Disney Princess Dress Fantasy: Cinderella’s Outfit and Women Body
Shui Leung Cheuk, Kannis
June 1, 2014
Once upon a time, a little girl dreamed of having the ‘magical princess dress’, a dress that makes she chins up and chests out; gets a permit to the gorgeous ball where she can find the prince charming; a dress that means the dream of a lifetime.
You won’t be surprise to see a dozen or even more ‘Cinderellas’ in Disneyland. Little girls want to grow up to be one of the princesses, starting with wearing the ‘magical’ gown to the ending of happily ever after forever. Snow White, Belle, Jasmine and Cinderella in Disney films are some of the most popular characters in the world; are considered to be the role models for many teenage girls. Yet, does anyone think about the meaning beyond the princess dresses? In this essay, I choose Cinderella’s dress (Disney Film) as a text, to discuss how it twists women body structurally, shapes the sickness concept of beauty; and how it conceptually projects a patriarchal convention in the society.
Look at Cinderella’s outfit, what comes into your mind? Elegant? Beautiful? Feminine? Then what elements make you think about that? The white sashes, laces, and the baby blue you may say, but the corset, tutu dress and puff sleeves are the key answer for me. Unfortunately, those elements twist women body in a very wrong way. Usually, corset is a garment that holds and shapes a body into a desired figure, tutu hoop as well. They emphasize a curvy figure of women’s ideal body, by reducing the waistline, exaggerating the bust and hips. However, does it mean that all girls, who want to be princesses should have this perfect figure (big bust and hips plus 22 inches waist), thin and boneless? You may argue that this ‘magical princess dress’ is only existed in children’s fantasy. No! It existed everywhere: thousands of women want to lose weight to fit in the prom dresses, wedding gowns and ball wears. In a BC study (Canadian Women Foundation), 60% of underweight teenage girls who said they were too fat to be perfect while only 15% boys agreed the statement. Those girls claimed that they want to lose weight to fit in the ‘XS’ and ‘size 0’ dresses. “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman” (Beauvoir, 1973). The structure of princess dresses construed women body figure wrongly, which is sickness and unacceptable.
Apart from the sickness structure of women body, Cinderella’s dress upholds a patriarchal convention in social context. Cinderella’s dress first featured in the 1950 animated film produced by Walt Disney, based on the fairy tale “Cendrillon”. The purpose of the princess dress is, to please for men, to catch the prince’s eyes, showed the mentality of dominate gender.
Cinderella was ashamed to wear the old dress to the royal ball, therefore she asked her mice friend and the witch altered her old dress. Once she wears the new dress, she was confidant, happy and beautiful. More importantly, she wasn’t shamed of herself anymore; she was shined to catch men’s attention. This dress represented a change, that gain the opportunity to be happy. Woman as an object, which establish the domination of men. Social conventions are instituted to children through the princess characters, in order to embed gender behaviours.
So, whenever you look at the Disney princess dresses, apart from the magical and fantastic world, don’t forget the negative side of them. They are the products of anti-feminist propaganda that mislead to an ideal women figure and mis-project the unfair gender convention.
Girls, you deserve and meant to be the princess for someone. Trust me!