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Historically Accurate Elsa

Being the history geek that I am, I guess it is kind of surprising that I haven't really done a "historically accurate" animation series before, but after seeing that awesome Buzzfeed Disney Princess video, and of course all the amazing art on here, I was inspired to make my own.  I guess it is better late than never!

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.  :) (Smile)  

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.


You knew it had to happen some time, and here it is - my Historically Accurate Frozen miniseries!   The next four installments of my historic series will be my take on the movie's four main characters, and goodness knows the kids from Frozen need some serious historical help!  

Here at last the one you've probably all been waiting for, Elsa!  For Elsa, I would have liked to draw her iconic ice gown, but it is kind of hard to fit such a "fantasy" dress into historic styling...there's not much of a precedence for ice gowns, lol!  So I decided to do her coronation dress instead, which is probably just as well - I'm not going to lie, I think that Elsa's coronation outfit is one of the most unattractive princess costumes Disney has ever designed!  But don't worry, I am here to help.

The makers of Frozen said they were inspired by 1840s fashion, although since
it is hinted that "Frozen Fever" takes place in 1840, that means Frozen actually takes place in 1839.  I think the few years around 1840 produced some of the prettiest Victorian dresses - they have the classic "ballgown" silhouette, but they aren't yet quite so fussy as later in the period, so I enjoyed looking up inspirations for Elsa's coronation gown.  The late 1830s saw the beginning of widespread corset use - up until this point women only wore corset-like "stays" for support and a flat silhouette, not for cinching - the small waist look was achieved by contrast with large skirts, instead.  The waists of 1830s-40s dresses were not hugely exaggerated yet, but they were small, and by the late part of the 1830s the horizontal waistband had switched over to a pointed bodice (fortunately like the one Elsa has in the film!).  The pleated neckline was extremely fashionable, you see it in all kinds of fashion plates - surprisingly, so was the teal color!  By 1839 ruffles and other decorations seemed to be replacing embroidery on the skirt, but you still see it in a few examples.  Although dresses with colored embroidery were not uncommon, I decided to go with a tonal look like this since the rest of the design was a little busy.  I also added a brooch like those typically worn in the period to mimic the clasp on Elsa's cape in the movie, as well as a necklace resembling the decoration on the neckline - you can see a similar one in this portrait of the actual Norwegian queen!  That may seem like overkill to modern sensibilities but women in this period loved their jewelry, especially women of nobility.  It is certainly a lot easier to design clothing for Disney characters from later periods because between fashion plates, portraits, and extant samples there are tons of references.  For instance, for Elsa's hairstyle, I was inspired by Queen Victoria's wedding hairstyle from almost exactly the same year as Frozen.  

While most Victorian fashion has a prudish reputation, that was certainly not the case for evening wear, which was allowed to be daring.  A girl like Elsa would never wear long sleeves for a formal occasion, even though she would always wear them during the day.   Luckily for me, though, gloves were definitely still in style for evening wear, and at this point in the movie Elsa is not Elsa without her gloves.  I based Elsa's off this pretty decorated pair from the 1830s.  Gloves were usually made of kid leather - the ones in my reference picture got fancy with silver embroidery, too. :)  I used a period appropriate embroidery design in place of the pattern in the movie.

Elsa's regalia in the movie was probably designed with dress-up costumes in mind, but European coronation regalia in the 19th century was very different.  I loosely based Elsa's crown and cape off the queen's regalia in Norway, although the basic design was similar throughout the Scandinavian countries and also Europe in general.  Since Arendelle is not actually Norway, though, I took some artistic liberties to better match the "kingdom" from he movie.  In place of the embroidered crowns on the Norwegian cape, I drew the Arendelle crocus insignia instead, and I incorporated the shape of Elsa's tiara into the crown.  Before I drew this picture I didn't know that a tiara doesn't really have any royal significance at all, it is just a piece of jewelry.  The reason princesses wear them is because they are wealthy enough to afford them!  Anyway, they certainly weren't used during a coronation.  

