Princess Fashion

I've been seeing several viral posts recently about historical fashion lately. One was a gallery of women's fashion every year from 1784 to 1970, and another was a video re-enactment of how women got dressed in the 18th century. These got me thinking about some of my favorite princess fashions. Though princesses are not known to be historically accurate, their fashions drew inspiration from many different places, and history is one of them. If you take a look at the way fashion has evolved over time, you can get an idea of which parts inspired the princess movies and which parts were altered.


Something that surprised me in the re-enactment was how many pieces were assembled on a woman to give the appearance of a single dress. Today, most dresses are a single piece, but historically, gowns consisted of a corset bodice and a large skirt with a crinoline underneath. This was something I also noticed about Disney's theme park princesses. Though they look like one dress when you meet them, they are actually made of several different pieces. One time, Cinderella, Aurora, and Belle played a joke backstage where they mixed up the skirts and bodices of their dresses and pretended to be ready to meet guests.

Though it is usually implied that princesses wear corsets, we rarely see evidence of this because they were most commonly worn as an undergarment. Emma Watson refused to wear a corset in the Beauty and the Beast remake. No one would have even noticed this if it had not been for her other strict fashion rules about comfort and modernizing Belle, which ultimately ruined the most iconic costume in the film. When she threw the yellow dress in the mud as an act of putting love before vanity, the camera focused closely on an open zipper, making the dress look even more ridiculous for its time period.

The only princess who visibly wears a corset is Rapunzel because she has the ties on the front of her outer bodice. I love the appearance of corset ties.because they create a frilly accent to a dress with bows and ribbons. Most corsets are tied in the back, but placing them in the front does a better job at showing off the history of an outdated fashion that many people are no longer aware of. Though it's debatable, some historians say that corsets were not as dangerous and unhealthy as they are often rumored to be. I personally have some Hot Topic coset tops with ties in the front and zippers in the back that I found very comfortable. A live-action fantasy show I enjoy that also shows corset ties in the front is the BBC's Merlin. Guinevere wore some lovely corset dresses before she became queen in the later seasons.


There are many other things I love about Rapunzel's dress besides the corset too. It's my favorite color (lavender), and it looks just as practical as it is beautiful. The dress has intricate floral patterns on the skirt. Putting patterns on princess dresses is something that Disney was not able to do before the days of CGI because it would have been too difficult to animate the pattern along with the dress. That's why only CGI princesses like Anna, Elsa, Elena, and Rapunzel have patterns on their dresses. Anna and Elsa's gowns used something called rosemaling, which is a form of Norwegian decorative painting. Disney tried to use this technique to recreate the environments in Frozen, which is why Elsa's dress before her transformation had more spring imagery, and her transformation dress had snowflakes and other wintry designs.


Though Ariel is my favorite princess, I personally think the most iconic princess gown is Belle's gold dress.  It's such a shame that it got destroyed both literally and figuratively in the remake because it was absolutely stunning in the animation. The ruffles on the skirt were reminiscent of Victorian French high fashion, and the extra drape around the bottom portion added just the right touch. The way the highlights were animated to form an iridescent shimmer in the chandelier lighting was perfect, and it had just the right amount of "poof." The off-the-shoulder ruffle and gloves were just the right details to finish it off. It's no wonder this dress is still one of my favorite cosplays to date.


Many people who cosplay princesses use hoop skirts, or "cage crinolines," but it is clear from the artwork that the animated ladies are wearing seemingly infinite layers of petticoats under their skirts. I personally use a crinoline skirt for princess cosplay that is made of many layers of tulle to give my gowns a puffy look without the hazards of hard hoops. A fabric crinoline is superior in many ways to a cage. It can't catch on things like the hoops can, and it allows its wearer to sit down without risking their skirt popping up and revealing their undergarments. It is quite clear why princesses are portrayed wearing layers of petticoats instead of pointy hoops, even though they do tend to wear hoops at theme parks and on stage.

My favorite live-action princess dress would have to be Giselle's "curtain dress" from Enchanted. Like Rapunzel's costume, it combines all of the best things about prettiness and practicality. She can dance around in it without tripping or injuring anyone, and it has beautiful ribbons and frills all over it that flow behind her as she moves. The fabric also has a beautiful embroidered design similar to Elena of Avalor's formal dress. Unlike Giselle's wedding gown, the curtain dress is narrow enough to get through doorways without getting stuck. The blue and white color scheme is reminiscent of previous animated Disney characters like Belle and Alice, and puffed sleeves are always a good idea for a princess look.


Though it would be impractical to dress like a princess every day, I try to come closest that I can by wearing dresses or long flowing skirts with patterned tops and the occasional puffed sleeve. To me, princess dresses are the ultimate fashion goals, so, like Rapunzel and Giselle, I try to be as pretty and practical as possible at all times. You can read more about the princess dresses that I've made for myself in my "Princess Cosplay" post.


Comments

Cupcakedoll said…
Once, I called all floofy glittery dresses "princess dresses." Then I saw Sailor Moon... and now there's only one princess dress in my heart.

(trivia: Serenity's dress is based on a wedding dress that Naoko saw in a shop window.)

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