The Dress Up Box: Garage Sale Now, for a Frugal Christmas Present!

Good morning!   I love Christmas:  decorating the house, putting up lights, baking special candies and cookies, gathering with family and giving Christmas presents.  With early planning now, while it is still summer, I can enjoy giving homemade Christmas presents.  Even though it is hard to think of Christmas when I am wishing the air conditioner would start, if I plan and start preparing now, the Christmas season is much more relaxed.

Maple syrup and jams are fun to give the adults, but I really like to give homemade children’s presents.  Over the years, I have given a few special, specific presents to all the kids:  my children, the nieces and nephews and now the grandbaby!

These super cheap gloves even came with their own box (and a lot of other stuff!) at the auction

One of my favorite special presents is the Dress-Up Box.

I have shared other clothing presents I have given, like the bleach shirts, bleach kit and tie dye kit.  The Dress-Up Box is more of a tradition though; every child gets one for Christmas when they are 4-5 years old.

It is a big present, but very frugal, especially if I plan ahead.  I enjoy watching at garage sales and auctions for a few years, as I plan and gather items for the Dress-Up Box present.  The long planning time also gives me plenty of time to make and actually finish items for the Dress-Up Box.

Filling the Dress-Up Box is the easiest part.  Since it is easy to find items, I have a few guidelines that I use.  Items have to be dirt cheap, under $1 (25 cents is even better)!  Our draw name limit used to be $10-$15, so I try to not spend much more than that.  I will pay up to $4 for fancy dresses. The girl boxes usually only have 1 or 2 fancy dresses.  Free is the best, many of the nieces had free, shortened prom or bridesmaids dresses.

Suit coats are easy to find, the red skirt can double as a great cape!

Some items were free, altered items from my closet.  Skirts can be cut into capes, with Velcro added at the old waistband as a fastener.  Velcro is safer than buttons and easier than ties.  Kids can hook the Velcro by themselves, so they won’t need repeated help as they change outfits.  For many years, our dress-up box included free, homemade, cardboard Buzz Lightyear wings.  An x of elastic, across the chest, helped them stay on.

Including unusual items is another guideline.  It is fun watching for strange, unusual things to add to the Dress-Up Box.  A graduation cap and gown, Hawaiian hat and flowered lei necklace, army hats, cowboy chaps and boot, suit coats, vests, and pirate eye patches have all been in different boxes.  Hats are great addition to the dress-up box because there are such a wide variety of styles, one year I even crocheted a beret.  I have included wigs, old Halloween costumes and dance recital outfits.  At an auction, I bought the cutest gloves in glove boxes, some were lacey while others were dark, manly gloves.

The kids all love unusual hats!

Another guideline I use is- the louder, glitterier, shinier, the better!   Both girls and boys enjoy the bright, flashy costumes, and it is even better when they don’t match!  The eye-patched pirate who wears a pink clip-on tie and cowboy boots definitely needs the shiny, large gold belt and gold glitter purse as pirate treasure.  One of my all-time favorite finds was a gold sequined suit jacket from a college play or chorus concert.  It was only 25 cents and so much fun!

Accessories are probably the most fun part of the Dress-Up Box to find.   Scarves are great:  cheap, colorful and sometimes glittery.  They are very versatile, as shawls, headbands, skirts, capes and hats.  I try to add purses and wallets also, complete with family photos.  If the kids are older, I add keys and key rings.  Shoes are a great accessory.  Since I am a bit clumsy, I don’t add super high heels, but I have hot glued jewels and buttons onto lower heels and flats.

Keys, a wallet and even toy music instruments are fun for older kids

I love making jewelry for the Dress-Up Boxes, though I string it with elastic thread or crochet thread for more strength.  Bridesmaid bouquets and flower girl baskets are another fun accessory to find at garage sales.

When all the frugal, glittery items and accessories are found, then comes the hardest part:  Finding the Dress -Up Box itself.  I have used many things over the years, and even though I look for the box the whole time I am gathering clothes, it is usually the last thing I find.

My 1st Dress-Up Box was a large cardboard box.  Not pretty, but so stuffed with fancy clothes that the niece loved it!  Since there were many items to fit back into the box, I’m not sure her mother loved it as much.

The sorcerer’s hat, eye patch and hook were always a good combo!

I have also used plastic totes with lids and suitcases.  I like suitcases the best, but they don’t hold as much.  It is also hard to fit hats inside the suitcases.  My last Dress-Up Box was a large duffel bag; I loved the many pockets and the handles it had.

I try to personalize the Dress-Up Box.  I have put stickers on suitcases or paper labels on the boxes and totes saying ‘_______ Dress-Up Box’.  The duffel bag was handy with its clear nameplate, they can take out the printed label and use the bag again, when they get older and think they are done with dress up clothes.

Our Dress-Up Box lasted a long time.  I have given ‘add on’ present for the box as birthday or Christmas presents.  One year, 4-5 cartoon character capes were a birthday present.  We also add Halloween costumes to keep the box growing.  It is great to see the older kids dress up again when younger nieces and nephews come to visit or if they need a last minute Halloween costume.  It has even come in handy for special school dress ups days like Homecoming week or Hat day.

Woo-Hoo, found some Dress Up Box items for grandbaby while garage sale-ing!  Along with other fun stuff!

I am excited to start watching and planning the grandbaby’s Dress-Up Box.  It is fun having items on my ‘to buy’ garage sale list again; it gives me a reason to go garage sale-ing!  I can’t wait to use my guidelines: dirt cheap, unusual and flashy, to find fun dress up clothes and accessories for that hard to find Dress-Up Box.


With early planning and garage sales, I can give fun, frugal Christmas presents that the kids enjoy for many years.  I hope you can start planning and searching for Christmas now.  It doesn’t even have to be for this Christmas!

Happy Camping (or finding something flashy)!

Frugal Campasaurus




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