If Disney Princesses Were Historically Accurate

What would your favorite Disney princesses have actually looked like IRL?

1. Watch these models transform into historically accurate Disney princesses:

Disney creates fictional worlds for their princesses to live in, drawing on historical and mythical inspiration to create beautiful fairy tales. We wondered what the princesses would’ve looked like if they’d existed in the real world, so we used context clues from the films to determine, as specifically as possible, the time and location of each Disney princess’s story.

*based on the Disney films, not the original source material.

Music Credit: “Bloom,” ODESZA

2. Jasmine, Aladdin — c. 300s Arabian Peninsula

Eugene Lee Yang / Via youtube.com

CONTEXT CLUES:
“Salaam,” an Arabic greeting, is used several times.
• The opening song, “Arabian Nights,” is pretty clear about where this story takes place.
• When Genie makes over Aladdin into Prince Ali, he says, “First, that fez and vest combo is much too third century,” making it seem like Aladdin must take place in at least the fourth century A.D.

Disney / Caroline Miller / Via youtube.com

Islam became a religion during the seventh century A.D., so Aladdin takes place in a pre-Islamic Arabian society. Women of the region dressed modestly even before Islam took hold; probably wearing loose, shapeless clothing. Many women (higher-class women like Jasmine especially) wore veils of varying lengths. Some women wore veils that left only one eye exposed, while others wore veils just over the hair. A woman of Jasmine’s elite social status would’ve worn more elaborate, high-quality clothing and fabrics than lower-class women. Thick black eye kohl was commonly worn by women of the era.

4. Aurora, Sleeping Beauty — c. 1300s England

Eugene Lee Yang / Via youtube.com

CONTEXT CLUES:
• An illuminated manuscript with gold leafing opens the film.
• Aurora’s name before she knows she is a princess is Briar Rose, which is a rose that has been prevalent in England since ancient times.
• Prince Philip says to King Hubert, “Now, Father, you’re living in the past! This is the 14th century!” when he thinks Aurora is a peasant and still wants to marry her.

Disney / Caroline Miller / Via youtube.com

Aurora would’ve had a lot to adjust to once she discovered she was a princess, as noblewomen led far more restricted lives than peasants. Aristocratic women also had a different style of dress than peasant women. Thanks to innovations in dressmaking, 14th-century English noblewomen had tailored, tight-fitting sleeves and bodices for the first time. Surcotes were worn atop the fitted dress; these were secondary, loose dresses, almost like robes. Surcotes were often worn open, and would either have a long train or be sleeveless. Brooches decorated the fitted bodices.

Women with wide foreheads and blonde hair were considered especially beautiful during 14th century England. Women wore their hair in vertical braids by their ears, sometimes supported by hair pieces, veils, or crowns.

6. Snow White, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs — c. mid- to late 1500s Germany

Eugene Lee Yang / Via youtube.com

CONTEXT CLUES:
• Opens with a storybook that is reminiscent of early printing press manuscripts.
• The dwarfs’ home is decorated with carved wooden furniture and instruments, which, along with the mountains and forest, is typical of the Black Forest region of Germany.
• The dwarfs yodel: yodeling was first recorded in Europe in 1545, so Snow White must’ve taken place after that.
• With all this information, we decided that Snow White must’ve taken place in the mid- to late 1500s, Germany.

Disney / Caroline Miller / Via youtube.com

Though still part of the Holy Roman Empire during the 16th century, Protestant reformations had sprung up around Germany and the culture was austere and religious. German women during this time period wore rich, heavy, dark-colored fabrics, with exaggerated, puffed up shoulders and hips. Their dresses reached the floor, emphasized the waist, and had a high neckline. Women wore their hair pulled back, often covering it with a headpiece.

8. Pocahontas, Pocahontas — c. early 1600s Virginia

Eugene Lee Yang / Via youtube.com

CONTEXT CLUES:
None necessary — the story very clearly takes place when John Smith landed in Virginia and met the native Powhatan tribe.

Disney / Caroline Miller / Via youtube.com

The real Pocahontas was only about 11 years old when John Smith arrived with the Virginia Company of London in 1607. Pocahontas would have been considered a woman in the tribe once she turned 13. The daughter of the Powhatan chief, she would’ve worn a deerskin wrap around her waist with only strands of white shell beads around her neck. In the winter, she may have worn a leather cloak around her shoulders to keep warm. When unmarried, Powhatan women wore their hair in one long braid; women would cut their hair short after marriage.

High-status Powhatan women like Pocahontas tattooed their faces and bodies with abstract patterns, sometimes of plants and animals. The ink was made of mashed roots, berries, and oils. Pocahontas most likely had face tattoos!

10. Belle, Beauty and the Beast — c. 1700s France

Eugene Lee Yang / Via youtube.com

CONTEXT CLUES:
• In the opening song, Belle says “bonjour” to the townspeople, and in “Be Our Guest,” Lumiere says, “After all, Miss, this is France.”
• When Cogsworth is giving Belle a tour of the castle, he describes the architecture as the “unusual Rococo design,” and “this is yet another example of the late Neoclassic Baroque period.” This dates the film to the 17th–18th century.
• The fact that the Beast is a prince means that the story took place when there was still aristocracy, before the French Revolution in 1789.

Disney / Caroline Miller / Via youtube.com

Once Belle married the Beast and became part of the aristocracy, she would have worn the styles found in the royal court. Like the styles worn by Marie Antoinette, who lived during this period, women wore extravagant dresses with tight-fitting corsets and exaggerated hips. (Bummer to think about what would’ve happened to Belle and the Beast during the French Revolution, though.)

Women in 18th-century France wore their hair in huge, elaborate hairdos. The bouffants could be as long as the face. Often these hairdos were wigs, but whether natural or fake, the hairstyle was powdered white. Women also powdered their faces down to their shoulders. The look was altogether unnatural: The cheeks were heavily rouged, and women wore black silk beauty patches of varying sizes on their faces.

12. Tiana, The Princess and the Frog — c. 1920s New Orleans

Eugene Lee Yang / Via youtube.com

CONTEXT CLUES:
• Says immediately at the start of the film that Tiana’s mom is “the finest seamstress in New Orleans.”
Jazz, drop-waisted skirts, and Gatsby-esque cars date the film to the 1920s.

Disney / Caroline Miller / Via youtube.com

Although Tiana spends much of the film as a frog in the bayou, she is firmly in the world of 1920s New Orleans. Jim Crow laws were in effect during the 1920s, and New Orleans was a segregated city. At the same time, New Orleans was a cultural center and the birthplace of jazz.

Women in that era wore straight, curveless dresses with dropped waists. Hair was worn in a short bob, and small hats and headpieces emphasized the haircut. Makeup was inspired by Hollywood: penciled-in arched eyebrows, eyeliner, mascara, rouged cheeks, and dark red lipstick.

14. Did they really all live happily ever after?

BuzzFeed Video / Via youtube.com

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