As I've said before elsewhere, from an artistic standpoint, I'm not at all bothered by the animated designs of the characters in Disney and Dreamworks films. They weren't documentaries after all so in most cases they didn't need to be accurate, and in animation in particular, it is more important to convey character and style in the designs. I am not trying to "fix" anything because I don't think there is anything to fix! That being said, it can still be fun to learn how your favorite characters might have looked if they had existed in real life.
For my series, I am trying to be as accurate as I possibly can. I'm taking the country of origin, the social class, the culture, and the specific decade into mind (instead of just a general sweep of multiple decades), and also adapting the colors and styles to fit what was available and worn everyday. I will try to keep the characters recognizable where I can, but I want to make my pictures realistic and so some elements of the original designs might be altered in the process.
Some of the Disney princesses seem to get a lot of historical art, and Belle is one of them, probably because she has one of the easiest movies to “date”, with BATB taking place sometime in the 18th century. I wanted to do something really different for Belle, so I decided to draw her wearing her everyday outfit for life in her French village, since I don’t believe I’ve seen that in a historical version before.
I think BATB probably takes place in the mid-18th century – it has to take place before the French Revolution when the nobles were killed, and the hairstyles and fashions of the 1760s seem to fit Belle better than the overblown costumes of the 1770s, with the giant wigs and panniers. Looking at the aristocratic clothing, therefore, gave me a good reference point for her common clothing. I studied lots of paintings of “rural” life for inspiration for Belle’s blue dress. At this point in history, social status really dictated what kinds of clothing you would wear. In Disney’s version, Belle’s father would be a laborer or a tradesman, a member of the working class, so Belle would wear working class clothing as well. In order to reduce the fabric used and probably increase the life of a garment through mixing and matching, rural women wore a “shortgown,” which is similar to a jacket, over a “petticoat,” aka a skirt. This ensemble is everywhere in art from that time period, not just in France but all over Europe as well. Belle would likely fill in the neckline with a “fichu,” a kerchief worn for modesty and warmth. She would top her daily clothing with a “pinner” apron, so called because it doesn’t have straps but needs to be pinned to the bodice.
One thing that Disney ignores a lot of the time is the proper headgear. ALL lower and middle class Frenchwomen of this period would have worn some kind of linen cap to cover their hair. (Only aristocrats, it seems, were exempt from this.) When running errands, Belle would also need a hat. Since this is supposed to be from the scene at the beginning of the movie, I drew her in one of those picturesque straw hats called the Bergere so common in the period.
Speaking of errands, in Belle’s little town, there probably wouldn’t have been a store devoted completely to books, although a merchant might have few copies of some books among his other wares. The books from this time period were only bound in plain brown leather, if they were bound at all – a lot of them just had the paper covers. The only real book of French fairytales at this time would have been Charles Perrault’s Histoires ou contes du temps passé</a>, and it is unlikely that Belle would be reading it in her station, since it was mostly limited to the aristocrats in the 17th century (there could be a copy in the castle, though). She might have had Shakespeare or Gulliver’s Travels, but it is more likely that she had some fairly boring, very moralistic reading material. Historically, the majority of people would have felt like Gaston did about Belle’s reading, and felt that it was lazy for a woman to read instead of devote herself to more industrious activities.
Anyway, you can absolutely cosplay it! Be sure to show me lots of pictures!
I was looking at fabric out of boredom and I found a beautiful solid blue cotton but I'm considering switching out the brown skirt for this www.fabric.com/buy/0448666/ros…. I don't think I'll use it cause it's a lil fancy for peasant Belle but it got me thinking. I will probably end up making the skirt blue too for a more obviously Belle look though, if that's all right.
I had heard that servants working for royalty at that time had to follow strict dress codes.
Speaking about French history: most French people thought most of history, and to this day, were Catholics. Therefore it was highly likely that the prince was raised catholic since most French nobles were Catholics. Belle was most likely a catholic but she could of been a protestant since 18th century France had small communities of them. Perhaps that is why she was called an outsider, most of the villagers were Catholics while Belle and her Father were Protestants.
And good point about the prince being raised Catholic! In the villagers' defense though Maurice IS pretty weird and Belle was unusual, so instead of religion they were probably just judging them on some of the odd stuff they did. XD
I'm a huge fan of Mozart operas, and this reminds me of designs for one of my favorite characters, Susanna from the Marriage of Figaro. She's a clever servant who with her fiancee Figaro, outwits her betters. A long skirt was a sign of status, because you could drag it around, but if you had errands or chores, you would need a shorter one. I love 18th century fashion and history (I often say that the best periods in style were the 1970s and the 1790s)
Here's a Susanna: www.diomedia.com/stock-photo-w…
I love the historical background you give on everything, even books!
The headcanon/implication that Belle's from a formerly wealthy family and can't get used to rural life softens it a bit
And I always had that same headcanon too, that that was why they were fairly new to "little town" life.