Dress Code Violations? Blame Disney’s Princesses

April 19, 2013 — 3 Comments

Once the snow has melted, and mud dries up enough so wearing flip flops is possible, the season of dress code violations begins. Whether your school dress code policy is ultra conservative or lassiez faire, every spring, there will be one or two students, usually female, who will challenge the dress code with an alarmingly inappropriate outfit.

Part of the problem is that middle and high school females come in all shapes and sizes. A T-tank may be perfectly acceptable on one boyish girl’s figure, but eye-popping on a more buxom girl. A short skirt that looks sporty on one girl can look like taut athletic bandage wrap on another. Showing a little skin, say a an upper arm or a long leg may look healthy on one student while baring a large middle abdominal area or the top of the derriere provides more information than necessary.

I have often wondered how any student could think that the off the shoulder or midriff display is acceptable in school. Lately, I have been assigning the blame to Disney. Specifically, I blame the Disney princesses.

Consider how the Disney princesses of older generations were fully clothed. These princesses were:

  • Snow White (1937)
  • Sleeping Beauty (1959)
  • Cinderella (1950)

disney-princess-coloring-pages-7-comThese old-fashioned Disney princesses twirled with full skirted gowns, short or full sleeves, and accessorized their looks with gloves, capes, and the occasional scarf for cleaning.  There was an open neckline, but no décolletage. Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) had a slight “over the shoulder” design that was covered by a large white collar in the pink/blue/pink/blue ballgown. The only character to reveal much flesh was Peter Pan’s Tinkerbell (1953) in a strapless gymnastic tight of sparkling citrus green. In subsequent generations, and without the benefit of a singing voice, Tinkerbell has been upgraded from fairy to princess. Her more melodious princess cousins were more modest dressers.

The next round of Disney princesses began in 1989. These princesses looked and acted very differently beginning with:

  • The Little Mermaid (1989) 
  • Beauty and the Beast (1991) 
  • Aladdin (1992) 
  • Pocahontas (1995)
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) 
  • Hercules (1997) 
  • The Frog Princess (2009)

Recall the fashion influences of each of these princesses on students for the past 24 years:

  • The Little Mermaid‘s Princess Ariel’s species (born mermaid/part-time human) dictated that she wore little clothing, but the clamshells and low cut waist on her tail left little to the imagination. In creating such a daring outfit, the irony of Ariel’s lyrics,”Bet’cha on land they understand/That they don’t reprimand their daughters” appears to have been lost on her costume designers.
  • Beauty and the Beast‘s Princess Belle was a throwback to the princesses of the previous generation with the exception of her bare shoulders and a plunging neckline, a daring choice for dancing with a (possibly hungry?) “Beast”.
  • Aladdin‘s Princess Jasmine drew from the Ariel model; her cropped top and low cut balloon pants left a large expanse of middle, a surprising choice for a princess from a culture that suggests head to toe coverage for females in public.
  • In Pocahontas, the athletic Princess Pocahontas was designed as an American-Tarzan-ette. Dressed organically in a one-shoulder playsuit of buckskin and shells, she was lean, muscular, and barefoot; there was little clothing to hamper her progress through Colonial Virginia’s brush and briar.
  • In The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, the Gypsy Princess Esmerelda was dressed as the seductress Victor Hugo created; with her dark eyes smoldering over a daring low neckline and her shawl wrapped provocatively at her hips over a high slit skirt to jingle as she swayed. 
  • Princess Megera from Hercules had a body design lifted from the Barbie model with an equally impossible ratio of bust to hips size that allowed her to squeeze into her tight toga. While other princesses swayed, Megera sashayed into her hero’s life.
  • In The Frog Princess, Disney removed the racial barrier in creating Tiana. An African American Princess, Tiana was dressed in a gown mashup of Belle’s flowing ball gown skirt sitting below Tinkerbell’s bodice, that is when she was not on screen as a naked frog.

The fashions of these Disney princesses (1989-2009) were generally less modest than the fashions of previous generations. Their costumes had plunging necklines, bared midriffs, and high skirts. Their outfits, however, could also indicate the kinds of princesses they were, not castle-bound beauties, but more hands-on active counterparts to their princes.

For a quarter of a century, girls have grown up with the images of Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Megera, Esmerelda, Pocohantas, and Tiana. They have dreamed of swimming “Under the Sea” or running with the “Colors of the Wind” or dancing with teapots to “Be Our Guest”.

