Last year of 2020 we were all challenged, tested, and pushed to find our personal courage, kindness, bravery, compassion, perseverance, and joy of life. It was a crazy year which would have been wild enough even if it was in the pages of a fairytale book. Some of my home isolation’s survival practices included sewing myself some wearable fantasy dresses inspired by all the classic Disney princesses. They were something which helped to transport me to a happy place both in the wearing and making of them. They also gave my sewing a purpose to my limited free time when everything seemed worthless to make except face masks and pajamas. I’m pleased to announce my “Pandemic Princess” blog series collection!
That bit of fantasy which we love in our childhood movies, those films which provide contented dreams of castles in the sky and happy endings, can become buried in our consciousness as we get older to the point of becoming a mere nostalgia. Yet, this year forced me to think outside of the box and rediscover simple, basic, everyday means of fun, play, and creating pleasant memories to counteract all of the disappointing, gloomy happenings around us. It is funny how the necessity of becoming wrapped up in the drudgery of “adulting” too often can sap the sense of innocent exuberance from one’s life. So, I thought, why leave the giddy appeal of the classic Disney animated princess movies to just the younger set? My sewing capabilities give me the ability to interpret all that I loved about those fantastical ladies of royalty into my life today, so why not act on such a revitalizing idea when I am stuck at home, sewing too much necessary and overly basic items?!
I can now swish around in elegance, content in my happy place. Each princess outfit is so wonderful, like wearing a dose of dopamine, especially with all the crowns I have to match, too (definitely worth it). I started this whole idea off with a “Beauty and the Beast” inspired dress in the late summer of 2019 as a gift to myself for my birthday, matching by happenstance with a dozen red roses I received as a present. Continuing on the series took me the course of March 2020 up until now (beginning of 2021) accomplish. There are a “baker’s dozen” (13) to this series, so you see why one or two princess projects a month would take me so long! The planning and details to each has been so energizing and satisfying to see finalized!
These are not costumes but outfits I intend to wear just the same as the rest of my wardrobe…only with an extra bit of energizing inspiration behind them. I primarily worked off of my existing fabric and notions stash on hand for some pandemic practicality. Some outfits, more than others, are very floofy and for “special occasions” that we no longer have in the current times – so these are for swishing around in a park, picking up food at a drive-through service, or other such events I choose to turn into something fancy. Other outfits are more casual but super sneaky, and have their princess inspiration low-key.
To interpret them for today according to my vintage tastes, I looked at making these princess dresses through a specific understandings. First of all, let’s face it…many of the leading ladies’ stories are problematic, and have issues. I’ll be the first to admit it, now that I am giving them an overview as an adult. No wonder children are the whole-hearted, unquestioning, adoring crowd of such films! Yet, growing up associating myself with and relating to Belle and Jasmine and Ariel, this fresh awareness of mine does not detract from my long-standing fascination for these fairytale ladies. To reconcile the fashion, the characterizations, and means of interpretations that each Disney princess film has all together, I almost exclusively looked at them in relation to the year that their movies were released. Each Disney animated film was very much a product of its times.
Thus, for some examples, my version of a Tiana inspired dress will be a 1930s call-back style from the 2000’s era. My Aurora outfit will be a 1959 classic with princess-inspired details, and my Snow White interpretation will come from a 1937 pattern. All of these and more are tied to their movies’ release date. I have made just a few exceptions to this ‘rule’. Generally, though, each outfits’ origins are as unique as the princesses themselves. Sometimes I looked at the cultural origins of the story to understand the story and the fashions, as I did for the movie “Tangled”. Sometimes I connected the personality of a heroine to another similar character of the time, such as I did for the “sort-of princess” Megara. I better see why Jasmine was portrayed as a spunky, rebellious teen when I think of the cultural trends and the pop icons of circa 1992, and so I wove in this outlook.
For each interpretation, I went with my gut, remembered what I connect to for each character, and chose an outfit what would seem natural, so as to have the maximum chance of being worn. Again, these are not costumes! The last thing I wanted to do was take all my time on many Halloween-only outfits that I want to wear any other day of the year but can’t, realistically. Also, I know that if I do not listen to my particular tastes, my personal style, and cater to my individual body type, I run a high chance of ending up with a project I hate. My wardrobe items can only stay if they hit my happy place. These princess inspired pieces find that bright spot at a higher level than most. I have also found a new and special appreciation for 90’s fashion along the way to realizing how (deep down) the fashion preferences of my childhood haven’t really changed over the years.
I am so in love with each and every one of the items this self-appointed mission of mine happened to produce to the point that I am honestly freaking out over sharing them because each project is so special to me. Thus, please realize this series is a very important part of me rediscovering my childhood dreams. It also showcases an important part of some of what pulled me through this past tough year. So, I am asking anyone who views my outfits, and loves them just as much as I do, please respect my creativity to come up with this in the first place, and my time and passion to even make, photograph, and write about them at all. Please do not copy me by mimicking the design and fabric combinations to these outfits I have done.
If I have inspired you and you want in on the fun of it all, I ask for proper credit, which is only the right thing to do in the first place. In today’s world where our social world is full of other people’s ideas and creativity, imitation might be said to be flattery – but consider that it also can be stealing. It also harms one’s own uniqueness. Someone else’s true inspiration or perfect style is undoubtly going to be different than mine, as it should be, so don’t take the risk of hurting someone else by ignoring yourself. As Herman Melville said, “It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.”
Yet, I know I am not the only one who naturally has reached out to the princess ideal for an uplifting of spirits in 2020. The viral “it” dress of the year was Lirika Matoshi’s $490 “Strawberry dress”, as reported by the New York Post, Vogue, the New York Times, Glamour, NBC, and L’Officiel (and seen on the backs of celebrities such as Tess Holiday, who donned it at the ‘20 Grammy’s, or Harry Styles). It is a frothy confection that combines a dreamy sequined tulle fit for a princess with the popular cottage core trend. Then, Lirika Matoshi followed up on that success late in 2020 with their own princess collection in collaboration with Disney inspired by Cinderella. Disney bounding doesn’t have to revolve around whether or not one is capable of actually showing up at a theme park. It relies on the ability to dream, and the appreciation of a bit of fantasy as well as the sense of a happy escape which provides a safe place. This dreadful year brought on a need for such an ability that children have down to an art in the best of times!
Just like us, each one of the princesses in Disney’s classic animated movies were challenged, tested, and pushed to find their personal courage, kindness, bravery, compassion, perseverance, and joy of life. I can commiserate with the elation of freedom from isolation when watching Anna from “Frozen” or Rapuzel from “Tangled”. I can marvel at the kindness and long-suffering of Cinderella, the positivity of Tiana, the hopefulness of Aurora. I can understand the cynicism of Megara, the struggles of Elsa, the determination of Ariel. Are you ready for some crown wearing? Are you prepared for a grown-up girl who is seriously not done with her make-believe dress up time?