One would assume that most grown women have come to learn that happily ever after doesn't get delivered to you on a white horse, that you don't have to wait to be saved by Prince Charming, or that your career choices can be a tad more varied than Good or Evil Queen. But judging from the amount of viral stories that feature grown-up reduxes of Disney princess themes, it's clear the infatuation is still very much a thing, and those "save me"/"look at me" messages are so deeply ingrained that it's easy for even the most woke women to start smiling during "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes."
The designers at Dolce & Gabbana have long tapped into motifs that speak to women's experiences (they’ve had shows inspired by mothers and matriarchs), but they’ve interspersed them between off-colour casting and themes that seemed to only privilege a certain kind of woman (that of the slim, cis, white, wealthy variety). But recent moves toward inclusivity that involve creating a line of hijabs and a bag collection that features same-sex family units seem like the brand is deliberately making public gestures to correct its past mistakes. Dolce & Gabbana does not make clothes for the everywoman, but its designers are as keen as Disney to get everywomen dreaming about fantasy lives lived in pretty, glittering clothes. But what it takes to get to Dolce & Gabbana’s castle is just as suspect as the oft-criticised Disney trope.
According to a press release, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana believe that the fall/winter 2016 collection wasn’t explicitly about Cinderellas and Belles, but rather the modern-day, real-life princess: “The new generation of princesses are not only independent, but they possess a keen perspective and point of view. They are individuals first and foremost.” And there were instances when the script was indeed flipped — imagine if Prince Charming was a woman! Or if cat-lady princesses were a thing — but there were also looks that reinforced infantilising messages. “Dreaming of my Prince,” read one frock. Another woman wore a dress covered head to toe in teddy bears (we’re not sure what kingdom she belongs to, exactly). “Who Is the Most Beautiful?” read a mirror that was embroidered on a dress. The set, too, was flanked by a Sleeping Beauty’s bed (borrowed from Milan’s famous La Scala opera house) and a 10-foot-tall picture book that told the brand’s story: “The princess was walking in the woods, accompanied by Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana when they met a handsome prince…” Apparently, even the modern woman needs three men to tell her story.
Roses, teddy bears, kittens, shattered glass, magical nutcrackers, Cinderella gowns (and matching glass slippers), mice who sew, evil stepmothers, and poison apples…it was a load of fun to ID all the Disney references throughout, but if this show was at all a representation of the modern-day princess, it seems that despite all our dreaming and fantasizing, we haven’t made much progress at all.