Wednesday, May 6, 2009

DIY Dress-Up Storage

The boys' dress-up collection has been burgeoning for some time. They dress up as policemen, firemen, surgeons, cowboys, Davy Crockett, and pirates. I had everything shoved in a laundry basket but it was always a big, dumped-all-over mess.
I had been eyeing dress-up storage units such as this...

...for some time but was discouraged by not only the prices, but also by how visible the contents would be (messy) and how much more suited these storage units seemed to little girls dress-up rather than little boys (where do you hang your swords?).

I finally decided to MacGyver one for myself. Here is my completed attempt:

The unit is constructed from three inexpensive, assemble-yourself, particle-board, closet organizers. I bought these at a hardware store that was moving to a new location so purchased everything for 80% off. When not on sale, each piece would be between $20-$30. At the hardware store they are Rubbermaid brand, at Target they seem to be Closetmaid brand. The two fabric cubes are from Target. I assembled everything, linked the three units with the provided dowels, and then screwed it all together anywhere it wasn't visible. I also purchased some small T-brackets and L-brackets (80% off) found in the decking section of the hardware store to re-enforce and further connect the pieces together in the back. I also chose to put casters on the bottom (80% off), but that was really unnecessary for our application in hindsight. I am still looking for a little tray just the right size for the small space in-between the shelves with the cubes on them. That space is a perfect size for doctor/scientist glasses, speeding tickets, police whistles, walkie-talkies, eye-patches and various badges. I also, as you can see, still need to purchase a cabinet magnet for the door.

I hung some preschool style coat hooks (80% off) inside the cabinet for various coats and scarves. It is useful to sew some yarn loops on the inside of the jacket collars to make it easier for the littlest ones to hang things up.

The shallow drawers are great for holding pirate hooks, fire hoses, swords, shoes and other paraphanalia. I lined them with rubbery, no-slip shelf liner so that things wouldn't slide around.

At that same hardware store (again, 80% off) I picked up a two-pack of these narrow mirrors and put one on each side of the unit so the boys could admire themselves.

The boys "helped" me build it which turned out to be a great idea. Not only did they have fun and were occupied during the time I was working on it, but they are also now invested in its existence and have been excellent about putting things back when they are not being used. I no longer have dress-up piled all over the floor, probably mostly because they don't have to dig through everything to find something. They take everyone into the bedroom to show them the cabinet "Mommy helped us" build.

If I could do it over I would make it bigger already, and still might. I would put in two of the cabinets with doors instead of one, both over the drawers I think. Then, I would buy the taller version of the shelf tower (that holds 3-4 cubes) and attach that to the left side. Ideally this unit would be a little deeper as well, but this is the size that things came.

I did spend several months scouting armoires for this purpose on Craigslist but had no luck. I think I spent about $40 on the whole project. I had originally planned on $100 before I happened upon the hardware store closeout. If this had been going in the playroom (where the mess wouldn't bother me) rather than Kal-El's bedroom I think I would have just bought the larger rectangular unit and saved a couple afternoon's worth of labor.

Play away boys!


  1. The boys showed me their dress-up cabinet when I was there. It's very nice!


  2. Now that is one fantastic Practical Life exercise!!! I want one - can you hop on over to England and see what you can help your boys put together for us?!!

  3. Just last week we have been looking at different things we could use for a dress up area for the kids. This is great and I love how you put the mirror on the side. Great idea. You will be seeing ours soon and it may look very close to yours!!

  4. Wow that is amazing!

    I am doing over some closet's with Target's Itso line but what looked cheap really is winding up being expensive (the plastic bin system not the particle board which is even more).

  5. I've also been eyeing those expensive dress up units, love what you did. Totally stealing this idea

  6. Very cute idea! But, fwiw, my little girl has swords too. And firefighter clothes, and doctor gear, and princess stuff, and and and. :)