Have you ever wondered what Disney princesses might have “actually” worn during their respective historical time periods?
Claire Hummel, associate production designer at Microsoft Games, did, and her beautifully styled, carefully researched collection went viral.
When I asked Claire what inspired her to create the series over email, she said: “My sister Emily was working as a costumed interpreter at Colonial Williamsburg a couple years back, and whenever I’d visit I’d start thinking about what Belle would be wearing were she appropriately garbed for the time period – not unlike some of the earlier concept art for the film actually. When I drew Belle I wasn’t planning a series, but the more I thought about it, the more I couldn’t resist the challenge.”
Good thing, too, as she’s been flooded with requests to expand the series even further.
Not all the attention she’s received has been positive though, as many die-hard Disney fans have questioned why Claire is “changing” anything at all.
As to that, her response is simple: “It’s not a commentary on the original designs. Honestly, it’s just a chance for me to blow off some design steam in my free time. I do a ton of costume research for my day job, and I actually sew period clothing as well, so this is just an extension of that passion.”
Take a look at all of Claire’s historical Disney Princesses, plus other female characters from Disney films. And yes, she is currently working on an interpretation of Merida (the No. 1 question she’s been asked over and over and over and over as of late), so stay tuned.
A beautifully rendered look at Disney’s princesses and heroines through a more historical lens. 1 of 15
Ariel 2 of 15
"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," Claire says. "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," she continues.
"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."
Aurora 3 of 15
"So Prince Philip does specifically and emphatically say 'this is the 14th century!' at some point during the film," Claire says. "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," she adds.
Another Aurora 4 of 15
"For those of you who swear by the pink dress," Claire says.
Belle 5 of 15
"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," Claire says, noting that above-the-elbow gloves weren't really in fashion until the early 1800's.
Cinderella 6 of 15
"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," Claire says. "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. Not to mention background characters, who seem pretty firmly planted in the middle of the century," she adds. "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... I drew her losing her right shoe instead of her left and only recently realized it. Whoops."
Jasmine 7 of 15
"Let's be frank," Claire says. "Aladdin is hardly an exercise in historical accuracy."
Knowing very little about historical Middle Eastern clothing, Claire faced some days of research before starting.
"It took some effort to track down some midriff-baring outfits, but BY GEORGE I DID," she adds. "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"
Megara 8 of 15
"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," Claire says.
Mulan 9 of 15
"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," Claire says. "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..."
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," she adds. "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."
Pocahontas 10 of 15
"Oh, Pocahontas. Really not one of my favourite Disney films, but it posed an interesting challenge," Claire says. "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, yes, one-shouldered dresses and split skirts existed, YE GADS, 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," she adds. "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."
Another Pocahontas 11 of 15
"I don't think this is what people were expecting as the next entry in the series," Claire says. "But some of the criticisms of my first design have been eating away at me for years now... 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," she adds.
Rapunzel 12 of 15
"I adore Tangled for many reasons, but historical accuracy isn't one of them," Claire says. "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," she adds. "I drew up concepts for both the 16th century - the slashed sleeves - ...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."
Snow White 13 of 15
"Honestly? I just wanted to draw those... slashed sleeves," Claire says. "I want them SO BAD."
"Unlike the aforementioned Little Mermaid, Snow White's time period is pretty easy to pinpoint in 16th century Germany," she adds. "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."
Tiana 14 of 15
"I've been crazy excited to do Tiana," Claire says. "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 [The] 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," she adds. "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," she continues. "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."
Maid Marian 15 of 15
"Yup, this was an April Fool's joke..." Claire says. "A lot of people have been asking about Maid Marian, so I figured I might as well give her a shot."
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