On Being a Disney Princess (Temporarily)
The 2007 Disney film Enchanted sort of seems like it was designed specifically for me. It’s a Disney princess movie that turns into a live action musical about a redhead who comes to New York City to fill people’s dreary lives with song and wonder and also there’s a dragon. I can’t imagine how it could possibly fit more of my favorite things in unless my screen dispensed Cadbury Eggs into my waiting hands every time I watched it.
About halfway through the movie, our heroine Giselle (Amy Adams) – sporting a dress made from cynical lawyer love interest Robert’s (Patrick Dempsey) curtains – bursts into song in Central Park. Robert is baffled and embarrassed, but Giselle is basically magic, and soon all of Central Park has joined in in a sprawling, joyful musical number.
Naturally, I needed to cosplay this.
Thanks to the ever-helpful cosplay forums online, I was able to find not just a pattern that matched the dress pretty closely, but a custom replica fabric, complete with tiny flowers that look like hidden Mickeys (!!!). I’m crafty, but not that crafty, so a brilliant seamstress friend put it together for me, while I styled a wig I’d found online (I do have curly red hair, but not enough of it!).
I wore the (surprisingly comfortable) costume to this month’s NYCC on Friday – but I also dragged a brilliant photographer friend down to Central Park on a sunny weekend day to do a photoshoot. (Number one cosplay tip: have brilliant friends.)
Anyway. You guys. Being Giselle is an experience.
I’ve cosplayed before, as Guy Gardner, and unsurprisingly, people respond pretty differently to those two costumes! Guy got me lots of shout-outs and fist bumps. Giselle gets breathless gasps and a truly hilarious amount of reverence, like I might break, or vanish in a puff of candy-colored smoke at any moment. At one point, on my way to the subway for NYCC, I passed a group of construction workers and braced myself for catcalling. Instead, they fell silent, and I heard one of them whisper: “A princess!” (It probably helps that the minute I put that costume on I feel my pinkies extend and my voice shift up an octave.)
Actually, the only people who don’t respond that way are little kids, who see me dressed as a princess – even if they don’t know which princess, since Giselle’s movie is older than they are – and immediately stake a claim. The minute I arrived at NYCC, a little girl walked up to me, gave me a silent hug, and vanished into the crowd. On the subway home, another little girl struck up a lengthy conversation all about the girl she was going to marry when she grew up. One woman plopped her baby in my lap on the train so she could take a picture; the baby then spent the rest of the ride patting my arm to make sure I was real, while her toddler brother did the same to my knee. (I love kids, so I found all of this delightful. I’m sure that for some of you I’m describing your nightmare!)
I expected people to ask for pictures at NYCC – that’s sort of the point! – but I wound up taking a whole bunch with strangers at Central Park too. Parents asked me to pose with their kids; one girl’s quinceanera pictures will inexplicably feature an obscure Disney Princess, while another asked me to take some holding her teacup Maltese. No one really asked me why I was hanging out in Central Park dressed like a cartoon character. It’s New York! People do weird things! It’s just kind of accepted! But they did want pictures of it.
And, well, it was pretty magical. I don’t live in Florida or California, and I’m too old at this point to play a princess at a Disney park anyway, even if I a) did have the acting chops and b) wanted to subject myself to hours of standing in the hot sun caked in makeup while tourist crashed their strollers into my hoop skirts. But for a couple of days at least, I got a glimpse of the best parts of it. I got to make babies stare and little kids smile and teenage girls go “Oh my God, Giselle!” as they whacked their friends on the arm excitedly.
I’m no Disney Princess, and I wouldn’t want to be, for any great length of time. But for a little while, I got to pretend. And isn’t that what cosplaying’s all about?