28 thoughts on “Disney Princess Historical Costume Influences: Sleeping Beauty (1959)

  1. The one period “crossed” lacing looks like it’s a single lace that threaded up loosely through one side, then back down the other, picking up loops from the first side as it went. Interesting.

  2. First: Yes, this is The Best Disney Princess Movie, The End. Second: DUH Team Pink.

    Third: The birthday dress is more like a Victorian costume of medieval … or Star Trek, which came out in 1964, so y’know, it’s as likely as anything else.

    1. I love this film, and I like the pink version too. I think I love it because of the ballet music.

  3. Team Blue here as well! I like pink, but that particular shade just didn’t do anything for me.

    That said, and I know others have said it, but that collar is a more exaggerated and pointy version of the one found in the best-known portrait of Elizabeth Woodville (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Woodville#/media/File:ElizabethWoodville.JPG), Queen of England c1471. Even that necklace Aurora wears is a similar shape and in close to the same position. The brooch and thinner chain aren’t there, but that was probably for ease of animation.

    The hair could be more of the attempted medieval theme or the lingering notion that a woman’s beauty is in her hair (and it should be long to be truly feminine).

    And I’ll tell you the one that has always bothered me about the birthday preparations: they’ve been living like human women in the woods for almost 16 years, and they still don’t know how to cook or sew? How did they feed the poor girl? Or keep her out of rags? (alright, Disney movie…logic? What’s that?)

    (and speaking of medieval–try Robin Hood, 1991, with Uma Thurman. It seems to have some mysticism going on, but the costumes looked pretty accurate to me. I was hoping one of you lovely people might have reviewed it, but alas, no.)

    1. I remember from watching the movie that when Flora announces that she will sew the dress and Fauna chimes in that she always wanted to bake the cake, Merryweather protests that Flora can’t sew and Fauna never cooked. Also, Merryweather’s knowledge of what tsp means hints that she cooked for the family, while Fauna looked after Aurora and Flora cleaned the cottage. Seeing each fairy godmother attempting to do the others job did provide a source of amusement, though.

  4. Okay, I’ll start with a disclaimer. I don’t remember ever actually watching Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, I probably did as a child but it never stuck with me.
    But moving on… I always thought her outfits were Victorian-Elizabethan-revival. Perhaps that standing collar was a crazy interpretation and amalgamation of shoulder wings and an Elizabethan standing collar? The peplum a corselet http://thedreamstress.com/2012/07/swiss-waist-waist-cincher-corset-and-corselet-whats-the-difference/corselet-ca-1867-french-silk-met/.
    Mid Victorian during the Elizabethan revival would also go a long way toward explaining that spinning wheel, the hair, the white petticoats and her shorter ‘childhood’ skirt in the woods. But medieval? I can’t reconcile her outfit with medieval at all.

  5. Let’s be clear here, Maleficent was THE BEST THING about that whole movie. I had the audiobook as a small child and she scared the everloving bejesus out of me as a young child.

  6. Hi back with more historic options for you.

    Aurora’s first dress could very likely have been Flemish in origin. Examples of shorter dresses worn by the peasantry can be seen in Flemish works of art by Jan Brueghel the Elder such as this one
    Note the women to the far left and the ones toward the front of the procession, much shorter then the dress worn by the lady of station.
    An answer for the strapless bodice can be provided by a common clothing item of the day called a partlet. This item was worn over a bodice and would cover the top of the shoulders and top of the bosom and pinned under the arms. It was normally white and could easily hide the bodice and in many paintings could be misconstrued as a shirt style top. They also had a number of collar styles including pointed. Some excellent examples can be seen here.

    Then there is the pink dress… or blue… or pink… whatever… The Dress… drives me nuts. It is not really medieval. The base corset/skirt silhouette can fit almost any time frame from the late 1400’s forward to current day. However the over all elements of the dress really put it more toward the mid 1800’s or later. Here are my reasons for this…

    The bodice…. 1- the corset/bodice top does not have the elongated stomacher or central busk that is seen in much of the fashion of the 1500-1600’s and the inclusion of said corset places the dress as well after the 1400’s. 2- She has no under dress or chemise under it which were common garments in the middle ages.

    The collar…. 1- while off the shoulder dresses date back to at least the 1600’s they were not the norm until much later. 2- Wired collars didn’t become fashionable until the mid 1600’s.. no I don’t mean the heavy ruffs worn prior but rather the high standing lace or fabric collars such as these.(These even give us a good idea where some of Snow Whites outfit comes from.)
    It could even be a mis-interpretation of a collar such as this where the chemise or a white sash puff out along the neckline of the dress.
    However these are still not quite right.

    The skirt…. 1- The odd dagged waist.. I could try to claim that this is like the dags on 1500-1600’s bodices but that would be a far stretch as those normally matched the bodice. Instead I have to go all the way to the early to mid-Victorian era for some possible thoughts on this. The following examples say or rather show it all.
    2- Multiple petticoats was not a common way to add volume to a skirt until the 1700’s. 3- She is not wearing a farthingale. These hoop skirts were worn in courts across most of Europe from at least the late 1400’s until the early 1700’s… we are no longer in the middle ages at that point.

    When looking for a time frame when all of the dresses elements can merge you end up with either late 1600’s, early Victorian, or late Victorian. In all three of these you have flowing gowns with petticoats under them, off the shoulder tops without under dresses showing, tight fitting sleeves with the dagged end, contrasting overlays at th waist, as well as options for wired collars,and skirts, bodices, and sleeves with different colors (although not as common as fully matching outfits). Every element that makes for a fantastic, enchanting fairy-tale ball gown.

