How Accurate Are The Disney Princesses Compared To History?

1. Ariel

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Source: Deviant Art

The Little Mermaid is hard to place from a time period standpoint- Grimsby’s wearing a Georgian getup, Ariel’s pink dress with the slashed sleeves subscribes to several eras from the Renaissance to the 1840’s, Eric is…  Eric.

I went with Ariel’s wedding dress as a starting point since those gigantic leg-o-mutton sleeves (so embarrassingly popular in eighties wedding fashion) were a great starting point for an 1890’s evening gown.  It’s also not unfeasible that Eric’s cropped tailcoat could be from the same era, so I’m sticking with my choice.  PLUS Ariel with Gibson girl hair?  COME ON IT IS AWESOME.

…I’m still not sure if I’d try to squeeze her pink dress in the same time period or if I’d just throw up my hands and draw it with a hoop skirt, but we’ll see.

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2. Snow White

Source: Deviant Art
Source: Deviant Art

Honestly?  I just wanted to draw those damn slashed sleeves.  I want them SO BAD.

Unlike the aforementioned Little Mermaid, Snow White’s time period is pretty easy to pinpoint in 16th century Germany.  Not that the film is accurate, but the clues are there- I took a wide swath from about 1500-1530 to come up with something that still maintained the spirit of the original design.

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3. Jasmine

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Source: Deviant Art

Let’s be frank- Aladdin is hardly an exercise in historical accuracy. Combine that with Claire knowing veeeery little about pre-Islamic Middle Eastern clothing before starting on Jasmine, and you’ve got yourself a few days of research before digging into this thing.

It took some effort to track down some midriff-baring outfits but BY GEORGE I DID, thank you Persian fashion plates. I now know what sirwal are called (besides Hammer pants), and that Persian women wore some pretty sweet little jackets that I wish I owned.

OH ALSO I DREW A KITTY

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4. Cinderella

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Source: Deviant Art

I went with the mid 1860’s for Cinderella’s dress, the transitory period where the cage crinoline takes on a more elliptical shape and moves towards the back. Not that it accounts for Lady Tremaine’s sweet 1890’s getup, but it’s also not unheard of to see it worn alongside Anastasia and Drizella’s early bustle dresses. It’s also worth noting that it was made by a fairy godmother, so it make sense that her tastes would be a little behind the times.

Not to mention background characters, who seem pretty firmly planted in the middle of the century.

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5. Pocahontas

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Source: Deviant Art

Oh, Pocahontas. Really not one of my favourite Disney films, but it posed an interesting challenge. Note that this is the Disney character, not the historical figure, so while I tried to make theoutfit accurate to 17th century Powhatan clothing she is, most definitely, not a 12-year-old. It’s my happy middle ground when drawing a historical version of an inaccurate portrayal of a historical person. That’s a mouthful.

My one big cheat on this was her necklace- the shell necklace should in theory be a deep purple (turquoise is a much more Southwestern commodity), but you lose so much of the Pocahontas visual identity without the splash of teal around her neck.

…And not the belabor the point, but she learns English by way of MAGIC? Come on, Disney, even Tarzan had the sense to do a heavy-handed language montage.
-C
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6. Tiana

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Source: Deviant Art

I’ve been crazy excited to do Tiana- she’s not my favourite princess, but I started researching her dress in the very early stages of this project and got pretty hyped up about it.

Most of the dresses in Princess and the Frog do have some historical basis (lots of dropped waists and slinky chemises), so I thought it would be fun to tackle Tiana’s magic-kiss-swamp-frog-something gown during the climax of the film. It’s the one dress that’s clearly meant to just be a standalone “princess” dress, but I liked the idea of a challenge and decided to drag it kicking and screaming back into the 20’s.

I based the dress on Lanvin’s robes de style, which were- unlike the flapper dresses most people associate with the Jazz Age- fitted in the bodice with a wide, panniered skirt. The robe de style was considered a relatively conservative dress choice so you probably wouldn’t have seen a hem hiked up this high, but COME ON HOW OFTEN DO I GET TO DRAW THEIR LEGS. Not often enough, I’ll tell you that.

-C
(Photoshop CS5)

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7. Aurora

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Source: Deviant Art

…Aaaaand moving on. So Prince Philip does specifically and emphatically say “this is the 14th century!” at some point during the film, but Philip’s an idiot (a handsome, handsome idiot) and I, never afraid to ignore source material, ignored him.

