beauty and the beast belle dress costume

Behind The ‘Beauty and the Beast’ Costumes: On Redesigning Belle’s Iconic Dress

Beauty and the Beast costume designer Jacqueline Durran explains what went behind redesigning and creating the costumes for Belle and Beast, and how Emma Watson influenced the overall process.

Beauty and the Beast is out throughout theaters this week and despite the mixed reviews it got from critics, it looked like a lot of old and young moviegoers loved the whole film, pushing the live action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast to $115.6 million on its opening week, Deadlinereports.

If you’re one of the people who’ve already checked into the theaters to watch Beauty and the Beast this week, then you’ll notice that the live action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast took some slight deviations and modernizations from its original version. One character became openly gay, Belle and the Beast got their back stories, and a new song was added to ramp up the drama and the feels.

But one of the things that Beauty and the Beast’s costume designer Jacqueline Durran (recognized previously for her work on Anna Karenina) knew that she had to stay away from revising the dresses that Belle wore in the original animated film too much. Durran tells Peoplehow she wanted to honor what people were imagining and expecting from Belle’s costumes and how she took the 1991 original film and 18th-century French fashion into the 2017 costumes.

The blue dress

Beauty and the Beast 2017 version [Image by Walt Disney]
Beauty and the Beast 2017 version [Image by Walt Disney]

Belle’s opening dress is one of the most important pieces in the Beauty and the Beast costume collection and the way it transitioned from the 1991 original into the 2016 adaptation is interesting in that functionality was added into the dress to fit the character and psyche of Belle.

“We decided to take inspiration from there and enrich the world using historical details. For instance how that works for Belle is Belle has the pockets hanging on the outside of her [blue] costume. The pockets are historical, people tied pockets around their waist, obviously we changed it a bit and put them on the outside and they became part of the kind of reinterpretation of Belle as an active heroine who does things and gets things done. The pockets act as a sort of toolbelt where she keeps all the things useful to her in her day to day life, those are the two elements we really looked for.”

The blue dress: Beauty and the Beast original 1991 version [Image by Walt Disney]
The blue dress: Beauty and the Beast original 1991 version [Image by Walt Disney]

If you notice, Belle’s blue dress in the 2017 Beauty is the Beast is not a dress all through out. You’ll notice bloomers peeking out from the side of the dress and Durran explains to Los Angeles Times how crucial this was—in addition to trading Belle’s ballet shoes for hardy boots—in bringing out the brawn out of the Beauty and the Beast protagonist.

“She doesn’t wear ballet pumps, she wears boots. She tucks her skirt up into her waistband so you can see her bloomers, and she wears bloomers so that she can not be trapped by the skirt.”

The iconic yellow ball gown

Beauty and the Beast 2017 version [Image by Walt Disney]
Beauty and the Beast 2017 version [Image by Walt Disney]

The yellow dress the Belle wore in Beauty and the Beast is nothing short of iconic. It was the dress Belle was wearing when we all swooned as she and the Beast danced to the tune of “Tale As Old As Time,” when the Beast finally realized he loved her and set her free, and when Belle ran off to save her father and the Beast.

This iconic yellow dress was so crucial to the whole of Beauty and the Beast film that even Emma Watson had her say in how the dress was going to turn out. After all, she was 2017’s Beauty and the Beast‘s Belle.

The iconic yellow dress: Beauty and the Beast original 1991 version [Image by Walt Disney]
The iconic yellow dress: Beauty and the Beast original 1991 version [Image by Walt Disney]

Emma Watson tells Metrohow adamant she was against having a big princess dress with a corset.

“For me when I read the script I immediately realised that whatever dress I wore it was going to carry me through the third act of the film…I had to be able to do a four-minute waltz in, and I had to be able to ride a horse in, and it had to be very multi-functional.

“And I wanted it to be a little bit light – when she rides off to save her father it’s almost like she’s riding into battle, so the top of it was inspired a little bit by a coat of armour with little flecks of gold, and it has a chain mail feel to it. The bottom half of it is incredibly light, because what I loved so much about the original is when you see Belle dance with Beast, when she twirls her dress kind of moves after her almost like a second being, like there’s a third person in the dance. So I wanted to have that “floating on a cloud” kind of quality. We tried to create a dress hybrid that would serve those different functions.”

To complement the iconic yellow dress, Durran explains to Hollywood Reporter how the accessories also sort of came together to make a motif of how Belle developed as a character in the new Beauty and the Beast film.

One of the pieces of jewelry that will definitely catch your attention as you watch Beauty and the Beast is Belle’s ear-cuff, which Durran described as “sort of grows around the outside of the ear and looks like a gold plant that’s still growing.

To complement the ear-cuff is the necklace, which is “like a tree of life that’s still in motion.”

The gilded feather hair piece, as well, was functional to the plot and Durran shares that “Emma really liked the feather motif because she felt it was part of the way she was interpreting the lightness of Belle.”

Gold ear-cuff, necklace, and hair ornaments worn by 2017 Belle [Image by Walt Disney]
Gold ear-cuff, necklace, and hair ornaments worn by 2017 Belle [Image by Walt Disney]

In the end, the whole idea about Belle’s outfit in that iconic Beauty and the Beast ballroom scene was, as Durran explains, the involvement of the castle into making it.

“The thought process behind those were that everything that is worn in the castle is created in the castle, so it has to sort of partake in the magic enchantment of the castle itself. It was trying to capture this organic sense of that and the way the castle moves and evolves.”

Durran shares that the iconic yellow dress was “the most difficult costume to do by a mile” and that they made more than a handful of versions of the ball gown—a more historical interpretation, something more modern, something more experimental. But in the end, they chose a ball gown that was the closest to the Beauty and the Beast original, which took a crew of 10 people, 12 days, and almost 270 hours of labor to complete.

The red cape

Beauty and the Beast 2017 version [Image by Walt Disney]
Beauty and the Beast 2017 version [Image by Walt Disney]

The red dress with the cape is shown in the Beauty and the Beast scene where Belle gets into a snowball fight with the Beast. And while it is not as iconic as the blue and the yellow dresses, the red dress, apparently, was one of the most unique and most “Emma” of the Beauty and the Beast costumes.

The red cape: Beauty and the Beast original 1991 version [Image by Walt Disney]
The red cape: Beauty and the Beast original 1991 version [Image by Walt Disney]

Durran explains as follows.

“Because Emma is so interested in sustainability and fair trade, eco fabrics and eco fashion, we applied those criteria to making a costume from head to toe. That [red] costume was made entirely from sustainable fabrics. We dyed it in vegetable dyes in our workroom, we had shoes made with eco leather and we did the whole thing from top to bottom to be as thorough as we could.

“People learned different skills in the work rooms to be able to do it, so they dyers learned to dye with strange vegetable dye. Sometimes it took two weeks to dye something because you’d have to leave it in there for that long to get a rich color, it really was a learning curve for all of us, I’d certainly never done that before.”

Emma Watson has always been an advocate of eco-friendly clothing (remember her MET gala outfit made out of recycled plastic bottles?) and in February started Instagram account The Press Tour to market eco-friendly brands verified by Ec0-age, a company that seeks to develop and create solutions to achieve growth through sustainability.

#BTS of the creation of the #iconic @dior #sustainable gown created for @emmawatson #BeautyAndTheBeast

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Which is your favorite Beauty and the Beast dress?

[Featured Images by Walt Disney]

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