Emma’s (“Belle’s) yellow gown from Beauty and the Beast: A Costume Study

If you’re here for the pre-release film caps, they’re near the bottom.

I will also touch slightly on the wedding/”celebration” gown toward the end.  You can now see Beast’s ball ensemble and Provincial Belle, and Gaston’s wardrobe, as well as my post-seeing-the-movie costume thoughts.  I’ll also post a bunch of extra photos to my Facebook page, specifically in this album, that didn’t make the cut for this post as I sift through them, as well as follow up on March 17th, after seeing the movie while keeping in mine that post-filming CGI can affect appearance.  The week following the movie release, I will start detailing recreating this gown, but embroidered instead.  Follow this blog (sign up at the bottom of any page) if you’d like to get notifications of those posts.

When four photos of the yellow gown from an exhibit in Los Angeles were leaked, my earlier concerns were confirmed. It fails both at invoking another era, and at invoking Belle. This doesn’t mean it’s not a beautiful gown in its own right (keep in mind that my criticism aren’t about whether or not the gown is objectively pretty, since I think it very much is), but costumes have a job to do. They need to help transport us to the world and time of a movie. Cinderella’s ballgown in 2015 did this well. It helped take us to the ball with her, at an earlier era. The many colors in thr skirt moved like water and smoke, and the butterflies were little bits of magic about her breaking out of her cacoon.

(Editing to add: I recommend clicking my links to confirm my claims about this gown.  In at least one location where this post has been shared, movie-fans are arguing that this gown can’t really be film-worn since surely they must have used embroidery.  One of my links below confirms that they did indeed use…well, you can read what they used below, as well as the link to prove it.  When the costumer says a certain method was used, and the photos of the film-worn gown on display back that, then it’s hard to insist that a different method was used.)

Unfortunately, this yellow gown is pretty modern. In fact, the skirt is unsettlingly similar to the Cinderella Ballgown skirt I made (mine had four layers, and lacked the mellow waterfall) that I joked a few times should be remade in yellow for the movie.  Eerie in a way.

This skirt is painted and glittered, which gives it the look of a glittered print, instead of embroidered. This works for a modern gown, but does it really work to take us back to the mid-18th century (1740, to be precise)? The closest any of this comes to historical is that there were full skirts like this in the middle of the Victorian era. But a full skirt itself does not historical make.

Notably, Emma Watson, according to the costumer in several interviews, was ultimately given creative control over this gown, and that she designed is a gown that is very Emma Watson, especially when considering the lack of gloves and the currently fashionable stick-straight hair. Emma was dressed for this scene. Belle was not.

The big difficulty I’m having here is that, while it’s a beautiful gown that I love in its own right, and it’s already in my schedule, it doesn’t do the job it’s supposed to do. If we were to see this dress on its own with no idea where the pictures were from, how many of us would think of Belle (unless you’re one of those who thinks of Belle every time you see a yellow dress) rather than a modern prom gown or modern yellow wedding gown? How many of us would get the feeling of mid-18th century France?

Let’s take a look at this gown.  (Images will open larger.)

Without a doubt, as a gown on its own separate from the movie, it is lovely.  I may be slightly partial due to the similarities to the skirt of my Cinderella gown (the photo to the right isn’t over the many petticoats it takes to support a 15-pound skirt).  But aside from my gown, the yellow one is quite pretty.  I’m a fan of that type of waterfall, so similar to one I did on my daughter’s Phantom of the Opera Wishing gown.   I love big skirts.  I like sparkly things.

But…I don’t see Belle.  I see something very modern, something that, if it wasn’t in silk, really would be at home at a prom, complete with the skirt being glitter.  I will come back to that.

Let’s take a close look at the bodice front and back.

Wait, I may have one better.

That’s better.  I’m not sure, by this pic, if that’s tinsel under the fabric, which I’m presuming is silk organza, though it could be chiffon, or if the tinsel is part of the fabric.  I seriously doubt it’s gold lamé (unlike the fashion fabric sold in chain fabric stores, gold lamé is strips of real gold woven into fabric), but I’m not quite sure what it is.  Mylar, perhaps.  Well, a photo farther down will answer this.

The edges of the organza/chiffon are not hemmed or bound in any way, and this is actually fine.  Sometimes the proper finish is pinking or scalloped, and that is scalloped.  The slight fraying is normal.

