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Belle: Her Name Means Beauty

Updated: Jan 3, 2021

First things first, I want to say welcome back to the Vintage View Atelier journal! As many of you know, I have been on a bit of a hiatus for the last couple of years, but I am back and ready to go! Please stay tuned for a post with some more information about what exactly that means in terms of what has been going on here since I was last active and for the future of VVA!


Now for the more important business: what is the meaning of this post title? I am working on a huge project with the assistance of my lovely cousin and personal model! Foundations Revealed, a site that I have subscribed to for many years now does an annual design and construction competition and the theme this year is "Once Upon a Time" so, having put off entering due to a lack of time and funds, I decided to jump all over this. If you'd like to see more about the competition itself, check it out here. I'm sure you've figured out what that means by now! I am building a period inspired Belle from Beauty and the Beast.

To sum up the competition quickly: competitors are to build an individual garment or full ensemble for a character originally from a piece of literature. As much of my love for costuming stemmed from my love of fantasy and sci-fi lit, this competition was a no brainer for me; I needed to finally get my ass in gear and enter like I've wanted to for years.

At first, I was hoping to revisit a, less than satisfactory, school project and was thinking of creating a gown for Claudia of Interview with the Vampire that would reflect her adult mind being trapped in the body of a five year old girl; however, one of the judging factors is the fit of the garment on a model that reflects the character and, due to the pandemic, I do not currently have regular, consistent access to a five year old willing to wear a full Victorian ensemble. With that project on the back burner again, I moved on to mulling about the idea of building an ensemble for Jennet Humfrye, better known as The Woman in Black. This is one of my favourite gothic lit stories and, as another Victorian ensemble, is firmly within my favourite era of fashion. After several days of debating this, I couldn't settle on The Woman in Black, a historically inspired Disney princess or the Snow Queen (another childhood favourite of mine). So what does one do when one has too many good ideas you might ask? One finds someone else to make the decision for them of course! So I sent my ideas to my cousin and would be model, who immediately jumped on the idea of living her Disney princess fantasy and from there we settled on Belle, her favourite princess in her favourite colour palette and one that is particularly well suited to her naturally tan complexion. As I wasn't particularly married to any idea, I was more than happy to bring her dream to life.

My goal is to build a historically inspired (and more period accurate) version of Belle's ball gown. I will be building a robe a l'Anglaise retroussee/a la Polonaise and all associated undergarments/structures from scratch using a collection of resources that I have gathered to draft and build the garment. I am not aiming for 100% historical accuracy and for that reason, some decisions (fabric choices, construction methods, etc.) may not reflect a true 18th century garment. Instead, I hope to create a garment that is visually representative of the period in which the story is approximately set (~1760s-80s) while also staying true to the recognizable palette of the modern Disney classic and the character of Belle and taking liberties to build the garment in a timely fashion and have fun with the decorative aspect of the piece.

If you want to see what I'm working with for reference images, pop on over to my Pinterest board and have a look at the delicious, Marie Antoinette-esc, candy coloured, lacey goodness!

So what's going to be happening here on the VVA journal? I'm going to be updating everyone on the progress of this project as we move steadily towards the February 1st, 2021 submission deadline! You'll find posts full of musings, ranting, sketches, plans, progress pictures, how I'm doing things and of course all the fabulous lacey, silky beauty of the 18th century.

How am I going to get a full period inspired ensemble done in a two and half months? A lot of screaming and the deep hope that my cousins excitement will get me through the inevitable struggles and stress because seeing her all done up will make it all worth it in the end.

So stay tuned and buckle up because it's going to be a wild ride.

xoxo Amara Ann; VVA

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