I’ve made a new Historical Disney drawing, this time featuring Ariel in her blue carriage ride/sightseeing ensemble. I’m still not an artist, and I still only have access to the simplest equipment, but what I do have is a passion for and a pretty good grip on historical fashion, and a fondness for Disney characters.
As usual with Disney films, the costumes are a mashup of historical influences (in this case, they range from at least the 16th to the 20th centuries) and a good dollop of imagination. Still, it seems clear enough that the film is supposed to be set sometime during the 19th century, but the exact decade is anyone’s guess. Looking at Ariel’s outfits, they all seemed easy enough to adapt to mid-19thcentury styles, and the blue one is no exception: with far fewer tweaks than was necessary with my historically plausible Snow White, it makes a perfect Swiss waist ensemble, so I decided on the early 1860’s.
A Swiss waist is a laced belt or bodice (not corset) usually worn with what we’d call a blouse and a skirt, and was very fashionable for a short space of time. It’s a pretty perfect outfit for a girl who is the protégé of a prince. Naturally, there was a lot more to it: chemise, drawers, stockings, corset, crinoline and petticoats, though not seen, are most certainly worn by my version of Ariel.
I looked at lots of 1860’s portraits, fashion plates and pictures of extant pieces to decide how I wanted the Swiss waist to look. Most Swiss waists seem to have had (off the) shoulder straps, but not all, so I went with what looked most like the outfit in the film. I’m afraid it doesn’t show all that well in my drawing, but the top and bottom is trimmed with pinked and pleated self-fabric strips, as are many originals.
Centre: a lilac swiss waist with shoulder straps, American or European, The Met, accession nr. C.I.41.58.9a,b.
Right: a blue swiss waist from the French journal Le Follet, August 1861.
I made the blouse (often called a Garibaldi shirt in period – that has an interesting history of its own) white instead of blue, as white blouses appear to have been more common than coloured ones, at least when made in light or sheer materials. Red wool ones were a thing, but I have yet to see a blue one. The sleeves are set in very low, as was the fashion, and they are very full. I gave her a bow at the neck, as that is exceedingly common in images of the time, and I had to make that blue.
Left: cotton shirt from America or Europe, The Met, accession nr. C.I.43.126.53.
Right: a shirt made from windowpane checks – I can’t find a source for this,
so I hope I’m not being fooled by a nicely done reproduction.
I made the skirt fuller than it is in the film, with deep pleats at the waist. I also made it longer – as she is only 16 I made it hover just above ground, making her look lighter and (though she looks calm enough in the picture) more energetic than if the skirt had truly been floor length. I also gave the skirt the back emphasis that was so typical for the early 1860’s. The shoe that peeks out has a somewhat square toe.
The hair needed the greatest makeover – young ladies didn’t generally walk around with their hair tumbled down their backs, and sweeping hair-sprayed-to-death fringes are so 1980’s. Instead I gave her a fashionable for the period centre part, and put her hair up at the nape of the neck. The blue ribbon and bow are attached to a hairnet, also one of the period fashions.
All in all, I’m quite pleased with how it came out, and though I’ve never really been tempted to do neither an historically accurate Swiss waist ensemble, nor an Ariel cosplay, I’m rather intrigued by the idea of making this one…
How do you think my version of Ariel’s outfit works, and what are your thoughts on the period I chose?