The ‘Her Own Muse – Fashion Editorial’ is one of our online ISSUE segments, head to ‘THE ONCE UPON A TIME ISSUE‘ for the complete experience and set of images.
For someone who grew up watching and obsessing over the classic Disney princess films, revisiting some of them as an adult is a different experience. It’s hard not to acknowledge the elephant in the room. The damsel in distress trope, a woman in need of rescuing who finds happiness when saved by man.
As a young child the world is your oyster and the possibilities are endless. Making optimistic and perhaps naïve interpretations of the content you consume is to be expected. Believing princess stories to be the blueprint for true love and internalizing this as an expectation for your future life is a loophole most of us have fallen into. At least for myself, I blame the fashion. Sleeping Beauty’s color changing gown, deep pink to cerulean blue and back to pink, is a core memory. And truly, that and the detail, beauty and work behind the classic animations of Disney princess films is timeless.
Times may have changed but the trope, albeit a less potent version of it, survives. However, one must give praise where praise is due and admittedly the world of Disney princesses has evolved and expanded throughout time mirroring the changes taking place in the real world.
BACK IN THE DAY
The first Disney princess movie release was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937. The film arguably put Disney on the map being the first full length animated feature produced by Walt Disney and a top performing movie in the US box office. Snow White is the story of an orphan princess living in hiding in a forest cottage along with seven dwarfs – all to survive the evil queen’s (who happens to be her stepmother) death sentence.
Snow White was based on a dancer named Marjorie Celeste Belcher, who was the daughter of one of Disney’s animators. Her famous blue bodiced, puffy sleeved and yellow skirted dress clearly reflects the 1930s Art Deco aesthetic. Her dress’s silhouette is sleek and long with no distinctive curves mirroring what was in Vogue at the time. Her features, a round face with full cheeks, short black hair, cherry red lips, round eyes, and pencil thin eyebrows also represent the dainty femininity that was characteristic of the 1930s beauty standard.
Beauty is a central theme in the film; the evil queen repeatedly and famously asks her magic mirror “mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” and goes to extreme lengths to ensure that she is the top beauty of the land. Other than the beauty contest taking place between the aging queen and our protagonist, the film also assigns Snow White the role of the obedient housewife, cleaning and looking after the seven dwarfs whilst they’re away breadwinning.
Aurora is another classic era princess. Released in 1959, Sleeping Beauty is the story of an only child princess cursed by an evil fairy named Maleficent to prick her finger on a spindle and fall into eternal sleep before the sun sets on her 16th birthday.
Aurora’s country outfit, a beige blouse with a white Peter Pan collar paired with an A-line skirt with ruffled petticoats, is very 1950s. But that’s not the main fashion event of the movie, that would be her color changing blue and/or pink gown. The gown is inspired by Medieval fashion: a fitted bodice, V-shaped waistline and A-line skirt which is reflective of the historical period the story is meant to have taken place during.
The fairytales’ overarching theme of love conquers all and good trumping evil are, of course, hopeful messages for viewers. However, Aurora’s zero involvement in the outcome of the fight between her prince charming and the force of evil isn’t quite the ideal takeaway message.
The evolution to modern day Disney
Interestingly, there was a 30-year princess movie hiatus following the release of Sleeping Beauty. However, the return of Disney princesses with Ariel marked a turning point in the kind of narrative shown on the big screen by the company. Ariel is noticeably less passive and takes charge of the direction her life moves towards. She wants to be part of and experience the human world and makes this a reality. Romantic love is thrown into the mix but what’s a fairytale without a little love spice.
The Little Mermaid was followed by the release of Aladdin which featured the first non-white princess, Jasmine and her iconic two-piece blue outfit & marching headpiece, in 1992. Only three years later in 1995, Pocahontas premiered (that’s two non-white princesses in a row). Importantly, Pocahontas was voiced by Native American actress Irene Bedard.
Fast forward to 2009 when Disney released the Princess and the Frog. The movie was one of the last traditionally hand-drawn Disney films and it featured Tiana as Disney’s first black princess. The movie follows her and prince Naveen trying to find a way to turn back into humans after being turned into frogs by an evil witch doctor.
