Disney princesses are possibly some of the best-known characters worldwide, and part of their appeal lies in their oldey-timey-ness. Each one is certainly a product of the period in which the movie was made, but they are also almost always set in a fantasy historical setting… and thus, their costumes are fantasy historical as well. In this series, we’re going to analyze each of the Disney princesses to discuss the historical influences in their costumes. We’ll work in chronological order of the movies, and then we’ll go back and do all the villains! Previously, we analyzed Snow White (1937), so today, it’s all about…
Cinderella — originally released in 1950. Missed Part 1 of my Cinderella analysis? Check it out here.
We’ve only got two more outfits to look at, plus hair. But they are the biggies!
Cinderella Outfit #5: Ball Gown
When we last left Cinderella, she couldn’t go to the ball because 1) the Steps are big meanies, and 2) they destroyed her dress. Along comes the Fairy Godmother, and Cindy gets her Dress-with-a-capital-D.
One thing that’s interesting about this dress is that contrary to most of the reproductions, including the official Disneyland/Disney World repros, Cinderella’s dress is white or white and silver, not blue.
This dress is a mishmash of possible eras. First, let’s look at the silhouette, which is very full but mostly over the hips. This is very much like the mid-18th-century shape (1730s-1770s), created by hoops that are flat in back and front and only extend over the sides.
While that 18th-century example has a boxy shape, there were also more curved silhouettes used in the period. For example, this late 18th-century court dress has a much more curved silhouette along the lines of the Cinderella dress:
For Cinderella’s dress, it appears that her wide skirt shape is created only through petticoats, not a hoop. The 18th-century wide silhouette pretty much always involved some kind of hoop. You do see a petticoat-only full skirt in the 1830s-50s, but these are a rounded shape (meaning there’s fullness in front and back, too).
Next, let’s talk about those poufy swags over the hips:
Theory #1: These represent the looped-up skirts popular in the late 18th century. Problem: These are looped up at the side back, and there’s another swag at the center back.
Theory #2: These represent the looped-up skirts of the very early bustle era (1869-72ish), which were a revival of the 18th-century style. Problem: Again, there was usually a swag or something at the center back.
Theory #3: 18th-century court dresses had a separate train, could be split at the center front. These could either cover the corners of the hoop and then draw back or be drawn back much closer to the waist.
Here’s a court dress where the train is pulled back much closer to the waist:
None of these options, however, are exactly like what we’re looking at on Cinderella’s dress.
For the sleeves, we’re back to WTF land. The only thing I’ve got are the high, puffed sleeves of the late 1890s:
Long, over the elbow gloves were popular at various points in the 19th and 20th centuries. Generally, the rule is that the shorter the sleeve is, the longer the glove (and vice versa).
Chokers have been worn in many eras, most notably the mid-18th century, and from the 1860s through the 1910s.
And of course, we’ve got Ye Olde Glass Slipper! Silhouette-wise, it looks straight out of the late 1940s:
Cinderella Outfit #6: Wedding Dress
This sucker is allll early 1950s, baby. Sure, you could go out on a limb and claim that a big skirt and long sleeves is “Victorian,” but it’s also late 1940s/early 1950s. Don’t believe me? Here are some wedding dresses from the period:
The one weirdly interesting style detail is the very high, above the bust cross-over detail on the bodice:
I’ve never seen that anywhere except in the mid-20th century:
Finally, we’ve got this cap-esque wedding veil, which looks very much like a 1930s-50s cap/Juliet veil:
And finally, HAIR!
I’ve left hair til last, because it’s mostly the same thing throughout. Cinderella has bangs, although they are very 1940s, Betty Grable-esque. Yes, they had bangs in the 1880s-1890s, but they tended to be small, curly wisps.
For the ball, she wears the same bangs, with the rest of the hair up in a French twist and a headband:
This high-on-the-crown-of-the-head knot looks similar to the styles worn in the late 1880s and early 1890s:
Did you catch any historical references that I missed in Cinderella’s costumes? Let me know in the comments!
The Fashion Historian’s post on how Cinderella embodied the ideals of her day is also worth reading!
Thanks to Disney Screencaps.com for the movie screencaps!