Setting Up a DIY Dress Up Station for Kids
We recently moved all our dress up items from an overstuffed and unusable basket to a totally tidy and super functional dress up station. Not only are my kids now playing dress up more, but the mess and stress are gone! Whether you are drowning in princess dresses or super hero costumes (or anything and everything in between!), the dress up storage ideas I’m sharing today are easy, budget-friendly, and can work in a variety of spaces! Let me show you!
Why Organize Kid’s Dress Up Clothes
I am not at all an authority on child development. But now having watched three kids go through the baby, toddler, and preschool years (and beyond), it seems to me that a child’s love for dressing up is fairly universal.
So like many households, we have accumulated our share of dress-up clothes, costumes, accessories, tools, gadgets, weapons, and (sooo much) more over the years.
But it sure is hard to organize and store it all, isn’t it?!?
The key to kids playing with dress up clothes is having everything easily findable and accessible. After all, if they can’t see what they have or get it out, they won’t use it. And then it all just feels like unnecessary clutter.
But when kids do play with it, they have a tendency to move in and out of outfits faster than you can finish buckling a shoe or fastening a crown. As such, dress up time can often leave a wake of hats, gloves, shoes, and capes that drives parents downright crazy.
Making dress up items BOTH easy to access AND put away is ultimately the key to everyone enjoying dress up time. And that can take some clever organization!
Our Dress Up Storage | Before & After
For most of the last decade, we’ve
stuffed stored our kids’ costumes, accessories, and weapons in a big ol’ basket in the corner of our playroom.
And while I loved that our dress-up items were more-or-less out of the way and quite easy to clean up (just stuff it all in!), it sure became a big mess anytime the boys’ wanted anything out of the basket. (Of course the pirate hat is always at the bottom!)
Tired of shlepping the capes and masks and swords off the floor and back into the basket for the millionth time, I was initially tempted to declare our dress up phase over and get rid of it all.
But beyond the fact that my kids do…indeed…still like to dress up, I’ve learned that it can actually be really helpful to keep costume items on hand for school spirit days, Halloween, neighborhood plays, etc.
So when my girlfriend was getting rid of a dress up rack that her daughter outgrew, I jumped at the opportunity to (finally!) create some real dress up organization in an under-utilized closet.
Take a look!
Suuuuuper cute, don’t you think?!?
I realize a dedicated dress-up station might not be the right solution for every household. But if your kids are really into dress up, this type of setup can be a game changer for keeping kids and parents happy.
Let me break down everything we’re doing here and why it’s working!
My Best Tips & Tricks for Dress Up Storage
Hanging Rod + Cubbies
Admittedly, I didn’t quite research the “best” way to store dress up clothes before snagging this free-standing rack from my friend. But now that we have set it up and used it for a little while, I can say for sure that having the combination of a rod (for hanging items) and smaller cubbies (for accessories) is really an ideal layout that accommodates a wide range of items in a fairly compact footprint.
How many cubbies you need will completely depend on the size and breadth of your dress up items:
- The more items you have and the more they are played with, you might want more cubbies in order to refine your organization.
- Conversely, if your costume accessories are few, a hanging rod with just one or two smaller storage bins might be sufficient.
There are lots of different ways to achieve this layout.
- If your handy, these are the plans to the easy DIY dress up rack seen in my photos.
- This version from Amazon is nearly identical to ours (in layout and dimensions) if you’re not up for a wood-working project.
- Finally, there are lots of great hacks that utilize off-the-shelf IKEA bookcases, storage benches, dowels, and tension rods that could work too!
Finding the Best Location
Dedicating a wall or corner of a playroom is the most obvious place for dress-up clothes. Especially if you have really little kids who are home all day, as this is likely where they spend most of their time.
