“…There’ll be actual, real, live people. It’ll be totally strange, but wow, am I so ready for this change!”– words of the character Anna from the 2013 Disney Animated movie “Frozen”. Watch the movie’s sing-along song video here!
I’ll be singing her song too (hopefully soon) this year when fully coming out of isolation with my family! For us, it has been too long of a time away from many “formerly normal” happenings such as vacations, hugs with friends and family, or exciting live but crowded concerts. Now, I found the perfect dress to sew for a materialization of such feelings – an ‘Anna dress’ from the song sequence “For the First Time in Forever”!
Now this particular introductory entry in my “Pandemic Princess” collection ended up the most expensive out of all the rest, as well as the most recognizable compared to its film inspiration. I also just finished sewing it the week before the end of the 2020 year. For these reasons, and the fact “Frozen” always seems to make strong Christmas appearance yearly, my Anna dress was what I wore for the few safe and social-distanced holiday occasions we had this year. Wearing my tiara and Anna dress around to all the socially distanced outdoor lights displays was the perfect place to both be ‘Disney-fied’ and over-the-top fancy without turning any other heads besides those of the little girls.
I tell you one thing – the smiles that lit up and the eye twinkles which appeared in the females 8 years and younger as we passed were the most amazing pay back for my sewn projects EVER! Those little girls gave me this happy, expressive face letting me know they ‘got’ my dress, and 100% understood its reference. It was our little instant secret together, no need for a spoken word. To think – I had just made their moment special, and they made mine in return! It was the most touching social result of all my outfits, even princess ones. Sure, I got adult compliments too, but they did not seem to know the Disney reference when we spoke and seemed to appreciate the outfit for itself (which is fine and welcomed just the same). Leave it to the innocent to give the most direct and truest means of communication – through facial emotions. Luckily, I could read their faces as the younger set often are not required to wear Covid face masks!
The red-brown headed Princess Anna is a character that’s sweet but quirky, optimistic, impulsive, ever ready to be helpful, and only 18 in age at the time of the original “Frozen” of 2013, Disney’s 53rd animated film. The story is set in the mid 1800s in the fictitious Scandinavian fjord town of Arendelle. Anna has a sister three years older (Elsa, who is crowned Queen) with magical abilities and both of them have been locked away in the castle for a decade through their childhood because of those powers. There are situational and emotional complexities that arise when the lives of the two sisters are changed after their quarantine is lifted. Rather than the classic Disney pattern of a romantic relationship tale, the film duo has given us a loving sister relationship they have to fight for at the forefront of their story – but that only comes manifest at the end of the first movie.
The particular dress I chose to interpret for myself focuses on an earlier part of the storyline when Anna is excited and naive while Elsa is uneasy and afraid. (Read a great critique of the meanings and moods behind each of the verses of “For the First Time in Forever” here.) Their outfits are very ethnic inspired, with a nod to historical dress, for the special occasion of coronation day. Anna’s dress is particularly abundant with traditional Norwegian rosemåling in the form of embroidery all over her skirt panels as well as her bodice neckline. While I love the colors of, details on, and overall effect of the outfit, I felt this was the one I disliked the most out of all the costumes the girls wear in both “Frozen” movies. That was hands down the one I had to reinvent for myself. I had to figure out my own way to like that distinctive film dress for it to be redeemed in my mind.
There was something about the movie version of Anna’s outfit from “For the First Time in Forever” which slightly bothered me. Either she is missing a blouse as an under layer to it (such as Elsa her sister wears) or Anna’s top mimics a decorated corset. Also, the fact it was solid black kind of overwhelmed the skirt too much in my mind and took away from her necklace. Those ‘sleeve’ drapes across her shoulders needed to go away in my mind, as well, but I can still vaguely understand the idea of how Disney drew that detail looking at mid-1800s styles (see picture at right). Next, the challenge was finding a more familiar historical reference for my own version. Through all the vintage pattern scrolling I do on a regular basis, I had noticed a very similar style of gored and pleated skirt (according to design lines, I mean) had been on dresses circa 1949 to the late 50’s. The popularity of the full skirts which needed floofy slips to keep a bell shape was for me a natural channel to begin interpreting Anna’s dress. Sewing pattern Advance #8551 from the early 1950s is labelled as the ‘Pretty-As-A-Princess Dress’, interestingly enough.
I chose a vintage Burda Style pattern dating to June 1955, reprinted in July 2020 as #121, as my base because I saw the opportunity to make the blouse and the skirt more harmonious together. The panels to the skirt as well as the neckline binding to the Burda pattern were just the exact width of the faux rosemåling embroidery light green panels. The bottom half of the Burda design streamlined Anna’s long length, deeply pleated skirt by merely being a configuration of triangular godets and rectangular panels ending at knee length. I did reduce the number of godets and panels to 10 of each instead of 14 each to end with a smooth, ungathered skirt. However, beyond this slight adjustment I sewed the design up as it was from Burda, and I couldn’t be happier with both the fit and the final look!
