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Were the Disney princesses’ dresses inspired by the Virgin Mary?

DISNEY PRINCESSES
Disney
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From Elsa to Cinderalla, all these princesses might display a hidden connection to the Mother of Jesus.

As heroines to girls all over the world, the Disney princesses are hugely popular. Interestingly, many of those leading women wear blue — whether it is Belle from Beauty and the Beast when she discovers the library, Aurora from Sleeping Beauty, Jasmine from Aladdin as she confronts Jafar, Cinderella as she goes off to the ball, or even Wendy in Peter Pan when she flies off to Neverland. Even Elsa’s signature outfit in the modern day Frozen is a teal blue.

Leatrice Eiseman, executive director at the Pantone Color Institute, explained the meaning of this color in an interview with Allure magazine. Blue – in all its shades – is a color linked to the universe of dreams. It conveys “dependability, constancy, and loyalty.”

The color of the ocean and the sky, blue is also reminiscent of travel and the discovery of faraway lands — characteristic of the adventurous and independent spirit that Disney undoubtedly wanted to bestow on its heroines. “You’re adding a bit of power to the character by giving her the blue,” explains Eiseman. “It’s a very subtle way of saying, ‘Yeah, but young women, young girls, can be empowered, too.'”

The blue mantle of the Virgin Mary

Yet, what if this color also conjures up something a little more spiritual? As far as we know, Disney hasn’t mentioned the Virgin Mary when explaining the colors used by its princesses. However, it seems probable that trained artists selecting clothing colors for princesses would be unaware of, and uninfluenced by, the tradition of associating blue with the woman known as the Queen of Heaven: Mary.

In religious art, the Virgin Mary is almost always shown in a blue mantle. This tradition stretches back at least to the Middle Ages, a period where Marian devotion was growing rapidly. One explanation is that, in those days, the faithful chose to clothe the Madonna in a color with expensive pigments; lapis-lazuli, a blue stone, was so precious that it cost as much as gold, if not more. When used as a pigment, it was therefore reserved for representations of the Virgin Mary.

There’s also more to the story; blue is a color with mystical and royal meaning, found in the Bible and in Byzantine artistic traditions. Much later, this association seems to have received some supernatural confirmation; on February 11, 1858, the young Bernadette Soubirous had an apparition of the Virgin Mary in Lourdes: “I saw a lady dressed in white: she wore a white dress, as well as a white veil, a blue belt, and a yellow rose on each foot,” the young girl later described.

Relaxing to look at, the color blue both soothes the soul and calls it to look above and beyond the mundane. Perhaps that’s what the Disney princesses are meant to evoke in young viewers, and certainly the images of the Queen of Heaven are always inviting us to do the same.

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