Emma Watson's Belle has a few notable differences from the protagonist in the cartoon version of Beauty and the Beast, and one is that you won't see her in a corset or heels. Instead, she opted to wear an apron with a tool belt, boots, bloomers, and a loose dress she can move around in.
The movie's costume designer Jacqueline Durran explained the motive behind this decision to Women's Wear Daily, and it's a great one: to avoid perpetuating the "corseted, impossible idea of female beauty" and instead portray a mobile, active character.
"Nothing she wears is inhibiting," she said. "She can do whatever she would want to do in any of her costumes. She rides a horse."
Durran, who also did costumes for Anna Karenina and Pride and Prejudice, gave the same rationale to Entertainment Weekly when the first photo of Watson's costume came out. "In Emma’s reinterpretation, Belle is an active princess. She did not want a dress that was corseted or that would impede her in any way," she said.
The costume fits with Watson's larger effort to give the movie an empowering makeover. In an update the actress and UN ambassador helped brainstorm herself, Belle is an inventor — her father's job in the original — and she creates the most feminist gadget: a laundry machine that buys her time to read instead of washing clothes.
Watson thinks Belle was a pretty feminist character to begin with, though. She turned down an offer to play Cinderella but accepted the Beauty and the Beast role because Belle "had this really empowering defiance of what was expected of her," she told Total Film. "She manages to keep her integrity and have a completely independent point of view...She's not easily swayed by other people's perspective — not swayed by fear-mongering or scapegoating."