By the way, instead of the totally-Empress-Josephine-inspired clothing she wore in the film, this is how Elsa and Anna's mother would have dressed.  Just though you would like to know that. ;)

Last but not least is miss Anna of Arendelle in her Norwegian bunad!

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ArctusTheGoddessYT's avatar
It's sad that Anna is probably dead by now and Elsa has to live that way (I have a theory Elsa is immortal and a ice goddess)
Colinidas's avatar

Very regal take on Elsa, love the fur lined cape and stern expression!

moonlitinuyasha1985's avatar
*sees elsaanna in the tags* GIF Star vs. the Forces of Evil -  Nope
donovandelaney's avatar
I forgot the cape. The cape is alright too. Where's the slit in the gown? Didn't gowns stop at the ankles?
Wickfield's avatar
Gowns had different lengths depending on age and the function
donovandelaney's avatar
I like the dress. You got the dress right. But the golden crown is too big.
KiraTheUsagii's avatar
So this outfit is more like Victorian era than the Scandinavian clothes at the time? :3
Because I don't think we had a Victorian era in clothes like the rest of the world. xD Not what I remember from the history lessons at least.
Wickfield's avatar
In Scandinavia the upper classes generally looked toward France or England for their fashion inspiration, you can see this in portraits of the time.  In other European countries the lower classes also tried to imitate high fashion where they could, but the Scandinavian lower/working classes would have worn traditional folk clothing like the bunad.  
DaBair's avatar
She looks like a young, platinum blonde Queen Victoria. (Believe it or not, Queen Victoria was thin in the early years of her long reign. It wasn't until she got much older that she started to become really fat.) 
Wickfield's avatar
Yes, Queen Victoria was one of the references!  
rachelillustrates's avatar
Oh goodness I love it. Especially that she still has a "taking no bullshit" expression :D
Wickfield's avatar
Haha, that was actually supposed to be "reserved and slightly repressed," but knowing Elsa I guess she could be all that at once! :D
rachelillustrates's avatar
Hah yeah, I guess so, but sorry I misinterpreted it all the same.
Arendellecitizen's avatar
Wickfield's avatar
Arendellecitizen's avatar
you are welcome
did you do a historically accurate thing for her ice dress?
Wickfield's avatar
No, I didn't attempt any of the "fantasy" type costumes in this series, but you should totally check out suburbanbeatnik's rendition, it is pretty tough to beat!…
Arendellecitizen's avatar
i see
do you take requests?
Wickfield's avatar
No, I am currently offering commisions, check my journal!
Arendellecitizen's avatar
are they point comissons?
Wickfield's avatar
No, I only take payment through Paypal.
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OnikaALee's avatar
I perfer this elsa much much more than the original
Wickfield's avatar
Psst...I do too! :D
iaiusjello's avatar
AH, you did it! You drew Elsa! I've been waiting for this one since your Hans coloring piece! And wow, you've got an entire historically researched collection. What a treat to discover. I've gone on a favoriting spree, b I have to say that my overall favorites are Elsa, Jafar, and Megara!

I'm happy that you go through your analytic process and show which examples you used and rejected. It makes for very good reading.

Anyway, Elsa's my favorite of all. I am so glad that you managed to work the crocus into the crown and mantle. I'm actually reminded of the Napoleonic bees on Napoleon and Josephine's mantles, which is cool because the Empire style would've still been floating around in Scandinavia just a few years earlier... And I'm particularly glad you kept the crocus on the crown as well (and replaced the crown at the top with one too, just like the globus crucig--er, globus crociger? lol!) . That was always my favorite part of the tiara in Frozen, though you're right that there's nothing particularly royal about a tiara. Way to go using the right shade of purple, too -- it's a match for Tyrian, good proper imperial purple.

Lastly -- heh, yes, the parents were wearing very Napoleonic clothing in the film, weren't they? Not that I minded, I love the Empire style.

Sorry for rambling. But this is just delightful!
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