Belle the Feminist: The Story Behind the Costumes of Beauty and the Beast
By: Madison Snyder
Oscar-winning costume designer Jacqueline Durran took on the challenge of recreating innovative designs for the 2017 live action film Beauty and the Beast. Not only did Durran successfully keep the 1991 animated classic’s aesthetic, she kept Emma Watson’s empowered, independent image intact.
Durran started with a feminist approach to traditional 18th-century French attire. In an interview with Fashionista, she explained how the design team incorporated a twist on the traditional pocket, usually found on the inside of women’s dresses. “We just put them on the outside [like a tool belt] to look extra useful,” she reveals. Her goal was to incorporate small changes in Belle’s wardrobe that depict her character as active and independent, instead of submissive and fragile.
Belle’s famous yellow ballgown proved to be a challenge for the designers, as it was difficult to transform the original idea of a frilly princess dress into a powerful fashion statement. The team ditched the corset upon Watson’s request, as Durran told People Watson “wanted to have something she could move in and she definitely, adamantly would not be wearing a corset.” Finding the perfect shade of yellow became a challenge, as well. But the finished gown possesses a delicate balance of movability, elegance, and modernism.
Perhaps the most interesting challenge that Durran and her team faced was deciding how to go about creating costumes for the beast, a CGI generated image. An obvious emotional maturation occurs within the beast throughout the duration of the movie, and his attire directly reflects this transformation. His dapper, meticulously painted suit, showcased in the famous ballroom scene, displays this internal character shift from barbaric to civilized.
Durran’s unique visual eye allows her to rejuvenate this Disney classic into an empowering, feminist love story. Her unique sense of innovation helps show Belle as the independent woman Emma Watson embodies and illustrates the internal maturation within the beast that unfolds throughout the story.
Featured Image provided by Flickr