The sides and cap sleeves are applied over a sleeveless bodice, similar to…again something I’ve done…the Titanic tea gown, shown to the right.  The yellow gown’s sleeves are narrower and has a different angle in the back, though the method is identical.  When I replicate the ballgown, I will demonstrate how this is done.

This show if the back isn’t so clear, but that’s not so important here. We can see the angles, and know what to expect from the front.  What this picture does show is that the opening is in the back middle, as evidenced by the break in the top edge, and that the edges meet instead of overlap.  This indicates an invisible zipper. Also just visible is a tail of silk, which appears to be silk chiffon here.  The flow says to me that this is silk chiffon.

Here we have a profile shot, and the skirt top layer clearly has a fold.  Unlike the live-action Cinderella movie, this gown was meant to be more streamlined.  Pleats are smoother than gathers.  This angle also shows that there’s some mild boning in the bottom part of the basque to keep it flat, but not enough to smooth Emma’s small bust.  It almost seems as if the goal is to make sure we can tell she’s not wearing a corset.  I’m not sure if the appearance of a pseudo-bustle at the back was intentional, or if that’s just the way this displace was set up.  Either way, it’s a reasonable way to work in extra fullness, and is really the way I usually prefer.

Onto the skirt. The three-layered skirt has been confirmed to be silk satin organza.  Right off the bat, let me reiterate that I am irked beyond words that they used glitter and paint. They have access to industrial embroidery machines, and an embroidery file made for sheer or delicate fabrics won’t make it stiff.  Take a look at this photo.  You can see the glue on the underside.  All that white is glue.  This doesn’t look rich.  It looks novice.  Yes, sometimes glitter is used, but it definitely shouldn’t be when the underside will be visible.

That photo also answers what was on the bodice.  Click that photo to enlarge it, and you can see the tails from the bodice flowing down, and that it’s rows of gold paint.  Painting fabric isn’t new, but was done here because…I don’t know.  I seriously can’t figure out why they painted and glittered this skirt.  Embroidery would give it more dimension.

Your eyes aren’t deceiving you.  The glitter is deposited in stripes.

And that segment of the skirt isn’t glittered at all aside from some dots.  It does, however, show that the layers are sewn using a decorative edge.  The bottom later is narrow-hemmed, as seen in this next photo.

Want to see closer photos of the glitter?

I just can’t get over the glitter, nor how modern this gown is for a historical piece.  I can suspend disbelief and era-bending, as for Cinderella, but there has to be a purpose for blatant era-bend.  The gowns of Lady Tremaine and her daughters highlighted their eccentricity and made them seem out of place in such a genteel world.  Moreover, their aesthetic was consistent.  Belle is supposed to be a part of her own world.  She is supposed to exist in it, and find her place in it with a man who learned a very vital lesson about not looking for beauty on the outside, but rather on the inside.

As for how this looks on screen?  It’s not substantial enough.  As embroidery, even standing at the top of the stairs in her reveal, we’d see something more than a mass of yellow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This gown is one that is meant to take our breaths away with how it twirls, which it does nicely, but that’s not enough.  Cinderella’s blue gown has enough color variation in it to add enough interest (though, I openly admit, I think that gown needed more detailing as well), but the “impress us by spinning” was already done.  The game needed to be stepped up a notch, to both take us back to mid-18th-century France, to take us to the castle, to match the opulence of that amazing ballroom and Beast’s ensemble, and really WOW us with something we haven’t seen before.  In its general simplicity, this gown is too similar to Cinderella’s, and yet manages to be plainer, and by being so inconsistent with the aesthetics of the movie, and the incredible job at historical accuracy for other ensembles, this one doesn’t work in any way for Belle.

So, while I do love this gown aside from that glitter and paint, the modernity of it prevents me from seeing this as a Belle gown.  It doesn’t transport me to her world, or invoke her time.  It succeeds in being a nice dress for a prom (the glitter…), but just plain fails as a gown for Belle.  I will enjoy it for what it ultimately really is, but can not call it Belle’s gold ballgown.

 

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Now I also said I’d touch on the wedding/”celebration” gown.  Publications from Harper’s Bazaar to Refinery have called this both her wedding gown, and a “celebration” gown, which seems a rather generic term for it.  The Disney Store calls it a “celebration” gown.

