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Deconstructing Belle: Beauty and the Beast Costume Analysis

deconstructing-belle

Deconstructing Belle

This is a costume analysis for Belle of Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Belle has 4 different costumes: her blue dress worn around town, her green dress worn in the snow and later the library, her pink dress worn outside during "Something There", and her yellow ball gown. Please feel free to use these details and suggestions when creating your own costume for dress-up fun or cosplay.

All images used were captured from Walt Disney's Beauty and the Beast, released in 1991. I do not own nor pretend to own the rights to these images. They merely appear here for reference and remain the property of Walt Disney pictures.

Belle's Blue Dress

DRESS:

Belle's blue dress is rather simple. Square neckline with about 1 1/2" thick straps. Center seam down the front of the dress which comes to a V in the front (though rarely seen since Belle so often wears an apron). The back is a mirror image of the front, also with a square line and a center seam that's an ideal location for a zipper.

The skirt is deceivingly full, laying relatively flat when Belle stands still, but expanding quite a bit as Belle sails through the town. There are no apparent gathers at the waistline, so the skirt pieces must be cut to fit and expand out gradually. The dress is calf-length.

SHIRT:

Belle wears a white shirt underneath her dress. The sleeves are 3/4 and do not go all the way down to the wrist, but rather end at Belle's forearm in a rather thick 2-3" wide band. There is some fullness to the sleeves, which should result in slight gathers where the sleeve meets the band.

PETTICOAT:

Belle wears a one layer petticoat with scalloped edging reminiscent of eyelet. The petticoat is only about 1" or 2" shorter than the blue dress, so it will be seen easily with movement.

ACCESSORIES:

Belle's shoes are simple black flats with no heel. She is also often seen holding a blue book, which would be an excellent prop.

She wears a simple white apron which ties around her waist. The apron hits around knee-length or just below. Looks to be about 5" from the hem of the skirt.

Patterns - Belle's Blue Dress

As of Spring 2012, there are no patterns that directly match Belle's Blue Dress. Those proficient at sewing can likely make up their own, and there are many tutorials online from others who have done so. I personally find it easier to start with a base pattern and make my modifications from there, and I've found the following patterns to help.

For adults, I found New Look 6020 to be a very close replica. The bodice should come to a "v" in the front instead of the round waistline on the pattern (to be accurate, although if you plan on wearing it with the apron it won't matter). The back neckline also needs to be adjusted to a square like the front, and the overall hem of the skirt lowered, but, like I said, a nice starter. Butterick 4443 is fairly similar, with same rounded waistline. Would need to adjust the neckline to match Belle's, but skirt looks perfect. Another possible option is Simplicity 2917. There is no waistline, but with the apron you should be in good shape. I like that it includes the center seam down the front, but also additional bodice seams for shaping.

For the shirt, Simplicity 2151 seems to be a nice match, just lose the bow, and sleeves might possibly be too much fabric at the cuff. The sleeves in Simplicity 2917 are a closer match, or check your stock of patterns and you might find another you like. Colette Patterns 1018 is another option. It is a bias-cut blouse, but I love that it doesn't button down the front - designed to pull over your head.

For children's patterns, I think the closest is Butterick 5743. It uses a rounded waistline instead of the v-shape in the front, but honestly I'd prefer that in a child's pattern anyway. Doesn't need many adjustments. Butterick 4718 is another good one, and is the pattern I used for my child's costume. See details on what I changed on the pattern, but it basically boils down to adjustments to create or avoid seam lines to better match Belle. If you really want the v-shaped waist, look at Simplicity 2843 D, but you'd have to adjust the skirt to get rid of all those gathers.

It is surprisingly difficult to find a blouse pattern for kids. Seriously, I think the closest I came was Simplicity 3669 for button-down pajamas. I stumbled around for quite some time before finally realizing a dress pattern would actually be better. Instead of making a separate petticoat to wear with the blouse, I could use the skirt of the dress as the petticoat, and just make the top of the dress look like Belle's blouse. Since a child can't handle too low-cut of a shirt, and I was dealing with a collared neckline, I determined buttons down the front would be the best way to go. Simplicity 5226 offered just that - a dress that buttoned down the front. To get the neckline just right from scratch, I traced the pattern pieces and sketched out the shape from there. Used the sleeves from Simplicity 9497 (option D), shortened them a tad and added a cuff.