The dress was really not that challenging to make, just very time consuming. There were sooo very many straight seams to assemble the skirt, and the bodice had underarm gussets. However, as long as I had every piece and matching point numbered it was all decently clear and not confusing. The bodice ended up fitting on the slightly snug side while the waist turned out rather too generous when I chose to use my ‘normal’ size which I always use in Burda patterns. My scarf belt hides and pulls in the loose fitting waist and the stretch in my fabric accommodates to the slightly snug bodice. Overall, though, this vintage Burda reprint turned out practically the best out of all their reissues. The greatest trial was sandwiching the zipper in between the left side underarm gusset and the skirt panels. I love how the gussets give the bodice such a fine shape and ease in movement. The skirt panels matched perfectly together into the waistline. This was a joy of a project, if a bit overwhelming.
Now, you are probably bothered with curiosity by now over the fact that my fabric print is just like the movie version. The answer to that doubles as the reason why my Anna dress was expensive. I had a movie look-alike design printed on 100% cotton sateen through the Spoonflower site. It was a color scheme created by an existing account which specializes in Disney cosplay – not of my own making. Nevertheless, Spoonflower services are not cheap, but when you have a great idea that has turned into more of a mission…well, I figured it was my Christmas treat. The ‘embroidery’ look is achieved through a feathered sketching that mocks true rosemåling. I actually used it to my advantage at the neckline to actually embroider over the faux print to keep the overlapping down in place. This way decorative topstitching hides in plain sight the useful tacking!
The fabric was printed in panels which alternate both decorative strips and solid green blocks so I could cut the respective pattern pieces I wanted out of each kind of section. This printing layout was needed to fit the pattern pieces but required me to buy at least 4 yards of material…a pricey amount to need through a custom order. I chose cotton sateen so my dress would have a crisp structure and a slight shine. The Spoonflower sateen doesn’t take to ironing very well, and my fabric actually came with a printing flaw, so I regard their services as a necessary evil to be endured in times of particular creativity. The sateen is soft and pretty, and seemed to be the perfect fabric choice for this dress anyway. All is well that ends well, especially when it is something which ends up this pretty!
To complete the Anna ensemble, I chose a vintage 90’s cross-on-a-ribbon choker from my childhood, a cotton sateen sash belt, and finally Charlie Stone shoe company’s Hallstatt suede heels. Charlie Stone came out with a “Frozen” inspired shoe collection last fall, 2020. I chose the Hallstatt suede flat heels because they match perfectly with the shoes Anna wore in “For the First Time in Forever”. Besides, they have a subtle nod to Elsa, Anna’s sister, with the cut out designs. All of these accessories add the right touches of black for my taste, for the perfect remaking of Anna’s movie outfit. My vintage 1950s earrings are from my Grandmother, laid out in a very Arendelle-style trefoil design which matches both my shoe cut-outs and the dress’ faux rosemåling on the light green panels.
What princess would be complete without a crown, too?! I chose the Anna crown from The Disney Store, [SPOILER ALERT] as it is a copy of the one she wore at her own coronation at the end of “Frozen 2”. It is a very substantial metal enameled piece which is beautiful and surprisingly well made. It also finalizes my outfit by completing in symbolism Anna’s journey from unnoticed, naïve princess to a capable queen.
For as much as I love this particular princess outfit, I do have a disclaimer. The two “Frozen” movies are to be included in my blog post series for reasons far less personal or intentional than the rest of my “Pandemic Princess” outfits to come. After all, Elsa and Anna are part of the Disney princess “club” which has been a popular franchise in the last few decades. Yes, their movies are a feast for the eyes and ears, besides enjoyable to watch (if rather moody and emotive for kids). The “Frozen” tales are also the most recent big deal in the Disney princess realm, as can be seen by the heavy marketing still existent in the kid’s section of any store online or in-person. Yet, what truly wins me over are the fashions the two sisters wear. If only just animation, I am enamored by the colors, the details, and everything about what is worn by the leading ladies of “Frozen”.
All this being said, however, I really don’t like the movies. Sorry to the fans who are offended by this, but I’m being honest on my own platform here (so don’t come at me, please). They aren’t the kind of movies from the “Golden Age” of the 90’s Disney that I adore enough to know every single word to all the songs. Nor can I relate to the “Frozen” characters enough, even though they are very adult in character and conflicts. Compared to what the inspiration basis is for the “Frozen” movies, I think the original source provides a far more impressive, memorable, and teaching tale than the washed down, modernized Disney version. Hans Christian Andersen penned The Snow Queen, or Sneedronningen in its original Danish, in December 1844 and it is almost unrelatable to Disney’s version, even if they did do an excellent job at reinventing the story in a compelling manner. Here is an outstanding blog post that does a very good side-by-side of the original Anderson Snow Queen tale with the storyline of the first “Frozen” movie. I suggest you go read it and make your own decision, too.
So – can you guess which princess (I mean Queen, hint, hint) is coming to my “Pandemic Princess” installment next? My interpretation will be a merged association of several different yet related influences. After all, the original Anderson Snow Queen tale inspired more than just “Frozen”. It also most probably shaped another more villainous character with ice powers who is in a well-known and widely loved children’s’ story series written by a 20th century author. As someone for which ‘the cold has always bothered me anyway’, stepping into this next character was a fun and challenging change of thought for me that turned out successful (if I do say so myself).
Stay tuned and thank you for reading!