This also appears to be a lovely gown, but when I first saw this photo, I thought it was a 1940’s-1950’s-inspired glamor shot of Emma Watson in a trendy wedding gown.  In fact, it bears a resemblance to…

Sheer sleeves, floral decoration, similar seaming…  It’s very much like the wedding gown at the end of Cinderella in some key ways(this is another gown I love, but that is troublingly modern without any good reason to be, whereas the Tremaines’ gowns had a reason).

At first, I didn’t believe it was from the movie, at least not until I saw this on the Disney Store’s website.

 

Confirmation that this gown that would be in place at a trendy wedding in 2017 is indeed from the movie.  The child-version would be sweet for a flower girl dress, or Easter, and I admit I’m tempted to get it as an Easter dress for my daughter if the fabric I ordered to make her the young Cinderella dress from, yes, the live-action Cinderella, doesn’t show up.

I’m guessing we’ll see this one available from Alfred Angelo the way we saw the Cinderella wedding gown available very soon afterward.

There’s not too much else to say about this gown yet aside from it being another currently-fashionable style that says “Belle” even less than the yellow, and that, despite that looks beautiful in its own right.

12 thoughts on “Emma’s (“Belle’s) yellow gown from Beauty and the Beast: A Costume Study

  1. Laura

    To me, it looks out of place with the Beast’s very 1700s attire. They should have just made a people-sized version of one of the dresses seen on a Disney Store Collector’s Edition Belle doll, since some of those dresses are not only gorgeous but also are very reminiscent of the time period.

    • aria

      I have the 17″-Something There Belle, and OMG she’s stunning. Not period-accurate by any means, but far, far, faaaaaaar more reminiscent of the era. One look at that gown, and you can tell it’s meant to be from centuries ago, even despite its inaccuracies. Shunning panniers would have been ahead of the mid-1700’s. That’s the argument many people who say this dress is perfectly Belle are saying–that she’s meant to be ahead of her time (…but 300 years?). In fact, Marie Antoinette shed hers every chance she got, which made some portraits of her scandalous for the time. That alone would have set Belle ahead, which would have made that gorgeous Something There gown work, especially in gold.

  2. Shachi

    Thank you so much for writing this! I couldn’t figure out why the dress bothered me so much but this explains it SO WELL!
    LURV hearing thoughtful commentary from women that know EXACTLY what they’re talking about!

  3. Niki Aiman

    Hi! This is Niki Aiman; we met at the theatre. I couldn’t wait to see your page when I got home! That being said, I can tell you exactly what the yellow (in place of golden? Really?) dress looks like: It looks like a turn of the century, Southern debutante dress. Almost exactly. But with organza. And puffy paint accents.

    It’s like they let her watch ‘Gone With The Wind’, and set her loose in the discount fabric section. After the movie all of us agreed the dress was the biggest let down of the film, particularly alongside Beast’s clearly elaborate costume with almost painstaking attention to detail. Ack!

    Also, SO glad to have met you. I’m definitely a fan and follower.

    • aria

      I thought about GWTW! Scarlett’s gowns, while lovely, were almost entirely anachronistic because David Selznic wanted to cater to what moviegoers thought that southern gowns of the era would look like. The extras and supporting cast were all dressed like Godey’s fashion plates, but not Scarlett.

      I think Emma’s flat performance was a let-down, possibly more than the yellow. If she could convince me she was Belle, I might have been able to see her as Belle in a strange-for-the-era gown, but instead I saw her as Emma in a modern prom gown (the glitter…) and an ear cuff and necklace would be at home in a Claire’s or Anthropologie or other accessories shop.

      I’m so glad to have gotten my seat where I did! You’re a dear, and I’d love to make you something regency and have you join us at regency events! A gown or two would be my treat for photography. <3

      • Niki

        My feelings exactly; though in GWTW Scarlett is meant to be set apart. I wish Condon would have thought the same about Belle. So many things! We should get together some time over coffee and discuss. Also I would just die to have a shoot around one of those amazing pieces. 😍

        • aria

          That would be awesome! I’m planning a tea at my house in the next couple weeks, and I’d love to invite you! Can you shoot me a message? 971x295x7262

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