So what would be the outfit of choice for school boards trying to design policy for  female students who have imitated the fashions of their beloved princesses since childhood? What princess outfit could pass muster?

There could be a vote for the clothing of Mulan (1998) a warrior princess who was forced to remain clothed top to bottom in order to hide her gender during warrior training and battle. Even when she returned to her role as a dutiful daughter, she was completely covered in a beautiful kimono. This choice, however, may be too much of a cultural stretch.

Finally, there could be a vote for the Princess Rapunzel from Tangled (2010) whose hair was the fashion statement. Part costume and part weapon, Rapunzel’s hair kept the audience from noticing any exposed body parts, however hair like hers could make movement through the crowded school hallways difficult.

Oh, Disney, if only you knew the consternation caused by your princess fashion designs. Maybe school boards could send your animators their dress codes so future princesses would dress accordingly. Better yet, Disney, you could stick to animating animals. We don’t mind seeing Dory (Finding Nemo) or Nala (The Lion King) naked; in fact, we like them better that way.

3 responses to Dress Code Violations? Blame Disney’s Princesses


    Thank you for this post! I feel like a total square (ha) because I’m sometimes bothered by the way teen girls dress. It’s hard to find that balance between “don’t judge a book by its cover”/”freedom of expression”/who is sexualizing the girls–themselves, of those of us reacting to them etc., and my own more “formal” personality. There are a lot of problems with the whole Disney/Princess culture and this is definitely one of them. There is so much to “unpack” about how young women dress! Sigh.


    I have been pondering this blog post for a number of days now and I, having 8 daughters, believe I am qualified to make a comment. I could not agree with you more about Disney. But its not just the clothes. However we are adressing the clothes here so I will stick to that. Young girls are introduced to the Disney Princesses, well, mega culture complete with accessories, at such a young age. As they grow Disney then provides real life “heroines” such as Hannah Montana, Witches of Waverly Place, Jessie, …that all show young girls with bare midriffs, bare shoulders, short shorts…ect. Heck even the cartoon “Kim Possible”s midriff is always on display. Disney then provides us with teenager after teenager in real action movies with the same wardrobe. Lindsey Lohan, Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus, Brittney Spears, Demi Lovato, Hilary Duff……I could go on. All in movies that glamorize SHOPPING and wearing “Such cute outfits” yeah….on little girls with cute little tight bodies. I find this almost pre-porn, a softning of a womans natural instincts of modesty. An attack. That being said I now will share a personal story. Years ago when my eldest, MaryRose was about 12 I took her clothes shopping. Such cute outfits for cute little bodies. Spagettii straps, short shorts, a little midriff showing, low cut shorts. I was o.k. with this, my daughter looked cute. Later when my husband Dave got home we proudly showed off our purchases. Dave hit the celiling. Shocked into silence and completely stunned by his reaction, I stopped arguing and listened, something i do not do well. Dave was in protective mode. He outlined his case telling me that these girls do NOT need to show off that much skin and if I would not fight for their dignity well then, he would. So taken back by his reaction, I realized I needed to respect his decision on this and trust Dave to be the protector. The clothes became pjs for hot nights or hanging around the house but NEVER to be worn in public. As the girls got older he would regularly make them reach both hands up to the ceiling to see if their bellybuttons showed. If they did, the shirt was changed. Well over the years the rules have softened here and there, a strapless dress, WITH A SHAWL, is worn to a formal dance here and there. Spagetti straps are rarely seen but maybe on a really hot day. In the end this did more good for my girls then I ever could have seen. They all know Dad cares how they are seen. Dad cares about their modesty. Dad cares about their dignity. I don’t fight the clothing battle anymore. Because Dad cares, they care. In a day and age where parents fight schools to let their middle school girls wear strapless dresses…http://on.aol.com/video/nj-principal-bans-strapless-dresses-for-8th-grade-dance-517756288?hp=1&playlist=127161&icid=maing-grid7%7Cmain5%7Cdl2%7Csec1_lnk3%26pLid%3D303434 Maybe the real problem is the lack of a protective father. That men allow their daughters to go out in public half dressed because they look cute. Any influence Disney holds will be blown away by a Loving Dad who will keep and tend his garden. A man who protects.

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