so here's a Londoner straight from the pages of Alan Moore and David Lloyd's V For Vendetta. Evey has quite a lot of different looks in the books, but since she takes up the mantle of the eponymous V at the end, we suggest the same thing for your outfit. The "Guy Fawkes" mask can be found in lots of costume shops, and then for the rest, you need black clothes and a tall black hat. Best of all, this costume can still be worn with a facemask!