Cinderella, Princess Aurora, Belle, and Tiana with 'Behind the Seams with Gavia Baker-Whitelaw' logo


Inside the Disney Princess dress phenomenon

How Disney used a particular style of dress to transform its cartoon princesses into an Avengers-style lineup.


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Internet Culture

Why are Disney princesses so unbelievably popular? The obvious answer is “Disney’s terrifyingly powerful corporate branding,” but this story is more complicated than it seems. And it has a lot to do with a particular style of party dress.

This week on Behind the Seams, we look into the phenomenon of the Disney Princess Dress: an outfit that combines 1950s silhouettes with elements of 18th and 19th-century European ball gowns. We delve into the historical influences of movies like Snow White and The Princess and the Frog, along with insight into how Disney transformed cartoon princesses into a cohesive, Avengers-style lineup.

Why is this dated version of feminine beauty still so popular among 21st-century kids? And does this old-school imagery clash with Disney’s efforts to produce more racially inclusive films?

Each week on Behind the Seams, we explore a different element of cinematic costume design, whether that’s a recurring theme (like “dead wife” characters all wearing the same outfits in action movies) or a specific movie with really clever costumes (like Alien or Hustlers). This week is our first episode on animated costume design, but it’s probably not our last. Click here to subscribe!

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