Construction for Belle's Blue Dress

child's costume

I used Butterick 4718 for the basic shape of the dress, but that required several adjustments. The straps on the pattern are gathered a bit at the ends, so I adjusted the size for a straight strap. Also, the straps are separate pieces, so I lined up the pattern pieces and cut them all in one piece to avoid a seam line. The pattern also does not have a seam down the front of the dress, but that was easily remedied. Probably best to cut a separate piece and add 5/8" seam allowance, but I forgot to do that when I was cutting, so just added a very small stitch to give the impression of a seam line down the center (see pics).

The blouse was more difficult, as nothing with this neckline existed, and I had a great deal of difficulty even finding a general blouse pattern in a child's size. I settled on a button-down dress pattern (Simplicity 5226), and realized in the process that a dress would actually be better than a separate blouse. I could use the skirt of the dress as the petticoat, and just make the top of the dress look like Belle's blouse - now the costume is 2 pieces instead of 3. To get the neckline just right from scratch, I traced the pattern pieces and sketched out the shape from there. Used the sleeves from Simplicity 9497, shortened them a tad and added a cuff.

The apron was very straight forward. Cut a rectangle the appropriate size, then measured the length for the ties.

I used a 100% cotton fabric for the dress - from the Country Classics collection available at Jo-ann Fabrics. I went with a Sateen cotton for the white blouse for a higher-quality look and feel. Blouse has basic white buttons at sleeves and down the blouse front (otherwise you can't get it on an off). I ended up adding snaps at the top of the shoulders to hold the blue dress in place because it kept slipping off my daughter's shoulders. Not sure if that would be a problem on a grown woman though.

I also made the blue cape that Belle wears when she tries to escape in the woods. For a child, I used cape pattern McCalls 4703, and it was perfect. Only adjustment was I didn't make the armholes, and instead of a hook and eye closure, I made a button hole. Found the perfect large round wooden button at my local fabric store, but couldn't find it online to share. It was from Belle Buttons by Dritz, 28mm, item #BB313 per the button card. I used navy blue velour for the outside of the cape, and blue flannel for the inside to add some extra stability and warmth.

Patterns - Belle's Green Dress

These sleeves appear in many renaissance costume patterns, so I won't bother to list them all. Many of them also include a V bodice, so all that's needed is to change the neckline. See below Butterick 5440. Another bodice option is Simplicity 4092. Also look at McCalls 3436 for a nice strapless top that should be easy to convert. See also New Look 6480, which is a Juniors pattern, but goes up to size 13/14.

For a child's dress, I think a young child would have a hard time wearing Belle's dress as it's designed. With no chest to help support the bodice, and since the sleeves are barely on the shoulder, more is needed to hold up the weight of the skirt for an active child. I really like Simplicity 2463 for this reason. It offers the option of a separate color above the bodice line, so you could use a white or light green sheer and still get the same look, but it won't fall down. Also, I know my children prefer short sleeves for dress-up, so when making my version I will use a puff sleeve only. See also Burda 2480 and 2463.

Patterns - Belle's Pink Dress

Dress: I like Butterick 5641. The neckline easily lends itself to creating that fuller look in Belle's version. Burda 7466 has a very similar collar to Belle's, but I personally don't think an entire pattern is needed just for that.

For the sleeves, I like McCalls 6139. Many others will work, such as Burda 8198.

For the Cape, McCalls 4139 fits the bill.

For a child's pattern, Simplicity 3725-D needs only a few adjustments. You can also try Butterick 4320-A or Simplicity 4764. Some adjustments need to be made, but honestly they are all decent starting patterns. McCalls 4703 for the coat. One option is a poncho-like coat, which can be made to fit over the traditional coat to recreate Belle's look.

Construction for Belle's Pink Snow Dress

child's costume

Winter trip to Disney world? Yes please! It was the perfect opportunity I had been waiting for to create Belle's pink dress and cape, even if it doesn't snow in Florida.

I used Butterick 3725 as my starting point. Instead of the gathered skirt, I put in pleats. It was very difficult to find all the complimentary shades of pink I needed for this dress. I like fabric.com because you can compare several fabrics on a design wall in a separate window, and arrange them however you wish to see which fabrics go well together. After a failed attempt to match a mail order mauve to the pinks I had already purchased locally, I decided to just buy everything at fabric.com. My final dress uses broadcloth cottons in Orchid for the skirt and sleeves, Dusty Pink for the collar, stripes, and trim, but I stuck with my original plumberry Symphony Broadcloth I bought at Joann Fabrics for the bodice, since it matched the other pinks just fine. I've also noticed recently that Joann.com offers a wide array of colors in their Kona Cotton solids line - most available only online, but way more than what was offered when I made this dress. Just another option for you.