Tiana wears some of the most historically accurate and stylish pieces showcased in a Disney movie that beautifully reflect her character arc throughout the film. To start with, baby Tiana is introduced to the viewers wearing a pistachio midi dress with matching accessories alongside Lottie who is wearing a puffy A-line pink dress. The contrast between the two children alludes to the differences in their backgrounds and financial standing. Tiana’s outfit and its pastel color reflects the popular children’s dressing style of the time. One of Tiana’s workwear uniforms is a teal blue dress with a Peter-Pan collar and an apron displaying the name of the restaurant she works for paired with a pair of brown slip-on pumps, a style popular with working women at the time as they were cheaper than more fashionable shoes on the market. For her second waitressing job, Tiana wears a cloche, a bell-shaped hat that was hugely popular during the 1920s.
For her transformation back to human, Tiana is shown in a lily pad inspired wedding dress with a sparkly veil. It’s a three-layered ball gown, with each layer resembling flower petals and a lily embroidered on her waistline.
The combination of fabulous fashion and animation work with the messages of acceptance, seeing past initial appearances and keeping your promises make the movie a modern-day classic. We also love to see that Tiana was the first working princess (working not one but two jobs) featured in a princess film – that’s what we’re talking about, Disney.
THE LOAD PRINCESSES
For this editorial, we had to think of who the LOAD princess is and what she stands for. Yes, she is beauty, she is grace but she’s also unapologetic and holds the reins of her destiny. She’s bold, adventurous and experiments with her fashion and make up – a modern day IT girl.
The influence of the siren voices, pretty costumes and make-up looks of the OG princesses has survived into today’s world but with this shoot, we have reinterpreted each of these elements to make them relevant in 2024.
Our Sleeping Beauty wears an oversized puffer and delicate white slip dress as she gracefully lays on pastel bed sheets. LOAD’s Snow White is grunge – bold accessories, a deconstructed top and of course red lipstick. She’s a target but she loves it.
For our very own Cinderella, it’s all about baby blue – from her make up to her tights, she’s the ultimate ice queen. Our final muse is throwing a red-themed feast. There’s a red velvet cake to go with her satin red corset. Valentine’s Day might be around the corner but this princess isn’t about to settle for anyone that isn’t on her level. It’s a solo dinner date and you’re not invited.
Future princess profiling
Representation is hugely important and particularly for young and impressionable viewers. Seeing themselves reflected in the movies and cartoons they consume can make a child feel a sense of community and belonging.
Disney has made important steps with their storylines and protagonist selection and we would like to see them continue progressing with this. Giving a platform to marginalized groups or members of society that don’t normally have a center stage presence by telling a story that is both true to them but also positive and encouraging has the potential to be life saving for many kids out there.
Like and alongside fashion the world of animation is a world of escapism, endless possibilities, where no dream is too big. Countless designers have come forward to admit that browsing the pages of Vogue enabled them to understand that there is a place for them out there in the world. Another interesting avenue for Disney or animation film makers to explore would be scouting small, independent designers to involve in the process of outfit creation for the movie’s cast. A princess’s dress or costume is her identifying feature after all. It would be brilliant to have a fresh fashion voice bringing their vision to life by dressing a modern-day princess. Just imagine Aurora or even better, Maleficent (because a villain is still royalty in our eyes) in Dilara Findikoglu – we die!
Photographer @chatziathanasiadis MARIA CHATZIATHANASIADIS
In frame @haroulagiavara HAROULA GIAVARA, @ifigeneia.m IFIGENEIA MALLIORI
via @dmodelagency, @konnieex KONNIE , @lizav_ LIZA VARVIANI
Creative Directors @philip.vogdanis FILIPPOS VOGDANIS,
@konstantinos.tsagkaris KONSTANTINOS TSAGKARIS
Set Directors @godblessdrama ELEKTRA AVGOULI,
@philip.vogdanis FILIPPOS VOGDANIS
Styling @elionniz ELPIDA PALAIOGIANNI
MUA @kastiee ANASTASIA KASTANARA
Hair @argiro_asimenia ARGIRO ASIMENIA
Studio BUSY BEE
Special thanks @mjkmarina MARINA KALPOGIANNAKI,
@themakeupinferno PHILIPPA KAVVADATOU,
NATALIA DRAKOPOULOU @nataliadrakopoulou
Article @stella_seim STELLA SEIMENI