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Reinterpreting Disney Princess Costumes Through a Historical Lens

If you grew up watching Disney movies, then you can probably picture the evening gown that Cinderella wore to Prince Charming’s ball or what Jasmine was wearing when she took that magic carpet ride with Aladdin. What you probably never considered was whether or not these signature ensembles were historically accurate. LA-based illustrator Claire Hummel, an artist for Microsoft Game Studios Publishing, decided to do some research on the subject, and the resulting images, while not necessarily the stuff of childhood memories, provide an interesting glimpse into the history of fashion. Click through for a narrated look at the work that she’s done on the project so far; if you like what you see, prints from the series are available here.


Claire Hummel, Pocahontas. All images via My Modern Met.

“Oh, Pocahontas. Really not one of my favorite 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 the outfit 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.”


Claire Hummel, Cinderella

“I went with the mid-1860s 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 1890s 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.”


Claire Hummel, Jasmine

“Let’s be frank — Aladdin is hardly an exercise in historical accuracy… 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.”


Claire Hummel, Snow White

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 to 1530 to come up with something that still maintained the spirit of the original design.”


Claire Hummel, Ariel

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 1840s, 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 ’80s wedding fashion) were a great starting point for an 1890s 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.”


Claire Hummel, Belle

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 1770s French court fashion.”


Claire Hummel, Aurora

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

“Oddly enough Phillip’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 1460s 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.”

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