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Serving Looks and Beignets: The Fashion in 'The Princess and The Frog'

The Disney Princess movies have become a staple part of animation history. The romance, the magic, and the fashion has kept audiences captivated for decades. The Princess And The Frog is one of the most beloved animated Disney Princess movies and for good reason. It has stunning animation, a great soundtrack, and well-written characters.


Released in 2009, The Princess and The Frog follows the story of Tiana, a young African American woman in New Orleans, Louisiana who dreams of opening her own restaurant. The movie also introduces the spoiled and arrogant Prince Naveen of Maldonia who arrives in New Orleans with plans to woo and marry Charlotte La Bouff, Tiana’s rich best friend, in hopes of appeasing his family and regaining his fortune after being cut off. The two cross paths when Naveen gets turned into a frog by voodoo practitioner Dr. Facilier. At a masquerade ball thrown by the La Bouffs, Naveen accidentally turns Tiana into a frog, and they are forced to work together to reverse the curse before it becomes permanent.


The Princess and The Frog stands out as one of Disney’s last 2D animated films, and is—to this day—the only Disney Princess film to feature a black princess. However, one of the most distinct yet underrated features of the movie is the fashion—Tiana alone has more outfit changes than any other Disney Princess. Each outfit is not only stunning, of course, but they are also remarkable beyond aesthetics. The fashion in The Princess and The Frog is both incredibly memorable and necessary for understanding the movie on a deeper level, as the historical accuracy of the outfits and their cohesion with the film’s animation styles display Tiana’s character development and reflect the progression of the story.


The Princess and The Frog takes place in 1920s New Orleans, and Tiana’s outfits take clear inspiration from the time period and location while simultaneously depicting her character evolution throughout the film. The audience is first introduced to Tiana as a child in the early 1910s. Tiana is in the La Bouff mansion while her mother, Eudora, makes a dress for Charlotte. Tiana is wearing a simple mint green dress with matching accessories. The dress features a drop waist, green bow, and a Peter Pan collar, all of which were popular features of women’s and children's clothes of the era.


Tiana’s dress is a stark contrast to Charlotte’s, who is wearing a standard poofy princess dress in multiple shades of pink. The differences in color and design parallel the differences in their personalities, as Charlotte’s dress is larger-than-life and dramatic, while Tiana’s is more down-to-earth. Differences in dress also reflect their difference in economic status. Tiana is the daughter of a seamstress and World War II veteran, while Charlotte is the daughter of wealthy sugar baron Eli “Big Daddy” La Bouff, the most powerful man in New Orleans. In a historical context, the two shouldn’t be friends, as they are expected to clash and let their differences define them. However, while the two girls are in very different styles and come from different backgrounds, pink and green are complementary colors, so they do not clash as one may think. This is an ode to the strength of their friendship, regardless of their differences.


In contrast to this casual look, during the “Down in New Orleans” sequence at the end of the film, Tiana is dressed in a gorgeous green dress that takes inspiration from the iconic flapper fashions of the Jazz Age. Contrary to popular Hollywood depictions, flapper dresses were fairly modest, reaching past the knees with an asymmetrical hem and intricate trims, all of which are featured in Tiana’s final dress of the film. This dress reflects Tiana’s elevated status as a princess and successful business owner. Tiana has achieved her dream and wearing the same color as she did in the beginning of the film, Tiana has come full circle.


Photo Credit: ModernGurlz


The fashion of this film is also remarkable because of how well it fits into the animation style. The Princess and The Frog is the last of the 2D animated Disney Princess movies, and with the vibrant colors and beautiful shots throughout the film, it does not disappoint. In the song “Almost There,” Tiana sings about the grand plans she has for her restaurant. The sequence features a lively and sparkling animation in vibrant shades of white, yellow, orange, and brown, taking inspiration from African American artist Aaron Douglas, as well as poster art and Art Deco design from the 1920s. The audience is given a glimpse into Tiana’s dream restaurant with large ornate ballrooms, decadent sweets, and bustling crowds, with Tiana at the center of it all.


A larger-than-life scene requires a larger-than-life outfit, and Tiana’s outfit here is just that. Tiana struts into her fantasy with a white strapped dress, a white feather boa, and an extravagant white hat (which is later replaced with a decorative feather). It is the first lavish ensemble that we see on Tiana, and we later see it again when Dr. Facilier brings Tiana’s dream to life through his voodoo. The opulent outfit combined with the animation style symbolizes the life Tiana wants and how dedicated she is to her dream.


On the other hand, the reprise of “Almost There” has the opposite tone to its predecessor. Tiana is on the La Bouff’s balcony by herself reflecting after she’s just been told that she’s been outbid for the property she was planning to use for her restaurant. It is serene and quiet, and the La Bouff’s balcony is animated almost entirely in shades of blue. Tiana appears in a stunning baby blue dress, with matching opera gloves and jewelry. While wearing and being surrounded by blue, a color often associated with sadness, Tiana is at her lowest point and the sadness she feels is inescapable. Her dreams have been crushed, unfairly at that, and she is at a loss of what to do next. As far as she knows, there is nothing she can do to fix the situation and she’s on her last straw. The sorrow hits the audience as we feel her despair. While her style in this scene is not the most historically accurate, the emotional ties alongside the animation allow the audience to feel her sorrow and despair.


The popularity of The Princess and The Frog can be attributed to many different aspects of the movie, such as the animation, the soundtrack, and the story itself. However, the fashion also aids in the magnificence of the movie. Not only are Tiana’s outfits accurate to the time period while still remaining timeless, they blend in beautifully with the animation of the film. The fashion makes for great visual storytelling, as the evolution of Tiana’s fashion traces her hard work and determination to achieve her dream. For this, the fashion in The Princess and The Frog will go down as one of the best in animation history.

 

Shania Murdock is a Freshman in the College studying English.

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