Oddly enough Philip’s clothing is a better point of reference than Aurora’s (since the hourglass, off-the-shoulder cut of her dress is straight out of the 1950’s), and there are far more examples of his get-up from the 1460’s onward than in the 14th century. I went with my gut and ended up with something around 1485- a little later than one might expect, but it’s such a (beautifully) stylized film that all bets are off.

EDIT: OH ALSO HER EYES ARE OPEN.  WHOA.

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8. Maleficent

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Source: Deviant Art

God I love dagged sleeves.  Almost as much as I love slashed ones.  I just want to dag and slash everything I can get my hands on.

I’ve wanted Maleficent to be the first villain in the series for a while now, ever since I made the mental leap between Maleficent’s horns and 15th century horned hennins.  The time period works out pretty well, actually, since I wanted her to look a little more dated than Aurora’s 1480’s getup- both houppelandes and horned hennins were all the rage during the early- to mid-1400’s, and they make for pretty good analogues to her official costuming.  Sexy stuff.

This proves more than any of the previous pieces that these are adaptations, not improvements.  I mean, look at the original Maleficent design- how does one improve on PERFECTION

-C

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9. Rapunzel

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Source: Deviant Art

I adore Tangled for many reasons, but historical accuracy isn’t one of them. It’s actually the first Disney film that feels entirely set in its own fantasy world, with no real ties to any particular time period or setting- unless you count that ever-forgiving time period of “Ren Faire.

Since this is the last one in the series (so far as official princesses go), I thought I’d treat myself and just have fun with it. I drew up concepts for both the 16th century (the slashed sleeves) and 18th (Keane’s initial inspiration), but in the interest of choosing a time period I hadn’t touched yet I ended up going with the late Regency. There are a ton of gowns circa 1820 that have those inimitably princessy sleeves, and those palace guards aren’t fooling anyone.

-Claire, who made a video for this but still needs to edit that nonsense together

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10. Mulan

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Source: Deviant Art

Sooooo Mulan.  It’s not that I didn’t want to do Mulan (she’s fantastic so far as the Disney “princesses” go), but pinning down her time period stopped being fun and rapidly became a headache- you have the original legend taking place in the Wei Dynasty, the “Huns” as an actual threat during the Western Han Dynasty, the Forbidden City of the Ming Dynasty, the hanfu fashion setting it earlier AGHGHGhjffjhfghgjhkh

On that note, I’ll be the first to admit that this piece isn’t tying Mulan down to a particular period, rather putting her in plausible historical textiles and hanfu.  When I was asking around for references most of the stuff sent my way were from Chinese period films or other modern recreations, so I just threw up my hands and decided to have fun with it.

It’s based on Mulan’s finale/epilogue costume at the end of the film; she never seemed at home in either the matchmaker costume or the armor, so this seemed like the best “Mulan has come into her own” middle ground.
-C
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11. Elsa

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Source: Deviant Art

 

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Source: Deviant Art 

Oh, Elsa.  What are we going to do with you.

Frozen is purportedly set in the 1830’s-40’s, but I’ve been obsessed with finding a style that could marry her coronation gown with her ice gown more seamlessly; the open robes you see during the Regency era, including those being worn by Scandinavian royalty at the time, seemed a particularly apt analog for her… weird underarm-cape.  Thing.  You also see her mom wearing something very similar for something like ten years, so it’s not a huge stretch to think it could be a popular look in Arendelle.  THAT’S MY EXCUSE.

I initially designed this for her coronation, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to explore how that same silhouette might work with her ice gown as well.  Someday, theoretically, I would love to do a more literally iced-up version of her gown, but I figured the alternate colour way would be a nice middle ground to strike.

-C

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12. Belle

 

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Source: Deviant Art 

I can’t explain it, but reinterpreting Disney princess outfits through a more historically accurate lens really, really appeals to me. Beauty and the Beast has always hovered hesitantly in the late 18th century (especially in the earlier concept art), so I redid Belle’s gold dress to match 1770’s French court fashion.

Gonna start posting my art like a good little illustrator.

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Image via Deviant Art.

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Nizza Gueco is a licensed architect from the Philippines who chose to be a writer to be able to spend time with her 3-year-old daughter. Know more about her at www.nizzagueco.com.

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