Thursday, 10 November 2011

Historically Accurate Disney Princesses

I'm one of those pedantic history nerds who splutters in disgust when characters in historical films/television shows are wearing historically inaccurate costumes.  So I was delighted when I came across these illustrations of Disney princesses. 

Claire Hummel (also known as Shoomla), an artist for Microsoft Game Studios Publishing, decided to take the original Disney outfits and rework them to create more historically-accurate costumes that belong to specific time periods.  My favourite has to the Princess Jasmine (above), who's outfit is based on Persian  fashions from the 1800s.

Sleeping Beauty is based on fashions from the year 1485. Her outfit so much more beautiful than the original, with a lot more detail.

Cinderella's dress is based on fashions of the mid-1860s. I love the glimpse of hoop petticoat below those fantastic striped skirts.

Snow White is another of my favourites.  The strong colours of the original design work well with the modified costume, based on outfits from early 16th century Germany.

Pocahontas, shown here in 17th century Powhatan costume, is one of the more controversial illustrations.  The real Pocahontas was a 12 year-old when John Smith met her, and probably would have been naked, but Hummel said she was not trying to illustrate the historical figure but the Disney character.  She told Flavorwire:
“Oh, Pocahontas. Really not one of my favorite Disney films, but it posed an interesting challenge. 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 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 — 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.”

Ariel, from the Little Mermaid, obviously has to be shown in her human incarnation.  Here she is dressed in an 1890s evening gown.  The bouquet of seaweed is a clever touch!

Belle from Beauty and the Beast is dressed in French court fashion from the 1770s.  If you are interested in Claire's ideas behind the costumes, do have a read of the Flavorwire article.


  1. Having referred back to the link you offered in your post, I'm curious how you came to the conclusion that Princess Jasmine's outfit "is based on pre-Islamic Middle Eastern fashions"? Could you elaborate why you "believe" they are pre-Islamic and please refer me to literature that states so (if available?). Thanks.

    1. I understand that this is not my question to answer, but in history I learned that the story Aladdin came from Aladdin's Magic Lamp which was briefly mentioned in 1001 Arabian Nights. The story came from the Arabian Peninsula (which strongly consisted of Islamic followers). The story was told time and time again to what it is now known today. I learned this in 7th grade History but the story itself is not in the student book.

  2. I actually got that information from this article where the Princess Jasmine costumes was captioned as pre-Islamic. Looking back at the original Flavorwire article about the pictures I can see that Claire Hummel described this picture as being based on Persian fashion plates. I'm not sure why the Visual News poster decided on the pre-Islamic idea, but I stupidly copied it without really thinking. Claire explained her choice of Persian costume for an Arabic character in this post Thanks for drawing my attention to this error, I'm definitely no costume expert but I'm smacking my head for getting this one so wrong. Will amend post.