Belle’s yellow ballgown is arguably one of the most recognizable pieces of wardrobe in movie history, even if it’s animated. So when Emma Watson took on the iconic Disney role, she wanted to make sure its accompanying signature costume was nothing short of perfect. (Yes, the actress had a say in how the dress was made.)
“I really embraced working on the dress, making sure that it was utterly whimsical and magical,” she told Entertainment Weekly. To Watson, the importance of the dress lies in the scene that made it popular: the “Tale as Old as Time” dance.
“The scene that I wear that dress in, and I have that dance in, it really tells the story of Beast and Belle falling in love. You know, we don’t have a huge amount of time in the story to tell that story. The dance, for me, is really where the audience starts to see it happening and starts knowing that it is happening,” she said.
“The dress, and the dancing, and the candlelight, and the music — it was really fun to work on every aspect of that,” she added.
What exactly does Watson’s golden gown entail? Costume designer Jacqueline Durran revealed all the details to EW.
The fabric: Before building the dress, Durran had to find the right shade of yellow, which meant camera-testing multiple fabrics for the perfect match. They ended up choosing an organza that’s made of silk but with a satin finish, so it’s not too transparent.
The volume: Yes, Watson had to wear a cage beneath that voluminous skirt, but only under parts of it. Durran said most of the lift comes from layers of organza so it feels lighter.
The shoes: Watson isn’t playing Cinderella, but her footwear is nonetheless delicate. The new Belle wears 18th century heeled shoes hand-painted with golden flowers—but they’re still comfortable enough to run in.
The corset (or lack thereof): Since Watson’s Belle is an “active princess,” Durran skipped the corset since it constricts a lot of movement. The dress had to be light and moveable.
The feathers: If you look closely, there are feathered accents in Belle’s gown. A few are even tied into her locks as a hair accessory.
The gold: As the final touch, gold leaf and glitter were painted on to the dress to mimic the gilded design on the ballroom floor.
Watson approves of Durran’s final product. “I think she did such a amazing job,” she said.
Erica Gonzales is the Senior Culture Editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage on TV, movies, music, books, and more. She was previously an editor at HarpersBAZAAR.com. There is a 75 percent chance she’s listening to Lorde right now.
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