After months of being ill, Janelle Anderson, a Minnesotan, decided to follow her dream and go to Disney World every day. After convincing her husband and their two kids to move to Orlando, Florida, Anderson now visits the amusement park more than 50 times a week. “I’ve suffered my whole life from depression and, walking into that place, I have never felt more alive, free, and happy than when I’m there,” she says. “It’s like escaping from reality for me.”
Anderson began to dress up as the character, and was called “Disneybounding”, a term created by Leslie Kay, a fashion blogger, to describe people who style (rather than play with costumes) Disney characters. She also documented her outfits on Instagram. Some of her looks include black dresses with white-and red polka dots bows to channel Minnie mouse, Harry Potter-themed suspenders and green-and purple top-and skirt combos inspired from Buzz Lightyear’s Toy Story. Anderson says, “It brought out this child-like fantasy in me.” “It was something that I didn’t think I would be able to do, being almost 40.”
She is not the only one. Since the pandemic took hold, princess fashion aesthetics like cottagecore and angelcore have risen in popularity, with ethereal dresses, puff sleeves, and whimsical accessories in bright and pastel colors flooding social media and appearing IRL. Fanciful clothing items like the Teuta Mirage dress and the Lirika matoshi strawberry gown went viral.
Brands and designers also seem to have taken inspiration from fairy tales when designing their collections. Last year, Lirika Matoshi partnered with Disney for a princess collection filled with dreamy pinks, green, and blue dresses featuring details like bows and clouds. .On the recent spring 2022 runways, Collina Strada and Ulla Johnson featured Little Mermaid-esque seashells, while Christian Siriano sent out princess-like capes and ball-gown skirts. Meanwhile, Rodarte showed mushroom-print dresses that looked pulled from Snow White’s closet, while Markarian – the brand responsible for First Lady Jill Biden’s Inauguration Day look – came up with corset dresses suitable for Cinderella, keeping the “Regencycore” trend.
Anderson’s favorite item from this phenomenon is the Selkie puff dress. The style, by the Los Angeles-based brand, has become a viral sensation: The hashtag #puffdress has over 2 million views on TikTok. On Instagram, #selkie has more than 67,000 posts. This Marie Antoinette-esque gown, with its frothy sheer sleeves, layers of gauzy fabric, and layers of layers, starts at $249.
Selkie’s puffy dress is a no-brainer. The brand’s name is based on Scottish, Icelandic and Irish folklore. According to legend, Selkie is a mythological creature that can transform from a seal into a woman simply by shedding her skin. When the Selkie goes up to the rocks to enjoy the sun in its human form, she must be cautious of men who might take her seal skin and make her their wife. The Selkie will not be free if she loses her seal skin.
Kimberley Gordon, the founder of the brand, says that “The Selkie” is essentially the story about trying to escape. She first heard the tale as a child. “I knew I wanted the line that could symbolize that for women.”
After leaving Wildfox in 2015, the designer wanted to create a brand rooted in fantasy, and distanced them from the male gaze. Gordon says, “I wanted the clothes loud, almost punk-like.” “Because [women] should be seen,” Gordon says.
Anderson, a Selkie fan, agrees: “It is very liberating to not care what men and other women think or whether I’m too young to wear this.”
It is easy to understand why so many women want to escape reality by dressing up as princesses to deal with economic recessions, climate crises, pandemics, and other challenges – longing to go back to their childhoods, reading stories in books. Gordon claims it’s much more than that. When asked about women’s fashion choices today, Gordon says that there is a strong feminist movement. They’re saying, “Look at me, control the narrative of your own life and you are the star.”
Jeannette Burchfield (36-year-old founder of Fat Babes Club of Columbus – a group dedicated towards the safety and visibility of marginalized and fat body types – was attracted to Jeannette’s dress because of its whimsical aesthetic. She says, “[In the middle the pandemic] I had no reason [to buy that dress] but I knew it was going to make me happy.” She has since bought several puff dresses, flaunting them on her Instagram alongside other unabashedly feminine dresses that seem made for a happily ever after ending.
Burchfield believes puff dresses have more appeal than the Instagram grids and popular aesthetic. She says that she feels excluded from viral fashion trends like the Tumblr-era “goth fairy” aesthetic. This was largely because she is a Black big woman. Selkie, whose dresses can be up to 5X, is an exception to the rule.
“I want more people to search for princess fashion like me.” Burchfield says, “I want to set the tone and tell a tale because back then there weren’t many options for me as a plus-size women. If it’s available in my size, I will definitely take advantage of it.”