But if that’s not an option, consider alternative places such as:
- Against a wall in a spare or guest bedroom
- Inside a bedroom or hallway closet
- Inside under-the-stairs cabinets or nooks
- Inside free-standing furniture such as armoires or bookcases
In our current home, we do not have a playroom; and most of our toys are stored in shallow built-in bookcases. With no floor space available, I considered other open areas throughout the house.
The closet in our boys’ shared bedroom was mostly un-used (we put all their clothes in drawers) and this ended up being a perfect spot to create a little “Hero Up” cave!
It’s no coincidence that I’ve had a Storm Trooper and Spider-Man and Batman walking around my house a lot more since I put the costumes on hangers. No longer stuffed in the bottom of a basket, my boys can see what we have and get what they want all on their own.
When selecting hangers for your dress up clothes, I highly recommend using kid-sized velvet (non-slip) hangers. The kid size versions hold costumes much better; and the non-slip surface ensures a costume stays in place even if the kids don’t get it on the hanger quite right!
Baskets for the Little Stuff
Playing dress up is about so much more than full-body costumes. There are accessories such as hats, sunglasses, jewelry, necklaces, shoes, and purses; and also tools and weapons and wands and wings and more!
Smaller bins or baskets are perfect for sorting and corralling all these smaller items. What categories you use (and how many) will very much depend on what you have and how your kids play. But I highly recommend keeping your categories logical and the baskets from being too full so kids can find things with ease.
I love opaque baskets because they really keep the visual clutter at bay. But again, if kids can’t see things, they won’t play with them.
Kid-friendly labels for each basket are essential to children finding what they want AND putting it back when they’re done.
Think Outside the Shelf
Your costume collection might contain things that don’t hang on the rod or fit inside the baskets. When organizing, I prefer to keep all like items together; so in these instances, I recommend considering surfaces just outside the rack itself.
Whether it’s the base of the rack, the outside vertical surfaces, or the wall(s) around it, these areas can all be outfitted with additional shelves, hooks, pegs, buckets, or containers to hold over-sized items.
Since we have our rack nestled into a closet, I hung their biggest (and most used) swords right on the wall, at an easy height for them to get down on their own.
When hanging things on the walls or rack itself, be sure to consider how various items hang. These utility hooks, while a bit too-heavy duty for these swords, were the perfect width to catch the handles.
A simple suction cup hook holds our Harry Potter Broom (that no one seems willing to get rid of, despite my best efforts!) Similar pegs, hooks, and knobs can hold things like Nerf guns, swords, lightsabers, etc.
Make It Fun
Last but not least, dress up is FUN for kids. So take the opportunity to make your dress up station a little more whimsical through the use of paint, wallpaper, decals, colored baskets, cute hardware, knobs, labels, etc.
I’m a sucker for color inside closets, so I used some more solid color wallpaper (my new favorite thing!) to give the wall and shelves a splash of color. This simple detail gives the entire display a little more polish and makes the entire unit appear “built in.”
I also added a cute vinyl phrase above the rack, directly on top of the wallpaper. I’ve been looking for a place to incorporate this phrase, and it was the perfect finishing touch to this little spot!
More Great Toy Storage Solutions
Looking for more great toy storage solutions? Here are just a few of our tried-and-true favorites:
- The Best Toy Storage Solutions for Every Item In the Playroom
- How to Store Tiny Toys
- How to Store Wooden Kid Puzzles
- How to Organize Board Games
- How to Organize Play Food
- Device Charging Station in a Drawer
- DIY Dress Up Station for Kids
- How to Sort and Store Those LEGO Sets
- How to Store Kids’ Sports Equipment
Because we have boys…and our dress-up clothes tend to be jumpsuits and capes and coats…it never occurred to me that a “dress up rack” could still be a viable solution. So you better bet I’m regretting all those years using the messy, inconvenient basket-of-despair when we could have had a functional dress-up wardrobe all along.
Although we won’t need such a robust setup forever (my baby is about to turn 4!!!), it’s been so nice to see the dress up clothes out and being used (and not all over the floor!) once again!