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The Disney canon is chock-full of pretty princesses searching for fairytale endings. But no two princesses are exactly the same, even while decked out in the same classic Disney uniform – the jewel-colored gown. There’s bookish Belle from Beauty and the Beast, whose soft spot for the titular Beast grows into the kind of love that can break curses. Then there’s Giselle from Enchanted, whose damsel-in-distress persona gains ten layers of complexity by the end of the film. And who can forget Merida from Brave, with her legendary archery skills and refusal to toe the line? She’s a feminist icon if ever there’s one. By turns fierce, open-minded and tender-hearted, these Disney heroines leave a mark not just because of their beauty and brains (of which there’s plenty!), but because they can’t help but be true to themselves, even when faced with hapless suitors, evil stepmothers and cookie-cutter princes.
As one of Disney’s most enduringly popular heroines, Belle has an iconic wardrobe to match. The simple blue day dress she wears throughout the first half of the movie is a study in girlish innocence, while the opulent golden gown she dons in the movie’s famous ballroom scene marks her transformation from bookish provincial beauty to bona-fide Disney princess. There’s also her richly colored winter outfit comprising a fur-trimmed cape and a flowy gown in a palette of rose pinks and warm reds, which channels aristocratic elegance without going OTT.
Meanwhile, Giselle, whose stubbornly optimistic character is a homage to Disney’s endless parade of innocent but spirited heroines, navigates a cynical New York City dressed largely in extravagantly styled costumes directly inspired by old-time Disney heroines. Her wardrobe ranges from floor-length, cap-sleeved satin dresses splashed with florals and frilly, off-shoulder specimens to poufy bridal gowns that are the stuff girly dreams are made of.
At the more tomboyish end of the spectrum, we’ve got Merida, who prizes comfort and practicality above all. Her dark green maxi dress, shot through with royal touches of gold, looks typically princessy at first glance but reveals itself to be an all-weather, all-situation staple allowing a tremendous amount of movement. Grand enough for state dinners but also perfect for riding across glens and rescuing family members in peril, it’s an iconic costume fit for a princess who believes in choosing her own fate.
Channeling Classic Princess Style with Belle, Giselle and Merida
Who says classic Disney style has to be boring – or only appropriate for Halloween? Staying true to a feminine core while infusing extra grit and glamor, these three updated wardrobes will work equally well for a date night or a solo jaunt through the town square (a.k.a. your local shopping mall).
1. Aiming for that Great Wide Somewhere – Belle
Cop Belle’s sweet, country-chic style with this dusty blue suspender dress layered over a ruffled white shirt with a prominent Peter Pan collar. Amp up the feminine vibes with a matching silk ribbon, a tribute to Belle’s most iconic hair accessory! Instead of our heroine’s classic brown flats, go for these block-heel, ivory-hued Mary Janes – ideal for sealing those fairytale vibes, or for introducing girlish edge into a hipsterish ensemble. Finally, in a nod to Belle’s “provincial” roots, a rustic rattan handbag offers a last shot of summer energy.
2. A Different Kind of Happily Ever After – Giselle
Providing a more wearable but equally romantic update on the bridal gown Giselle was wearing when she was magicked into New York, this ensemble comprises a puff-sleeve, wrap-effect top in cream and a billowy, tiered maxi skirt in ivory. Continuing the fairytale vibes, I’ve selected wired flower accessories you can wind through your tresses for a minimalist reworking of our heroine’s “woodland chic” hairdo. And in a direct homage to the “Cinderella-esque” heels Giselle leaves behind at the movie’s pivotal ball scene, here’s a pointy, fabric-and-PVC version that’s shot through with just the right amount of futurism!
3. Brave and Beautiful – Merida
The green-and-gold palette of Merida’s wardrobe gets a thorough reworking with this unapologetically street-style interpretation. Anchoring the outfit is this bright green, slightly sheer knit top best styled with matching wide-leg pants that echo the streamlined silhouettes of Merida’s flowy gowns. Riffing on the golden touches scattered throughout Merida’s ensembles, I’ve selected this gold-toned necklace with tiny, spiky arrows, a nod to her impeccable archery skills. Complete the outfit with an accessory that any modern-day Merida would be proud of: a bucket hat in dark green corduroy, which comes emblazoned with an avocado appliqué for a cutesy touch.
Thoroughly Modern Princesses
We’ve come a long way since Snow White bit a poisoned apple and promptly fell into a coma, rescued only by Prince Charming’s kiss. With their fierce dreams and free-spirited energy, Belle, Giselle and Merida prove that there’s more than one way to be a Disney heroine – and that there’s more to romance than love at first sight! Of course, it also goes without saying that there are myriad ways to get to “happily ever after” style-wise, whether that means going all out on ribbons and ruffles, or hitting that sweet spot between fairytale vibes and modern-day sophistication.