The collar was probably the most challenging part of this dress, just because it required a lot of playing around to get it right. I decided it was best to tack it down in just a few places instead of solid stitches, as this best kept the loose look that Belle has in the movie. I stitched a few folds in place, just a few stitches each to hold the fold, then stitched the entire collar down at the center of the neckline and again halfway to the shoulders and at the shoulders. Leave it loose in the back so it doesn't interfere with the zipper, and it's easier to get on and off.

If the collar was challenging, the cape proved to be the most frustrating. Go figure. The pattern I used (McCalls 4703) folded in several inches before attaching to the lining, creating a panel ideal for buttons and for keeping the cape in place, but not ideal for adding fur trim between the seams. I also didn't like how it looked with a full cape down the front, and it was so bulky my daughter didn't even want to wear it. So I mercilessly hacked away until I was left with just the back of the cape and the curve of the shoulders. By that time I had already serged the seams at the top and didn't want to redo that just to add lining back in, but fortunately the fabric didn't really need it at all, and the only visible seam was down the back.

Patterns - Belle's Yellow Dress

Belle's yellow dress is so classic, the pattern world can't help making patterns that resemble this iconic dress.

For adults, a new pattern from Simplicity is 1875. It's not listed on Amazon at the time of this writing, but you can find it here:

http://www.simplicity.com/p-7448-misses-dresses-designed-with-love-by-sara.aspx

The skirt from this pattern may not be full enough to give the right silhouette, but it looks to have the correct number of skirt pieces, so perhaps just adding some girth to each piece will give it the proper shape. Or use a different skirt pattern that you've found.

I've listed a couple petticoat patterns below, since it really is necessary for this dress. As mentioned in the analysis, the petticoat in the movie has 3 layers, but of course do whatever works in real life for your own costume.

For years Disney has made official patterns for Belle, but that stopped in 2008. If you can find them, Simplicity 9902 and 5835 are wonderful, though out of print for several years now. Current options include Butterick 4320 and Simplicity 4764.

Resources

Here are some links I found on the web of others who have created their own Belle costumes. Some have their own tutorials, which may prove very helpful to those constructing from scratch. Enjoy!

Coming Soon!

Please check back for new lenses! So far I have posted Costume Analysis for Wendy, Aurora/Sleeping Beauty, and Tinkerbell. I plan to post costume analysis for many Disney characters including Ariel, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White, Giselle, Mary Poppins, Pocohontas, Mulan, the Disney fairies, Mother Gothel and some other villains. I will also cover their male counterparts (the princes), but that might take me a while until I get to those.

New Guestbook Comments

Disney Bound (author) on August 24, 2012:

@francesca-geis: You will likely just need to add some fullness to the skirt. Cut out the skirt pieces and pin them together - some of the pieces are used more than once, so you may need to cut out of some muslin or pattern paper to make the pattern. Try it on and see how much you need to add. Get a feel for how big you want the skirt to be at the hemline (make a big circle around you where you'd like the dress to hit the floor - use household objects even to lay it out). Measure that, and then adjust each skirt piece at the hemline so that it will be big enough. Then make a new pattern piece using this adjusted width across the hemline, tapering into the skirt pattern which meets at the waist.

Some people tack on a scalloped decoration to the skirt to give it the trademark Belle look, while others prefer to make a separate skirt layer and gather it into the scalloped bottom. The same skirt pattern can be used for both layers - just gather the top one. If using Simp 1875, these gathers are done differently from Belle's dress, so disregard that portion of the instructions and just use the adapted skirt pattern.

You can also check out the skirts on Burda 8198 and 2479. These appear to be the right silhouette, but without holding the pattern in my hand, it's hard to tell exactly if it has the right number of skirt pieces.

francesca-geis on August 24, 2012:

I am go as belle for halloween (my friends and i are all going as princesses) but id need an adult size i kinda had a question on the pattern you suggested for the adluts, how would i alter the skirt to look like belles? i mean if i can't ill use the skirt on the blue dress but i was just wondering if you knew of any way..

romeoandme7 on May 27, 2012:

This is so helpful! I just finished a belle dress of my own (that I'm rather proud of) and I had to stop, pause and rewind the movie so much to see these frames. Check out my dress and tell me what you think!:

https://www.etsy.com/listing/100741945/belle-gown?...

Hint: I actually used a pattern for the Simplicity Sleeping Beauty bodice. It was constructed just right to be an off-the-shoulder bodice :) The skirt, I constructed on my own without a pattern.

queenvickitoria on May 14, 2012:

Thanks for putting all this research up! I'm excited to see the rest of the princesesses!!

queenvickitoria on May 14, 2012:

Thanks for putting all this research up! I'm excited to see the rest of the princesesses!!

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