Disney is more than welcome - in my eyes, at least - to take creative liberties to better their movies for the masses, and we've gotten some unforgettable characters out of their designs. That being said, any fan of fashion through the ages knows that Disney clothing isn't always the most historically accurate.
The following gallery by artist and HBO production designer, Claire Hummel gives Disney fans a more historically accurate look at the Princesses (and leading Disney women) we all know and love. Some of these images are a few years old, but great art never goes out of style!
Since Hummel is better at explaining her work than I could ever be and remains a lot funnier, I've included her descriptions from the gallery. So, here are 13 Disney women in period-appropriate garb.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I couldn't settle on a visual motif for the details in this one- shoes, pumpkins, mice- so I just gave her some stripes and gothic lace to make up for it. OH ALSO I drew her losing her right shoe instead of her left and only recently realized it. Whoops.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Finally moving on to the unofficial Disney ladies with Megara! So fantastically simple to research, just put her in a simple doric chiton and spent most of my time researching fabric colours and patterns to see what I could get away with. It kinda looks like she killed Hercules and took his helmet? I'm okay with that.
A lot of people have been asking about Maid Marian, so I figured I might as well give her a shot- a bit tougher when you’re looking at clothing on anthropomorphic animals, of course, but there are still a couple of details that point to the 15th century- the cut of the dress, the ears disguised as a horned hennin headdress, the bag sleeves, etc. I still tried to maintain the relatively simple silhouette of Marian’s dress, just with added period details- making it more of a houppelande by design, and resolving the v-shaped neckline to show the kirtle underneath.
Also really wanted to hide some foxglove motifs in the lining of the gown- it’s subtle, but I think it really ties the whole design together.
Note: This was later confirmed to be an April Fool's joke—and a pretty great one at that.
Finally updated Pocahontas! I don't think this is what people were expecting as the next entry in the series, but some of the criticisms of my first design have been eating away at me for years now and I needed to get off my ass and address them.
So hey! Spunky age-appropriate Pocahontas/Matoaka, sans feathers in the hair/European imagery/other superfluous details. This is closer to accounts and illustrations of Powhatan dress from the period, and I kinda think it's closer to the Disney design anyway. WIN/WIN.
Thanks to everyone who's educated my ass over the past couple of years, including moniquill, apihtawikosisan, this-is-not-native, and numerous others. You've made me a way more thoughtful artist in the process.
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.
(Source: Claire Hummel / DeviantArt)