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Historically Accurate Rapunzel


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.


Back when I first started the series I hadn’t planned to draw Rapunzel because I had no clue what her era was supposed to be, but then I learned that Tangled, according to the producers, was actually supposed to be taking place in the 1780s!  (Before, of course, they retconned it to fit in Frozen’s universe.)  You could see some of this influence in the concept art, but not much in the final film, so I thought it would be fun to bring some of that back into Rapunzel’s design.

It was still kind of tough to figure out what Rapunzel should wear since  18th century fashion depended heavily on your class, and a girl locked in a tower by a witch doesn’t exactly fit into any one category!  However, when I looked at Rapunzel’s outfit she definitely appears to dress more like the Corona royalty than any of the village peasants, so I’m assuming that Gothel enabled her to keep up with the changing fashions…for some reason.   

Although some women began experimenting with other styles, the two-piece  gown, like the “robe l’anglaise,” was still the primary cut for women’s dresses in this period.  Wealthy women had fancy versions of the dress with a train, but I found some extant examples with slightly more practical skirts that I thought fit Rapunzel better.  I loved the laced front on these two gowns, just like her dress in the movie!   The split skirt “robe” would have been worn over a separate skirt, called a petticoat.  I gave Rapunzel a quilted petticoat like this – often women got creative with decorative designs, and with all Rapunzel’s free time I think she would put a lot of care into embellishing her clothing.  Lastly, the violet color of Rapunzel’s dress didn’t really exist until chemical dyes came into use, but I found some very pretty mauve items, like this man’s suit, and this lady’s skirt, which inspired the colors for my version.

Of course, this being Rapunzel, I had to pay extra attention to her hair!  The sky-high hairstyles of the 1770s had already gone out of style, replaced by the super curly style called the hedgehog!  That is what I gave Rapunzel – with several added feet hanging down in the back. ;)  Women usually accented their hairstyles with a ribbon so I worked the stripes from Rapunzel’s sleeves into hers.

Finally we come to the issue of footwear.  When I was putting together this design I planned to give Rapunzel shoes from the start; that was especially important for women, and even the very poor wore shoes if they could get them.  That was until I read that, during this time period, going barefoot was a sign of public humiliation, forced on slaves and prisoners.  The idea was that if you were barefoot you were less likely to escape, and if you were kicking or fighting you would do less harm than if you wearing shoes - plus it would set you apart from the authorities who had more power than you.  WELL, with that information in hand I had to draw Rapunzel’s bare foot peeking out of her skirts!  Living in the tower all her life she wouldn’t  know that going without shoes was unusual, but I feel like Gothel would derive satisfaction from such a display of power.  I also thought that element of her design was a perfect metaphor for Rapunzel’s situation in the movie – on the surface everything looks very neat and proper, but when you look a little closer you can see something is definitely not right. 

Anyway, I hope you like this version of Rapunzel.   I will also be doing Flynn eventually, but next week I will be adding another non-Disney lady to the lineup - Anya!

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temus's avatar

can i make a request?: could yo make a "historically accurate" princess sofia from sofia the first?

I can't imagine how long powdering her hair must've took.

Detective88's avatar

I love the movie and watch Tangled the Series and based on a few of the inventions, the animators for the movie weren't far off with their time period.

Hookhand said that Mozart was his inspiration. Mozart was alive during that time. Also, Andrew, Cassandra's ex-boyfriend had a hot air balloon which was in 1783 invention

Harleqxinade's avatar

I adore this! I've been dying to cosplay Rapunzel, I might end up trying to make your historically accurate version! The inspiration links also help with seeing what everything really looks like. However, I have practically no background in historical costumes, so it's most likely going to be a very difficult task.

Spider-Bat700's avatar
1780s? Surprising, given that the sequel show is set in what appears to be more the 1500s at the latest (albeit a highly fantasized version). Really more of a Standard Fantasy setting then any specific historical era. 

And do Tangled and Frozen really take place in the same universe? I never got that impression before. 

Rapunzel has a cameo in Frozen if you look carefully.

SuperMarioFan65's avatar
Next Stop, Anywhere!
ENT2PRI9SE's avatar
I don't know if I can handle Rapunzel with this hair style. I feel like it would have a lot more braids. 
donovandelaney's avatar
The hair is way off. So is the dress. Rapunzel likes to paint yellow stars. So there should be yellow on her dress.
viditrw's avatar
However, just because she paints yellow stars doesn't mean that she has to have yellow on her dress. Usually, the colours of clothing in those times represented how rich you were. Rapunzel wearing mauve symbolised that she was like, is like royalty
I love it, especially your insight on her shoes! My one critique is that as far as I know, she wouldn't be lacing up a bodice directly on a robe a l'anglaise like you have here, unless of course it were maternity wear (which I haven't seen in robe a l'anglaise form but probably existed). Instead she'd more likely pin the front parts together via a stomacher, a decorated triangle of fabric. Adds versatility of matching stomachers, plus more ability to change the fit than a front lacing would (lace it any looser and you're showing your stays!) Buttons were also pretty common as far as i can tell. If you wanted to keep her lace up look, you could put in one like this 1782 American stomacher… or channel the earlier fad of eschelles (bows going up the stomacher) like Mme Pompadour's famous portraits.
Granted, a stomacher-closed gown would be a little less fashionable than say, a roundgown or a chemise a la reine, but then again she is stuck in the tower with minimal resources for fashion. I mean Gothel's fashion is more influenced by houppelandes than by the 18th century, which speaks to her immortality and unwillingness to change/compromise. 
Wickfield's avatar
I showed my inspiration in my links in the description, I found a few extant dresses with the lace up front. They seem to be a holdover from the 1770s gowns rather than the upcoming round gowns that finished out the century. ☺️
Ahh! Well then that's a perfect fit for her! ;)
KalahariMeerkatfan's avatar
I never got to watch Tangled, but I am loving this design for Rapunzel. For some reason, I feel like it fits her far better than how she looks in the film, that hedgehog and her expression...she looks very carefree and mischievous.
Wickfield's avatar
I wasn't a big fan of Tangled to be honest, but I think part of it was because of the generic-Renaissance-type designs...when it turns out they weren't meant to be Renaissance at all!

Also with her hedgehog...Rapunzel's hair is probably full of secrets lol...
Spider-Bat700's avatar
I've been watching the sequel cartoon, and I have to say I've rather enjoyed it so far, even if some episodes land a lot more effectively than others. 
donovandelaney's avatar
Um, where are the yellow stars going down the front. They would start from the top to the buttom.
viditrw's avatar
however, that isn't historically accurate
I also need to tackle this after I finish my historically accurate Belle. I just love everything about this. (The wig will be a nightmare but I'll cross that bridge when I get to it lol.)
Wickfield's avatar
I bet it will be great! Beckaroony on IG is working on a version of this, maybe she would have some tips for you. :)
:O! I need pictures of that! Tbh, I'll probably end up making several of your works into real cosplays lol. 
TheEclecticOne's avatar
Of course she and Eugene would still be young in 1839! She could use her hair to keep themselves young, maybe she could use it on people she trusts to help her heal from all the years she spent with Gothel...
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