Halloween: What happened to Claudia Winkleman’s daughter? Fire regulations for fancy dress costumes explained
Strictly Come Dancing presenter Claudia Winkleman’s daughter Matilda was involved in an accident when her Halloween fancy dress costume caught fire in 2014
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Every Halloween, hundreds of thousands of children enjoy dressing up as their favourite characters and ghostly ghouls. Back in 2014, one of those children was the daughter of TV presenter Claudia Winkleman, Matilda, who was eight at the time.
The season ended in real horror, however, when Matilda’s costume accidentally caught fire. The little girl suffered severe burns and her mum was tormented by it for years. Matilda, now 17, is thought to be okay now as although Winkleman is very private about her family life, she spoke last year about how Matilda coped during the coronavirus lockdown while studying for her GCSEs.
Matilda may now be a teenager, and the incident may have happened nine years ago, but it still sticks in the minds of many parents and carers as it is a nightmare come true. So, what exactly happened to Matilda Winkleman and have any new regulations been introduced for fancy dress costumes since the accident? Here’s everything you need to know.
What happened to Matilda Winkleman?
In 2014 Matilda, the daughter of Strictly Come Dancing host Claudia Winkleman, then aged eight, was enjoying Halloween festivities and wearing a seasonal witch’s costume when she accidentally brushed against a candle on a doorstep. Her costume caught fire and went up in flames within seconds.
The youngster suffered severe burns to her legs and spent three weeks in hospital receiving treatment for her injuries and recovering. Claudia took time off Strictly so she could constantly be by her bedside. Speaking about the incident at the time, Claudia said: “I heard her shout and she was on fire. It feels like she was on fire for hours. She went up.”
Neighbour Jamie Poulton was also left with second degree burns after trying to help Matilda and extinguish the fire with his bare hands. Describing the incident previously, he said: “It was like a potential horror film in front of me. This material just keeps reigniting and re-burning. And it is sticky, so it melts on the skin. It was horrific.”
Claudia was so traumatised by what happened to her daughter on that night she needed help from adolescent and child clinical psychologist Tanya Byron, a close friend of hers. Speaking to Byron on a podcast called “How Did We Get Here?” in 2020, Claudia revealed she suffered from flashbacks of the incident. She added: “Like a tsunami, it’s so enormous you think you’re going to drown. So you have to shove it to one side.”
Have new regulations been introduced for fancy dress costumes?
In the aftermath of the incident, people were horrified to learn how quickly some children’s costumes can go up in flames if they come into contact with a naked flame. Claudia began campaigning for kids’ costumes that did not meet certain safety standards, and were therefore a fire hazard, to be banned.
In 2017, after three years of fighting, Claudia won her battle and a rule change was introduced that made Halloween outfits for children, which are classed as toys, much safer. Industry body the British Retail Consortium (BRC) announced voluntary guidelines at the time for retailers and product makers, stating that fabric on toys cannot burn faster than 10mm per second. It is a huge improvement on the legislation that was in place prior to 2017 which allowed a burn rate of 30mm per second. An up-to-date version of these guidelines, published in 2022, retains the rules around the burn rate of 10mm/second.
Claudia said in 2017 that she was “pleased to hear” about the new guidelines, but added “as they are only voluntary, they are only a first step.” The BRC said at the time: “The terrible accident involving Claudia Winkleman’s daughter focused attention on what were seen as failings to the existing Toy Safety Standard for the flammability of children’s costumes.”