    1. Hello @Daphne, it appears none of the “indulgy” links work, they just send one to the main page sadly. Thanks for your counter interpretation though, interesting. I always imagined Sleeping Beauty set in medieval times as Kendra has. Always good to hear a different point of view….

  7. My grandma had a silvery blue dress in the 1950’s (think Dior New Look) with a waistline that came down into a series of points. It had cap sleeves and a neckline that came down to a slight point in the middle, and it had a full skirt (with room for a petticoat). My mom wore that dress again in the 1990s, when I was a little kid, and I immediately saw the similarities between that and Sleeping Beauty’s dress. My guess is that the pointy peplum was a reference to that kind of angular design in some of the Dior New Look dresses. Actually, if you give Sleeping Beauty’s gown a shorter skirt, it’s pretty much a ’50s dress.

    I’m Team Blue… because I’m now trying to re-make that same ’50s dress (it fell apart recently). I noticed from watching a lot of movies from the ’50s how popular silver-blue was, and now I LOVE that color! I want to bring it back into fashion.

  8. We seem to be ignoring the fact that Aurora was based on Audrey Hepburn! Her peasant dress is directly lifted from Roman Holiday with a ‘bodice’ added to make it historical (lol)

  9. to me the birthday dress has always looked like Charles James’ petal dress with sleeves and a stand up collar, so to me much more of a 50’s silhouette in every way.

  10. Aurora is a tricky case because a lot of the elements of her design are heavily filtered through a 1950s lens. For Sleeping Beauty’s distinct look, Eyvind Earle studied the Limbourg brothers’ Très Riches Heures de Duc de Berry, the paintings of Jan van Eyck, and the Unicorn Tapestries. It’s possible that the ladies’ gowns in the Très Riches Heures, especially the illuminations for April, May, and August, influenced the off-the-shoulder sleeves and full skirt of Aurora’s gown. Although Aurora’s bangs are pure 1950s, the decision to give her long, loose blonde hair also probably came from the Limbourg brothers and van Eyck, such as the woman in pink in the Très Riches Heures’ illumination for April. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c6/Les_Tr%C3%A8s_Riches_Heures_du_duc_de_Berry_avril.jpg

    A correction, Aurora doesn’t wear shoes as Briar Rose. Look at her dance in the “Once Upon a Dream” sequence again. Those feet are bare!

    Team Blue!

  11. It’s unrelated to Aurora, but this is my absolute favorite Sleeping Beauty costume fact. Here’s King Stefan Decanski of Serbia: javascript:ViewImage(‘/sv_kralj.jpg’,419,600,’St. King Stefan’)

    … and here’s Disney’s King Stefan: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/58/72/99/587299b4d7d7e8c5ad74679f1357d92a.jpg

    If that isn’t a coincidence (and I doubt it is, given Davis and Earle’s medieval tapestry inspiration), then it’s possibly my favorite easter egg of all time.

  12. Just wanted to chime in on the matter of the collar on the final gown, as I’m currently working with a friend who is a seamstress to create a cosplay outfit partially based upon Sleeping Beauty. My friend has a background in reproducing historical clothing from a variety of eras, and she likened the collar to a bertha from the mid-1800’s, which she has made for other creations in the past.

    For her, it’s the peplum that is the most perplexing…she doesn’t even like referring to that element as such, but we just can’t figure out what else to call it LOL

  13. Chiming in on petticoats!

    White-white wouldn’t happen (because why waste precious urine-bleaching skills on underwear?), but undyed linen for petticoats would have happened in period. After all, nobody’s likely to see them much, so unless you were stinking rich you didn’t fool with fancy dyes and embroidery.

  14. I NEED more of these, please and thank you! You could even do Peter Pan with the real clothes the Darlings would’ve worn vs. the movie?

  15. I think the big thing about Disney Princess dresses is that by and large they draw on the silhouettes of whenever they’re made and a one-1850’s-ballgown-fits-all mindset. (I am SO looking at you, Beauty & the beast)
    Sleeping Beauty is something of an exception because she’s really the only Disney Princess set firmly in the medieval period. It’s interesting to hunt down possible actually historical inspirations for them – I always kind of thought they just fudged it all. Which in a lot of cases is clearly true. Also a possible reason for they lacy petticoats on Sleeping Beauty is that the dance animation was re-used from Cinderella, who’s dress had the same petticoat structure. (Also omfg, let’s do a Vienese Waltz in 14th century France whe-hey!)

    Team Pink forever.
    This was a huge thing for me as a kid because I was a pink monster and I hated that there was only ONE princess depicted in marketing stuff with a pink dress and even then they were trying to foist blue on her. I didn’t know the different colour/gender associations throughout history as a child, so it seemed so wrong to me that no Disney Princesses (THE GODDESSES of Princesses) had pink solidly locked down. It also bugged the shit out of me that Aurora didn’t have ‘Floppy’ sleeves because she was a medieval princess and medieval meant floppy sleeves. It just did. It transpires i wasn’t TOTALLY off base. Granted my beloved floppy sleeves touched more on 12th century bliaut, I’m pretty sure the 14th century tippets would have hit the right sweet spot for me, so I have some kind of closure on that sticking point.

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